A French Catholic youth group has withdrawn a statement calling abortion a "fundamental right for women and couples" after strong criticism from the bishops' conference and an uproar on social media.
The Rural Movement of Catholic Youth (MRJC) made the statement in reaction to the annual March for Life, held in Paris on 21 January, whose anti-abortion message it said was full of “shaming, intolerance and hate … under cover of Christian values".
A Church spokesman promptly denounced the statement as contrary to Catholic teaching, attributing it to “some dysfunctioning” within the organisation. The MRJC issued a "clarification" a few hours later that dropped the "fundamental right" phrase and said the group simply wanted to keep open a dialogue about abortion.
Amid the ensuing uproar, Bishop Bernard Ginoux of Montaubon said the MRJC was no longer Catholic and he would stop paying the subsidies it receives from his diocese.
“A movement that calls itself Christian, receives subsidies from the Catholic Church and advocates abortion is in total contradiction with Church teaching,” he wrote in an open letter to the MRJC.
The group receives about half a million euros a year in subsidies from Church sources. A member was named last week as one of three French delegates to a Vatican meeting in March to prepare the upcoming synod on youth.
By contrast, Fr Arnaud Favart, vicar general of the Mission de France prelature, defended the MRJC, saying "they love the 'C' signifying their Christian connection, even if they do not master all the theological mysteries".
Favart accused the Church of overreacting and shutting out young Christians “who have the smell of the sheep and are field hospitals for those who have suffered the accidents of life”.
Photograph: People demonstrate against abortion during the March for Life annual rally in Paris on January 22, 2017. Photo by Somer/ABACAPRESS.COM