Special Issue "The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2017)

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Anna Abram

Head of Pastoral and Social Studies, Senior Lecturer in Ethics/Christian Ethics, Heythrop College, University of London, Kensington Square, London W8 5HN, UK
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Interests: Ethics; Interreligious Relations; Moral Theology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

If the past is said to be a foreign country then the future must be even less native. This is something many Catholic theological ethicists feel when they look back into the history of moral theological reflection and attempt to relate it to practical issues of today. What should be the starting point for discussing the future of Catholic Theological Ethics at the time of unprecedented change in which political upheavals, migration of people, all kinds of inequalities, climate change, changes in how we view gender, sexuality, human relationality (including the relationality of the human to the non-human species) are amongst many urgent issues? This is in no way to imply that what went on before in Catholic ethics is no longer relevant. Arguably, the moral wisdom of the tradition is an important resource. However, we need new approaches, both theoretical and practical. The ten contributors to this special issue of Religions search for new ways of making Catholic theological ethics pertinent. For each of them the starting point of discussion is the groundbreaking publication Reframing Catholic Theological Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2016) by Joseph Selling, Emeritus Professor of Moral Theology, Catholic University Leuven.

The papers presented here cover several major themes that, traditionally, Catholic theological ethics have considered but, according to the authors of the papers, need revisiting. Amongst these themes are: conscience, virtue, natural law, authority, ecumenism, the human person and the theology of theological ethics. The writers represent a variety of approaches, geographical locations (Western and Eastern Europe, USA, and India) and while most of them are Roman Catholic, there is an imbedded ecumenism in several discussions and there is a direct and indirect interreligious and inter-cultural slant in some of the papers.

Dr. Anna Abram
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Normativity
  • virtue ethics
  • love ethics
  • sexual ethics
  • social ethics
  • conscience
  • contextualisation
  • method of moral theology
  • teleology
  • virtues
  • ecumenism
  • global North
  • global South
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • Karl Barth
  • Pope Francis
  • Duns Scotus

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial Introduction to the Special Issue of Religions—“The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics”
Religions 2018, 9(1), 19; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9010019
Received: 7 December 2017 / Revised: 19 December 2017 / Accepted: 19 December 2017 / Published: 10 January 2018
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Abstract
If the past is said to be a foreign country, then the future must be even less native.[...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics) Printed Edition available

Research

Jump to: Editorial

Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Pope Francis and Joseph Selling: A New Approach to Mercy in Catholic Sexual Ethics
Religions 2017, 8(12), 264; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8120264
Received: 17 August 2017 / Revised: 18 October 2017 / Accepted: 8 November 2017 / Published: 3 December 2017
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Abstract
Since the Apostolic Exhortation of Amoris Laetitia in May 2016 and Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera in November 2016, Pope Francis has stirred a new discussion on mercy and the role of mercy in certain matters of sexual ethics including divorced, remarried, and [...] Read more.
Since the Apostolic Exhortation of Amoris Laetitia in May 2016 and Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera in November 2016, Pope Francis has stirred a new discussion on mercy and the role of mercy in certain matters of sexual ethics including divorced, remarried, and cohabiting couples. During the same year, moral theologian Joseph A. Selling published a revolutionary book which provides a new vision of virtues and examines how people consider and arrive at ethical judgements. This article examines Pope Francis’s understanding of mercy using Selling’s method of the “virtuous trapezium” as a way to actively illustrate Pope Francis’s new approach to matters concerning Catholic sexuality. In matters of human sexuality, the Catholic moral tradition has focused for years on an act-centered morality, but Selling’s method instead considers the goals of ethical living before making an ethical judgment. This article contributes to the current discussion in theological ethics concerning Pope Francis’s recent pronouncements on mercy and Catholic sexual ethics, as well as brings into conversation Selling’s new method and approach to understanding virtue. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle Goal-Oriented Ethics: Framing the Goal-Setting Concretely
Religions 2017, 8(10), 228; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8100228
Received: 17 August 2017 / Revised: 30 September 2017 / Accepted: 7 October 2017 / Published: 17 October 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (174 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Joseph Selling, professor emeritus from KU Leuven, Belgium, recently made a significant contribution towards ethical methodology. It is in fact a continuation of the in-house conversations that have been in vogue about methods in moral reasoning since Vatican II in the discipline called [...] Read more.
Joseph Selling, professor emeritus from KU Leuven, Belgium, recently made a significant contribution towards ethical methodology. It is in fact a continuation of the in-house conversations that have been in vogue about methods in moral reasoning since Vatican II in the discipline called theological ethics. What is specific about Selling’s attempt is that he re-orients or reframes the evaluation of the moral event to consider human intentionality or motivation before considering human behavior or human acts. He convincingly establishes his method by a meticulous reading of Thomas Aquinas. This paper is a response to the goal-oriented ethics that he has posited. As illustrated below, this paper evaluates the goal-oriented approach as solid and sufficient. While fully endorsing this approach, this paper argues that the process of ethical goal-setting is to be framed concretely. In a concrete historical context, so that a goal-oriented approach fully serves its purpose, this paper proposes that it is to be reinforced by four supportive pillars, which are in fact assumed by Selling in his work. They are openness to human sciences, conversation among various narratives, positing a theological frame for ethical reasoning, and recourse to non-discursive reasoning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics) Printed Edition available
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Theocentric Love Ethics
Religions 2017, 8(10), 224; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8100224
Received: 17 August 2017 / Revised: 1 October 2017 / Accepted: 7 October 2017 / Published: 11 October 2017
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Abstract
Joseph Selling proposes a contemporary revision of natural law ethics, making it more person-centered. Earlier James Gustafson insisted that natural law ethics was too egoist or anthropocentric, so his work proposed theocentrism as a corrective. Richard Gula in turn proposed an ethics that [...] Read more.
Joseph Selling proposes a contemporary revision of natural law ethics, making it more person-centered. Earlier James Gustafson insisted that natural law ethics was too egoist or anthropocentric, so his work proposed theocentrism as a corrective. Richard Gula in turn proposed an ethics that centers on imitating God’s relationships. This essay combines the merits of all three with the author’s own love-covenant basis for ethics. It contrasts secular and religious ethics, with the latter incorporating cooperation in communion with God. One strand of Aquinas’s theology indicates that religious discernment is an affective process of union with God, but the typical ways of describing this union court significant dangers of reducing either God to self or self to God. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics) Printed Edition available
Open AccessArticle Reframing Catholic Ethics: Is the Person an Integral and Adequate Starting Point?
Religions 2017, 8(10), 215; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8100215
Received: 31 August 2017 / Revised: 20 September 2017 / Accepted: 23 September 2017 / Published: 2 October 2017
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Abstract
Joseph Selling rightly defines human intentions and motivations as part of human nature and an important determinant of the morality of personal actions. The thesis of this paper is that Selling’s view of agency, as focused on the individual, must be expanded to [...] Read more.
Joseph Selling rightly defines human intentions and motivations as part of human nature and an important determinant of the morality of personal actions. The thesis of this paper is that Selling’s view of agency, as focused on the individual, must be expanded to include social relationships and the social constitution of selves and communities. This requires cross-cultural dialogue about human nature, the goods for persons and societies, and social ethics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics) Printed Edition available
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Normative Virtue Theory in Theological Ethics
Religions 2017, 8(10), 211; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8100211
Received: 17 August 2017 / Revised: 13 September 2017 / Accepted: 18 September 2017 / Published: 29 September 2017
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Abstract
What place is there for virtue theory in theological ethics? Many question the normative significance of virtue theory in theological ethics today, leaving it to rule-based ethics to provide action-guidance. There are three key objections to the normativity of virtue theory: that virtue [...] Read more.
What place is there for virtue theory in theological ethics? Many question the normative significance of virtue theory in theological ethics today, leaving it to rule-based ethics to provide action-guidance. There are three key objections to the normativity of virtue theory: that virtue theory is about agents rather than actions, that virtue theory has nothing to say directly about the morality of actions, and that the virtues are too vague to be of normative or action-guiding significance. This essay, drawing on Thomas Aquinas’s account of virtue, challenges these perceptions and argues for a genuinely normative, action-guiding virtue theory within theological ethics. Theological ethics, in turn, can contribute to virtue theory, especially by its emphasis on the ecstatic nature of mature moral virtue, and through its reflection on the virtue of spiritual discernment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics) Printed Edition available
Open AccessArticle Hermeneutic and Teleology in Ethics across Denominations—Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth
Religions 2017, 8(10), 207; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8100207
Received: 17 August 2017 / Revised: 15 September 2017 / Accepted: 17 September 2017 / Published: 27 September 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (168 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study arises from the context of current debates in the Catholic Church on the place of rule and law in moral reasoning. I suggest that ethics may be best served by approaches that place the human subject in a teleogical context and [...] Read more.
This study arises from the context of current debates in the Catholic Church on the place of rule and law in moral reasoning. I suggest that ethics may be best served by approaches that place the human subject in a teleogical context and that recognise the need for interpretation of circumstances surrounding actions to be evaluated. This is in contrast to normative rule approaches. The insights retrieved from the account of moral reasoning in Thomas Aquinas by Joseph Selling are compared with an account of the ethical implications of Karl Barth’s theology of hope as expressed in Volume Four of the Church Dogmatics. It is concluded that, in an ecumenical convergence, neither propose a normative rule approach. Rather both use a teleological context and require a hermeneutic of evaluation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics) Printed Edition available
Open AccessArticle Reframing Catholic Theological Ethics: Summary and Application
Religions 2017, 8(10), 203; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8100203
Received: 21 August 2017 / Revised: 20 September 2017 / Accepted: 20 September 2017 / Published: 25 September 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (625 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This text represents a summary of the major points developed in the book, Reframing Catholic Theological Ethics, and a brief overview of how the author understands the relation between religion, ethics, and the building of a virtuous community. The main points of the [...] Read more.
This text represents a summary of the major points developed in the book, Reframing Catholic Theological Ethics, and a brief overview of how the author understands the relation between religion, ethics, and the building of a virtuous community. The main points of the book involve the anatomy of “the moral event” that includes a breakdown of all the elements necessary to consider before one arrives at ethical judgments and decision-making. Foundations are brought forth for these elements, each of which exhibits its own characteristics. The good and evil details of actions and circumstances that make up behavior are based upon an analysis of what is beneficial or harmful to human persons, integrally and adequately considered. Behaviors themselves are considered right or wrong in relation to whether they are appropriate ways of achieving one’s intended ends. Then, the distinction between good and bad is related to one’s virtuous or vicious dispositions, which necessitates a revised understanding of virtue. Based upon a view of religion that provides a formulation of principles that guide the life of the believing community, it is suggested that these principles encourage a commitment to ends or goals that serve the maintenance and advance of a community’s ethics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle “My Conscience is Clear” (1 Cor 4:4). The Potential Relevance of Paul’s Understanding of Conscience for Today’s Fundamental Moral Theology
Religions 2017, 8(10), 201; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8100201
Received: 17 August 2017 / Revised: 17 September 2017 / Accepted: 21 September 2017 / Published: 23 September 2017
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Abstract
The objective of this paper is to examine the Pauline understanding of conscience, with the view of gaining an inspiration from it for the contemporary discussion on the foundations of the Christian ethics. The meaning Paul attaches to it depends on the context [...] Read more.
The objective of this paper is to examine the Pauline understanding of conscience, with the view of gaining an inspiration from it for the contemporary discussion on the foundations of the Christian ethics. The meaning Paul attaches to it depends on the context (mainly in Rom and 1 and 2 Cor), ranging from the personal to the communal one. Conscience holds the secrets of human hearts, evaluates concrete circumstances, and discerns right from wrong. It enjoys special relationship with the Holy Spirit, who gives it credibility. Paul’s teaching on conscience extends beyond the personal to the communal. One of the most important inspirations we can draw from him is the one concerning the proper relationship between various members of the ecclesia: those appointed to hold authority, and those supposed to submit to it. How should we balance the communal demands and personal freedom of every baptized member of the community? What is common and what is personal? Despite a multitude of cultural differences and real-life problems in the world of Saint Paul and our own, a careful lecture of his writings may stimulate our debates on the foundations of Christian ethics in a positive way and ensure that they do remain the theological ones. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics) Printed Edition available
Open AccessArticle Reframing Catholic Theological Ethics from a Scotistic Perspective
Religions 2017, 8(10), 200; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8100200
Received: 17 August 2017 / Revised: 14 September 2017 / Accepted: 16 September 2017 / Published: 21 September 2017
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Abstract
The article engages with Joseph Selling’s most recent publication Reframing Catholic Theological Ethics in which he invites theological ethicists to re-think the post-Tridentine development of theological ethics by noting its methodological deficiencies, misrepresentation of sources, and an insufficient interest in the most fundamental [...] Read more.
The article engages with Joseph Selling’s most recent publication Reframing Catholic Theological Ethics in which he invites theological ethicists to re-think the post-Tridentine development of theological ethics by noting its methodological deficiencies, misrepresentation of sources, and an insufficient interest in the most fundamental question: What is it that we are trying to achieve in our moral lives in the first place? In order to re-orient the discipline, Selling proposes a new reading of Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on Human Acts (ST I-II, 1-21), but the present author argues that this might not be enough, given the debate within the discipline on how Aquinas’ text ought to be interpreted. Hence, the author proposes an alternative route to ‘reframing Catholic theological ethics’ via the works of John Duns Scotus and explores his ethical ideas that might be pertinent for such a project. The main focus of the article is a reflection on Scotus’ ‘case study’ of marriage and bigamy in the Old Testament that justifies drawing a parallel between his work and Selling’s attempt to reframe Catholic theological ethics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics) Printed Edition available
Open AccessArticle Anglican Moral Theology and Ecumenical Dialogue
Religions 2017, 8(9), 199; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8090199
Received: 18 August 2017 / Revised: 13 September 2017 / Accepted: 17 September 2017 / Published: 20 September 2017
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Abstract
This article argues that there has been conflict in Roman Catholic moral theology since the 1960s. This has overshadowed, but not prevented, ecumenical dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Anglican Communions, especially in ethics. Theologians from the Anglican tradition can help both the [...] Read more.
This article argues that there has been conflict in Roman Catholic moral theology since the 1960s. This has overshadowed, but not prevented, ecumenical dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Anglican Communions, especially in ethics. Theologians from the Anglican tradition can help both the debate in Roman Catholic moral theology and the ecumenical impasse. The article examines the contributions of Richard Hooker, Jeremy Taylor, and Kenneth Kirk from 1600–1920, in the area of fundamental moral theology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Catholic Theological Ethics) Printed Edition available
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