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Introduction to Morality

TRED TWO A52 & A53

Group Sharing
1. What is your understanding of morality? 2. List down words or phrases that come to mind when you hear the word morality. 3. List down examples of what you would consider as immoral.

Starting with Love


by James Keenan, SJ I teach an introductory course on moral theology, and during my fifteen years of teaching it, I only recently learned to begin my course on the topic of lovefor me love was what the philosophers call formal. God loves us; we love God; we are called to morality as a response to that love Admittedly, like all Christians I acknowledged that love has always been the foundation of my life, in particular, my ethical vision. I also recognized that love was charity and that charity moved us

Why begin discussions of morality and ethics with love? Let me give you three reasons from the scriptures, theology and the tradition rooted in human experiencefor starting with the love of God.

First, the Scriptures command it. Not only does Jesus teach us that love of God is the first command, but the Ten Commandments themselves recognize the love and honor of God as the first commandment of all. On it depends all the other commandments. Knowing that the commandments were not imposed on us for Gods pleasure, but rather for our benefit and our flourishment, by insisting on Gods sovereignty, the first commandment makes our dependency on God the very foundation of our happiness.

Second, the love of God precedes whatever else we discuss in theology, whether we speak temporally or metaphysically. For instance, love is how we understand God, for God is love. Karl Rahner tells us that because God is love, God is triune, for God needs to be in Gods self more than one person in order to be love, for the lover needs the beloved. Love also explains the creationFor that reason God creates us so as to enter into love with us, to bring us Gods kingdom. Love also is the ground of our redemption, for God so loved the world that God gave Gods one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Love, too, is the way of sanctification, for Jesus commanded us to love God, our neighbor, and to love ourselves. Finally, love is our goal, for in the kingdom we believe that we will be united forever with God and those who have gone before us

A third reason for beginning with the love of God is that human experience confirms that unlike freedom or truth, love drives, animates, moves. It is what prompted the cell phone calls on September 11, 2001, the handing over of the human spirit looking for union. Not only does love look for union, it also moves us toward freedom for greater love and truth to love rightly.

There are some today who try to love their neighbor by thinking of their neighbor as another Christ. But I think that is not full neighbor love: We need to love not Christ in the neighbor only, but we need also to love the neighbor. Just as we need to love specifically God and specifically ourselves, similarly we need to love specifically our neighbors as they really are. Moreover, just as we love ourselves as we really are, so too we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Moral Theology
is the discussion of the principles (moral law) which govern the behavior of a Christian and their application to particular circumstances. Moral Theology is a Catholic term, while Christian Ethics is the Protestant term for the same thing.

Four Fonts of Moral Theology


1. Scripture the ultimate norm, not limited by anything else 2. Tradition teaching of Popes, patristics, Magisterium, sacraments, creeds, dogmas, lives of saints, theologians, Christian community

1. Moral Philosophy reflection on morality using reason, what is normatively human 2. Human Experience reflection of life experience, which is also a font of moral philosophy

The method seeks to balance all four fonts as they naturally overlap but primary interaction is scripture on tradition (and experience on philosophy). Need an organizing concept for each sector and/or one that brings the four together (laws, individual, community, natural law, union with God).

What does Moral Mean?


Moral comes from the Latin word mores meaning customs, or habitual ways of doing things. Customs are either right or wrong, good or evil, but the word moral generally means good.

GOOD or MORAL is anything that contributes to the full actualization of human potential and the proper development of the human person
Ontological Good = refers to the inherent goodness of a person or thing by virtue of his/her/its existence Moral Good = refers to anything (person, thing, action) that contributes to the perfection and well being of the human person

EVIL is anything which frustrates or acts against the proper growth and development of the human person. Physical or Ontic Evil = evil brought on by forces normally outside human control, e.g. natural diseases, sickness, accident Moral Evil = evil brought on by free, unjustified action of other humans

Some implications
1. Morality has to do with who and what we are as human beings and with our legitimate development as persons. It applies to all human persons, whether they are religious or not.

1. Authority does not create morality:


a. God, the church, the government, or anyone else in authority cannot arbitrarily declare something to be immoral. b. Important principle: Things are not wrong because they are forbidden; rather, things are forbidden because they are wrong.

1. Immoral and illegal are not the same thing.


Principle: What is moral is always legal, but what is legal is not always moral.
(Source: Ian Knox, CSSp, Theology for Teachers. (Ottawa, Canada: Novalis, 1998)

Definitions of Morality
a. Moral life is conceived as movement towards an end or goal, ultimately union with God. St. Augustine & St. Thomas Aquinas b. Moral Theology is the scientific exposition of human conduct so far as it is directed by reason and faith to the attainment of our supernatural end.
Jone-Aldeman, Moral Theology, p.1

a. Christian Ethics or Moral Theology is commonly defined as part of theology which studies the guidelines a person must follow to attain his or her final goal in the light of Christian faith and reason.

C.H. Peschke, SVD, Christian Ethics, 1996 Revised ed., Vol. 1, p.3.

b. Moral Theology is essentially a systematic attempt to understand Divine Revelation in reference to the Christian persons loving response in faith to Gods salvific invitation. C.H. Poulin, SJ, Fundamental Moral Theology.

a. Morality can be summed up in the word responsibility. Bernard Haring, Moral Problems,
pp. 18-23.

According to James Gustaffson, moral theology has two divisions: ethics and morals. ETHICS: the theoretical part of moral theology, the level of thinking that is prior to action and serves as the basis for answering the practical question, What should I do.

3 Elements of Ethics
1. An understanding of the human person as a moral agent; 2. An understanding of the good as the goal of moral conduct; 3. Points of reference (like moral norms) which serves as criteria for moral judgment.

MORALS: the practical level of moral theology; concerned with answering the practical question, What should I do?

Involves 4 tasks: 1. Analyzing the situation in which the moral dilemma arises this involves a careful gathering of data; 2. Knowing the specific character of the moral agent who must decide and act in this situation this involves a consideration of the agents capacities, dispositions, intentions, etc.

1. Considering the agents basic religious beliefs and fundamental convictions these influence the interpretation the agent makes of the moral situation and the direction the agent takes in life; 2. Appealing to the appropriate norms this enlightens and guides the agent in order to ensure that significant values are properly respected.