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A Just and True Love

Feminism at the Frontiers of Theological Ethics: Essays in Honor of Margaret Farley

Edited by Maura A. Ryan and Brian F. Linnane, S.J.

Publication Year: 2007

This interdisciplinary and ecumenical collection of essays honors the transformative work of Margaret A. Farley, Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethics at Yale Divinity School, using it as a starting point for reflection on the contribution of feminist method to theology and ethics. Through a variety of perspectives, contributors show that by resisting classical oppositions between “interpersonal” and “social” ethics and by insisting that social, economic, and political realities be taken seriously in considerations of justice, feminist concerns challenge the very categories of Christian ethics. With essays ranging from sexual ethics to human rights, medical ethics to freedom, A Just and True Love offers a broad perspective on the last twenty-five years of feminist innovation in Christian ethics and a glimpse of its global future, particularly in continents such as Africa.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

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pp. ix-xiv

Margaret Farley brings to the interwoven relationships of her life and work the gift of compassionate regard for the deep reality of persons and unfailing respect for the complexities of their lives. Long before she articulated the virtue of “compassionate respect,” she lived it. Her willingness to sit with patient presence and contemplate...


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pp. xv

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pp. 1-16

Nowhere is Catherine Mowry LaCugna’s observation better illustrated than in the contributions of Margaret A. Farley to contemporary Christian ethics. A feminist pioneer, she has stretched the content of theological ethics, bringing to the center concerns often overlooked or trivialized: the role of equality and mutuality in a theology of sexuality and marriage; the ethical and theological dimensions...

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Part 1: Freedom-in-relation: Autonomy, Relationality, Solidarity

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pp. 17-19

The essays in this first part treat the implications of globalization for contemporary Christian ethics and explore resources in feminist thought for a global Christian ethic. Together, they capture the landscape that Christian and feminist ethics now confront, as massive changes in the flow of people, information, and capital have generated both a growing sense of global interdependence and a heightened awareness of the diversity of moral contexts and...

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Feminist Theology and Sexual Ethics

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pp. 20-46

North American feminist theory originated with a commitment to women’s autonomy and rights that emerged within and employed the vocabulary of Western (North Atlantic) liberal political traditions. This commitment has helped defi ne feminist theology.1 But over the past decade and a half or so, feminism has shifted into a postmodern gear in which cultural and experiential...

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Human Rights and Women’s Rights: Initiatives and Interventions in the Name of Universality

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pp. 47-74

This essay will explore claims about the universality of human rights in relation to cultural differences. In particular, it will consider some ways that such claims about universality extend to issues specifi cally concerning women, and whether protecting women’s rights might justify taking initiatives to secure change across the boundaries of societies and cultures. It will argue that there are indeed...

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Transnational Feminism and the Rhetoric of Religion

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pp. 75-108

It was after midnight when the three of us walked out of the airport and onto the busy streets of Cairo. I remember how surprised I was by the light and noise and energetic pulse of a city that seemed startlingly wide awake, even at that late hour. I remember, too, how the shock of the city’s energy mirrored my own internal state; not only was I far from sleep, but my pulse was jumpy and noisy, driven by an anxiety located somewhere between disorientation...

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Postcolonial Challenges and the Practice of Hospitality

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pp. 109-131

The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians held its third Pan African Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in August 2002 on “Sex, Stigmas and HIV/AIDS: African Women Theologians Challenging Religion, Culture and Social Practices.” There were 140 women theologians from 25 African nations present along with a few observers from partner groups.1 Among the observers...

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Part 2: A Just and True Love

Part 2 continues an exploration of fundamental themes for feminist theological ethics: the nature of the self and the sources of morality, the role of emotion in the work of justice, and the possibilities for retrieving a covenantal framework for an ethic of mutuality. Gene Outka’s essay, “Self and Other in a Theological Framework,” traces Farley’s interests in the relationship of autonomy and relationality in the experience of moral obligation. Outka’s distinctive concern,...

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Self and Other in a Theological Framework

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pp. 135-162

Margaret Farley addresses in instructive ways the inexhaustible subject of human self and human other. Two central topics that occupy her are autonomy and relationality. She incorporates feminist and Roman Catholic contributions, and also Kantian, Sartrean, and postmodernist ones. I consider initially two of her essays. In one, she takes as her point of departure the strand of moral thought called...

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Justice and Love Shall Kiss

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pp. 163-196

There I was, marching in one more demonstration. Another attempt to convince public opinion that justice has to prevail. Volunteers, many of them elderly, had greeted me cheerfully when I arrived at the march’s staging area. Their enthusiasm gave me the strength I needed to get my feet going, to begin waving my homemade sign, and to start chanting those catchy phrases that in a few words capture the urgency of our cause. A sense of despondency, a sense that...

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Mouth to Mouth, Person to Person

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pp. 197-229

In my first weeks of graduate school, I often heard my teacher, Sister Margaret Farley, speak of “the human person.” Believing (quite wrongly, as it turned out) that I knew what a “person” is, and thinking the expression “human person” redundant, I asked Margaret after class one day: “Why do you say ‘the human person’? Aren’t persons and humans the same thing?” My teacher smiled at me and said,...

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Part 3: The Meaning and Practice of Love

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pp. 231-233

The essays in this section illustrate how the principles and methods of feminist ethics developed in earlier chapters enrich, modify, and sometimes overturn conventional theological and ethical analyses in particular cases. New Testament scholar Mary Rose D’Angelo examines early Christian treatments of sexual relations between adults and children, asking what can be learned about the impact of such practices on children. D’Angelo shows how relations of...

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Feminist Ethics and the Sexual Abuse of Children: Reading Christian Origins

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pp. 234-272

In one of our discussions of the revelations about the sexual use of minors by priests that have played a prominent role in the lives of Roman Catholic communities in the U.S., Canada and Europe, Margaret Farley raised the question of sex with children in the context of Christian origins. Did sex with children play a role in Roman practice? How did it interact with imperial “family values”? Did early Christians reject Roman mores, and value and protect children more...

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The Sexual Abuse Scandal in the Catholic Church: Implications for Sexual Ethics

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pp. 273-302

During the early years of the twenty-first century, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has faced what is arguably the gravest crisis in its history. This crisis was sparked by the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy, and specifi cally by the criminal trial in early 2002 of John Geoghan, a laicized priest of the Archdiocese of Boston. Attention to the misconduct of Roman Catholic priests by the criminal and civil courts—and so by the media—was by no means a novel event in 2002. There had been a series of well...

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“Framework for Love”: Toward a Renewed Understanding of Christian Vocation

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pp. 303-337

In an age when people expect to have at least two or three careers, and when they regularly witness changing commitments of persons who married or made religious vows, what value remains with the notion of “vocation”? Is the concept hopelessly destabilized by the fl uctuations of our fast-paced social context, our postmodern culture that prizes spontaneity and independence? Or is the notion a...

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Virtuous Decision Makers and Incompetent Patients: The Case of the Conjoined Twins

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pp. 338-365

In August 2000, a set of Maltese conjoined twins, known to the public by the pseudonyms “Jodie” and “Mary,” were born in a Manchester, England, hospital. They were ischiopagus tetrapus conjoined twins, which means that they were joined in the pelvic region and had four lower limbs between them. Viewed externally, the twins shared a single torso, with one baby’s head attached on either end. Their legs extended at right angles from the middle of the torso, and their external...

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Part 4: Truth and Love in Ecclesial Community

The essays in this final section explore issues connected with morality, authority, and the sources for Christian ethics. Jean Porter’s analysis of the long-standing Catholic ban on the use of contraceptives explores the possibilities for doctrinal development, particularly in light of a growing perception of the importance of gender equality in interpretations of moral norms for sexuality and marriage. Porter draws from scholastic conceptions of natural law to suggest a richer...

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Contraceptive Use and the Authority of the Church: A Case Study on Natural Law and Moral Discernment

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pp. 386-405

The moral teachings of the Catholic Church are sometimes regarded as a set of clearly formulated precepts, backed by the authority of the magisterium and irreversibly in place. And there is perhaps some truth in this picture, depending (in part) on the way in which we understand the magisterium, and the extent to which we expect moral norms to be clear and fi xed. Nonetheless, as soon as we try to apply this picture to actual moral debates, it becomes apparent that...

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The Second Great Argument about Freedom

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pp. 406-428

The Second Vatican Council promulgated the landmark Dignitatis Humanae (hereafter, DH), the Declaration on Religious Freedom, in December 1965.1 DH identifi ed religious freedom as a right of the human person that must be protected by civil law and identifi ed the dignity of the human person as the basis for that right. The text of DH, however, did not address the question of religious...

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John Paul II’s Understanding of the Church as Teacher of the Truth about Humankind

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pp. 429-452

John Paul II, as Bishop of Rome for a quarter of a century, had a great impact on the life of the Catholic Church. That impact has been very prominent in the area of moral theology. John Paul II is the only pope in history to have written an entire encyclical dealing with moral theory and norms (Veritatis splendor) and has often written on moral matters. Three of his encyclicals deal with the social mission...

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Neither Thick nor Thin: Politics and Polity in the Ethics of Margaret A. Farley

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pp. 453-479

In this essay, I wish to develop the political implications of Margaret Farley’s ethics of “compassionate respect”1 against the backdrop of what Michael Sandel calls the liberal “politics of rights” and the rival communitarian “politics of the common good.”2 I shall fi rst explore Farley’s fusion of a Kantian claim of “respect for persons” with a feminist ethics of care, and then argue that her reconstructive criticism offers...

Selected Publications of Margaret A. Farley

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pp. 480-489


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pp. 490-491


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pp. 492-518

E-ISBN-13: 9780268091705
E-ISBN-10: 0268091706
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268040253
Print-ISBN-10: 0268040257

Page Count: 536
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Medical ethics.
  • Christian ethics.
  • Sexual ethics.
  • Feminist ethics.
  • Feminist theology.
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