Volume 17, Issue 2, Summer 2017
The Catholic Tradition on Vital Conflicts
A Critique of Charles Camosy and James Mumford
In two important books on the ethics of abortion, Charles Camosy and James Mumford appeal to the concept of “material aggression” to justify direct abortion in cases of vital conflict. Both authors argue that just-war theory justifies the direct killing of merely material aggressors by private citizens and suggest that papal condemnations of unjust-aggressor arguments fail to consider the distinction between formal and material aggression. However, both authors omit any reference to the historical context of the papal condemnations, do not recognize that the justification for killing in just-war theory is fundamentally political, and do not consider how the special relationship between mother and baby might affect the ethics of vital conflicts.