After Anne Ratier’s video, “the danger that human beings will become ‘valueless’ is a threat for us”

Publié le 2 Apr, 2019

Last week, Hugo Clément, a journalist from Konbini interviewed Anne Ratier to mark the publication of her book “I gifted death to my son”, published thirty years after the event. The philosopher and genethics expert Pascal Jacob explains the risks associated with the trivialization and media coverage of such serious events.


This video is frightening. It shows a woman who convinced herself that it was better for her son to die than to live because, she says, “life must have dignity”. We are obviously uncomfortable with this testimony, whose rhetoric is based on a no doubt sub-conscious form of guilt: “I killed my son, but would you have had the courage to look after him?”.  In the face of this icy testimony, it is as though we are forced to acknowledge that this child was too much of a burden for a single woman. But such testimony is not without significance. It means becoming accustomed to the idea that it could be a form of necessity, and even beneficial, to kill someone. Since there was no one around to help this woman, and since we personally cannot help her, how could we fail to accept this necessity, which we are asked to clothe with benevolence? Killing someone thus becomes an expression of kindness.


In so doing, what is “understandable” and what is right are no longer distinguishable. It is understandable that fear, sadness, or some other negative passion could cause anyone to commit a similar act. However, that is no reason to become accustomed to it and eventually consider it right.


In her Letter to Bernanos, Simone Weil [1] warns us of this. In 1938, she had before her eyes the crimes of the Spanish Republicans, whose political commitments she nevertheless shared. “My own feeling was that, when once a certain class of people has been placed by the temporal and spiritual authorities outside the ranks of those whose life has a value, then nothing comes more naturally to men than murder. As soon as men know that they can kill without risk of punishment or blame, they kill; or at least they encourage killers with approving smiles. If anyone happens to feel a slight distaste to begin with, he keeps quiet and he soon begins to suppress it for fear of seeming unmanly. People get carried away by a sort of intoxication, which is irresistible without a fortitude of soul which I am bound to consider exceptional, since I have met with it nowhere. On the other hand, I met peaceable Frenchmen, for whom I had never before felt contempt and who would never have dreamt of doing any killing themselves, but who savoured that blood-polluted atmosphere with visible pleasure. For them I had never again been able to feel any esteem.

The very purpose of the whole struggle is soon lost in an atmosphere of this sort. For the purpose can only be defined in terms of the public good, of the welfare of men – and men have become valueless”. 


The danger that human beings will become “valueless” is a threat for us.


[1] Simone Weil, philosopher, 1909–1943.



L’auteur : Pascal Jacob

Après des études de Philosophie à la Sorbonne et à l’IPC, il enseigne en Lycée puis, l’agrégation obtenue, dans divers établissements supérieurs : l’IPC, l’Institut Albert le Grand à Angers, le séminaire interdiocésain de Nantes, et enfin l’Institut de Soins Infirmiers de Laval. Il a dirigé entre 1994 et 2000 le scolasticat des sjm. Depuis 2008, il fait partie de la commission diocésaine de bioéthique. Il a publié en 2008, “L’Ecole, une affaire d’Etat ?” chez Fleurus, en 2012 “La morale chrétienne est-elle laïque ?” chez Artège, en 2015 “La morale chrétienne, carcan ou libération ?” chez DDB. Il participe aux activités de l’association « Objection », dont l’objet est d’étendre la reconnaissance du droit à l’objection de conscience.

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