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Feminism In Christian Ethics Essay, Research Paper

In Feminism And Christian Ethics, Lisa Sowle Cahill argues that feminist ethics

has much to offer Catholicism. For one, the main issues that concern feminist ethics are

basically the same ones that make up Catholic identity. That is, how women and men

define themselves in society, what means are available to them for attaining their ends- in

short inter personal and social relations. Second, the founding principles that guide

feminist ethics are rooted in the tradition of natural law, a tradition well known to

Catholicism. So, while the approach of feminist ethics has been to scrutinize traditions

which seek to oppress women by supporting unequal social structures, the guiding

principles behind feminist ethics still remain well lodge in natural law. As Cahill says, it

is in the founding principles of natural law where feminist ethics and Catholicism meet.

And it is also here where lies the main contribution of feminist ethics for the future of

Catholicism. Cahill shows us, how recent studies done on Aquinas? natural law disclose

that Aquinas based his ethics on very general principles. That is to say, Aquinas

understood the complexity of life, and, unlike what most believe, he was cautious about

generating a rigid ethics that would oppress individuals. Aquinas believed that moral

discourse to be truly ethical must first and most importantly begin with an understanding

of the structures of society and the culture under which individuals live. Hence, Aquinas

looked forward to developing a contextual ethics, and was cautious about generating the

types of absolutes and universal principles that were later integrated into his theology.

Although, Aquinas believed that universals were still possible, he nevertheless, believed

that these could only come after considering everything that makes up human existence.

Thus, given Aquinas? understanding of society as a vehicle that brings people together to

strive for the common good, a reconciliation is very plausible in this area. As Cahill says,

natural law beyond all things believes in reasonableness and objectivity, which is

basically the same understanding that guides feminist ethics. Feminists, argue for

freedom, but only in so far as the common good avoids considering social dynamics and

inter-personal relations. Apart from rejecting unequal relations that arise from not taking

into consideration what makes up human existence, feminists, like the natural law

tradition, believe that a common good is worth pursing. So, while on the outset feminists

may look like as if they are breaking away from Catholicism, they are in fact much closer

to Catholicism than one may think. As new challenges bring the Church to question its

ethics and as women and men seek new identities, feminist ethics can help Catholicism

make the transition so that the challenges of modern society can be meet.

I enjoyed reading Lisa Cahill?s essay. She brought me to see Aquinas? ethics in a

new way. I believe that Cahill makes an important contribution to Christianity by

showing us that it is possible to remain within tradition all while progressing. Often I find

myself thinking if Christianity will ever be able to survive considering its rigid ethics.

However, as Cahill so eloquently showed me, it is possible. The renewal interest in

natural law is showing us that we can continue to press forward while remaining in touch

with our Christian background.


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