Who is Paul Ramsey? Ramsey is regarded by many as one of the most important ethicists of the twentieth century. He was a distinguished writer on bioethics a generation ago, and served as Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion, Princeton University. Ramsey shines as an almost lone beacon in the general darkness of academic bioethics, since his commitment to the sanctity and dignity of human life was paramount.
William E. May, recipient of 2007 Paul Ramsey Award, comments:
On Paul Ramsey: I found the writings of Paul Ramsey, a Methodist who was professor of Christian Ethics at Princeton University, of extraordinary help. Ramsey, whom the situation ethicist Joseph Fletcher… vehemently disliked, was a wonderful opponent of situation ethics and other trends in Protestant thought. These trends denied the existence of moral absolutes. Ramsey was a strong defender of the inviolable right of innocent human persons, including unborn children, from direct attack upon their lives. . . He, Grisez and John Finnis of Oxford University in England were undoubtedly the most articulate and cogent defenders of the existence of moral absolutes and, corresponding to them, intrinsically evil acts, in the English-speaking world.
On being human: Membership in the human species is of critical moral significance simply because human animals are different kinds of animals. They are different, not because of culture or brains, but because of who they are, that is, beings ultimately minded because within them is a principle of immateriality, of transcendence. Members of this species are beings of moral worth not by reason of anything that they do or achieve, but by reason of what they are.
Dr. May is the Michael J. McGivney Professor of Moral Theology at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., where he has been teaching since 1991. In 2003 Pope John Paul II appointed May as a consultor to the Congregation for the Clergy a title bestowed by the Vatican in recognition of his work. One of his most recent books is Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life (2000).
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