NEW QUESTIONS AND OLD ANSWERS: MATTERS OF DEATH AND LIFE
MANY CURRENTS SHAPED THE SURFACE of American culture in the 1970's and 1980's. One was religious. Known by many names it came eventually to be called the New Right. Another was political. It too was called the New Right and suggests parallels to the religious wave. Both the religious and the political rights, along with their opposing philosophies, were continuously embroiled in a set of issues arising from advances in science and medical technology which would have been difficult to imagine only a few years before. This profound and far-reaching congeries of issues was collected under a neologism combining two familiar roots: bioethics. The basic values of American society were, in these decades, reflected in debates often involving the New Right and contained within the perimeters of bioethics.
Like all phenomena labeled "new," the religious New Right contained familiar elements and strong connections with the past. One such connection can be trace to the year 1878 when that scholarly ascetic, Cardinal Pecci, was named Pope Leo XIII. This event eventually produced new balance between religion and politics.
Within a year after his election Pope Leo published the encyclical, "Aeterni Patris," in which he urged all scholars, ignoring the subtleties of the "scholastic doctors" of a former age, to return in the original of the writings of Thomas Aquinas. The document is the manifesto of Neo-Thomism. To further the design to bring back to the modern world the influence of the great medieval Dominican, Leo established and endowed chairs of Thomistic philosophy at the University of Louvain and at the Dominican Collegio Angelico in Rome. To fill the chair at Louvain the Pope chose a young Belgian