For Lisa Sowle Cahill, the Monan Professor of Theology at Boston College, receiving the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Christian Ethics (SCE) served as a reminder not just of her career successes, but also of everyone who helped her achieve them.
“It gives a person an opportunity to appreciate their limits and their flaws as well as their accomplishments,” Cahill said. “But mostly, it’s gratitude, not just for the award, but for all the colleagues and students who have put me in a place to accomplish whatever I have managed to accomplish.”
The SCE honored Cahill with the award for her contributions to Christian ethics at its annual meeting earlier this month, according to a University release.
“We organized [the conference] with other former students and our colleague, professor Cahill, to honor the way in which she contributed to the field and to reflect together on the changes that happened in the field of theological ethics in the last over 45 years,” said Andrea Vicini, chairperson of BC’s theology department.
According to BC’s press release, Cahill is an expert in several subfields of Christian ethics, having published 10 books and hundreds of articles and book chapters on subjects such as sex and gender, war and peacemaking, bioethics, and Catholic social teaching.
“She is the major Catholic feminist theologian who is interested in reflecting on issues that affect society,” Vicini said.
Vicini said he is grateful for Cahill’s mentorship and her commitment to teaching others using her broad expertise in the subject of theological tradition.
“She tries to be an active contributor to training of, you know, the next generation of colleagues and leaders here at Boston College,” Vicini said.
Cahill said the SCE promotes and facilitates religious and ethical discussions across a variety of Christian denominations.
“It’s been a wonderful space to really engage … theological ethical problems with a community of other scholars who are from different religious traditions,” Cahill said. “[The SCE] was having a community of scholars that shared interests in common that had a maybe a slightly different spin on things than we might have seen in Catholicism.”
When Cahill first joined the SCE in the ’70s, she said these cross-denominational conversations allowed people to look beyond religious traditions when addressing modern cultural issues.
“You kind of get somewhat narrowly focused on the Catholic moral theological tradition and how that’s moving along,” Cahill said. “And when you’re in conversation with Protestants, at least at that time, it was often larger cultural questions. So it expanded the resources quite a bit and the conversation quite a bit.”
According to Cahill, these discussions concerning larger cultural issues resulted in a greater effort to include and affirm all gender identities within the church.
“These questions also represent kind of the mission of the Catholic Church and how we sort of face non-traditional developments, and how we find a space to welcome everyone within the church, and to encourage people who have non-traditional gender identities and affirm those people,” Cahill said.
Cahill said the Lifetime Achievement Award reminded her of her past and future work with the SCE.
“So just to look at that whole community and to appreciate that I’ve been a part of it for so many years, was a wonderful thing,” Cahill said.