Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, niece of France's National Front leader Marine Le Pen, has accused the French Church of caving in to public pressure and playing down the abortion issue, calling for limits on the right to end a pregnancy.
Her aunt, who leads opinion polls for France's presidential election this spring but is not expected to win the crucial runoff round, takes a more tolerant view of abortion and has not made it a wedge issue in her campaign.
But the 27-year-old niece is an MP — one of only two for the anti-immigrant National Front — who has her own more hardline following in the far-right party and can be expected to keep speaking out.
"We should have a real public health law that aims to reduce the number of abortions," Maréchal-Le Pen told KTO Catholic television in her most explicit comments on the abortion issue. "There is no justification for the full reimbursement of abortion costs."
France's bishops had been too timid in the past, she said, contrasting their stand with the more activist approach taken by their counterparts in the United States.
"The French Church has a major responsibility for the current situation ... it has refused to lead the fight. We're paying for a kind of ecclesiastical complex because the Catholic Church collaborated (during the Nazi occupation) and it supported colonialism,” she said.
“But that Church generation has been overtaken by a new generation without those complexes, which wants to leave this relativism behind and take on these struggles openly. That's what I hope for, in any case.”
Maréchal-Le Pen, who stresses France’s identity as a traditionally Catholic country more than her aunt, also criticised Pope Francis’s defence of migrants as a Christian duty.
“I owe charity first and foremost to my family and my compatriots, and I don’t see what forbids me spiritually from developing my ideas,” she said.
“I’m like a lot of Christians who are upset by the initiatives Pope Francis has taken and with the contradictory things in his speeches and acts. The pope is a spiritual guide - I’m not sure he’s there to get involved in politics.”
PICTURE: Marion Maréchal Le Pen and her aunt, Marine Le Pen