The ‘Consistent Ethic of Life’

John Finnis

in Religion and Public Reasons

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199580095
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729416 | DOI:
The ‘Consistent Ethic of Life’

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This chapter gives a very detailed assessment of the many pronouncements in which Cardinal Joseph Bernardin articulated or envisaged (in 1983–1986) a ‘consistent ethic of life’ and proposed that Catholic bishops should seek to foster a consensus among Catholics and across society not only by publicly commending the principles of Catholic teaching across the entire spectrum of ‘life’ and ‘quality of life’ issues (genetics, abortion, war, capital punishment, euthanasia, pornography, hunger, homelessness, unemployment, and education), but also by publicly commending policies for appropriately applying those principles right across that spectrum. The chapter tries philosophically to clarify the principles of a consistent ethic of killing, against the challenge of a proportionalist (consequentialist) theological ethic and various denials of the personhood of certain classes of human individuals. The negative norm against infanticide is compared with the affirmative norm ‘feed the hungry’, to bring out the difficulties voters and others confront in relation to latter. The bad side effects of episcopal proposals of policies are considered.

Keywords: Joseph Bernardin; consistent ethic of life; quality of life; proportionalism; personhood

Chapter.  18940 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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