Date of Award

Spring 2001

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The initial motivation for this study can be traced back to the author's undergraduate years in religious studies, where, intent on finding answers to "the big question" of God's existence, felt "sidetracked" by having to take courses in other world religions. Those courses eventually altered the question from "Does God exist?," although always a healthy nagging doubt, to the question "What is God like?" Primarily, Hinduism and Buddhism offered Eastern worldviews which often contrasted, yet also often complemented, my own Roman Catholic upbringing. My own fascination with Buddhism stems from its radically different religious concepts, on one hand, (no God, no soul, no self, no personal afterlife, at least at first glance), and its often similar ethical insights with Christianity, on the other hand. Life, even if the answer to the "God question" was "Void" or "Emptiness," was not nihilistic, but was ethical. This interest in Buddhism and in comparative ethics was put into sharper focus by my now dissertation director's suggestion for an earlier study to focus on "human rights." This initial comment provided the direction for this study as well, which includes multiple interests. The concept of "human rights" combines religious aspirations with political ramifications. An intellectual and spiritual interest in comparative religions, along with a practical and moral concern in comparative ethics, was now wed to global concerns for social activism and justice. Thus, one is reminded that religion has never been merely an intellectual endeavor, but is a way of life, as in the Eastern concept of dharma. Despite the prominence of the concept of "human rights" in this study, by its completion the "secondary" issue of "ecological duties" was looming larger and larger for this author. It is one hope that this study will aid in bringing the concept of human rights into greater dialogue with overall concerns for the environment, and aid in a greater respect for life in all of its varied forms. In addition, by reviewing the past and present work of Roman Catholic authors involved in human rights advocacy and interreligious dialogue, it hopes to acknowledge and re-emphasize the Catholic, and in that sense "universal," contribution in these endeavors. May the spirit of these earlier authors continue on in this study in seeing Christianity as a sometimes radical and world transforming religion, in dialogue with and as an advocate for justice among the world's religions.



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