In Feminism And Christian Ethics, Lisa Sowle Cahill argues that feminist ethicshas much to offer Catholicism.
For one, the main issues that concern feministethics are basically the same ones that make up Catholic identity. That is, howwomen and men define themselves in society, what means are available to them forattaining their ends- in short inter personal and social relations. Second, thefounding principles that guide feminist ethics are rooted in the tradition ofnatural law, a tradition well known to Catholicism. So, while the approach offeminist ethics has been to scrutinize traditions which seek to oppress women bysupporting unequal social structures, the guiding principles behind feministethics still remain well lodge in natural law. As Cahill says, it is in thefounding principles of natural law where feminist ethics and Catholicism meet.Order now
And it is also here where lies the main contribution of feminist ethics for thefuture 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 mostbelieve, he was cautious about generating a rigid ethics that would oppressindividuals. Aquinas believed that moral discourse to be truly ethical mustfirst and most importantly begin with an understanding of the structures ofsociety and the culture under which individuals live.
Hence, Aquinas lookedforward to developing a contextual ethics, and was cautious about generating thetypes of absolutes and universal principles that were later integrated into histheology. Although, Aquinas believed that universals were still possible, henevertheless, believed that these could only come after considering everythingthat makes up human existence. Thus, given Aquinas’ understanding of societyas a vehicle that brings people together to strive for the common good, areconciliation is very plausible in this area. As Cahill says, natural lawbeyond all things believes in reasonableness and objectivity, which is basicallythe same understanding that guides feminist ethics. Feminists, argue forfreedom, but only in so far as the common good avoids considering socialdynamics and inter-personal relations. Apart from rejecting unequal relationsthat arise from not taking into consideration what makes up human existence,feminists, like the natural law tradition, believe that a common good is worthpursing.
So, while on the outset feminists may look like as if they are breakingaway from Catholicism, they are in fact much closer to Catholicism than one maythink. As new challenges bring the Church to question its ethics and as womenand men seek new identities, feminist ethics can help Catholicism make thetransition so that the challenges of modern society can be meet. I enjoyedreading Lisa Cahill’s essay. She brought me to see Aquinas’ ethics in a newway.
I believe that Cahill makes an important contribution to Christianity byshowing us that it is possible to remain within tradition all while progressing. Often I find myself thinking if Christianity will ever be able to surviveconsidering its rigid ethics. However, as Cahill so eloquently showed me, it ispossible. The renewal interest in natural law is showing us that we can continueto press forward while remaining in touch with our Christian background.