Consistent Ethic of Life

September 28, 2011

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago did not originate the concept of a “consistent ethic of life,” but he has certainly been its principal spokesperson in the Catholic Church in the United States. Since he delivered the Gannon Lecture at Fordham University in New York, December 6, 1983, Cardinal Pernardin has returned to the consistent-ethic theme numerous times in different settings.

In the addresses, Cardinal Bernardin spoke in the role of a pastor, rather than as a theologian or philosopher. Cardinal Bernardin was concerned that the consistent ethic concept—which went on to live its own life n the public policy arena—be scrutinized carefully from a scholarly point of view. This was a task of the symposium held at Loyola University of Chicago on November 7, 1987. The event was sponsored jointly by Loyola and the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Ten of the Cardinal’s addresses were selected as the more important statements by the Cardinal of the consistent-ethic theme. Richard McCormick, SJ, John Finnis, James M. Gustafson, and J. Bryan Hehir were invited to comment on his development of the concept out of their own expertise. Their papers were submitted to symposium participants in advance. At the symposium itself, the speakers presented a thirty-minute synopsis of their argument. The authors had the opportunity to revise their initial working papers prior to publication in this volume.

Each of the major speakers was followed at the symposium by a designated respondent. Frans Jozef van Beeck, SJ, James Walter, Lisa Cahill, and Sidney Callahan each presented a 15-minute response, and subsequently provided the written texts included in this volume.

Bernardin, Joseph Cardinal. Consistent Ethic of Life. Chicago, Illinois: Sheed and Ward, 1988.

ISBN 1556121202

Purchase on

This resource originally was posted on the Catholics Against Capital Punishment (CACP) website, which was turned over to CMN in 2012. For more information on CACP’s history and other resources, click here.