What Would John Courtney Murray Say?

Whitmore, Todd David. "What Would John Courtney Murray Say?" Commonweal 7 (October, 1994): 16-22.

Whitmore attempts to apply Murray's concepts and distinctions to two ethical questions which he never addressed: abortion and euthanasia. Some ethicists have extended Murray's opinions on the privacy of contraceptive choices to the issue of abortion. Whitmore argues that Catholic teaching on abortion, which extends the dignity of the human person to the embryo-fetus, cannot be affected by public opinion concerning rights to privacy. Catholic ethics in the Murray tradition emphasizes a realist epistemology, and only a changed definition of the fetus (sanctioned by the magisterium) could change Catholic thinking on the ethics of depriving it of life. Public opinion was for Murray an indication of what the truth might be but no substitute for it, says Whitmore. Concerning assisted suicide, Whitmore says the gravity of what is at stake makes Murray's opinions on contraception disanalogous. Catholic teaching holds that suicide deprives the community of a potential contributor. That teaching assumes that the person is fundamentally social, and that putting an end to any human life is always an issue of social policy, a question for public moral deliberation.