Diana Fritz Cates

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Dr. Cates joined the University of Iowa faculty in 1990.

Her research focuses on religious ethics and moral psychology. She works primarily within the Aristotelian-Thomistic moral tradition on the nature of the self, the structure of virtue, the relationship between virtue and natural law, particular virtues such as love and compassion, the internal causes of moral evil, the structure of emotion, particular emotions such as anger and hatred, the role of emotions in the moral life, and the way the religious imagination can influence the cultivation of virtue and the deliberate formation of moral emotions.

Dr. Cates works secondarily on issues of bioethics (especially the ethical implications of genetic science and technology), sexual ethics (including questions of religion, gender, and sexuality), the uses of creative literature in ethics, comparative religious ethics, and the ethics of human rights (especially conceptions of the ground of human dignity and the protection of girls and women from sexual violence).

Dr. Cates is Co-Editor with Dr. Irene Oh (George Washington University) of the Journal of Religious Ethics, which is currently housed at the University of Iowa.


  •  she, her, hers

Research interests

  • Religious ethics
  • Moral psychology
  • Virtue
  • Emotion
  • Moral evil

Selected publications


  • 2020
    • "The Ethics of Mercy." Keynote address. Ethics Day 2020. Catholic Health Services of Long Island.2017   “The Relational Dynamics of Intimacy and Alterity.” Invited response to Richard Miller, Friends and Other Strangers. Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion.
  • 2018
    • "Religion, Emotion, and Decision Making: The Humanistic Study of Global Health." Plenary address. 2018 Global Health Studies Conference.
  • 2017
    • “Contributions of the Humanities to Cancer Research Advocacy.” Invited address. Fall Speaker Forum. Current Ethical Issues for Breast Cancer Advocates. Wisconsin Breast Cancer Coalition.
    • "The Relational Dynamics of Intimacy and Alterity." Invited response to Richard Miller, Friends and Other Strangers. Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion.
    • "Contributions of the Humanities to Cancer Research Advocacy." Invited address. Fall Speaker Forum. Current Ethical Issues for Breast Cancer Advocates. Wisconsin Breast Cancer Coalition.
    • “Love, Social Criticism, and Structural Injustices:  Martin Luther and his Legacy in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.” Panel presentation. Annual Meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics. New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • 2016
    • “Theological Study in and as a Community of Friendship.” Invited address. University of St. Catherine. St Paul, Minnesota.

Courses taught

Dr. Cates teaches a range of undergraduate and graduate courses in religious studies and ethics:

Undergraduate courses

  • Religious Diversity for Leadership/Entrepreneurs
  • Happiness in a Difficult World
  • Hard Cases in Healthcare at the Beginning of Life
  • Hard Cases in Healthcare at the End of Life
  • First-Year Seminar
  • Sexual Ethics
  • Religious Ethics
  • History of Religious Ethics
  • Genes and the Human Condition
  • Senior Seminar
  • Independent Studies
  • Honors Tutorials

Graduate courses

  • Religion and Emotion in Multidisciplinary Perspective
  • 20th Century Christian Ethics
  • Teaching and Public Engagement on Topics of Religion
  • Ethics of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas
  • Ethics of Kierkegaard
  • Passions and Religious Affections
  • Feminist Ethics
  • Readings in Religious Ethics, including:
    • Liberation Theology and Ethics
    • Social Ethics
    • The History of Ethics
    • Black and Womanist Ethics
    • Psychoanalysis and Ethics
    • Comparative Ethics
    • Environmental Ethics
    • Religion and Bioethics

Service and public engagement

  • 2024
    • Vice President, Society of Christian Ethics
  • 2021-present
    • Co-Editor, Journal of Religious Ethics
    • President, Religious Ethics, Inc.
  • 2012-2018
    • DEO, Department of Religious Studies
  • 2010-present
    • Trustee, Religious Ethics, Inc., Journal of Religious Ethics
  • 2009-2010
    • Member, Executive Committee, The Society of Christian Ethics
  • 2008-2009
    • DEO, Department of Religious Studies
  • 2006-2010
    • Member, Board of Directors, The Society of Christian Ethics
  • 2003-2010
    • Member, Editorial Board, Journal of Religious Ethics

Awards, honors, and grants

  • 2018
    • Mentoring Award, Student Research Opportunities Program, University of Iowa Office of Graduate Inclusion.
  • 2015
    • Funded participant, Digital Bridges Summer Institute on Digital Pedagogy, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
  • 2014-2015
    • Funded participant, American Academy of Religion Collaborative Research Grant, “How Do We Study Religion and Emotion?” PI Dr. John Corrigan, Florida State University. 
  • 2012
    • Research and graduate teaching featured in Graduate Education at Iowa (spring edition). “The Ethics of Emotions” by Jennifer Masada.
  • 2011
    • Certificate of Nomination, University of Iowa Graduate College Outstanding Mentor Award
Diana Fritz Cates is a Professor in Religious Ethics and is a Director of Undergraduate Studies.
PhD, Brown University
Contact Information

University of Iowa
314 Gilmore Hall (GILH)
112 N. Capitol Street
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States