Izunwa & Ifemeje on Right to Life, Abortion and the Principle of Double-Effect

Maurice Okechukwu Izunwa and Sylvia Ifemeje (both from Nnamdi Azikiwe U., Awka) has posted Right to Life and Abortion Debate in Nigeria: A Case for the Legislation of the Principle of Double-Effect. The abstract follows.

The controversy as to whether abortion on demand will be legalized in Nigeria has been long and protracted. This is not unconnected with the fact that the issues that border on life are always sensitive for society and all the more for the legislature and the Courts. Notwithstanding the comparatively conservative status of law on abortion in Nigeria, arguments from differential fields of knowledge relating to the amendment of the law as it is, are far reaching. A great many insist that all forms of willful abortion should be criminalized. In this school of thought, we find the Catholic Church at the baseline. Nevertheless, the leftist pro-choice school defends the opinion that it is only fair and just that a woman should be left to decide in such a grave matter about her life and health. This essay makes an ethical detour in differential arguments as a necessary prerequisite for the much needed legal mediation of the rival camps. It proposes the legislation of the “principle of double effect” as the legal middle course.

O’Brien & Koons on A Hylomorphic Critique of the New Natural Law Theory

Matthew B. O’Brien (Rutgers U.) and Robert C. Koons (U. of Texas, Austin) have posted Objects of Intention: A Hylomorphic Critique of the New Natural Law Theory. The abstract follows.

The “New Natural Law” Theory (NNL) of Grisez, Finnis, Boyle, and their collaborators offers a distinctive account of intentional action, which underlies a moral theory that aims to justify many aspects of traditional morality and Catholic doctrine. In fact, we show that the NNL is committed to premises that entail the permissibility of many actions that are irreconcilable with traditional morality and Catholic doctrine, such as elective abortions. These consequences follow principally from the NNL’s planning theory of intention coupled with an implicitly Cartesian conception of human behavior, in which behavior chosen by an agent has no intrinsic “intentionalness” apart from what he confers upon it as part of his plan. Pace the NNL collaborators, we sketch an alternative hylomorphic conception of intentional action that avoids untoward moral implications by grounding human agency in the exercise of basic powers that are either essential to human nature or acquired through participation in social practices.

Denk on the Eighth Amendment, Catholic Teaching and Death Penalty Discourse

Kurt M. Denk, S.J. (Boston College Law School) has posted Jurisprudence that Necessarily Embodies Moral Judgment: The Eighth Amendment, Catholic Teaching, and Death Penalty Discourse. The abstract follows.

Despite obvious differences, certain historical and conceptual underpinnings of Catholic death penalty teaching parallel core elements of U.S. death penalty jurisprudence, particularly given the Supreme Court’s expansive yet contested moral reasoning in Kennedy v. Louisiana, which stressed that Eighth Amendment analysis “necessarily embodies a moral judgment.” This Article compares that jurisprudence with the Catholic Church’s present, near-absolute opposition to capital punishment, assessing how the death penalty, as a quintessential law and morality question, implicates overlapping sources of moral reasoning. It then identifies substantive concepts that permit Eighth Amendment jurisprudence and the Catholic perspective to be mutually translated, presenting this approach as a means to advance death penalty discourse.

Writings from the Trento Conference

In December, 2011, Orbis Books published Catholic Theological Ethics, Past, Present, and Future: The Trento Conference.  The volume, edited by James F. Keenan, S.J.—Jesuit priest and professor in theology at Boston College—, collects works arising out of the Trento Conference, convened in Trento, Italy in July, 2010.  (Significantly, Trento was the location of the sixteenth century Council of Trent that launched the Catholic Counter-Reformation.)

The Trento Conference was a massive effort—featuring hundreds of presenters— focused on the encounter between moral theology and issues of contemporary global social policy.  The Conference took a dialogic methodological approach—that is, an approach not drawing strict lines between Catholic orthodoxy and unorthodoxy—to these contemporary social issues, which included “sexuality, authority, . . . gender, sustainability, health, econom[ics], . . . the right to food, [and] family.”  See generally James F. Keenan, S.J., What Happened at Trento 2010?, 72 Theol. Stud. 131, 140, 146 (2011) (interestingly, Theological Studies is a Jesuit journal focused on theological ethics founded in 1940 and edited by the Jesuit scholar and Catholic social thinker, Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J., from 1942 until his death in 1967).

The contributions in Fr. Keenan’s volume aspire to develop a Catholic moral theology for the twenty first century.  They examine Catholic moral theology’s history, review theological ethics as they exist today, and propose directions Catholic theological ethics might—or should—take in the years to come.  Of particular social policy interest are its explorations of inter-religious dialogue and harmonic co-existence; perspectives from socially, economically, and globally marginalized and/or silenced communities; and ethics in politics.

For Orbis Books’ description of the volume, please follow the jump. Read more