Slavery, Religion and Women's Dignity - Prof. Bernadette Brooten (Brandeis University)
The lecture introduced a unique perspective for the discussion on Human Dignity – through the issue of slavery. The lecture focused on attitudes towards slavery, learned from Roman law, ancient Christian sources and Canonical law. The influence of the ancient sources was then examined in light of modern stands of the Catholic Church towards slavery, as learned from various Papal statements. This examination shows a complete turnabout – starting in the late 19th – with regard to the Church's approach to slavery. As can be seen, this turnabout – from accepting slavery to its rejection – is accompanied with the adoption of "human dignity language", and especially the dignity of the worker, as an argument against slavery. In addition, the lecture looked at the influence of slavery on another social institution – marriage, and on the status of Women in in marriage in Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
The lecture focused on the functioning of Human Dignity in a religious context, by examining the use of Human Dignity in contemporary Jewish law (Halakha). As part of this, the lecture reviewed a Rabbinical Responsa regarding homosexuals, and scrutinized the use of 'kvod habriot' – the Dignity of Created Beings – as an interpretive instrument in coping with the Biblical prohibition on homosexual relations. Thus, the lecture showed a complex aspect of modern religious language, comprised of the commitment to ancient traditional sources on the one hand, and motivations rooted in modern Humanistic values on the other. The case presented in the lecture also exemplified another important issue, which is the importance of language – and religious language in particular – in the reconstruction of reality itself.