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Janet E. Smith's Articles
The Catholic Church has a wisdom about sexuality derived from Scripture and natural law (good common sense) that too few Catholics know and live.  Sexual Common Sense features publised articles by Janet E. Smith, an author and expert on Catholic Ethics, that make clear the common sense teachings of the Chuch on sexuality.  Addressing issues from abortion to contraception and bioethics Sexual Common Sense will arm you with information and insights that will help you both live out and spread the Churchs' teachings.

Janet Smith debates Charles Curran on Contraception
Janet E. Smith's Articles

Pro-Life activist Dr. Janet Smith debated the dissenter Dr. Charles Curran in front of a packed Dallas audience in 1994. I think the debate is well worth a focused listening because Dr. Smith and Dr. Curran are widely recognized as the top proponents of their respective positions on the contraception issue (at least in the US), and it's a rare occurrence indeed to hear two figures of their stature debating each other live.

In Part One, Dr. Smith and Fr. Curran give their presentations and rebuttals.

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You can download part 1 of the debate here.


In Part Two, they ask each other questions, and then take many more from the audience.

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You can download part 2 of the debate here.


Thanks to The American Papist for originally posting this debate!


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Moral Acquaintances: Methodology in Bioethics - A Critique
Janet E. Smith's Articles
Written by Dr. Janet E. Smith   

The field of bioethics amply illustrates that morally, ours is a pluralistic culture. Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., in his book Moral Acquaintances: Methodology in Bioethics undertakes to assess the strengths and limitations of the reigning methods of bioethics and to propose methods that will enable bioethics to operate better in our pluralistic times, methods based on the concept of moral acquaintanceship, a concept that attempts to build on values or principles opposing theories might hold in common.

It is not until very late into the book that Wildes makes explicit his understanding of bioethics it is: “a discipline that resolves moral controversies in medical research, experimentation, clinical treatment, and health care policy. As a field of inquiry seeking to resolve moral controversies, bioethics has sought agreement or consensus with a zeal reminiscent of the knights’ search for the lost chalice. Each method in bioethics attempts to establish as much agreement as possible, and different methods legitimate themselves, in part, by their ability to articulate agreement.” Had this definition appeared earlier in the book, it would have save some readers much frustration and confusion, that is, those who operate with the understanding that bioethics is a subdiscipline of ethics, that it is the attempt to discern what is the moral action in a given situation (in the health care arena) and what reasons justify that action. This definition explains the curious categories Wildes uses to evaluate various theories; that is, for instance, he regularly faults an ethical system, here called a method, for not achieving a consensus in a pluralistic culture.


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The Common Sense Against Same-Sex Unions
Janet E. Smith's Articles
Written by Dr. Janet E. Smith   

Just as like cannot attract like in magnetic fields, homosexuality is contrary to natural law

Our culture tends in many ways to be skeptical; many, if not most, people today doubt that there is any truth upon which all individuals can agree. We are also relativists, thinking that morals are relative to a culture or even to an individual. In general, we don't believe we can know for certain that any actions are intrinsically immoral. In fact, our legal system prohibits actions traditionally understood to be immoral, such as murder and theft. Our laws, in fact, limit human behavior in many ways -- mandating, for example, that our children be educated or telling us which drugs are legal or illegal. These laws are based on a combination of what we believe is moral and what is beneficial/harmful for human beings.

Skepticism and relativism are very much behind the tendency of our culture to accept same-sex unions. Add in the fairly universal acknowledgement that human beings need to love and be loved, and it has led many people to come to the conclusion that homosexual unions should be tolerated and even approved. It seems arrogant to insist that homosexual unions are wrong and cruel to deny a segment of the population the opportunity to love and be loved.


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Sterilizations Reconsidered?
Janet E. Smith's Articles
Written by Dr. Janet E. Smith   

Cowdin and Tuohey argue that certain trends in ethical theory and moral theology warrant a rethinking of Catholic principles; they further argue that a proper rethinking would justify certain sterilizations. Essentially, they argue that were the Church to respect the proper autonomy of medicine, it would allow sterilizations. They find that the documents of Vatican II require respect for the autonomy of sciences and culture but maintain that in some of its ethical judgments the Church has not accorded medicine such respect.

Here I am going 1) to challenge Cowdin and Tuohey’s understanding that the Church has derived its moral laws independent of consultation with medicine and that it treats medicine simply as a source of technical expertise. I am also going 2 ) to challenge their understanding of autonomy and show that the Church never permits the kind of autonomy they request for medicine. I am particularly going 3) to challenge their understanding of the principles of totality and double effect as “dispensations” from the moral order. Finally, I will argue 4) that they have provided no grounds to cause the Church to reconsider its condemnation of all sterilizations.[1]


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Abortion And Moral Character
Janet E. Smith's Articles
Written by Dr. Janet E. Smith   

Much ethical theory has recognized that the very importance of the attempt to live an ethical life lies in the fact that in acting the individual forms herself or himself either for the better or for the worse. That is, each and every human act, each act stemming from the deliberate choice of the human agent determines the type of human being an individual is, or in other words, the kind of moral character which an individual has. Then, in turn, the moral character which one has influences what decisions one makes. For those who share this perspective, one of the foremost questions to be asked by the moral agent in determining the rightness or wrongness of an act is: What kind of person will I become if I do this act?

Ethical reasoning of this sort is distinguished from other kinds of ethical inquiry because it focuses on the agent; it is variously known as ethics of the agent, ethics of virtue, or ethics of character. This is not to say that those who are concerned with an ethics of character are not also concerned with other means of determining the rightness or wrongness of an act. An ethics of character can be combined with nearly any means of evaluating an action. Yet, for an ethics of character the question of the effect of an act upon the character of the agent is one of the primary considerations taken into account in evaluating whether or not an action is moral.


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