Sunday, January 10, 2010

Catholic Ethics in Today's World / An Introduction to Health Care Ethics

By Jozef D. Zalot and Benedict Guevin, OSB, 275 pages; By Michael R. Panicola and others, 310 pages.

Catholic Ethics in Today's World offers a general overview of the various areas of ethical contention, including sexual, business, medical, and military ethics. The chapter on Catholic social teaching (CST) states that CST is “grounded in practical reality. CST does not arise from speculative theology or from technical theological arguments, but from the reality of people's lives.”

CST and other areas of Church teaching leave a lit of leeway for individual circumstances because there can be no blanket, one-size-fits-all teaching. Nor does the Church engage in micro-management of the issues. Rather, it strives to form proper consciences so that the individual can make the right moral choice in a given situation. For instance, the Church prescribes no specific economic system, but declares that any given system should allow for the flourishing of human talents, and the respect for everyone.

The great ideal is the respect for the dignity of the person, who is made in the image of God. In economics, owners and workers must respect each other. In health care issues, human life and dignity is to be the highest good. Humans can flourish sexually only within the confines of marriage, where each has given their gift of sexuality to the other.

An Introduction to Health Care Ethics offers a solid theological-ethical introduction to the remaining chapters, which examine such topics as stem cell research, abortion, and end-of-life issues. It examines the broad theories of ethics, such as virtue theories, deontological theories, and consequentialist theories. Even the non-specialist reader can understand the straightforward explanations for each of these.

The following chapters on specific applications of these foundations highlight the importance of human dignity, and love for each other. Rather than harshly judgmental, the authors emphasize the extreme emotional and psychological difficulties that surround these ethics. Moral decisions are never made in a vacuum, but are taken by people often under duress, who might have a hard time thinking clearly.

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