Bioethics debate in France

French bishops prefer dialogue to demonstrations on new bioethics law

The Bishops of France are playing down the “duty” of Catholics to protest a proposed new bioethics law, preferring instead to encourage the faithful to take individual “responsibility” to make their objections clear to fellow citizens.

Driving the news

As La Croix reports, the French Bishops’ Conference organised Monday at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris an evening on bioethics and PMA, or medically-assisted procreation.

At the heart of the debate before about 300 people was a new draft law that would extend medically-assisted fertility techniques to all women, including lesbian couples and singles, and could be passed in early October.

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Go deeper

None of the three bishops who spoke at the evening insisted on the need to attend an October 6 protest against the proposed legislation, organised by the far-right Catholic outfit ‘La Manif pour tous’.

They preferred to encourage the audience to “help our fellow citizens realize the seriousness of the issues before us” with the new draft law.

However, French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) President Éric de Moulins-Beaufort made an off-the-cuff remark about “worried” citizens having the “duty” to protest, even if he personally wasn’t going to attend the demonstration.

Though that remark was widely interpreted as a call to mobilise, CEF spokesman and Secretary General, Father Thierry Magnin, clarified to La Croix that the ‘La Manif’ demonstration was in no way compulsory for Catholics.

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“The CEF does not call for a demonstration on Oct. 6, although it understands that some people are going there”, Magnin said.

“It is not our place to tell Catholics what means they must take” to protest the law, he continued.

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Why it matters

The new bioethics law has caused great concern among French Catholics.

“This is a serious time”, husband-and-wife lawyers of the Catholic Family Associations Gaëlle and Bertrand Lionel-Marie told La Croix.

Bertrand explained well the doubts facing Catholics when he said he can’t understand a society that “promotes ecology for everything, even if it means making the cosmos sacred”, but yet doesn’t take “any precautions” on human life.

What’s next

Some of the French faithful have denounced a “spirit of defeat” in their bishops in the debate, and a “lack of political will to engage in a balance of power”.

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And while some French bishops have taken the tone of Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit – who at the Monday event in the Collège des Bernardins blasted the new law as leading to “monstrosities” and “mad science” – other prelates have preferred a more conciliatory tone.

Even CEF President de Moulins-Beaufort was more peaceable during his speech at the Collège, in which he said “the word of the Church is first of all a yes: to the beauty of the marriage union of the spouses, the most expressive reflection of the relationship that God wants to have with humanity, a yes to the children who are a gift for all humanity”.

“We don’t like to say the ‘dangers'” of the new bioethics law, the archbishop continued.

“Our faith frees us from the fear of losing ourselves, and helps us to consider that there are other possible ways to be more alive”, de Moulins-Beaufort insisted.

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