He contends that the fundamental basis for this body of teaching comes from an anthropological perspective that recognizes both the inherent dignity and the social nature of the human person—thus do the church's teachings on political and economic matters chart a middle course between the two extremes of individualism and collectivism. The documents themselves tend to downplay any discontinuities with previous documents, but Curran's systematic analysis reveals the significant historical developments that have occurred over the course of more than a century. Although greatly appreciative of the many strengths of this teaching, Curran also points out the weaknesses and continuing tensions in Catholic social teaching today.
Intended for scholars and students of Catholic social ethics, as well as those involved in Catholic social ministry, this volume will also appeal to non-Catholic readers interested in an understanding and evaluation of Catholic social teaching.
In the early and mid-twentieth century the Catholic Church in the United States tended to focus its social mission on its own charities, hospitals, and schools. But the Second Vatican Council called the Church to a new understanding of social mission, deepening its involvement in and commitment to civic, social, and political life in the United States and abroad. Curran devotes particular attention to three issues that have reflected the Church's strong sense of social mission since that time: abortion, war and peace, and labor.
The Social Mission of the U.S. Catholic Church describes the proper role of bishops, institutions, and movements in the Church, but insists that the primary role belongs to all the baptized members of the Church as they live out the social mission in their daily lives.
In light of these realities, Curran proposes his understanding of how the strands should influence moral theology today. A concluding chapter highlights the need for a truly theological approach and calls for a significant change in the way that the papal teaching office functions today and its understanding of natural law.
In a work useful to anyone who studies Catholic moral theology, The Development of Moral Theology underscores, in the light of the historical development of these strands, the importance of a truly theological and critical approach to moral theology that has significant ramifications for the life of the Catholic church.
Curran begins by tracing the historical development of moral theology, especially as presented in nineteenth-century manuals of moral theology, which offered a legal model of morality including a heavy emphasis on canon law. He then probes the different approaches and ideas of three important writers: Aloysius Sabetti, a Jesuit who was a typical, as well as the most influential, American manualist; Thomas J. Bouquillon, first chair of moral theology at Catholic University of America, a neoscholastic who criticized the manuals' approach as narrow and incomplete for failing to address principles, virtues, and the connection to systematic theology; and clerical educator John B. Hogan, a casuist who developed a more inductive and historically conscious methodology.
Curran describes how all three men dealt in different ways with the increasing role of authoritative teachings in moral theology from the Vatican. He also shows how they reflected their American context and the views of their own time on women and sexuality.
So little attention has been paid to the development of moral theology in this country that these authors are unknown to many scholars. Curran's book corrects this oversight and proposes that the ferment revealed in their writings offers important lessons for contemporary Catholic moral theology.
Charles E. Curran’s succinct, coherent account of his wide-ranging work in Catholic moral theology points out agreements, disagreements, and changes in significant aspects of the Catholic moral tradition. His systematic approach explores major topics in a logical development: the ecclesiological foundation and stance of moral theology; the person as moral subject and agent; virtues, principles and norms; conscience and decision making; and the role of the church as a teacher of morality.
Curran’s work condenses and organizes a large amount of material to show that the Catholic theological tradition is in dialogue with contemporary life and thought while remaining conscious of its rich history. Of great interest to theologians for its broad synthetic scope, this book is also a thorough introduction to the Catholic moral tradition for students and interested readers, including non-Catholics.
Curran then explores and illuminates the post-Vatican II era with chapters on the effect of the Council on the scope and substance of moral theology, the impact of Humanae vitae, Pope Paul VI's encyclical condemning artificial contraception, fundamental moral theology, sexuality and marriage, bioethics, and social ethics.
Curran's perspective is unique: For nearly 50 years, he has been a major influence on the development of the field and has witnessed first-hand the dramatic increase in the number and diversity of moral theologians in the academy and the Church. No one is more qualified to write this first and only comprehensive history of Catholic moral theology in the United States.
Curran focuses on the authoritative statements, specifically the fourteen papal encyclicals the pope has written over the past twenty-five years, to examine how well the pope has addressed the broad issues and problems in the Church today. Curran begins with a discussion of the theological presuppositions of John Paul II's moral teaching and moral theology. Subsequent chapters address his theological methodology, his ethical methodology, and his fundamental moral theology together with his understanding of human life. Finally, Curran deals with the specific issues of globalization, marriage, conscience, human acts, and the many issues involved in social and sexual ethics.
While finding much to admire, Curran is nonetheless fiercely precise in his analysis and rigorously thoughtful in his criticism of much of the methodological aspects of the pope's moral theology—in his use of scripture, tradition, and previous hierarchical teaching; in theological aspects including Christology, eschatology, and the validity of human sources of moral wisdom and knowledge; and in anthropology, the ethical model and natural law. Brilliantly constructed and fearlessly argued, this will be the definitive measure of Pope John Paul II's moral theology for years to come.
Georgetown Digital Shorts—longer than an article, shorter than a book—deliver timely works of peer-reviewed scholarship in a fast-paced, agile environment. They present new ideas and original texts that are easily and widely available to students, scholars, libraries, and general readers.