Dr. Janet E. Smith

Fr. Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics
Office Hours: 
By appointment
B.A., M.A., Ph.D., School of Theology, Fr. Michael J. McGivney Chair in Life Ethics, Professor of Moral Theology. B.A. (Classics), Grinnell College, 1972;
M.A. (Classical Languages), University of North Carolina, 1975;
(Classical Languages), University of Toronto, 1982. At SHMS 2001-present.
Bio / Information: 

Janet E. Smith holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.     She is the author of Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later and of the Right to Privacy and the editor of Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader. Prof. Chris Kaczor and DrProf. Smith are co-authoreds Life Issues, Medical Choices, Questions and Answers for Catholics.  She has been published in several many academic journals, is has been a regular columnist for the National Catholic Register and blogs on CatholicVote.com.   She is serving a third term as a consulter to the Pontifical Council on the Family and serves the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian unity as a member of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission, III and as representative to the Faith and Order Commission for the World.

She has received two honorary doctorates and several other awards for scholarship and service.  

Dr. Smith has appeared on the Geraldo show, Fox Morning News, CNN International, CNN Newsroom, AlJazeera and has done many shows for various series on EWTN.

More than two million copies of her talk, “Contraception: Why Not” have been distributed. 

To Schedule a Speaking Event:

Send an email to this address: Prof. Smith Event Coordinator

Frequently Asked Questions:

Click here for document with answers and links

Moral Use of Natural Family Planning

Click here for this article.

Published Articles

To view a list of articles, click on the links below:

To Request a copy of any article, please send an email to this address: Prof. Smith Event Coordinator

Abortion Bioethics Feminism & Women and the Family Humanae Vitae and Contraception Moral Philosophy Plato International Catholic University Miscellaneous Articles, Book Reviews, Prefaces

Op-Ed Pieces and Editorials

A list is available at this link.

To Request a copy of any article, please send an email to this address: Prof. Smith Event Coordinator

MOSAIC: A Culture of Life

  • Chance or Design
  • Culture of Collaboration
  • Election 2008: Holding Fast to the Message
  • How to Enlighten a Darkened Conscience
  • In the Service of Love
  • Like a "Slave in the Womb"
  • The Masculinity and Femininity of Celibates
  • Priests, Prayer and a Glorious Retreat
  • Scriptural Support for a Pro-Life Ethic
  • The Story of the World
  • We feed Roses, Don't We?
  • What's so Bad about Sex Selection"
  • Why Not Assisted Suicide?
  • To Request a copy of any article, please send an email to this address: Prof. Smith Event Coordinator

    Dossier Articles

    Click here for a list of the many articles written between 1995 and 2002.

    To Request a copy of any article, please send an email to this address: Prof. Smith Event Coordinator

    Amy Foundation articles

    Click here for a list of the many articles available.

    To Request a copy of any article, please send an email to this address: Prof. Smith Event Coordinator

    Unpublished Talks

  • The Fatherhood of God for the conference Journey to the Father, Denver Colo., 2000
  • The Gift of Life, commencement address at the Josephinum, May 2001
  • Sending Apostles into the 21st Century, for the Diocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul 2001
  • All Things Visible and Invisible, convocation address, UD Spring 94
  • "Activity for its Own Sake" commencement for the Institute of Pastoral Studies, Minneapolis, May 26, 2002
  • "Joining the Adult Team," commencement address, Siena School, Rochester, NY, June 24, 2002.
  • To Request a copy of any article, please send an email to this address: Prof. Smith Event Coordinator


    1.    “Natural Law and the Irreducibility of Personalism,” Nova et Vetera, (Fall 2013, 11:4) 1229-48.

    2.    “Concerning the Principles of Conjugal Life,” by Karol Cardinal Wojtyła et al., translated by Therese Corey and Janet E. Smith, Nova et Vetera 10:2 (Spring 2012) 321-159

    3.    “The Krakow Document,” by Janet E. Smith, Nova et Vetera 10:2 (Spring 2012) 361-381.

    4.    Review: Ethics of Procreation and the Defense of Human Life: Contraception, Artificial Fertilization, and Abortion (by Fr. Martin Rhonheimer, Catholic University of Press, 2010), in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, 85:3 (Summer 2011) 513-16.

    5.    “Organ Transplants: A Study on Bioethics and the Ordinary Magisterium” in The Ethics of Organ Transplantation ed. by Steven J. Jensen (Catholic University Press of America, 2011) 272-304.

    6.    "Guided Autonomy and Good Friend Physicians" in Bioethics with Liberty and Justice: Themes in the Work of Joseph M. Boyle, ed. by Christopher Tollefsen (Spring: 2011) 163-181

    7.     “A Tribute to Ralph McInerny,” Nova et Vetera, 8:3 (2010): 501–4 and also “A Mosaic Bing Crosby,” in O Rare Ralph McInerny ed. by Christopher Kaczor, St Augustine Press, 2010) 

    8.    “Conscience, Contraception, and Catholic Health-Care Professionals,” The Linacre Quarterly, May 2010; 77:2, 204-228.

    9.    Preface to “In the Beginning xxx” by Eduardo Echeverria, (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2010). ix-xi .

    10.    Review of John Cuthbert Ford, S.J.: Moral Theologian at the End of the Manualist Era, by Eric Marcelo O. Genilo, S.J., (Georgetown University Press, 2007) in NCBQ (Winter 2009) 799-802.

    11.    "Responsible Parenthood as Conscious Parenthood," Familia et Vita, XIV:1 (2009) 144-156;  (this is an abridged version of the article listed below in Nova et Vetera)

    12.    “Conscious Parenthood” Nova et Vetera 6:4 (2008) 927-950.

    13.     “Mary Amidst Questions of Christian Ethics” forthcoming in the proceedings of the Academy of Catholic Theology.

    14.    “Epiphanies and Humanae Vitae” in Life and Learning XVIII, Proceedings of University Faculty for Life, 2008.

    15.    Preface for Robert Fastiggi’s book What the Church Teaches about  Sex: God’s Plan for Human Happiness, (Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2009) 9-11

    16.    “The Contraceptive Choice,” in Colloquy, National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 7:3 (Autumn 2007) 441-3.

    17.    Review of Ralph Martin’s The Fulfillment of All Desire (Emmaus Road Publishing, 2006) in Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly 30:2 (Summer 2007) 51-2.

    18.    “The Human Person as the Subject of Suffering: The values of having, doing, vs the values of being” accepted for the proceedings of the Conference on Hope and Suffering, University of St. Thomas, Houston.

    19.    Book Review of Servais Pinckaers, The Pinckaers Reader (CUA Press, 2005) in The American Philosophical Quarterly 80:4 (Fall 2006) 638-641.

    20.    “The Morality of Condom Use by HIV-Infected Spouses,” The Thomist 70:1 (Jan 2006) 27-69.

    21.    "The Sensus Fidelium and Humanae Vitae," Angelicum 83 (2006) 271-297. Also accepted for publication in the proceedings of the Call to Holiness Conference sponsored by Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Nov, 2003 to be published by Catholic University Press

    22.    “Natural Sex is Best,” Lutheran Forum, Summer, 2005.  

    23.    Review of Moral Acquaintances: Methodology in Bioethics, by Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J, (Notre Dame, Indiana: 2000) Linacre Quarterly, 72:3 (August 2005) 272-8. 

    24.     “Come and See” a chapter in Reading John with St. Thomas Aquinas: Theological Exegesis and Speculative Theology ed. by Michael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering (The Catholic University of America Press: 2005) 194-211.

    25.    "Encyklika ,,Humanae Vitae" - Pokolenie Pozniej" Dar ciala darem osoby - O przemilczanym wymiarze kryzysu wiezi malzenskiej (2005) pp. 137-150

    26.    Discussion essay on Leslie Woodcock Tentler’s Catholics and Contraception: An American History (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004) First Things (Aug/Sept 2005) 47-9.

    27.    “Catholics and Contraception: A Review Symposium,” in American Catholic Studies: Journal of the American Catholic Historical Society 116:1 (Spring 2005)  82-4.

    28.    “Are Natural and Unnatural Appetites Equally Controllable? A Response to Jensen's 'Is Continence Enough’” Christian Bioethics 10:1-12, 2004

    29.     “I knit you in your mother’s womb,” in Christian Bioethics: Non-Ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality 8:2 (August 2002) 125-146.

    30.    Review of William E. May’s Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Life, ACPQ 75:4 (2002) 655-7. 

    31.    Review of A Catholic Guide to Medical Ethics: Catholic Principles in Clinical Practice, by Eugene F. Diamond (Linacre Institute, 2001) in National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Summer 2002 2:2, 346-8.

    32.    “Reclaiming or Rewriting the Tradition?” (discussion article of Jean Porter’s Natural and Divine Law) in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 75-4 (2001), 601-11

    33.    “The Morality of Separating Siamese Twins” in Ethics and Medics, June 2001, 26:6, under the name Catherine Dominic

    34.    “Faith as a Preamble to Reason,” in John Paul II: Witness to Truth (Proceedings from the Twenty-Third Convention of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, Sept. 22-23, 2000), ed. By Kenneth D. Whitehead (St. Augustine’s Press, 2001) 43-71. 

    35.    “Life Issues in a Pluralistic Society,” in The Battle for the Catholic Mind, ed. By William E. May and Kenneth D. Whitehead, (St. Augustine Press, 2001) 431-431, reprint of 1991 article.

    36.    “The Family as a School of Love,” in Faith 33:2 (Mar-April 2001) 17-20

    37.     “Natural Law and Sexual Ethics,” in Common Truths: New Perspectives on Natural law, ed. By Edward B. McLean, (ISI Books, 2000), 193-218.

    38.    Foreword to Covenanted Happiness: Love and Commitment in Marriage by Cormac Burke, Scepter Pub., 1999. vii-xii.

    39.    “Moral Terminology and Proportionalism,” in Recovering Nature : Essays in Natural Philosophy, Ethics, and Metaphysics in Honor of Ralph McInerny ed. By Thomas Hibbs and John O’Callaghan (Notre Dame Press, 1999) 127-46.

    40.    “The Error of Proportionalism,” in Ethical Principles in Catholic Health Care ed. by Edward James Furton (Boston: National Catholic Bioethics Center, 1999) 67-71; (rpt. Of “Moral Methodologies: Proportionalism,” in Ethics and Medics 19:6 (June, 1994); 1-3.

    41.    Review of Aquinas's Theory of Natural Law: An Analytic Reconstruction 

    by Anthony J. Lisska  ACPQ 72:4 (1998) 611-14.

    42.    “John Paul II and the Family: The Family: a Communion of Persons” in A Celebration of the Thought of John Paul II ed. By Gregory R. Beabout, St. Louis, 1998, 85-103.

    43.    “Natural Law and Personalism in Veritatis Splendor” in John Paul II and Moral Theology: Readings in Moral Theology: No 10 ed. By Charles E. Curran and Richard A. McCormick, S. J. (Paulist Press, 1998) 67-84.  Rpt. Of chapter 13 in Veritatis Splendor: American Responses ed. By Michael E. Allsopp and John J. O’Keefe (Kansas City, MO.; Sheed and Ward, 1995), 194-207.

    44.    “Sterilization Reconsidered,” Christian Bioethics: Non-Ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality 4:1 (1998) 45-62.

    45.    “Aquinas’s Natural Law Theory and Homosexuality” in Homosexuality and American Public Life ed. By Christopher Wolfe, (Dallas, TX, Spence, 1999) 129-40.

    46.    “Veritatis Splendor,” Proportionalism, and Contraception,” Irish Theological Quarterly 63: 4 (1998) 307-26 

    47.    “The Moral Vision of the Catechism,” in Evangelizing for the Third Millennium: The Maynooth Conference on the New Catechism May 1996,  ed. By Maurice Hogan SSC and Thomas J. Norris, (Dublin: Veritatis Publications, 1997), 96-114.

    48.    “The Pre-Eminence of Autonomy in Bioethics,” Human Lives: Critical Essays on Consequentialist Bioethics, edited by David Oderberg and Jacqueline A. Laing (London: McMillan Press, Ltd., 1997).

    49.    “Natural Law and Personalism in Veritatis Splendor” chapter 13 in Veritatis Splendor: American Responses ed. By Michael E. Allsopp and John J. O’Keefe (Kansas City, MO.; Sheed and Ward, 1995), 194-207.

    50.    “Children: The Supreme Gift of Marriage,” chapter 8 in Faith and Challenges to the Family ed. Russell Smith (Braintree, MA; The Pope John Center, 1994) 114-125.

    51.    “Moral Methodologies: Proportionalism,” in Ethics and Medics (June, 1994) 19:6.

    52.    “Abortion and Moral Character” chapter 33 in Doing and Being: Selected Readings in Moral Philosophy ed. By Joram Graf Haber, (New York, 1993).

    53.    “A Reply to Gass,” International Philosophical Quarterly 33:2, #130 (June 1993) 234-238

    54.    “Moral Character and Abortion,” chapter 12 in Abortion: A New Generation of Catholic Responses ed. By Stephen J. Heaney (Braintree, MA: The Pope John Center, 1992) 

    55.    A review of Plato and Aristotle by Giovanni Reale, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly  66:1 (Winter 1992) 118-20.

    56.    “Fetal Rights,” an entry in the Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics ed. By R.K. Harrison (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, rev. ed, 1992) 152-153.

    57.    “The Importance of the Concept of Munus to the Understanding of Humanae Vitae,” in Trust the Truth: A Symposium on the Twentieth Anniversary of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae (The Pope John Center, 1992).

    58.    “Life Issues in a Pluralistic Society,” in Church and State in America: Catholic Questions: Proceedings of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars 1991, (New York: St. John’s University Press, 1992) 259-272.  

    59.    “Natural Law: Does It Evaluate Choices or Acts?” American Journal of Jurisprudence 36 (1991) 171-201.

    60.    “The Munus of Transmitting Human Life: A New Approach to Humanae Vitae,” The Thomist 54:3 (July 1990) 385-427.

    61.    “Ethical Aspects of Tissue and Organ `Donation’ by Preborn and Anencephalic Infants” in Critical Issues in Contemporary Health Care, Proceedings of the Eighth Workshop for Bishops sponsored by the Pope John XXIII Medical-Moral Research Center (1989) 253-268.

    62.    “The Importance of the Concept of Munus to Understanding Humanae Vitae” in Humanae Vitae: 20 Anni Dopo (Milano: Edizioni Ares, 1989) 671-690. (A shortened version of #6)

    63.    “Introduction to the Vatican Instruction on Bioethics” in Reproductive Technologies, Marriage, and the Church, (Braintree, Mass.; The Pope John Center, 1988) 13-28.

    64.    “Abortion and Moral Development Theory:  Listening with Different Ears,” International Philosophical Quarterly 28:1 (March 1988) 31-51.

    65.    “Plato’s use of Myth in the Education of the Philosophic Man” Phoenix: Classical Quarterly of the University of Toronto 40 (March 1986) 20-34.

    66.    “Plato’s Myths as `Likely Accounts,’ Worthy of Belief,” Apeiron 19 (1985) pp. 24-42.

    67.    Review of Plato’s Defense of Poetry by Julius A. Elias, State University of New York, 1984, 255 pp. in Review of Politics 47:3 (July, 1985), pp. 473-477.

    68.    “Can Virtue be in the Service of Bad Acts?:  A Response to Philippa Foot,” The New Scholasticism, 58:3 (Summer, 1984), pp. 357-373.

    69.    “The Hamartia of Misologia,” in Hamartia, edited by Donald V. Stump, James A. Arieti, Lloyd Gerson, Elenore Stump (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1983), pp. 73-96.

    70.    Review of Platonic Myth and Platonic Writing by Robert Zaslavsky, University Press of America, 1981, 293 pp. in The New Scholasticism 56:3 (1982), pp. 390-392.

    Professional Associations/Memberships: 

    American Catholic Philosophical Association, member 1984-; board member 1990-3; nominee for president, 1993. Executive Council Member, 2012-15
    American Philosophical Association, 1987-(uncertain of end date, early 90s)
    Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, member 1981- , board member 1987-97


    1. Honorary Doctorate, Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, PA. May 2009
    2. Visiting Scholar, St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, MN, Fall, 2008
    3. Honorary Doctorate in Christian Ethics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville,
    4. Veritas Award, St. Thomas Aquinas Institute, Ave Maria University, 2008
    5. Pope Paul VI Award, Bishop’s NFP Committee, Dallas, TX 2008
    6. Amy Foundation Writing Award, 1997 for $10,000 for “The Christian View of Sex: A Time for Apologetics, Not Apologies,” published in The Family in America, May 1996 10:5. 
    7. Pro-Life Person of the Year, Diocese of Dallas, 1995
    8. Haggar Award for Excellence in Teaching; University of Dallas, 1994
    9. Cardinal Wright Award from the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, 1993
    10. Haggar Presidential Award, University of Dallas, 1991, 1994
    11. Junior Fellow at Massey College 76-77, 77-78, 78-79
    12. University of Toronto Open Fellowships, 75-76, 76-77, 78-79
    13. Phi Beta Kappa
    14. Mortar Board

    Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later

    Washington D.C.; Catholic University of America Press, 1991; 426pp.

    Prof. Smith draws from theology, philosophy, and classical studies to examine the arguments for and against Catholic Church teaching on contraception.

    She includes a heavily annotated translation of Humanae Vitae from the original Latin that is especially valuable. This is not light reading, but extremely worthwhile.

    Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader

    San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993

    Rather than end the debate over artificial means of contraception once and for all, the encyclical letter Humane Vitae only energized the debate when it appeared in 1968, and that debate continues to this day. Janet E. Smith presents a comprehensive review of this issue from a philosophical and theological perspective.

    Tracing the emergence of the debate from the mid-1960s and reviewing the documents from the Special Papl Commission established to advise Pope Paul VI, Smith also examines the Catholic Church's position on marriage, which provides context for its condemnation of contraception.

    Life Issues and Medical Choices: Questions and Answers for Catholics

    Servant Books, 2007, revised edition, 2009

    Medical and technological advances over the last decades have left millions of Catholics grappling with tough issues. When is it permissible to remove a feeding tube from a patient? Is the use of contraceptives for medical purposes acceptable? Is it morally acceptable to try to select the sex of one s baby? What is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary means of preserving life? How does determination of death affect organ donation?

    Life Issues, Medical Choices not only provides answers to many questions troubling Catholics, it also supplies fundamental principles of Catholic thought to help readers arrive at morally sound decisions in those areas that have yet to be settled.

    Janet Smith and Christopher Kaczor offer clear guidance to help you make decisions about complex medical and life issues.

    The Right to Privacy

    National Catholic Bioethics Center, Ignatius Press (September 1, 2008)

    Janet Smith, well-known philosophy professor and writer, presents a critical look at the meaning of the "right to privacy" that has been so often employed by the Supreme Court in recent times to justify the creation of rights not found in the Constitution by any traditional method of interpreting a legal document. Smith shows how these inventions have led to the legal protection of abortion, assisted suicide, homosexual acts, and more.

    As Judge Bork says it shows that "morals legislation now seems constitutionally impermissible", and that the counterfeit right to privacy belongs to the genre of the indecipherable and incoherent that no one who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would have contemplated.

    Contraception: Why Not

    Over two million copies of this talk have been distributed.  It is available on CD, MP3 and DVD, as well as in Spanish.  

    To purchase this CD, contact MyCatholicFaith.org by clicking here.

    Sexual Common Sense series

    There is no question that our culture is a sexual mess -- which translates into a lot of broken hearts and broken lives. The Catholic Church has a wisdom about sexuality derived from Scripture and natural law (good common sense) that too few Catholics know and live.

    Why is sex outside of marriage so destructive? Why is contraception wrong? What is the conscience and its role in decision making? What is the connection between contraception, abortion, assisted suicide, and same-sex unions? Prof. Janet Smith covers these and other crucial topics in this provocative series of 12 CD presentations.

    To purchase this CD set, contact MyCatholicFaith.org by clicking here.

    Other Audio

    Contraception: Why Not

    Hormones R’ Us:  Little Known Effects of Hormones on Sexual Attraction

    Homosexuality: Why Not

    Theology of the Body

    New Reproductive Technologies:  Why Not

    NFP: Is it Moral?

    Over-Population: The Facts

    Culture of Life vs. Culture of Death

    Just Follow Your Conscience

    The Family as a Path to Holiness

    Contraception: The History

    Contraception: Dissent

    Why Premarital Sex is Stupid

    Life Issues, Medical Choices: Questions and Answers for Catholics

    Natural Sex is Best

    Humanae Vitae and Conscience

    Healthy Passion: Understanding the Owner’s Manual

    The Eucharist, One Flesh Union, and Self-Giving Love

    Why Human Life is So Highly Valued

    The Theology of the Body and the Single Life

    To purchase any of these CDs, contact MyCatholicFaith.org by clicking here.

    Living the Truth in Love: Pastoral Approaches to Same Sex Issues), co-edited with Fr. Paul Check. (Ignatius Press, 2015)