France Quéré (1936-1995)

France Quéré was a Protestant theologian who made a remarkable contribution to the understanding of ethical issues in a rapidly changing world.  Her work was chiefly concerned with the changing position of women in society, the handicapped and the terminally ill.

Her training

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In 1936, France Jaulnes was born into a wealthy, Protestant, Cevenol family in Montpellier. Her father, Paul Jaulnes, was a University Professor of Chemistry. While studying classical literature she came across the Church Fathers. In order to have a better understanding of how their theses and issues could relate to the modern world she attended the Theology Faculty of Montpellier where she attended the lectures of Wilhelm Vischer (1895-1988) on the Old Testament and Georges Crespy (1920-1976) on philosophy and sociology.

With the latter, she concentrated more especially on ethical issues and came into contact with the works of the pastor André Dumas and the philosopher Paul Ricoeur. In 1961, she married Yves Quéré, a specialist in solid state physics, who soon became a Professor at the Ecole Polytechnique (a renowned University institution), and a member of the Academy of Science. They were married ecumenically and ecumenism was a constant reference in their relationship. They had three children.

Early stages of her career

At the beginning of her career, France Quéré studied the Church Fathers. Father Hamman (1910-2000), who was a specialist in this field, asked her to join him in his work for the Icthus collection, which he supervised for the Migne Editions. She translated and edited several volumes of chosen texts, together with other specialists, both Catholic and Protestant. These were, among others: Rich and Poor in the Ancient Church (1962), the Mystery of Christmas (1963), the Eucharist (1964), Women (1968), Marriage(1969).

In these ancient writings she discovered reality on several levels and different interpretations which coincided with her experience of the modern world and especially the much contested, increasingly changing, condition of women and the transformation of family values.

France Quéré became involved in contemporary issues

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Although she never gave up her work on the Church Fathers, she began getting involved in the deep analysis of problems which were crucially important at that time. Her first essay, the Destitution of Hope (1971) revealed her deep conviction of ethical values; she understood the potential of scientific progress, (contraception and assisted reproductive technology among other aspects).

She also understood the many consequences of such changes, many of which were as yet unknown such as violence, both in the home and in women’s professional lives.

Her broad-mindedness and inventive wisdom made her a recognised expert who was often solicited for her views within the Feminist Movement (the Young Women’s Group, Family Planning, the association which fought against rape). She made her opinions known on such controversial subjects as abortion, society’s attitude to the handicapped and terminal illness.

She was active in the Protestant Family Association and became a member of the High Council for the Population and the Family. She was nominated as a member of the Advisory Board of National Ethics when it was founded in 1983. She was also a leading journalist, working regularly for The Cross, the weekly paper Reform and the monthly magazine Panorama; her writings were of lasting importance.

She died of an asthma attack in 1995.

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