Book Review

An Introduction To Catholic Ethics Since Vatican II

by Andrew Kim
Cambridge University Press
ISBN 978-1-107-44656-4

Book coverIn this highly readable work, Andrew Kim provides us with an overview of Catholic ethics since the Second Vatican Council. However, given that he examines the works of the great theologians of the Church such as Aquinas and Augustine, it may be also regarded as a fine introduction to Catholic ethics in general.

Four principle areas are first examined: Catholic social teaching, natural law, virtue ethics and bioethics.The last few chapters are an examination of the practical application of Catholic ethics in the field of bioethics and I will examine this section in this review.

The author writes with great clarity and is supportive of Church teaching. On the issue of abortion, he writes that if we believe that all individuals are made in the image of God, then logically we ought to be opposed to all direct abortion. Otherwise we end up by endorsing selective dignity, believing that some lives are more worthy than others. The author believes that there are some areas where "pro-life" and "pro-choice" groups can work together to abolish certain evils. He suggests gendercide as an example, where a baby is aborted for simply being a member of one sex rather than the other. The author is too optimistic, as recent Parliamentary actions in the UK have shown.

In a brief but really excellent section on euthanasia, the author notes that the Catholic Church opposes both voluntary and involuntary euthanasia whether done by commission or omission. Treatment, and certainly basic care, may only be withdrawn when they are disproportionate.

The author notes that commercial surrogacy holds that reproductive capacity can be divorced from motherhood and women may thus be treated as simply reproductive machines. This is an interesting argument as those who support the pro-life cause are mistakenly accused precisely of this.

There is nothing particularly controversial about this work. It is ideal for the reader with limited prior knowledge of this topic. When difficulties are encountered, the author expertly guides us through the moral maze. This is an excellent introduction to contemporary Catholic ethics.