Course Unit Outline
Unit Code
Unit Name
Themes in Fundamental Moral Theology
Unit Weighting
9 credit points
Type of Unit
E8501 Principles of Christian Ethics or a submajor in Christian Ethics in the BTh.
Academic Staff
Peter A. Comensoli, STB (CIS), STL (Alphonsianum), PhD (Edinburgh, 2011), DD. Lecturer
Gerald Gleeson, STB (CIS 1978), MA (Cantab 1987), PhD (Leuven 1989), Associate Professor.
Curriculum Objectives
This unit enables the graduate student critically explore central methodological issues in Christian
ethics, and Catholic moral theology in particular.
Learning Outcomes
At the end of this unit students will be able to:
1. critically analyse the emergence of fundamental moral theology since Vatican II
2. explain the relevance key magisterial texts for contemporary moral theology
3. clarify debates over the sources of moral theology
4. defend their own account of natural law, and the nature of moral action
5. apply the principles of Catholic moral reasoning to a contemporary issue
Threshold concept to be acquired in this unit
1. The historical emergence of fundamental moral theology
2. The use of the bible in moral theology
3. The human person and a Christo-centric anthropology
4. Contested approaches to Natural law
5. Debates over the nature of moral action and its evaluation
6. Intention and the moral object
7. Freedom, conscience and truth.
8. The role of the emotions in the moral life
9. Authority, tradition and moral absolutes
10. Principles of moral reasoning and discernment
Learning Activities
Lectures, seminars, student presentations.
Required Specialist Facilities or Equipment
Assessment Profile
Assessment tasks are designed both to help students attain the unit outcomes and to enable
teachers to assess student attainment. In this unit, the required assessment tasks will enable
students to demonstrate how successfully they can:
1. Outline the historical development of moral theology over the last few centuries, and the
emergence of fundamental moral theology since Vatican II. (e.g. in an essay) (Early diagnostic
task). [Outcomes 1 and 2]
2. Explain the relationship between the biblical sources of Christian ethics and the ‘natural moral
law’ (e.g. in a long essay). [Outcomes 3 and 4]
3. Develop an integrated ethical reflection on a contemporary issue from the standpoint of
Catholic moral theology (e.g. in an essay or a student presentation). [Outcomes 4 and 5]
Representative References
1. Black, Rufus. Christian Moral Realism: Natural Law, Narrative, Virtue and the Gospel. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2000.
2. Finnis, John. Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon, 2001.
3. Grenz, Stanley. The Moral Quest: Foundations of Christian Ethics. Downers Grove: InterVarsity
Press, 1997.
4. Grisez, Germain. The Way of the Lord Jesus. 1: Christian Moral Principles. Quincy, Ill: Franciscan
Press, 1993.
5. Jensen, Steven J. Good & Evil Actions. Washington, DC: CUA Press, 2010.
6. Kaczor, Christopher. Proportionalism and the Natural Law Tradition. Washington, Discipline
Coordinators: CUA Press, 2002.
7. Keenan, James F. A History of Catholic Moral Theology in the Twentieth Century. New York:
Continuum, 2010.
8. Levering, Matthew. Biblical Natural Law. New York: OUP, 2008.
9. Long, Stephen A. The Teleological Grammar of the Moral Act. Naples, Fl: Sapientia Press, 2007.
10. Mattison, William C. Introducing Moral Theology: True Happiness and the Virtues. Grand
Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008.
11. Pinckaers, Servais. The Pinckaers Reader: Renewing Thomistic Moral Theology. Washington:
Catholic University of America Pres, 2005.
12. Porter, Jean. Nature as Reason: A Thomistic Theory of the Natural Law. Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 2005.
13. Rhonheimer, Martin. The Perspective of the Acting Person. Washington, DC: CUA Press, 2008.