, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 771-774
Date: 03 Jun 2011

James F. Drane: A Liberal Catholic Bioethics. Muenster, DE: Lit Verlag. 2010, 290 Pages

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The juxtaposition of the words ‘liberal’ and ‘Catholic’ will no doubt excite some ironic comment on both sides of the religious and secular divide—both terms can be used in ways that connote good and bad with political implications. This book, whose author is a Rusell B. Roth Professor of Clinical Bioethics (Emeritus) at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, represents an answer to those who equate Catholic bioethics with conservative stands. This is how he understands the term ‘liberal’, namely in opposition to ‘conservative’. Against this backdrop, Drane celebrates a (medical) ethic based on human relations, virtue and natural law.

The book is organised in five main sections: Definitions, Theory, Life, Death, and Technology. The first section, on definitions, could be inspiring or disappointing, depending on who reads it and with what utility in mind: Catholics looking for guidance as to how to square Catholic dogma with contemporary (especially urban) life worlds could find Drane’s ac