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Moral Theology Index


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Moral Theology Table of Contents and Introduction

Moral theology seeks to cut through this miasma of relativism and establish human conduct on something more stable than the shifting sands of custom, and give it motivation far above the prevailing norms of conformity and the fear of being different.

Moral Theology Chapter I: Morals and Religion

Until modern times the relationship between religion and morality was generally taken for granted, and writers as far different in philosophy as Plato and Avicenna, or in theology as Aquinas and Luther, never questioned the basic truth expressed on Mount Sinai, when Yahweh gave the Jews a decalogue whose first precepts were to honor God as a foundation for the secondary precepts of the moral law. But something new has entered the stream of human thought, a concept of man's autonomy that wishes to dispense with religion in its bearing on morals, on the grounds that the very notion of religious values is only a mental construct.

Moral Theology Chapter II: Norms and Postulates

However, just because an act is human does not tell us whether it is morally good or bad. The moral quality of our actions derives from three different sources, each so closely connected with the other that unless all three are simultaneously good, the action performed is morally bad.

Moral Theology Chapter III: Authority and Obedience

The concept of obedience to superiors is built into the history of civilized society, and no culture worthy of the name has existed without stressing the respect which is due to legitimate authority or the duties of those in command. While much diluted through centuries of use, the very word piety, derived from the Latin pietas, basically means devotion to the source of our being - beginning with the parents to whom we owe physical existence, to the state which is responsible for our social well-being.

Moral Theology Chapter IV: Life and Bodily Integrity

A superficial observer might wonder why a course in moral theology should include a full-scale treatment of murder and mutilation, when even the most primitive peoples had laws against unjust aggression and punished offenders with severest penalties. The fact is that our present age has seen mass-killing practiced as never before in history, and, under the guise of eugenics, social welfare and pragmatism, has condoned actions that not only Christianity but all religious systems have condemned as crimes against humanity.

Moral Theology Chapter V: Drinking and Temperance

The morality of drinking is unique, at least in a country like the United States which spends about twelve billion dollars annually for alcoholic beverages. Unlike other ethical decisions that people are called to make, drinking involves more than one option. It may be the choice to drink or not to drink. If the decision is to drink, another choice has to be made about the amount that is moderate for the person himself, because in this matter no two people are alike. And if alcohol has given trouble, there may be the need to abstain from drink altogether as the only practical way of solving the problem.

Moral Theology Chapter VI: Christian Marriage

The Christian concept of marriage, although built on the natural law, differs sharply from the earlier practices among the Jews and pagans, and also from the modern secular usage - to the point that no area of public relationship more clearly distinguishes Christianity from other institutions of human society. It cuts across every aspect of the moral law and has implications in every phase of man's attitude towards God, so that marriage can truly be called the most revealing trait of the Christian religion and almost the test of its validity.

Moral Theology Chapter VII: Birth Control

Few subjects of social interest and no aspect of marriage is more highly charged with emotion than birth control. The output of literature, pro and con, rivals best sellers in the fiction field, and the end is not yet in sight. In fact, if students of American law are to be believed, propagandists for birth control have only begun their fight to make contraception not only legally permissible but, if possible, also mandatory in the foreseeable future.

Moral Theology Chapter VIII: Divorce

Few aspects of marriage have been written about more extensively than its breakdown through legal separation, yet the analysis for the most part has been descriptive rather than critical. Sociologists and others commonly look upon marriage as a purely secular affair, with social dimensions indeed but not basically religious. The result is much diagnosis but no claims to any effective remedy for the most serious blight on the American way of life. If argument were needed for the importance of religion in morality, we have it here in the problem of divorce, where the cleavage between borrowed ideals and actual practice is so tragic in consequences for the people themselves, for their children, and for the future of the nation. Human nature is too weak and human passions too strong to cope with the drive to independence and freedom, which lie at the root of divorce, without powerful support from religious values and motivation.

Moral Theology Chapter IX: Sex and Chastity

It is not a new thing for Christianity to be accused of trying to take the fun out of life, especially in matters of sex, by upholding taboos which are simply contradictory to human nature. The pagan contemporaries of the early Christians scoffed at their insistence on premarital chastity and marital fidelity, and more than one martyr in the first centuries was a victim of what we now understand to have been acts of sadism. Exercise of power by individuals and groups was often associated with a wanton cruelty that had its origins in sexual pleasure heightened by causing others to have pain.

Moral Theology Chapter X: Justice and Mutual Charity

The hardest thing in life is to escape from the shell of egoism that naturally encrusts every human being and consistently to live for others, in a word, to practice justice and charity. Yet everything that religion teaches and all the evidence of experience confirm the judgment that even naturally speaking true happiness consists in giving rather than in getting, and that no one is more miserable than the man whose life revolves only around himself and his own desires.

Moral Theology Supplements: Business and Finance / Legal and Medical Ethics

Morality in business places a constant demand on the conscience of a believing Christian. More than any other phase of modern life, the business world is permeated with problems that challenge one's sense of justice and equity and that call upon every resource of prudence if a man wants to remain faithful to ethical principles and also succeed in the competitive market of today's economy.

The legal and medical professions cut across so many facets of human conduct and imply so many principles of morality that some knowledge of the ideals of these two professions should be familiar to everyone. Fortunately lawyers, doctors and nurses have reflected a great deal on the ethics that should guide their professional conduct, and a summary of these ethical norms is available to the public.

Basic Catholic Morality

The aim of this course is to obtain some fundamental instruction in the principles and practice of Catholic morality.






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