The AAPA met on November 20 with Yves Combeau, a Paris-based Dominican priest, scholar and historian. Father Combeau is a specialist in the history of youth movements, particularly scouting, and has published several works of non-fiction and fiction on the subject.

Combeau’s briefing has come at a time when France’s Catholic Church is in crisis. The terrorist threat at places of worship has been at its highest level, and the ongoing sex abuse scandal continues to threaten the Church’s reputation, as 6,000 victim testimonies have been recorded since 2018. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, churches across France struggled to fill seats.

Combeau spoke openly about numerous topics, especially laicité, which has taken center stage in recent conversations in France. He talked about how the Church has faced its sex abuse scandal, how the pandemic has affected attendance, and whether we can expect the Church’s rules on celibacy to change anytime soon.

He also explained where funding for Catholic TV comes from, why we still hear church bells ringing out through this “laique” country, and why scouts always wear shorts – even in bristling winter weather.