Dr. Janet E. Smith

Fr. Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics
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. She has coauthored Life Issues, Medical Choices, Questions and Answers for Catholics, with Chris Kaczor. She has published in The Thomist, The Irish Theological Quarterly, Nova et Vetera, The American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, The National Catholic Bioethics Journal, among other publications.

She speaks nationally and internationally on the Catholic teachings on sexuality and on bioethics.

She is serving a third term as a consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family and she serves the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian unity as a member of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission, III.

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

She has appeared on the Geraldo show, Fox Morning News, CNN International, CNN Newsroom, Al Jazeera and has done many shows for various series on EWTN.

More than two million copies of her talk, Contraception: Why Not have been distributed. An updated version of Contraception: Why Not and a series of talks "Sexual Common Sense" are available through www.mycatholicfaith.org.

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

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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

    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.

    Speaking Engagements: 
    Commission on Faith and Order
    Wednesday, June 17, 2015 (All day) to Wednesday, June 24, 2015 (All day)
    World Council of Churches / Romania
    Annual Meeting
    Sunday, April 26, 2015 (All day) to Tuesday, May 5, 2015 (All day)
    ARCIC / Rome, Italy
    Pastoral Approaches to Same-Sex Issues Fr. Paul Check and Prof. Janet Smith
    Tuesday, August 11, 2015 (All day) to Thursday, August 13, 2015 (All day)
    Courage International and the Archdiocese of Detroit / The Inn at St. John, Detroit, MI
    World Meeting of Families
    Tuesday, September 22, 2015 (All day) to Sunday, September 27, 2015 (All day)
    Pontifical Council for the Family / Philadelphia PA
    Mary Beth Yount: 610-358-4224
    Women's Conference
    Saturday, October 17, 2015 (All day)
    Pittsburgh Diocese / Card. Wuerl N. Catholic High School Auditorium, Cranberry Twsp PA
    Christine Raizin: 412-519-7909