Religious leaders in France are surprisingly nuanced when it comes to euthanasia


Western Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis,

French demonstration against euthanasia. Photo AFP, Kenzo Tribouillard

In France, the debate on self-determined death is ongoing. Now, a book has bundled the reflections of thirteen religious representatives on the issue.

The most prominent religions find it difficult to mingle themselves in the debate on the end of life in France, anthropologist Laëtitia Atlani-Duault writes in her introduction to the book, which is called “Religions and End of Life”. Therefore, she bundled the testimonies in a book, La Croix writes. In the book, the views of Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists are included.

Even though the religious groups have been consulted several times, Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, who is also the president of the Conference of Bishops in France, does not find the setting ideal to give a clear overview of the opinion of the Roman Catholic Church on the matter. “Each time, we only had a short time, ill-suited to this serious subject to which we cannot respond in a few minutes”, De Moulins-Beaufort writes in his chapter.

The book gives religious leaders more space and freedom to reflect on the End of Life issue, La Croix writes. Thus, the chapters become “more personal than the simple presentation of the doctrine.” They also leave more space for nuanced positions on the matter.


According to La Croix, the book, containing “a polyphony of stories”, shows that all religious groups involved see life as sacred and man as having intrinsic dignity, which leads to the prohibition of killing. At the same time, the opinion on euthanasia is not as black-white as often thought.

For example, Dominican theologian Véronique Margon, the president of the Conference of Religious Men and Women of France, and pastor Christian Krieger from the Protestant Federation of France, for what is known as the “ethics of distress.” This concept comes from philosopher Paul Ricoeur and means there is room for “the ultimate transgression” as long as it is outside the law and happens only when “The choice is no longer between evil and good but between evil and the worst.”



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