Tina Beattie considers theological approaches to the concept of human dignity and the derivative modern concept of universal human rights, from Thomas Aquinas to Pope Francis. Distinguishing between ontological and teleological dignity, she asks how these might be interpreted from the perspective of women’s human dignity and rights. Beattie argues that, while the Catholic tradition has always recognised the ontological dignity of woman made in the image of God, women’s capacity for teleological dignity as the expression of every individual’s quest for virtue has been constrained by the social and sexual hierarchies of medieval theology, and by the sexual essentialism of postconciliar theology. She argues that respect for women’s teleological dignity would entail respect for freedom of conscience as outlined in Gaudium et spes and Dignitatis humanae, including women’s freedom of conscience concerning their reproductive capacities. She proposes a maternal ethics, informed by feminist scholarship, as the vocation not only of women but of all the baptised.
- human dignity, feminist theology, women's human rights