ethiCs & mediCine
of Roe v Wade compared to the entitlement right she desires is a major flaw. However, it is a good
beginning, and it is instructive in understanding the underlying and deeply held beliefs and biases of
some on the pro-abortion side of these issues.
Reviewed by Sharon F. Billon, MA (Bioethics), MD, FAAD who is retired from the private
practice of dermatology in Arroyo Grande, California, USA.
Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of
Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier; introduction by John Swinton. Downers Grove, Ill.:
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In Living Gently in a Violent World, moral theologian Stanley Hauerwas teams up with L’Arche founder
Jean Vanier to reflect on the theological, ethical, ecclesiological, and political lessons to be learned
from the mentally disabled—and more specifically from the L’Arche communities in which people
with mental disabilities live together with those without such disabilities. This short book is comprised
of four essays that emerged from a 2006 conference organized by the Center for Spirituality, Health
and Disability at the University of Aberdeen. The director of the Center, John Swinton, adds a brief
introduction and conclusion.
In the first essay, “The Fragility of L’Arche and the Friendship of God,” Vanier offers an autobiographical
reflection on his forty-two years of living with people with disabilities. He confesses that he “never knew
quite where [he] was going” (23), but through it all God has formed the ever fragile and tenuous L’Arche
communities and, in the process, has changed many lives, allowing L’Arche to serve as a sign of the
gospel. According to Vanier, the gospel presents a vision of “a pyramid of hierarchy . . . changed into
a body, beginning at the bottom.” (30) Such is the message of L’Arche. Vanier thus provocatively asks:
“Does the church really believe in the holiness of people with disabilities?” (34) He concludes that it is
through friendship with the vulnerable that we learn what it means to be a friend of God.
Hauerwas spends the bulk of the second essay, “Finding God in Strange Places: Why L’Arche Needs the
Church,” reflecting on the question: “What does L’Arche have to say to the church?” (43) He argues that
L’Arche “offers a kind of time, a kind of patience, and a kind of placidness that comes from faithfulness
and produces a different understanding of catholicity. That is how L’Arche helps the church find the
gospel.” (56-57) Along the way, Hauerwas critiques the contradictions of modernity, such as the fact that
“in the United States we now spend between 15 and 17 percent of the gross national product on crisis-care