French bishops call for authentic solidarity with the elderly

1 min read
Nurses are pictured in a file photo providing care to a patient in the palliative care section of a hospital near Paris. Gathered at the Sanctuary of Lourdes March 19-23, 2024, the French bishops expressed their "great concern" and "deep reservations" in the face of a draft law that plans to authorize euthanasia and assisted suicide. (OSV News photo/Philippe Wojazer, Reuters)

PARIS (OSV News) — France’s bishops issued a joint statement March 19 in response to a draft law on “aid in dying” that French President Emmanuel Macron announced March 10 as a “law of fraternity.”

Gathered at the Sanctuary of Lourdes March 19-23, the bishops expressed their “great concern” and “deep reservations” in the face of the draft law that plans to authorize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“Let us not misdirect the fraternity,” the bishops said, rebuffing the president’s words. “We reaffirm our attachment to the French way of refusing induced death.”

“Our democratic ideal, so fragile and so necessary, rests on the founding prohibition of causing death,” they said.

For the bishops, “the imperative of humanity and fraternity” is to “relieve suffering and offer each person the best possible end-of-life support, rather than interrupting it with a lethal gesture.”

They called on the French government to invest more in developing palliative care, so that it is accessible to the entire population, which is currently not the case, due to a lack of financial resources allocated to medical facilities and services.

“We are impressed by the progress of palliative care,” the bishops said. Palliative care “can and must be further developed in our country,” the bishops added, emphasizing that this comes at a cost, “which a democratic society like ours will be honored to assume.”

All lives are fragile

The bishops also stressed the importance of devoting time to the sick and elderly. “We urge all Catholics to become more involved with people with disabilities, the elderly or those at the end of life,” they wrote. “The request for assisted suicide or euthanasia is often the expression of a feeling of loneliness and abandonment to which we cannot and must not resolve.”

The bishops warned against the temptation to “view fragile lives as meaningless.” “Every life, however fragile, deserves to be honored to its natural end,” they said.

Macron wants to pass a law before summer that would open up the possibility of requesting “aid in dying” under “strict conditions.” The French president unveiled the content of the bill in a lengthy interview, given simultaneously to the left-wing daily Libération and to the Catholic daily newspaper La Croix.

Macron made it clear that he did not wish to use the terms “assisted suicide” or “euthanasia,” but “assisted dying” instead, calling a law to allow it a “law of fraternity.”

The next day, La Croix published a strong reaction from the president of the French bishops’ conference.

Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims denounced the “rhetoric” of Macron’s remarks. “Calling a text that opens up both assisted suicide and euthanasia a ‘law of fraternity’ is a deception,” he emphasized. “I believe in the normative nature of the law,” he said.

Caroline de Sury

Caroline de Sury writes for OSV News from Paris.