I am neither a Catholic nor any sort of believer, but my first reaction to seeing Notre Dame in flames, oddly, was that God must be very disappointed in us, Her children.
This is doubly weird, since the God I imagined was a vindictive Old Testament God, banishing Adam and Eve, turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, or drowning the Egyptians—but of course Notre Dame is supremely a New Testament creation.
Why might God be angry? The neglect of Notre Dame is a metaphor for the despoiling of all God’s creation.
The French state, after all, is obsessive about that nation’s patrimony, and it doesn’t get more Gallic than the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Yes, the French have a complex view of the separation of church and state, but Notre Dame is what the French call a Monument, to French culture. Why did they keep putting this off, and then cutting corners?
France, when it was a much poorer country, managed to find the money to sandblast much of the City of Light. (When I first visited there, it was the city of dark. Most of the buildings including Notre Dame were near-black, from centuries of coal dust.) So why did a nonprofit foundation have to pass collection plates to try to fund the repair of Notre Dame when experts knew that it was near collapse?
The Fire This Time—come to the point, Bob—is of course a metaphor for the larger devastation of all God’s creation by an ungrateful and all-consuming humanity. It should be taken as a warning. Humankind keeps neglecting all of the other warning shots, from glaciers melting, to exotic diseases spreading, to biblical floods, to the sharks invading my cherished Cape Cod beaches.
You don’t have to be a believer to notice. But let’s notice, for God’s sake.
And it was in Paris where the major nations came together in 2015 to sign a climate agreement, only to have the U.S. under Trump withdraw. God help us.
Let’s take the near-destruction of the Cathedral of Notre Dame as a warning sign of the arrogance of man, whether from an angry God or from nature’s propensity to bite back and clean house.