Traditionally, Catholic Ethics is divided into Catholic Moral Theology and Catholic Social Teaching and Ethics — trained in both, my work is situated at the intersection of both areas.
Beginning with my dissertation, I have worked on the ‘moral self’ and moral identity in relation to an ethics of responsibility. I argue that this central ethical question is necessarily addressed in self-narratives of various aesthetic forms: While the Christian tradition developed its own aesthetic-ethical ‘conversion-narratives’, (post-) modern literature radicalizes the ethical question of how one can ‘live well’ — and at the same time respond responsibly to the moral claims of one’s time. A history-sensitive ethics, which seeks to interpret the experience of moral agents, questions the a-historical normative foundations of moral theology and calls for the dialectical correlation of moral experiences and moral norms. My work in foundational ethics therefore takes the form of a mutually corrective correlation of hermeneutical ethics and normative ethics; it correlates especially experiences of injustice, misrecognition, humiliation and violence with the normative claim of human rights and dignity as ’empowering’ rights for human flourishing and freedom. This methodological work materializes in a critical theory of individual and social responsibility in light of the Christian tradition, as part of a broader social ethics approach in which I discuss concrete various social practices.
Regarding such specific social practices, I have continually worked in the field of medical ethics and bioethics: among others, I have developed a social-ethical framework for an ethics of parenthood, contrasting the Christian concept of unconditional love (with the inherent normative claim to be empowered socially to realize such a love) with the implicit biopolitical values and norms which conceive parenthood as fulfillment of personal desires and resulting in a ever-new norms of a child’s ‘perfection’. Other examples of my work are a US-German healthcare chaplaincy ethics project that I have directed since 2005, or works on clinical trials, vulnerability and autonomy. In the broader area of social ethics, I have worked on HIV/AIDS, global poverty and justice, especially in the context of human rights and the Millennium Goals of the United Nations. Since 2005, I have been a member of the European Commission’s “European Group on Ethics in the Sciences and New Technologies”. This group has issued reports and recommendations for European policies on varying issues, among others, in the fields of biomedicine, biotechnology, agriculture or, recently, on the EU energy policies. I am engaged in such political, albeit independent work because I am convinced that Christian ethics is a public ethics that needs to address social-ethical and politics-ethical questions — but it can only do this in trans-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary settings.
My position at Loyola University Chicago gives me the opportunity to continue working in international settings, bridge the European and US scholarship in Catholic and Christian ethics, and prepare students for an ethics framework which is required to address the challenges of the 21st century.
Learn more about Dr. Haker’s work: