Antisemitism and anti-Protestantism were common themes in his writings. He believed that the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the eventual outcome of the French Revolution had all contributed to individuals valuing themselves more than the nation, with consequent negative effects on the latter, and that democracy and liberalism were only making matters worse.
Although Maurras advocated the revival of monarchy, in many ways Maurras did not typify the French monarchist tradition. His endorsement of the monarchy and for Catholicism was explicitly pragmatic, as he alleged that a state religion was the only way of maintaining public order. By contrast with Maurice Barrès, a theorist of a kind of Romantic nationalism based on the Ego, Maurras claimed to base his opinions on reason rather than on sentiment, loyalty and faith.
Paradoxically, he admired the positivist philosopher Auguste Comte, like many of the Third Republic politicians he detested, with which he opposed German idealism. Whereas the Legitimist monarchists refused to engage in political action, retreating into an intransigently conservative Catholicism and a relative indifference to a modern world they believed was irredeemably wicked and apostate, Maurras was prepared to engage in political action, both orthodox and unorthodox (the Action Française's Camelots du Roi league frequently engaged in street violence with left-wing opponents, as well as Marc Sangnier's socialist Catholic Le Sillon). Maurras was twice convicted of inciting violence against Jewish politicians, and Léon Blum, the first Jewish French prime minister, nearly died from the injuries inflicted by associates of Maurras. His slogan was the phrase "La politique d'abord!" ("Politics first!"). Other influences included Frédéric Le Play, British empiricism, which allowed him to reconcile Cartesian rationalism with empiricism, and René de La Tour du Pin.
Maurras' religious views were likewise less than orthodox. He supported the political Catholic Church both because it was intimately involved with French history and because its hierarchical structure and clerical elite mirrored his image of an ideal society. He considered the Church to be the mortar which held France together, and the association linking all Frenchmen together. However, he distrusted the Gospels, written, as he put it, "by four obscure Jews", but admired the Catholic Church for having allegedly concealed much of the Bible's "dangerous teachings". Maurras' interpretation of the Gospels and his integralist teachings were fiercely criticised by many Catholic clergy. However, towards the end of his life Maurras eventually converted from agnosticism to Catholicism.
Notwithstanding his religious unorthodoxy, Maurras gained a large following among French monarchists and Catholics, including the Assumptionists and the Orleanist pretender to the French throne, the comte de Paris, Philippe. Nonetheless, his agnosticism worried parts of the Catholic hierarchy, and in 1926 Pope Pius XI placed some of Maurras's writings on the Index of Forbidden Books and condemned the Action Française philosophy as a whole. Seven of Maurras' books had already been placed on this list in 1914 and a dossier on Maurras had been submitted to Pius X.
It was not just his agnosticism which worried the Catholic hierarchy but that by insisting upon politiques d'abord he questioned the primacy of the spiritual and thus the teaching authority of the Church and the authority of the Pope himself. That this was the basis of the matter is shown by Jacques Maritain's book Primauté du Spirituel. Maritain was associated with L'Action Française and knew Maurras. While his unease with the movement pre-dates the 1926 crisis, it was this which occasioned his alienation from Maurras and L'Action Française. This papal condemnation was a great surprise to many of his devotees, who included a considerable number of French clergy, and caused great damage to the movement. The papal ban was later ended by Pope Pius XII in 1939, a year after Maurras was elected to the Académie française.
A classical scholar and militant atheist and anti–Semite, Charles Maurras (1868–1952) became involved in politics during the Dreyfus Affair (1893–1906) when he founded a group known as Action Française. He believed that as a result of the Revolution, France had become dominated by outside influences, namely, Protestants, Freemasons, and especially Jews. He hoped to destroy these influences and return France to its traditional institutions, particularly the monarchy and Catholicism. Maurras and his movement embittered numerous groups and contributed to the development of attitudes and positions that would become identified with fascism between the two World Wars. Here he gives his thoughts on the French Revolution.
Charles Maurras: anti-democratic atheist Catholic
in James Hastings Nichols, Democracy and the churches (Westminster: Philadelphia 1951) While its chief leader, Charles Maurras, was an atheist, L'Action française devoted most of its propaganda to Catholics. It occupied a position of extraordinary influence in the French hierarchy and among Catholic intellectuals--young Maritain began here--and at the Vatican was the most effective agency in securing the condemnation of Catholic democrats. Maurras supported Roman Catholicism as an instrument of social control, although personally he felt only contempt for Christian faith and morals. "Catholicism is an attenuated Christianity filtered through the happy genius of France," ...
Maurras hated the Reformation because it released the Christian gospel from the imperial organization, and had set it free over Europe. As an atheist Catholic, he took the imperial organization without the gospel and cultivated that large group of Frenchmen who, in the tradition of de Maistre and Veuillot, had praised the Church for the same reason. ...
For long, [Pope] Pius [X] forgave Maurras his atheism. He even called him a "fine defender of the faith." With such advisers Pius initiated his great purge of Catholic democrats [1903 - ].