Volume 40, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2020
Elisabeth Rain Kincaid
Professional Ethics and the Recovery of Virtue
In my paper I argue that developments within legal ethics—specifically a return to emphasizing the importance of precepts for governing communities capable of forming virtue and for protecting the vulnerable—can contribute to discussions in theological ethics regarding the rule of precepts for the church’s formation of its members in virtue. This concern is especially timely given the recent sex abuse scandals in Protestant and Catholic churches, which have raised wide-spread concerns about the capacity of churches to form character and protect the vulnerable. I consider how this understanding of the relationship between the role of precepts and the community, drawn from legal professional ethics, has important analogical similarities to Aquinas’s description of the virtue of religion. I then consider how Francisco Suárez, SJ, develops Aquinas’s theory to explain how rules are developed within the community, not simply imposed from above, and serve to protect the vulnerable.