By Meg Jalsevac

Monseigneur Jean-Pierre CattenozAVIGNON, FRANCE, March 29, 2007 ( – On March 22, Archbishop Jean-Pierre Cattenoz of the French diocese of Avignon issued an open letter addressed to all the candidates in France’s upcoming presidential election.  The letter emphatically promoted the value to France of Catholic Church teachings on issues such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage and the sanctity of life.

  Cattenoz’s letter began with the archbishop admitting that, after listening to the election promises and potential programs proposed by the presidential candidates, he “feared for my country.”  And yet, he says, small indications of potential have been visible and have given him some comfort and a source of hope.  He applauded the candidates for their unanimous attempts to eliminate capital punishment but voiced his alarm on hearing the various political programs that foreshadow a “culture of death for our society.”

  The letter acknowledged that, in his capacity as archbishop, Cattenoz was not campaigning for or against any specific candidate or political party.  Instead, he explained, he was using his open letter to alert all good-willed citizens to the issues that are fundamentally crucial to the future of France.

  The archbishop clearly defined the sanctity and importance of the family – referring to the family as the “sanctuary of life – a critical and irreplaceable reality for the common good of all peoples.”  He said that the family is the “privileged and irreplaceable place where man learns to receive and give the love that alone gives purpose to life.” 

  He went on to explain that the family is integrally rooted in the sacred institution of traditional marriage, “the most profound reality of man and woman, that is, the union of man and woman.”

  Cattenoz chastised the candidates saying that the majority of their proposed social programs, “far from protecting and promoting the family, founded on a monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, rather open up a door to homosexual unions and adoption of children by homosexuals.”  

  The letter cautioned that homosexual unions must not be likened to traditional marriage or afforded legal recognition.  The archbishop said that to do so would result in a destabilization of the family and a usurping of its unique social roll.  Cattenoz clarified the important fact that personal respect and love for homosexual persons does not call for a fundamental legal change in recognizing homosexual unions. 

  The archbishop reminded the politicians of their grave responsibility in their dealings with the law in such matters given that the law plays a major roll in the “formation of public mentalities and habits.” 

  Cattenoz’s letter went on to condemn the rising number of divorces and broken homes – which prove largely “to victimize innocent children.”   He explained that the various aspects of marital breakdown are the mere expressions of a false sense of liberty that is realistically sunk in anarchy.  He likened anarchical liberty as one that is merely trying to parade as the “total liberty of man” while all the while, these societal whims are completely trampling the interests of the children involved. 

“On the contrary, recognizing and maintaining the institution of marriage is one of the most important services to the common good and a requirement for the true development of man and society while at the same time providing the surest guarantee of assuring the dignity, equality and true liberty of the human person.”

  He counseled the candidates to be aware that such situations threaten the very stability of the family today.  Cattenoz proceeded to encourage them to not be afraid to combat this societal breakdown but to be willing to go against the wayward culture and expectations of today’s liberal society.

  The letter then moved on to treat of the Church’s position on abortion, acknowledging that it is legal but explaining that fact does not make it moral or in accord with the teachings of the Gospel.  “The vulgar practice of abortion and the silence regarding the psychological consequences, the wounds and the hidden sufferings that plague women forever are intolerable.” 

  Cattenoz explained that “the liberty to kill is not a true liberty but rather a tyranny.”  He referred back to John-Paul II’s words in the Gospel of Life when he warned that, of all the crimes that man is capable of perpetrating against life, the realities of abortion render it the most grave and condemnable of all.

  Cattenoz also condemned the practice of euthanasia explaining that society is continuously pressing to eliminate the problem of suffering by prematurely inducing death “at the most opportune moment.”  He took this opportunity to reiterate that life is sacred from conception to natural death and that Church teaching forbids acceptance or the promotion of any law that strives to legalize euthanasia. 

  The letter instructed candidates to instead focus their attention on striving to provide caring and compassionate palliative care for the terminally ill.

  He went on to say that artificial manipulation of embryos introduces a further threat to our society.  An embryo is a “human person” and “it is necessary to protect it because it is a full member of the human species and so merits our respect.”  He cautioned that the science of embryonic manipulation has introduced a subtle form of eugenics and foreshadows a terrifying possibility of human eradication.

  Cattenoz warned that many of the political programs of the day flirt with eugenics by using scientific tools to determine which infants are deemed desirable and which are not.  He condemned the practice saying that modern science today is being used “to search for the perfect child – merely the fruit of a totally controlled selection.  The sick, the handicapped, and those who are most in need of love by their very existence are judged useless and considered an overwhelming burden of which it is necessary to rid oneself of and eliminate them.”

“In the name of the Gospel, I want to defend life, the Gospel of Life.  I cannot close my eyes to all the men and women today in France who feel wounded, excluded, left on the side of the road for so many personal, economic, social, political or even religious reasons.”

  The letter went on to remind the political hopefuls that the purpose of the economy was to be of service to society and the common good – always in harmony with the principles of social justice.  He warned that today’s global philosophies glorify the economy “to the detriment of the respect of the human person.”

“Where are your priorities?  How can an authentic human relationship exist in our country?  How will you respect the most poor?  How will you handle immigration?  How will you penalize those who exploit illegal immigrants?” 

  The archbishop asked for answers to these questions and more – demanding an authentic answer that was not an election promise that would be forgotten the next day but rather clearly formulated plans with a sincere intention of implementation.

  The archbishop called the candidates to task, asking if their actions were “merely to gain votes or were they really in the service of our country.”  He condemned the French society which glorifies the individual as an autonomous and self-sufficient being with no regard for an objective truth. 

  The archbishop concluded his address by requesting that all those who intended to vote take ample time before voting to evaluate which candidates had expressed opinions and strategies that were in accord with the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.

  France’s presidential and legislative election is scheduled for April of this year.  As illustrated by Archbishop Cattenoz’s letter, the election campaigns have been rife with social, moral and political issues. 

  The two candidates considered to be the front runners are Segolene Royal of the reigning left-wing Socialist Party and Nicholas Sarkozy of the more conservative Union for a Popular Movement.  Sarkozy has vowed to protect traditional marriage and the dignity of the family while Royal recently publicized her agenda to legalize euthanasia.  The political battle has been referred to as a war for the soul of France.

  Read the full text of the letter in French:

  Read Previous Coverage:

  France Presidential Hopeful Royal Promises to Legalize Euthanasia

  France: Religious Leaders Sign Joint Statement Defending Traditional Marriage


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