Sex, Gender, and Christian Ethics

Cahill, Lisa Sowle. Sex, Gender, and Christian Ethics. New Studies in Christian Ethics. Robin Gill, ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Sex, Gender, and Christian Ethics by Lisa Sowle Cahill, Professor of Christian Ethics at Boston College, offers a critical realist approach to moral knowledge which draws from the Aristotelian-Thomistic ethical tradition to interpret the human person—as embodied and socialized within cultures—as an objective, even “foundational,” base point of communication, empathy and critical assessment of sex and gender across cultures and religions. Written from a feminist perspective that values personal respect and equal social power for both women and men, Cahill’s book nevertheless opposes a non-foundationalist (postmodern) renunciation of moral foundations as well as a liberal (modern) endorsement of reason and freedom, both of which inform much feminist critique of gender and sex yet which often lead to moral relativism. Instead, the book affirms the reality that all humans—as embodied, self-conscious, intersubjective, and social—share common ground for moral action, and that important values like freedom and equality stand in dialectical relation with community solidarity and compassion for the other. <p> The second half of the book offers a biblical perspective on sex and gender. Cahill analyzes the message of Jesus on the Kingdom of God and the (not perfect) practices of the early church to uncover the New Testament ideal for gender, marriage and sex, an ethic dedicated to compassion for others (especially the marginalized), inclusion, liberation, dignity and community peace, in distinction from typical Greco-Roman practices of the time. The book’s final two chapters deal with four particular issues of sex and gender within the Christian (primarily Roman Catholic) tradition: clerical celibacy, indissolubility, contraception, and reproductive technologies.