Christian Bioethics as Non-Ecumenical
Engelhardt, H. Tristram
Christian Bioethics. 1995 Sep; 1(2): 182-199.
A community's morality depends on the moral premises, rules of evidence, and rules of inference it acknowledges, as well as on the social structure of those in authority to rule knowledge claims in or out of a community's set of commitments. For Christians, who is an authority and who is in authority are determined by Holy Tradition, through which in the Mysteries one experiences the Holy Spirit. Because of the requirement of repentance and conversion to the message of Christ preserved in the Tradition, the authority of the community must not only exclude heretical teaching but heretical communities from communion. Understanding Christian bioethics requires a focus on the content of that bioethics in terms of its social context within a right-believing, right-worshipping community. Christian bioethics should be non-ecumenical by recognizing that true moral knowledge has particular moral content, is communal, and is not fully available outside of the community of right worship. The difficulty with Roman Catholicism's understandings of bioethics lies not just in its continued inordinate accent on the role of reason apart from repentance (as well as in its defining novel doctrines), but in Roman Catholicism's not recognizing that the contemporary, post-Christian age is in good measure the consequence of its post-Vatican II failure to call for a return to the traditional pieties and asceticisms of the Fathers so that all might know rightly concerning the requirements of Christian bioethics.