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Aquinas, Feminism, and the Common Good

To dismiss the work of philosophers and theologians of the past because of their limited perceptions of the whole of humankind is tantamount to tossing the tot out with the tub water. Such is the case when feminist scholars of religion and ethics confront Thomas Aquinas, whose views of women can only be described as misogynistic. Rather than dispense with him, Susanne DeCrane seeks to engage Aquinas and reflect his otherwise compelling thought through the prism of feminist theology, hermeneutics, and ethics.

Focusing on one of Aquinas's great intellectual contributions, the fundamental notion of "the common good"—in short, the human will toward peace and justice—DeCrane demonstrates the currency of that notion through a contemporary social issue: women's health care in the United States and, specifically, black women and breast cancer. In her skillful re-engagement with Aquinas, DeCrane shows that certain aspects of religious traditions heretofore understood as oppressive to women and minority groups can actually be parsed, "retrieved," and used to rectify social ills.

Aquinas, Feminism, and the Common Good is a bold and intellectually rigorous feminist retrieval of an important text by a Catholic scholar seeking to remain in the tradition, while demanding that the tradition live up to its emphasis on human equity and justice.

About the Author

Susanne M. DeCrane is vice president mission integration, director of the Spiritual Care Department, and consulting ethicist of St. Joseph's Medical Center in Towson, Maryland.


"DeCrane offers an impressive feminist ethics of the common good. Her foundations are laid carefully and her scholarship is precise. The result is a feminist hermeneutic with broad value for theological ethics, especially in a time when justice and rights must be debated cross-culturally, and human suffering hangs in the balance."—Lisa Sowle Cahill, J. Donald Monan ,SJ, professor of theology, Boston College

"It is a pleasure to read a text which so succinctly reviews major hermeneutical positions and so clearly and carefully elucidates and critiques the Aristotelian/Thomistic understanding of the common good. Susanne DeCrane's work is an advance in feminist ethics and a superb example of a feminist methodology. DeCrane critiques and retrieves the tradition not merely for the sake of argument; in her study of the fatal effects of the exclusion of black women from the common good of adequate health care, she underlines the importance of the principle of the common good and its intrinsic connection with just policies."—Patricia Walter, associate professor of systematic theology, Aquinas Institute of Theology, St. Louis, Missouri

"The feminist hermeneutical method creatively used to interpret the principle of the common good in the thought of Thomas Aquinas is illuminating. It has important, practical implications for health care in the U.S."—Patricia Lamoureux, professor of moral theology, St. Mary's Seminary & University, Baltimore

"Susanne M. DeCrane's generous, some may say overly generous, reading of Aquinas yields fruitful insights for promoting the common good. Useful applications to the unjust structures of U.S. health care demonstrate the promise of this approach for Christian ethics."—Mary E. Hunt, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual

Georgetown University Press
Moral Traditions

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