ethics

Are We a Nation of Liars?

A few days ago, former President Barack Obama announced that “there’s no actual evidence that there was anything illegal or fraudulent taking place.” That the former president is lying is obvious: Obama cannot be unaware of the evidence, from multiple whistleblower reports, to the multistate discovery of uncounted, wrongly counted, and ballots counted multiple times, to the huge vote [...]

Expertise and Ethics

One of the more puzzling things about contemporary arguments regarding what things a good or free society ought to allow and what things it ought to forbid is our turn toward the “expert,” the ethicist, the person who has made a professional career of teasing out deductions from moral premises. But what really qualifies such [...]

Brain Damage and the NFL: Is Watching Football Immoral?

Every Sunday, from the kickoff to the final Hail Mary attempt as time expires, Americans glue themselves to their TVs and cheer on their team. Football may not quite be America’s Pastime, but it’s certainly America’s Game. And yet, the most popular, the most watched, the most lucrative sport in the United States has a [...]

Investment and the Common Good

It is now twenty years since the publication of Centesimus Annus, yet only halting steps have been made towards an adequate reception of it. In his concluding remarks to that great encyclical, the Holy Father warned that the Church’s social teaching was no mere theory, “but above all else a basis and a motivation for [...]

Morality Pill

Not long ago, Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer, together with a research assistant, Agata Sagan, proposed a “morality pill” in a column in the New York Times. They speculated that moral behaviour is at least in part biochemically determined. So why not engineer moral behaviour with drugs? Here is the scenario that they paint: If continuing [...]

Newt Versus the Ruling Class

  The media elite and the Republican ruling class are remarkably similar in their political projection for the coming year. Journalists spent the entire year savaging every fast-rising challenger to Mitt Romney. The GOPs power pundits became equally agitated at the sniff of a conservative anywhere near the top of the GOP pack. It's the [...]

Never Apologize, Never Explain…

Remember the slogan “ethics is playing catch-up with science”? It was one of the trusty clichés of science journalists in the heated debates five or six years ago over embryo research, “therapeutic cloning” and embryonic stem cells. From a layman’s point of view, the nub of the issue was this: adult stem cells were ethically [...]

Of Daleks and Utilitarians

  Instructing doctors to kill the dying rather than waiting for them to die is icky. But think of the quality of the organs they could donate! This is the argument some Belgian transplant surgeons used to justify taking organs from patients who had just chosen to be euthanased. Creating rabbit-man chimeras for experimentation seems like [...]

Economics Is Not Moral Theology

Economics is not a business science, although it has applications to business. Rather, it is part of the liberal arts and is a science of human action. Economics studies the actions that most people take in response to circumstances in their lives, but especially those actions that are visible to us. This is why economists [...]

The Leaders We Deserve

  Nobody is perfect. Anybody can be weak when the opportunity presents itself. Even habitual offenders against prevailing mores can be treated with indulgence; after all, they are only human and besides, they happen to be amusing or admirable in other ways, or they have a difficult background to contend with, or... Some people feel [...]

University orders student to change her views on homosexuality

You've probably seen this story: The Alliance Defense Fund is suing Augusta University in Georgia on behalf of Jennifer Keeton, a 24 year old Masters in Counseling student. She has been ordered by the university to change her beliefs or be kicked out of their program. Keeton expressed her Christian views in classes at times, [...]

Are dolphins “non-human persons”?

We've known for a while that dolphins are smart creatures. Now it appears they're even smarter than we thought. According to the Times Online, research suggests dolphins have "individual personalities, a strong sense of self, and can think about the future." Dolphins can also recognize themselves in a reflection, and have figured out how to [...]

On Answering Questions

  We never know what curiosities former students will come up with. Eric Wind, an ex-student long interested in the history of Georgetown College, found for sale on eBay an old examination given at Georgetown in January 1929. (Let me note that this test was not Schall's, as in January of 1929, he was but [...]

Debating Beauty: Jacques Maritain and Dietrich von Hildebrand

Having taught both ethics and aesthetics many times in the course of my career, I've come to the conclusion that the latter is a much more demanding task. In both cases, the enemy to be fought is the deeply rooted relativism and subjectivism prevalent in our society. But in ethics, there's always a possibility that [...]

Tainted Love

What is done out of love is beyond good and evil. -- Friedrich Nietzsche They developed an ethics of pure intention and true love; but their own affair was born from lust, and collapsed in physical and spiritual anguish. The Letters of Abelard and Heloise reveal two personalities of Shakespearean grandeur, great even when they [...]

The Duty to Die: Scouting the Next Pro-Life Battlefield

In an article in the Washington Post last fall, Charlotte F. Allen offered her sneaking suspicions about American healthcare. Addressing the issue of the "living will," she wrote: When I contemplate the concept of "dying well," I can't avoid the uneasy feeling that it actually means "dying when we, the intellectual elite, think it is [...]

Does Money Taint Everything?

During Lent, you will hear some version of the following from the pulpit: "This is the season to volunteer in charitable causes, to give back in service to the community, in a labor of love."  One cannot argue with the instruction here, or the sentiment behind it. Lent is indeed a time for giving and [...]

The Surrender of Catholic Higher Education

Last month, Jesuit Rev. Lawrence Biondi, president of St. Louis University, resigned from the board of directors of Tenet Healthcare Corporation. Biondi had served on the board since 1998, most recently as chairman of Tenet’s ethics committee, for which he was eligible for annual compensation of more than $100,000. Biondi, like many Catholic college presidents, [...]

Curran, Dissent, & Rome: A Symposium

The case of Charles Curran, as it has come to be called, deserves all the considered attention that it can receive. The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome has demanded that Father Charles Curran "retract those positions [he has publicly stated] which violate the conditions necessary for a professor to be [...]

Curran, Dissent, & Rome: A Symposium

Many of my colleagues in the Theology Department have urged for acceptance of a "compromise" in the confrontation between Father Charles E. Curran and the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This compromise would require Father Curran to refrain from teaching sexual ethics at the University, require the SCDF to recognize Father Curran [...]

Curran, Dissent, & Rome: A Symposium

Bertrand Russell once observed dryly that religion could not be taken seriously as truth until it showed itself to be self-correcting, like science. Had Russell been more sympathetic to the whole Judeo-Christian tradition, he would have had to acknowledge its steady development of thought about faith and morals. But part of his intuition was correct: [...]

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