Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Volume 82, 2008


Jason T. Eberl
Pages 249-261

Cultivating the Virtue of Acknowledged Responsibility

In debates over issues such as abortion, a primary principle on which the Roman Catholic outlook is based is the natural law mandate to respect human life rooted in the Aristotelian philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. This principle, however, is limited by focusing on the obligation not to kill innocent humans and thereby neglects another important facet of the Aristotelian-Thomistic ethical viewpoint—namely, obligations that bind human beings in relationships of mutual dependence and responsibility. I argue that there is a need to cultivate a “virtue of acknowledged responsibility” and conclude by addressing a prevalent issue in contemporary society: absent paternal responsibility. My aim is to show that there is an interesting and often neglected rationale in Catholic moral understanding for “deadbeat dad” laws that compel men to take responsibility for any children or fetuses they father and to assist women who give birth to those children or carry those fetuses.

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