4/24/2009

Richard A. McCormick SJ and his contribution to bioethics

Jesuit Fr. Richard A. McCormick, who died at age 77 Feb. 12 from double pneumonia after having suffered a severe stroke in June, was a giant and dominating figure in Catholic moral theology in the United States and the world in the last half of the 20th century.

He was the son of a distinguished American physician and would himself become one of the leading Catholic medical ethicists of our time. Along with such distinguished theologians as Joseph Fuchs, Bernard Häring, Bruno Schüller and Louis Janssens, McCormick also contributed much to the development of a new school of moral theology often known as proportionalism. He received his doctorate from the Gregorian University in Rome in 1957 and then taught for 17 years at Jesuit theologians in the Midwest. He held chaired professorships at the Kennedy Institute of Georgetown University and, from 1986, at the University of Notre Dame.

Most importantly McCormick's theological anthropology, is divided into two periods: prior to 1983, McCormick followed a neo-Scholastic moral epistemology that finds human goods and values according to natural inclinations and post 1983, he adopts a prediscursive and discursive reasoning informed by the Christian story that finds goods and values according to the meaning and dignity of human persons.

McCormick was the author of many books and articles, in particular the highly regarded “Notes in Moral Theology” published annually in Theological Studies between 1965 and 1984. He was, without a doubt, one of the most influential Catholic ethicist of the post-Vatican II church.

At the same time, as a specialist in medical ethics, from the 1960s through the 1980s McCormick was one of the key figures in scores of far-reaching ethical debates over new medical technology, especially in the genetic, reproductive and end-of-life areas. If you are looking for understanding of bioethics from Catholic perspective, Fr. McCormick SJ is the one you should read.

This little information about his life and work is also my appreciation of his work and legacy along with an impact on my theology and work today.

For further reading and understanding Fr. McCormick thoughts see: Odozor, Paulinus Ikechukwu. Richard A. McCormick and the Renewal of Moral Theology. University of Notre Dame Press,1994.
* See also: http://www.amazon.com/Catholic-books-other-readers-McCormick/lm/R1R8QRFUX96BFH

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