A Call to Fidelity seeks to thoughtfully examine and critically evaluate the contributions that Charles E. Curran has made to the field of Catholic moral theology over the past forty years. It also seeks to assess the development of specific topics in contemporary moral theology to which Curran has made his unique mark, particularly in fundamental ethics, sexual and medical ethics, social and political ethics, and topics related to dialogue with other traditions and approaches to Catholic ethics.
Reviewing the many years of his influential writings, thought, and scholarship, fourteen distinguished scholars examine his contributions and the current state of the topics under discussion-which are as far ranging as academic freedom, birth control, gay and lesbian relationships, and feminism. Each contributor also provides a critical evaluation of Curran's work and outlines how these areas will hold or undergo transformation as the church looks toward its relationship with society and culture in the coming decades.
In this magisterial volume Charles E. Curran surveys the historical development of Catholic moral theology in the United States from its 19th century roots to the present day. He begins by tracing the development of pre-Vatican II moral theology that, with the exception of social ethics, had the limited purpose of training future confessors to know what actions are sinful and the degree of sinfulness.
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.
The Catholic tradition has always tried to explain its theology in a coherent and systematic way, but the great changes and tensions existing within Catholic moral theology today have made it difficult to develop systematic approaches to what was once called fundamental moral theology. Now a leading scholar active in this field for forty years offers a synthesis of Catholic moral theology set in the context of the broader Catholic tradition and the significant developments that have occurred since the Second Vatican Council.
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.
Charles E. Curran offers the first comprehensive analysis and criticism of the development of modern Catholic social teaching from the perspective of theology, ethics, and church history. Curran studies the methodology and content of the documents of Catholic social teaching, generally understood as comprising twelve papal letters beginning with Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical Rerum novarum, two documents from Vatican II, and two pastoral letters of the U.S. bishops.
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.
Through the centuries, at the heart of Catholic moral theology is a fundamental question: How do we behave responsibly in the face of moral uncertainty? Attempts to resolve problems of everyday life led to the growth of a variety of moral systems, one of which emerged in the early 17th century and was known as "probabilism." This method of solving difficult moral cases allowed the believer to rely upon a view that was judged defensible in terms of its arguments or the authorities behind it, even if the opposite opinion was supported by stronger arguments or more authorities. The theologian Juan Caramuel, a Spanish Cistercian monk whom Alphonso Liguori famously characterized as "the prince of laxists," has been regarded as one of the more extreme—and notorious—proponents of probabilism. As the only full-length English study of Caramuel's theological method, Defending Probabilism seeks to reappraise Caramuel's legacy, claiming that his model of moral thinking, if better understood, can actually be of help to the Church today.
Considered one of the most erudite theologians of his age, a scientist and scholar who published works on everything from astronomy and architecture to printing and Gregorian chant, Caramuel strove throughout his life to understand probabilism's theological and philosophical foundations as part of his broader analysis of the nature of human knowledge.
In applying Caramuel's legacy to our own time, Defending Probabilism calls for a reconsideration of the value of provisional moral knowledge. Fleming's study shows that history matters, and that to attain any position on moral certitude is a difficult and painstaking process.
Charles Curran in his newest book The Development of Moral Theology: Five Strands, brings a unique historical and critical analysis to the five strands that differentiate Catholic moral theology from other approaches to Christian ethics—sin and the manuals of moral theology, the teaching of Thomas Aquinas and later Thomists, natural law, the role of authoritative church teaching in moral areas, and Vatican II. Significant changes have occurred over the course of these historical developments. In addition, pluralism and diversity exist even today, as illustrated, for example, in the theory of natural law proposed by Cardinal Ratzinger.
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.
Loyal Dissent is the candid and inspiring story of a Catholic priest and theologian who, despite being stripped of his right to teach as a Catholic theologian by the Vatican, remains committed to the Catholic Church. Over a nearly fifty-year career, Charles E. Curran has distinguished himself as the most well-known and the most controversial Catholic moral theologian in the United States. On occasion, he has disagreed with official church teachings on subjects such as contraception, homosexuality, divorce, abortion, moral norms, and the role played by the hierarchical teaching office in moral matters. Throughout, however, Curran has remained a committed Catholic, a priest working for the reform of a pilgrim church. His positions, he insists, are always in accord with the best understanding of Catholic theology and always dedicated to the good of the church.
In 1986, years of clashes with church authorities finally culminated in a decision by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, that Curran was neither suitable nor eligible to be a professor of Catholic theology. As a result of that Vatican condemnation, he was fired from his teaching position at Catholic University of America and, since then, no Catholic university has been willing to hire him. Yet Curran continues to defend the possibility of legitimate dissent from those teachings of the Catholic faith—not core or central to it—that are outside the realm of infallibility. In word and deed, he has worked in support of more academic freedom in Catholic higher education and for a structural change in the church that would increase the role of the Catholic community—from local churches and parishes to all the baptized people of God.
In this poignant and passionate memoir, Curran recounts his remarkable story from his early years as a compliant, pre-Vatican II Catholic through decades of teaching and writing and a transformation that has brought him today to be recognized as a leader of progressive Catholicism throughout the world.
Pope John Paul II is the second longest serving pope in history and the longest serving pope of the last century. His presence has thrown a long shadow across our time, and his influence on Catholics and non-Catholics throughout the world cannot be denied. Much has been written about this pope, but until now, no one has provided a systematic and thorough analysis of the moral theology that underlies his moral teachings and its astonishing influence. And no one is better positioned to do this than Charles E. Curran, widely recognized as the leading American Catholic moral theologian.
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.
Charles E. Curran presents the first in-depth analysis of the origins of Catholic moral theology in the United States, focusing on three significant figures in the late nineteenth century and demonstrating that methodological pluralism and theological diversity existed in the Church even then.
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.
Two principles capture the essence of the official Catholic position on the morality of sexuality: first, that any human genital act must occur within the framework of heterosexual marriage; second, each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. In this comprehensive overview of Catholicism and sexuality, theologians Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler examine and challenge these principles. Remaining firmly within the Catholic tradition, they contend that the church is being inconsistent in its teaching by adopting a dynamic, historically conscious anthropology and worldview on social ethics and the interpretation of scripture while adopting a static, classicist anthropology and worldview on sexual ethics.
While some documents from Vatican II, like Gaudium et spes ("the marital act promotes self-giving by which spouses enrich each other"), gave hope for a renewed understanding of sexuality, the church has not carried out the full implications of this approach. In short, say Salzman and Lawler: emphasize relationships, not acts, and recognize Christianity's historically and culturally conditioned understanding of human sexuality. The Sexual Person draws historically, methodologically, and anthropologically from the best of Catholic tradition and provides a context for current theological debates between traditionalists and revisionists regarding marriage, cohabitation, homosexuality, reproductive technologies, and what it means to be human. This daring and potentially revolutionary book will be sure to provoke constructive dialogue among theologians, and between theologians and the Magisterium.
How does the Church function in the world? What is it called to do, and what does it actually do? Charles E. Curran explores the social mission of the U.S. Catholic Church from a theological perspective, analyzing and assessing four aspects: the importance of social mission, who carries it out, how it is carried out, and the roles that the Church and individual Catholics play in supporting these efforts.
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.