The Bioethics of Care: Widows, Monastics, and a Christian Presence in Health Care
Engelhardt, H. Tristram, Jr.
Christian Bioethics 2005 April; 11(1): 1-10
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, with vocations to the Christian religious orders of the West in marked decline, an authentic Christian presence in health care is threatened. There are no longer large numbers of women willing to offer their life labors bound in vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, so as to provide a real preferential option for the poor through supporting an authentic Christian mission in health care. At the same time, the frequent earlier death of men leaves a large number of widows, some in need of care and some able to provide care. Drawing on the role of widows sketched in 1 Timothy 2, one can envision Christian widows entering a life of prayer and service in health care settings. As female monastics, such widows could reintroduce a salient Christian presence in health care. How one ties this response to the message of 1 Timothy 2 will depend on one's understanding of the status of Scripture, the significance of tradition, the nature of theological epistemology, the meaning of theology, the nature of the Church, and the ontology of gender. The position taken on these issues will define the character of a Christian bioethics of care.
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