In the debate on the end of life, there will be no common front presented by the religious leaders of France. And for good reason. If Catholicism clearly rejects euthanasia, Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam have sometimes significant nuances on the issue.
Unsurprisingly, there will be no ecumenical joint declaration, when the citizens' convention is to meet from December 9, 2022 in order to inform the State's choice on the advisability of changing the Claeys-Leonetti Law, intended to achieve legalization of euthanasia: “We have rather eliminated this option,” modestly declares the president of the Conference of the Bishops of France (CEF), in the November 27 edition of the Journal du Dimanche.
In reality, the nuances between Catholicism on the one hand, and Protestantism, Islam and Judaism on the other, are sometimes abyssal. Consistent with herself, a comforting sign of her unity and catholicity, the Catholic Church condemns without appeal any action aimed at directly ending the life of the patient, or at making available to the latter the means enabling him to end it himself.
The other major “religions” present on French soil are advancing in dispersed order on the issue, not to mention their internal contradictions: in Judaism, euthanasia is thus strictly prohibited, as the Consistory website reminds us, but certain rabbis, relying on Talmudic stories evoking cases where life is no longer worthy or no longer bearable, believe that death can be accelerated, on a case-by-case basis.
In Islam, Allah is also master of life and death, so euthanasia is usually condemned. But there are nuances among Koran specialists: Professor Sadek Beloucif, who was a member of the National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE) from 1999 to 2007, insists on the importance given by Islam to the intentionality of acts.
This is how he quotes a hadith – a statement or act attributed to Mohammed, the prophet of Islam – on assisted dying. “Even if the act has a negative consequence, it is valid if it is carried out in good faith and with a good spirit,” explains the specialist, whose position is not isolated.
As for Protestants, traversed by a nebula of currents ranging from literalists to the most liberal, their approach to the end of life is a variable geometry: “Within Protestantism, we are not all aligned,” stated Christian Krieger, president of the Protestant Federation of France.
Thus, the position of the Church on the end of life manifests a coherence which is its strength, as explained in an unexpected contribution to Le Figaro by Luc Ferry, the former Minister of National Education: “Of all religions, it is undoubtedly the Catholic who has always been the most resolutely opposed to the legalization of euthanasia.”
“And she does so in the name of a theology which she considers equally valid against abortion and which will be found strongly formulated in the paragraphs devoted to these questions found in the Official Catechism of the Roman Church.”
And Luc Ferry concludes: “Catholic doctrine, on this point as clear as it is constant, then culminates in a vigorous call to develop palliative care rather than to legalize euthanasia, but in the idea that human beings are not the ‘masters and possessors’ of a life entrusted to them by God, she adds two other considerations concerning the meaning of suffering.”
“On the one hand, disease can be a ‘path of conversion.’… In addition, the torture of Christ is, according to the Church, an example for human beings, because ‘by his passion and his death on the Cross, he gave a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to Him and unite us to His redemptive passion.’”
These are strong words that the bishops of France should take up on their own, in order to galvanize all the French faithful and bring them together behind the banner of the fight for life from conception to natural death.