By Elise Ann Allen, Senior Correspondent
ROME (Crux) — Europe’s bishops have criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal earlier this month to include abortion in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, saying that doing so would not only be unethical but would oppose European values.
In a Jan. 19 speech to European Parliament following France’s Jan. 1 success in taking over the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time in 14 years, Macron, a baptized Catholic, proposed an update to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights that would include abortion and defense of the environment.
“We must update this charter to be more explicit on protection of the environment, [and] the recognition of the right to an abortion,” Macron said.
His remarks came on the same day that the French senate voted 202 to 138 to reject a bill extending the legal deadline for an abortion from 12 weeks to 14 weeks. The bill is set to return to the senate’s agenda this month.
In a Feb. 8 statement responding to Macron’s proposal, leaders of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) expressed “deep concern and opposition” to Macron’s proposal.
The statement was signed by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, President of COMECE, and as well as the commission’s vice presidents, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen; Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor; and Bishop Jan Vokal of Hradec Kralove.
“Since its beginning, the European integration process has always been supported and accompanied closely by the Church,” they said, and voiced agreement with Macron on the importance of defending and promoting the values of the European Union.
However, one of these values, they said, is “respect for the dignity of every human person in every stage of his or her life, especially in situations of complete vulnerability, as is the case of an unborn child.”
Europe’s founding fathers, “based on the genuine humanistic tradition that makes Europe what it is, were very conscious of the fundamental importance of the inalienable dignity of the human person as well as of community as common ground for our Union,” they said.
The bishops acknowledged the tragic and complex situations that mothers who are considering an abortion experience and stressed that caring for women who are in difficulty or who face conflict because of their pregnancy is a central part of the Church’s ministry, and it “must also be a duty exercised by our societies.”
Speaking of the importance of caring for both mothers and their unborn children, the bishops insisted that “Women in distress should not be left alone, nor can the right to life of the unborn child be ignored. They both must receive all necessary help and assistance.”
From a legal standpoint, the bishops noted that “there is no recognized right to abortion in European or international law.”
Any attempt to change this by including abortion in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union “not only goes against fundamental European beliefs and values but would be an unjust law, devoid of an ethical foundation and destined to be a cause of perpetual conflict among the citizens of the EU,” they said.
They argued that European integration “should always foster and promote respect for different identities,” and must be void of “ideological impositions.”
“In this sense, the proposal of President Macron of inserting this supposed right can in no way be seen as ‘breathing new life into our basic rights,’” they said.
Macron, who ever since his election in 2017 has positioned himself as a pro-Europe leader standing in contrast to some of his nationalist and populist political opponents, appears to be polishing his credentials before he faces re-election in April.
France’s presidential election is scheduled to begin April 10 and will conclude April 24.
The Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe (FAFCE) has also sent a letter to Macron criticizing his abortion proposal and accusing him of being a hypocrite.
“While on the one hand, you talk about the ‘existential rule of law of our Europe’, on the other you propose that a practice which is illegal in some EU Member States should be included in the Charter of Fundamental Rights,” they said.
They also noted that the charter currently enshrines “the abolition of the death penalty,” and the addition of abortion rights would mean “recognizing as a fundamental right a practice considered by many of our fellow citizens to be deadly violence against our most vulnerable members.”
FAFCE argued that the proposal also stands in direct contradiction with the charter’s first two articles, which speak of “the inviolability of human dignity and the right to life.”
The proposal could cause religious freedom concerns, they said, saying, “All those who, in line with science, believe that human life begins at conception run the risk of seeing their freedom restricted.”
They urged Macron to ensure that France’s current control over European parliament “is not exploited for political and ideological gains,” but works for “the common good of our peoples, our families and our children, who are the future of Europe.”