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French President Macron calls on Catholics to make voice heard



French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a meeting of the Bishops' Conference of France (CEF) at College des Bernardins in Paris, on April 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / ludovic MARIN

John Burger - published on 04/12/18 - updated on 04/27/18

Meeting France's bishops, leader says nation has a "thirst for absolute"

In a speech in which he denounced the “relativism” and “nihilism” affecting his country, French President Emmanuel Macron called on Catholics to join a national debate on bioethical issues.

“Our contemporaries need, whether they believe or do not believe, to hear from another perspective on man than the material perspective,” Macron said Monday in a meeting with the bishops of France. “They need to quench another thirst, which is a thirst for absolute. It is not a question here of conversion, but of a voice which, with others, still dares to speak of man as a living spirit.”

France’s parliament is preparing to reform certain laws that have bioethical dimensions, particularly regarding euthanasia and assisted reproductive technologies for single women and lesbians.

As if anticipating a coming battle over end-of-life issues, Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, president of the French bishops conference, in a separate speech. He highlighted euthanasia in his comments, quoting a long passage from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

“A particularly crucial battleground in today’s cultural struggle between the supremacy of technology and human moral responsibility is the field of bioethics, where the very possibility of integral human development is radically called into question … Faced with these dramatic questions, reason and faith can come to each other’s assistance. Only together will they save man. Entranced by an exclusive reliance on technology, reason without faith is doomed to flounder in an illusion of its own omnipotence.”

The archbishop questioned the president, “Can one describe as ‘care’ the act of giving death?” and emphasized that “society must offer opportunities for life, friendship, tenderness, compassion, solidarity.”

Macron urged the Church to “engage politically in our national debate and in our European debate because your faith is part of the commitment that this debate needs.”

He came under fire for apparently crossing a line that has been sacrosanct since a 1905 law concretized a growing trend toward secularism, or a strict separation between the political and religious realms.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, lead of the left-wing France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party, called Macron’s remarks irresponsible.

“Macron in full-on metaphysical delirium. Outrageous. One expects a president, one gets a little priest,” Melenchon said in a tweet.

But, Macron said, secularism “does not have the function of uprooting from our societies the spirituality that nourishes so many of our fellow citizens.”

“To deliberately blind myself to the spiritual dimension that Catholics invest in their moral, intellectual, family, professional, social life would be to condemn me to having only a partial view of France; it would be to ignore the country, its history, its citizens; and affecting indifference, I would derogate from my mission,” he said.

“The link between Church and State has deteriorated, and that it is important for us and for me to repair it,” he added.

Macron also noted the Church’s consistency in defending human dignity, whether it’s in cases of pre-born life or struggling migrants.

“You consider that our duty is to protect life, especially when this life is defenseless,” he said. “Between the life of the unborn child, that of being on the threshold of death, or that of the refugee who has lost everything, you see this common trait of deprivation, nakedness and absolute vulnerability. I believe in a political commitment that serves the dignity of man.”

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