Synopses & Reviews
Leavened with compassion, common sense, and a readable style, this introduction to complicated bioethical issues from both Jewish and Catholic perspectives is as informative as it is undaunting. Aaron Mackler takes the reader through methodology in Roman Catholic moral theology and compares and contrasts it with methodology as it is practiced in Jewish ethics. He then skillfully wends his way through many topics foremost on the contemporary ethical agenda for both Jewish and Catholic ethicists: euthanasia and assisted suicide, end-of-life decisions, abortion, in vitro fertilization, and the ever-growing problem of justice regarding access to health care and medical resources. A concluding chapter summarizes general tendencies in the comparison of the two traditions, and addresses the significance of convergence and divergence between these traditions for moral thinkers within each faith community, and generally in western democracies such as the United States. As Mackler overviews these issues, he points out the divergences and the commonalities between the two traditions--clarifying each position and outlining the structure of thinking that supports them. At the heart of both Catholic and Jewish perspectives on bioethics is a life-affirming core, and while there may be differences in the "why" of those ethical divergences, and in the "how" each arrived at varying--or the same--conclusions, both traditions, in the words of James McCartney as quoted in the introduction, "are guided by the principle that life is precious; that we are bidden to preserve and guard our health; that we are bidden to intervene in nature to raise the human estate; and that our lives are not our own, but arepart of the legacy bequeathed to us by the Creator." This book has been carefully crafted in that spirit.
The title says it all: this is an introduction to how two religious traditions approach bioethics, emphasizing their common ground and their differences on a wide variety of issues. Mackler begins with a discussion of the central values of Judaism and Catholicism, noting how these two draw on scripture and tradition and historical teachings to inform their understandings of morality and ethics. While both traditions are monotheistic they are not monolithic; Mackler spells out how Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed Jewish approaches differ, and how the Catholic magisterium is sometimes challenged by Catholic bioethicists (such as G'town authors Richard McCormick and Charles Curran). After clarifying these positions Mackler turns to five critical concerns in bioethics, and discusses how Jewish and Catholic traditions respond: euthanasia and assisted suicide; treatment decisions near the end of life; abortion; in vitro fertilization; and access to health care and rationing. Ideal for student use at the undergrad, seminary, and graduate level, and also of interest to clergy in both traditions.