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Preface and User’s Guide

Warning: This book is dangerous! If used improperly, it could cause serious injury to the moral lives of its readers and/or people they mean to help. One often can skip a book’s front matter without missing anything essential, but to understand this book and use it properly, one must know what sort of book it is and what it offers. It is a peculiar book offering both somewhat more and somewhat less than one might expect. Students and other readers, teachers considering it as a text or instructional resource, and conscientious critics will do well to read the following explanations of the book’s character, purposes, and limitations.

This book is the third in a four-volume effort to contribute to the renewal of Catholic moral theology called for by Vatican Council II. Volume one, Christian Moral Principles (which I shall refer to by CMP, with page numbers) articulated a general theory of morality and theology of Christian life; volume two, Living a Christian Life (LCL), treated the moral responsibilities common to most or all Catholic lay people and those common to clerics, religious, and laity. This volume deals with the responsibilities of lay people in various specific occupations and relationships; since the potential subject matter is endless, however, it treats only some difficult questions that are widespread, especially important, or usefully illustrative.

Like the other volumes, this one is intended primarily for use as a seminary text or instructional resource. But unlike the earlier volumes, which mainly present common Catholic teaching and reflect on it theologically, it deals with questions not yet the subject of explicit or clearly applicable Church teachings. Conscientious lay people facing challenging moral questions and those from whom they seek advice will find here guidance not available elsewhere: if not replies to their questions, a model for thinking about questions more or less like those they have. But like many helpful medications, tools, and appliances, the book will be used safely and effectively, as I said, only if its character, purposes, and limitations are borne in mind.

Avoiding legalism without refusing to answer moral questions

Two fundamental misconceptions of moral theology and its application in particular cases could lead to either misuses of the replies I propose here or a refusal to use them—perhaps even a refusal to consider them except as possible targets for scornful criticism. Both misconceptions were manifested in a session at a seminary where I was invited to spend an afternoon discussing two of the questions and my tentative answers.

Two faculty members said talking about how one might reply to the questions I had proposed for discussion would be pointless; they heatedly challenged the very idea of trying to answer people’s actual moral questions. Replying to such questions, they said, is telling people what to do and not do, and that inevitably leads to judging and condemning those who do not docilely do as they are told or who fail to seek permission to make exceptions to moral rules. What I planned to do in this book seemed presumptuous to them, and they felt sure that the result, if published, would be pernicious.

One pressed me: “Why are you trying to tell people what to do?” “Because they ask me,” I said. “You ought to tell them to follow their own consciences!” she shot back. “Of course I tell people that,” I said, “but some people think they need help in forming their consciences.” “That does not justify telling them what to do,” her colleague maintained. “Moral theology,” he held, “can articulate Christian ideals and tell inspiring stories but cannot legitimately say anything about actual problems, every one of which is unique.” “What should pastoral workers do when people ask for moral guidance?” I asked. They answered: “Encourage them to talk about their problems and feelings, listen sympathetically, pray with them, assure them God will love them no matter what they decide, and tell them they must follow their consciences.”

The two professors had adopted the position that there are no general moral truths in whose light one might argue to a judgment that it would be right (or wrong) to make this or that choice. That position, which would find little support even among theologians who dissent from Church teachings, is at odds with the entire Judeo-Christian tradition, including its sources witnessed in Scripture—for example, St. Paul’s application to a unique case of the norm excluding incest (see 1 Cor 5.1–5) and his nuanced answer to a difficult moral question about eating food sacrificed to idols (see 1 Cor 8–10). The position also is at odds with itself and therefore rationally untenable. By maintaining that I should tell people to follow their own consciences and not tell them what to do and not do, the professors applied a norm, which they assumed true in general, to my unique case and told me what I should do and not do—thereby themselves doing what the norm they were assuming excluded. By maintaining that pastoral workers should tell people they must follow their consciences, they applied additional general norms to people with moral problems and to the pastoral workers who wish to help them. And they seemed ready to judge and condemn anyone who might judge and condemn someone.

Nevertheless, their vehement interventions call attention to the grave errors of the legalism against which they were reacting—a caricature of a misconception of moral theology and its pastoral application that was widespread in the Church before Vatican II. While the professors regard moral principles and norms as ideals with no practical implications, legalism regarded them as rules to be imposed. Both views are mistaken. As John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis splendor (The splendor of truth) makes clear, sound moral principles and norms are practical truths that safeguard fundamental human goods and help reasonable persons and communities shape their actions and lives toward their own fulfillment and that of others.

Conscience is a person’s last and best judgment as to what he or she should, or may, or should not do here and now (see CMP, 75–78). As truths about what is good for human persons and communities, sound moral principles and norms usually help a reasonable person arrive at that judgment. When people with moral problems ask for help, it is usually because they do not know what is right and good, and want to find out—in other words, they realize that they do not yet have the conscience they need and wish to form it. It is unhelpful either to give them a rule and tell them to obey it, or to grant them an exception to a rule they find burdensome. Doing either assumes that those asking for help are incapable of thinking and shaping their own lives—that they are like small children whose outward behavior must be managed for their own good and to maintain order—and that one has the duty and right to direct their lives for them. But it is equally unhelpful to tell people with moral problems to follow their own consciences. Moreover, it is likely to be misleading. In the context, “Follow your conscience” will seem to mean: Neither any Catholic teaching nor any reasoning we might carry out together could help you find out what is right and good; so, without further reflection, proceed to choose. That is tantamount to saying: “Do whatever you feel like doing!”—a prescription for subjectivism.

A sound alternative to legalism is to assume that people who ask moral questions are capable of moral reflection and judgment but need and want help in carrying them out. To be helpful, one must begin by trying to understand the problem as they themselves see it, taking into account their purposes, difficulties, prior commitments, and apparent options. One also must realize that moral questions are not so limited as many people think. There is a richness and complexity to moral life, and diverse kinds of questions must be distinguished. They need not concern strict obligations, and they often bear on subjects other than sexual behavior and possible injustices. Indeed, whether to do or not do something always is a moral question, insofar as it calls for an answer in terms of what would be reasonable and good not merely in reference to a particular goal or in some limited respect but ultimately and unqualifiedly.

Some questions are matters for discernment between or among morally acceptable options, and one can help only by making that clear, calling attention to things to be considered, and explaining how discernment is to be carried out. Others are questions of right and wrong that cannot be answered by deductive reasoning, and one helps by providing guidance, which never can be definitive, for making the necessary judgment. Some matters do require that a morally unacceptable option be excluded by deductively applying a negative norm; but, even in such cases, one usually provides adequate help in answering the question only if one also points out a possible way of fulfilling responsibilities with respect to the people and the goods at stake.

If someone asking a moral question seems to be overlooking facts or possibilities, or to be mistaken about them, one calls attention to these as perhaps relevant realities. If a questioner seems to be overlooking or mistaken about some norm or its application, one proposes it with as much explanation and support from faith and/or reason as seems necessary to make clear its truth and how it might help solve the problem. One does not presume to give orders and permissions, even if one occasionally lapses into the imperative form in spelling out details of a proposed plan of action rather than repeatedly saying: “If, as I expect, you judge it right to proceed in the way proposed, you should . . ..”

If someone asking a question seems to have done or to be doing or to be about to do something wrong, that usually must be pointed out. In doing so, however, one must not judge and condemn the person: God alone knows whether and how clearly he or she knows that the act is wrong, and whether and how freely he or she chooses to act contrary to that conscience. Likewise, rather than judging and condemning someone who seems to ignore advice offered in response to his or her moral question, one realizes that one’s reply may have been unsound or inadequate, communication may have failed, the person may have been unable to appropriate and use the advice, and/or his or her capacity to choose freely may be limited.

Advice for studying each question and reply

The questions dealt with in this book really are difficult. In applying moral principles and norms taught by the Church to matters on which she has never taught at all or not yet taught explicitly, I do not claim that the Church herself would make the same applications, much less endorse any other advice I offer. Undoubtedly, some of my proposed replies contain errors. If any reply should lead in practice to a judgment in conflict with the Church’s teaching, I would follow and urge others to follow the Church’s teaching. In what I have written here, as in everything I think, I submit gladly and wholeheartedly to the better judgment of the Catholic Church.

Every question dealt with in this volume could be taken up in a systematic treatise on a set of problems wider than the one the question poses. But this volume is not systematic; the replies proposed deliberately avoid broadening the inquiry more than will be practically helpful to questioners. Readers should not draw any conclusions from what is not said here about interesting and important matters closely related to those treated—and reasonable critics will not fault the volume for failing to address questions beyond those posed by questioners.

In each case, the initial, one-sentence question is a title, intended only to indicate in a summary way the subject matter of the moral problem articulated in the paragraphs that immediately follow it, down to the section headed “Analysis.” The one-sentence title almost always is more general than the problem actually presented. Some of the specific features of the latter always must be taken into account by sound moral reflection and judgment. Thus, the analysis and proposed reply do not address all the morally diverse problems that could be expressed by the initial question; and, if applied without necessary adjustments to a case significantly different from the one actually treated, the analysis and reply will be at best inadequate and at worst unsound and seriously misleading.

Most of the problems are more difficult than it initially might seem. Even able and attentive readers of preliminary drafts rather often overlooked some significant feature of a problem and tried to improve a proposed reply by offering objections or suggestions that were beside the questioner’s point. So, anyone who wishes thoroughly to understand a proposed reply—which will be necessary to apply it to another case—should compare the reply with the problem it addresses and note each feature of the problem taken into account in the reply.

Quite often, the proposed reply qualifies or disagrees with something asserted or assumed by the questioner. However, in some cases, though I disagree with or disapprove of something in the question, I do not think criticizing it would be helpful, and so ignore it. Again, in some cases a questioner would not have the problem he or she presents if others had done or would do what they should. But unless I think discussing that fact would help the questioner, I do not mention it. Thus, readers should not take a proposed reply’s silence about something in the question as agreement with it or approval of it, or silence about wrongs that contributed to the problem as condoning them.

The section headed “Analysis” might appear to be a summary of the proposed reply. But it has a different function—to set out the thinking a moral adviser should do before beginning to formulate a reply. The section identifies the type of moral problem the question presents, points out the tools to be employed in dealing with it, and states how they must be used. Thus, the analysis is meant for students and other readers interested not only in the reply proposed to the particular question but also, and perhaps mainly, in learning how to use moral principles and norms. In pointing out relevant principles and norms, however, the analysis usually must anticipate—and so, in fact, summarize—key elements of the reply. Still, taken as a summary of the reply, the analysis almost always will be inadequate, for it will omit some essential elements of the reply, including subordinate arguments, clarifications of likely misunderstandings, necessary qualifications, possible alternatives, and answers to objections. Anyone treating an analysis section as if it were an adequate reply to the question is likely to be misled and to mislead others, and any critic who supposes the analysis is meant to be an adequate reply will misrepresent my thinking.

Given its function, the analysis section necessarily presupposes a foundation in sound moral theology—which I naturally hope will have been acquired by previous study of CMP and LCL! Those who wish to use the analysis also should study this book’s two appendices, which not only summarize but in some respects amend and expand the earlier volumes’ treatments of cooperation and of moral judgments, particularly those about accepting side effects. However, anything in the analysis essential to understanding the proposed reply is repeated there. So, readers mainly interested in the particular question need not read the analysis; and, usually, they also will be able to understand the proposed reply without previous study of moral theology.

The statement introducing the reply to each question, The reply could be along the following lines, is meant to remind readers that replies more or less different from the one I propose might be as sound and helpful or even sounder and more helpful. Of course, I am convinced that some elements of each proposed reply are certainly true and think some of those truths would be essential to any acceptable reply. But, as I said before, some of my proposed replies undoubtedly contain errors. Then too, I recognize that even the truths included in the proposed replies always could be articulated differently and usually could be augmented by different and/or additional advice about secondary matters. Besides, one always could provide additional support for the propositions on which a reply is based, explain matters more fully, raise and answer additional objections, point out and clarify further possible misunderstandings.

In each of the proposed replies, I try to supply everything I think the questioner will need to understand it and reasonably accept it. Since each questioner’s self-description and statements are the basis for judging what can be taken for granted in replying to him or her, different replies proceed on somewhat different assumptions. But since most questioners are Catholics prepared to accept the Church’s clear teachings, in this volume the truth of such teachings almost always is assumed rather than defended.

In each proposed reply, I also try to supply only what I think the questioner needs to make use of the help I think I can offer. But it always is debatable how much is enough, neither too little nor too much. That is especially true with respect to subordinate advice regarding the carrying out of responsibilities. Saying too much ventures beyond moral theology’s boundaries—which, as I explained above, are broader than many people think—and risks making mistakes and inviting comparison with newspaper personal-advice columnists who answer questions about everything though they are competent in respect to nothing. However, saying too little risks leaving someone ready to do the appropriate thing puzzled about how to begin doing it. Wishing to help and trusting people to consider my advice discriminatingly, I often prefer to risk saying too much. But such subordinate advice is especially likely to be faulty.

In many replies, it would be appropriate to offer additional spiritual advice—pray to the Holy Spirit for light to guide your judgment and strength to carry it out, examine your conscience and go to confession regularly, thank God for his blessings, and so on. In many cases, it also would be appropriate to recommend that a questioner obtain regular guidance and support from a sound spiritual director or other saintly friend. However, to avoid constant repetition, in this book I usually omit most such spiritual advice, though I would give it in replying to questioners separately.

The footnotes and references within the text of a proposed reply are not meant for the questioner, and in that sense are not part of the reply. But readers who wish to follow my explanations to their starting points, whether only to grasp them fully or authentically to criticize them, will find the notes and references helpful and sometimes indispensable. Still, not every allusion to Scripture and other sources is annotated; references to the first two volumes of The Way of the Lord Jesus, where many sources are quoted and cited, often take the place of annotation that would have either increased the size and cost of this book or reduced its fresh content. Moreover, even the references to earlier volumes that are supplied are intended mainly for casual readers. When I began work on this book, I decided to assume that its more studious users would be familiar with both the principles articulated in CMP and the parts of LCL relevant to questions on which they work. Therefore, matters already dealt with in those volumes are not always explicitly referenced and seldom are treated here with care and in depth.

Advice for using the book in pastoral formation

Though moral theology can be applied rightly in helping people form their consciences, this book could be pernicious if used inappropriately as a seminary textbook or instructional resource. Seminarians need to learn—and priests and other pastoral workers need to put into practice—not only many things no book can teach but some things treated in other books but not in this one. Those using this book to prepare for and carry on pastoral work, or to help others to do so, should take into account its specific value and limitations, use it for what it offers, and find other means of achieving essential aspects of pastoral formation to which it will contribute inadequately if at all.

The questions in this book are theoretically difficult. Most people seeking pastoral guidance have questions that are theoretically easy but sometimes quite difficult in practical terms, in reference to the suffering from which they arise or to which truthful answers will lead, or both. Packaged answers quickly delivered seldom help people with their actual problems. Some of the questions in this book were appropriately asked and answered in writing, but most people in need of pastoral help talk with a priest or pastoral worker, and almost always people should be invited and encouraged to discuss their problems face to face. The person must be understood before his or her problem can be understood and before an adviser can begin effectively to communicate the help that seems appropriate. For understanding someone, developing a personal relationship, and carrying on delicate communication, letters usually are less useful than telephone conversation, which, in turn, almost always is far less adequate than unhurried, face-to-face discussion.

In the previous volume, I briefly treated the responsibilities of moral advisers (see LCL, 300–303). But besides awareness of responsibilities and commitment to fulfill them, sound and effective pastoral work also presupposes some knowledge of psychology and counseling technique. A few of this book’s questions and proposed replies summarize lengthy discussions. Patient and attentive listening was needed as questioners presented their problems piecemeal, mixed with much seemingly irrelevant information which, nevertheless, often suggested essential considerations that were articulated only in response to questions. Like Socrates’ conversations with young interlocutors, such listening and gentle probing sometimes enable conscientious questioners to think their problems through and answer their own questions—and this is the ideal to strive after. If questioners come to see for themselves the principles and norms they need, and use them spontaneously to form their consciences, the counselor not only has thought out and communicated a sound reply, without telling the questioner to do or not do anything, but has encouraged the appropriation of relevant truths and supported the commitment to act on them. When this is achieved, moreover, not only legalism but even its appearance is avoided.

Still, Socrates gained the insights to which he led others by thinking through problems before proposing them for discussion. Similarly, as advisers begin to grasp a moral problem, they must be able to identify the sort of question the person is posing and see how to help him or her deal with it. Moral principles and norms found in Catholic teaching or consonant with it were presented, explained, and defended in the earlier volumes; this one is a book of exercises in applying those principles and norms to many kinds of moral questions arising in different subject matters and involving diverse complicating features.

Those who use the book for such exercises would do well to begin by studying the two appendices. In working on each question, they should first read only the question, then think about it and/or discuss it, and next read and reflect on the analysis. Having accepted or modified the analysis—or perhaps replaced it with their own—they should outline what they think needs to be communicated in an adequate reply before considering the one I propose, so that they can compare it with their own outline.

Though this book should not be regarded as a model for the process of pastoral moral guidance, it does exemplify certain features which, I believe, the process must have if it is to be sound and effective.

The focus in this book always is on trying to help a questioner form his or her own conscience and make good choices; the train of thought never is derailed into general social and cultural criticism, sketches of how things ought to be, and prescriptions for people other than the questioner. Questioners always are presumed to be both honest and sufficiently self-aware so that they not only mean what they say but understand its significance. Questions are never treated as symptoms of deeper problems the questioner cannot articulate. So, while the psychological and ecclesiological dimensions of moral problems are regularly recognized and addressed, moral questions never are deconstructed—for instance, by reducing them to psychological problems or management problems regarding the relations of the Church as a voluntary association with her uneasy and restless members.

Public opinion polls and the opinions of supposed experts are never treated as morally authoritative. Legalistic minimalism and impracticable idealism are avoided by putting each problem into the wider but concrete context of the questioner’s prior commitments and/or personal vocation as a whole. The gospel and the Church’s social teaching are brought into play to clarify the requirements not only of justice but of mercy. Legitimate alternative ways of dealing with problems often are suggested. The motive of hope—intending heaven and fearing hell—regularly overarches and undergirds every other motive proposed for living the truth of a well-formed conscience.

Advice for using the book in other ways

This book does not provide a systematic ethics for health care, business, education, legal problems and practice, or any of the other fields on which it touches. However, the greater part of any adequate systematic Christian ethics for a particular field would deal with principles and norms treated in the earlier volumes—for instance, a systematic treatment of health care ethics would summarize many matters dealt with in CMP and would include not only most of chapter eight of LCL but large parts of several of its other chapters. And, though not developed into systematic treatises, the sets of questions bearing on particular fields in this volume (for example, health care in questions 43 through 92) do deal with the specific principles of responsibilities in that field (for example, the common good of health care providers and those they serve, and the physician-patient relationship), and the questions in each such set are arranged in a sequence to facilitate using them to study the field as a whole.

Among books dealing with the ethics of various fields, some propose admirable ideals and attitudes, and take defensible stands on particular issues, but are short on precise analysis and rational method, so that they provide little help in analyzing difficult moral questions and forming conscience in accord with sound principles. Many other such books presuppose unsound ethical theories and principles, or proceed without any basis at all to propose cases for discussion—thereby implicitly inculcating either erroneous views or a conscience-numbing subjectivism. Together with the earlier volumes, this book can be used to learn and teach how to analyze problems that arise in a particular field and form a conscience in regard to them embodying principles and norms taught by the Church or, at least, rationally defensible and consistent with her teaching. A professional or someone offering moral advice to professionals who has learned how to answer moral questions as they arise is better off than one who only has good answers to some, even many, common and familiar questions. Moreover, when studying and teaching professional ethics by the case method, tendencies toward subjectivism are forestalled and authentic practical reasonableness is promoted when, as in this book, each case is presented by a conscientious person with a real moral problem who wants a reasonable answer to the question: What should (or may) I do?

The ethics of the diverse fields dealt with in this book also is enriched in various ways precisely as a result of the treatment’s nonsystematic character. Many matters that pose problems are considered from different points of view—contraception and sterilization, for example, are touched on by questions asked by gynecologists, a pathologist, a medical student, patients, hospital administrators, and a pharmacist. And, in responding to questions asked by people in one profession, treatments of certain problems—for example, those dealing with compassion, burnout, and fees and income—can easily be applied to people in other professions.

The index of subjects and names is designed to help users find scattered treatments not only of topics pertaining to the same or many fields but of principles, norms, and types of problem—the universal destination of goods, the application of the Golden Rule, formal and material cooperation, and so on. To save users’ time, not every occurrence of key words is indexed but only those where something significant is said about the topic.

About the questions

Almost everyone who has seen any of this book in manuscript has asked: “Where did you get these questions?” Some were asked of me or of others who gave them to me. Some were drawn from books, mainly ethics case books. A few are entirely fictitious. The origin of a question does not affect its potential utility for the various purposes of the book. Still, to satisfy curiosity, I shall explain a bit more how the questions were developed.

When I began preparations for this volume in 1992, I published a letter or notice in many media sketching out the project and inviting questions, and in other ways spread the same message as widely as I could. I received many questions: some from people seeking help with current problems, others from people asking for my comments on something they did in the past, others from people concerned about problems other people were facing or had faced. Priests asked or told me about cases of conscience that currently confronted them or that they had dealt with in the past. Most questions came in writing; some letters that presented serious, current questions led to telephone conversations or more than one round of correspondence. Some people who wanted help with current problems telephoned, and a few came to see me.

The experience of dealing with these questions shaped the book. But working on the material to make the book sound and useful also required that the questions themselves and my replies to them be reshaped, revised, and built up. People’s names and other morally irrelevant details had to be changed to protect privacy and preserve confidentiality. In several instances, two or more similar questions were melded into one. Sometimes, circumstances were introduced to lend moral complexity to questions that initially were too easy; in other cases, legal or other technical problems were dropped out to eliminate complexities that had to be settled by other specialists.

Moral problems in case books in legal ethics and business ethics often are lengthy and rich in ethically irrelevant detail. They usually describe complex, unsavory states of affairs involving many persons. Yet they seldom adopt the perspective of any one conscientious person who wishes to know what to do. Discussion of such cases easily falls into consequentialist speculation about how to improve the state of affairs as a whole, and such discussion also can encourage ethical agnosticism about the responsibilities of individuals caught up in the situation. Still, even when cases for discussion are presented in this way and without any ethical framework, morally serious people who have never studied moral theology or ethics usually easily identify the moral questions a case should raise for each person involved. Therefore, in drawing problems from case books in business ethics and legal ethics, I eliminated the irrelevant detail and created a conscientious person to ask the question.

Some purely fictitious questions were created to deal with issues that nobody raised but that are important to many people—some of them questions widely discussed, some issues of general concern but never or rarely regarded as ethical issues. Other purely fictitious questions were created to illustrate some principle, norm, or element of ethical analysis and moral judgment. However, the manuscript has been revised so much and so often that even questions that began as real and current problems for people contain significant fictional elements.

Readers will notice that the two hundred questioners hardly are a representative sample of the population as a whole or even of practicing Catholics. Many are unusually faithful, unusually conscientious, or unusually generous. Why are they not more representative? To begin with, they are more nearly representative of people conscientious enough to ask moral questions than of people, and contemporary Catholics, in general. Again, to sharpen the difficult issues, I sometimes amended questions so that the questioner expressly excludes a morally unacceptable option, such as lying. But my selection of questions also had a lot to do with the nonrepresentative character of the questioners. Seldom did the legalistic moral theology of times past regard as really difficult any moral question not involving grave matter; so, hardly ever were most other questions seriously dealt with. For the theology of The Way of the Lord Jesus, questions involving only light matter or morally acceptable options can be difficult and worthy of careful analysis and reflection. Thinking such questions would enrich the book and make it more interesting and useful to most readers, I especially welcomed them.

Readers also will notice that the priests described by various questioners hardly are representative of contemporary priests. Most priests in this book are not fulfilling their responsibilities. Some make errors in their teaching and counseling, abuse the liturgy, give bad moral advice, and so on; even the better ones may be confused and unhelpful. The main reason why the sample of priests in this book is not representative is that priests who are good and holy, faithful and competent do not create moral problems for people. But, again, my selection of questions was a factor. Priests who create moral problems for people were central in many real moral questions presented by deeply troubled, conscientious Catholics. Neither traditional moral theology nor the contemporary magisterium has addressed or is addressing these questions, which are both new and officially unrecognized. Reflecting on such questions should be profitable for seminarians, and principled answers to them should help many lay Catholics. So, I include several such questions in the book, often melding many similar questions into one.

The project of which this book is a part

As noted above, this volume is the third of a four-volume project. The fourth volume is to treat the special responsibilities of clerics and religious. Originally, the whole project was to be completed by the year 2000, but the fourth volume will not be near completion by then. It will appear, God willing, in 2004.

Readers who have studied and understood the two preceding volumes will notice how tightly this one is integrated with them. Its two hundred proposed replies embody and illustrate the principles and norms set forth and explained in the earlier ones, and concrete examples always help make abstract statements understandable. So, this volume, more concrete and immediately practical than the others, will make their content more accessible. At the same time, it manifests the theory’s capacity to deal with all sorts of problems, and so proves its fruitfulness. For anyone who believes that the principles and norms set forth in volume one are true, the evidence of the theory’s fruitfulness should argue in its favor.

John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis splendor (1993), which deals with fundamental moral theology, does not require any revision of the treatment of principles and criticism of dissenting theology in my volume one, Christian Moral Principles. Indeed, the encyclical confirms the soundness and appropriateness of treating the Beatitudes as organizing principles, identifying faith as the fundamental option of Christian life, seeing exceptionless moral norms as protecting fundamental human goods, defining human acts by what is chosen rather than by outward behavior, rejecting proportionalism, and judging certain dissenting positions incompatible with divine revelation.

Franciscan Press, the publisher of this volume, also published volume two and reprinted volume one. It plans to keep all three volumes in print. Its address and telephone number can be found on the title page.

Key to references in the text and notes

Quotations from the Bible (except those within other quotations) are from the New Revised Standard Version. References are made by means of the following abbreviations:

Acts Acts of the Apostles
Col Colossians
1 Cor 1 Corinthians
2 Cor 2 Corinthians
Dn Daniel
Dt Deuteronomy
Eph Ephesians
Ex Exodus
Gal Galatians
Gn Genesis
Heb Hebrews
Is Isaiah
Jas James
Jn John (Gospel)
1 Jn 1 John (Epistle)
Lk Luke
Mk Mark
Mt Matthew
Phil Philippians
Prv Proverbs
Ps Psalms
1 Pt 1 Peter
2 Pt 2 Peter
Rom Romans
Rv Revelation
Sir Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)
2 Thes 2 Thessalonians
1 Tm 1 Timothy
Wis Wisdom

For quotations from the Vatican II documents, the point of departure was a set of translations provided during the Council by the National Catholic Welfare Conference. Those translations were prepared quickly and were originally distributed as the Council completed its work on each document; later they were published in various forms, among which is a convenient, one-volume edition: The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II and the Instruction on the Liturgy with Commentaries by the Council Fathers, compiled by J. L. Gonzalez, S.S.P., and the Daughters of St. Paul (Boston, Mass.: Daughters of St. Paul, 1967). In each instance, the National Catholic Welfare Conference translation has been checked against the official text of the document, and amended or replaced whenever necessary to express more accurately the meaning of the Latin, and also to bring the English into accord with current usage and the editorial style generally followed throughout this volume. References to the Vatican II documents use the abbreviations derived from the initial letters of the Latin text of each document, and then the numbers of the articles into which the documents were divided by the Council itself.

AA Apostolicam actuositatem (Laity)
AG Ad gentes (Missions)
DH Dignitatis humanae (Religious Liberty)
DV Dei verbum (Divine Revelation)
GE Gravissimum educationis (Education)
GS Gaudium et spes (Church in the World)
IM Inter mirifica (Communications)
LG Lumen gentium (On the Church)
NA Nostra aetate (Non-Christian Religions)
OE Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Eastern Churches)
OT Optatam totius (Priestly Formation)
PC Perfectae caritatis (Religious Life)
PO Presbyterorum ordinis (Priestly Life)
SC Sacrosanctum Concilium (Liturgy)
UR Unitatis redintegratio (Ecumenism)

Users of the Abbott–Gallagher edition should keep in mind that only the footnotes italicized in that edition are part of the Council documents. So, in that edition the Council’s own notes usually have numbers different from those in the official texts.

AAS refers to Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the journal of the Holy See in which are published the official texts of documents issued by the popes and the Holy See’s congregations. AAS began publication in 1909; its predecessor, from 1865–1908, was Acta Sanctae Sedis (ASS).

CCC refers to Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994). References are to paragraphs, not pages; note that the paragraph numbers are printed in bold type at the beginning of each paragraph.

CIC refers to Codex iuris canonici, auctoritate Ioannis Pauli Pp. II promulgatus (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1983), which contains the law currently in force in the Latin Church. Quotations from the code, unless otherwise noted, are from The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, ed. James A. Coriden, Thomas J. Green, and Donald E. Heintschel (New York: Paulist Press, 1985).

CMP and LCL refer to the earlier volumes of this work: volume one, Christian Moral Principles, and volume two, Living a Christian Life. References are to page numbers.

DS refers to Henricus Denzinger—Adolfus Schönmetzer, S.J., Enchiridion Symbolorum Definitionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum, ed. 36 (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1976). This volume, as its title indicates, is a collection of “creeds, definitions, and declarations on matters of faith and morals.” Texts are in chronological order. Two sequences of numbers appear in the margins; both are indicated in references in the present text. Quotations from this collection, unless otherwise noted, are from Denzinger: The Sources of Catholic Dogma, trans. Roy J. Deferrari from the 30th ed. of Enchiridion Symbolorum (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1957). The translation uses the lower sequence of DS numbers.

Flannery, 1, refers to Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, O.P., new rev. ed. (Northport, N.Y.: Costello, 1992). Flannery, 2, refers to Vatican Council II: More Postconciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Northport, N.Y.: Costello, 1982). The reference includes the relevant page number or numbers.

OR refers to the English-language, weekly edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. The reference includes the date of the issue cited and the relevant page number or numbers.

PE refers to The Papal Encyclicals, ed. Claudia Carlen, I.H.M., 5 vols. (1981; reprint, Ann Arbor, Mich.: Pierian Press, 1990). Quotations from papal encyclicals published before 1982, unless otherwise noted, are from this edition. In it, the encyclicals are numbered consecutively through the five volumes, and each is divided into numbered sections; in references, the number of the encyclical referred to appears first, followed by a period, and then the number or numbers of the relevant section or sections.

The Rites refers to The Rites of the Catholic Church as Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Council and Published by Authority of Pope Paul VI (New York: Pueblo, 1976). References are to the page numbers in this collected edition.

S.t. refers to the Summa theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas. This work is cited by its five main divisions: 1 (the first part or prima pars), 1–2 (the first part of the second part or prima secundae), 2–2 (the second part of the second part or secunda secundae), 3 (the third part or tertia pars), and sup. (the supplement compiled from an earlier work after Thomas’s death). These main divisions are subdivided into questions (cited by q. with the question number), the questions into articles (cited by a. with the article number), and the articles into a body (c. for corpus) and replies to objections (cited ad 1, ad 2, and so forth). S.c.g. refers to St. Thomas’s Summa contra gentiles, which is divided into four books and these into chapters. This work is cited by book and chapter, separated by a period.

In Sent. refers to St. Thomas Aquinas, Scriptum super libros Sententiarum magistri Petri Lombardi. This work is divided into four books (1, 2, 3, or 4), each of which is divided into distinctions (d.), the distinctions into questions (q.), the questions into articles (a.), and the articles (sometimes, but not always) into little questions (qu’la). The ultimate unit is divided into a body (c.) and replies to objections (ad 1, ad 2, and so on).


The acknowledgments section of the “User’s Guide and Preface” of CMP explains the origin and sponsorship of the moral theology project which resulted in that volume, LCL, and this one. Dr. Robert J. Wickenheiser, President of Mount Saint Mary’s College until mid-1993, Rev. Dr. James N. Loughran, S.J., interim President during 1993–94, and Mr. George R. Houston, Jr., President since mid-1994, continued encouraging the work in every possible way. President Houston also cooperated in working out generous arrangements that will allow work on volume four to proceed toward projected publication in 2004.

This project also continues to depend on the substantial help of many persons.

The librarians at my College regularly provide fine service; Lisa Davis, who handles interlibrary loans, was especially helpful with this volume. The Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame allowed me guest privileges, and its reference librarians gave me all the help I requested. Peter J. Cataldo and Russell E. Smith of The Pope John XXIII Medical-Moral and Research Center shared with me material on many real questions, carefully censoring it to maintain confidentiality.

An irreplaceable contribution was made by the many people who gave me questions. Those who wanted help perhaps helped me more than I helped them. Some responded to my first reply, and some greatly encouraged me. All of them must of course remain unnamed here, but I pray that each one’s name is written in the book of life.

My greatest debt is to the four persons whose names appear on the title page. Joseph Boyle and John Finnis helped plan the volume and develop many of the questions; they also thoroughly criticized the entire manuscript. Each devoted about two months, spread over four years, to the book; both contributed greatly to its explanations and arguments. Jeannette Grisez, my wife, served as administrative assistant and secretary, helping with the work on a daily basis. Russell Shaw not only heavily edited the manuscript, but made many valuable criticisms and suggestions for substantive improvement, thus contributing significantly not only to the book’s language but to its content.

Gerard V. Bradley examined and criticized in depth the proposed replies dealing with legal matters and the practice of law. Joseph H. Casey, S.J., commented on the entire manuscript, providing many helpful criticisms and suggestions for improvement. Basil Cole, O.P., suggested references to CCC and commented on the entire manuscript. Anthony Fisher, O.P., spent a month going over the entire manuscript with me; his excellent work greatly improved not only the book’s substance but its rhetorical tone. Kevin L. Flannery, S.J., and Peter F. Ryan, S.J., helped develop some of the questions and commented extensively on many of the proposed replies. Robert G. Kennedy introduced me to the problems of business ethics, supplied valuable resources, and criticized many of the proposed replies. He also checked out references to and quotations from Scripture, and Edward N. Peters did the same for canon law. James J. O’Rourke and Joseph S. Spoerl worked through half the manuscript with me at an early stage, and the latter commented on the first draft of the other half. Nicholas Tonti-Filippini provided research assistance on several matters related to health care and commented in depth on a few questions.

The following helped in lesser but significant ways with the proposed replies to at least some questions: Scott FitzGibbon, Robert P. George, Thomas W. Hilgers, M.D., Robert E. Joyce, Patrick Lee, David G. C. McCann, M.D., George E. Maloof, M.D., William E. May, Stephen F. Miletic, Renée Mirkes, O.S.F., Luana R. C. Moore, M.D., Charles P. Prezzia, M.D., D. Alan Shewmon, M.D., Leonie Watson, M.D., Richard A. Watson, M.D.

In April 1994, Judith A. McMorrow, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Boston College Law School, invited me to participate in a one-day symposium on legal ethics with about twenty lawyers, including a number of experts in legal ethics and professional discipline. The sessions dealt with four questions I had formulated. In each case, after other participants criticized my formulation and discussed the problem the question posed, I summarized my tentative reply, and participants then commented on it. Besides the help this symposium gave me with the four questions discussed that day, several participants offered constructive advice on the project and/or generously provided published materials.

With that valuable experience as a model, I subsequently engaged in more or less similar sessions with many small groups, in the course of which most of the questions and proposed replies were discussed and criticized.

In January 1995, Joseph Boyle, Principal of University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, arranged sessions at the University with groups of students and elsewhere in that city with groups of health care ethicists, priests and seminarians, and business persons.

In January-February 1995, John Finnis, Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy, organized and initiated a seminar, Difficult Moral Problems, in the sub-Faculty of Philosophy and the Faculties of Theology and Law of the University of Oxford, and joined me in leading three sessions of the seminar, during which six questions were discussed. While residing in Oxford, I was invited to conduct similar but less formal sessions at Blackfriars, Campion Hall, Greyfriars, Oriel College, Regents Park College, St. Benet’s Hall, Grandpont House of Opus Dei, and the home of Denis and Valerie Riches, leaders of The Gift of Human Life. In London, Luke Gormally, Director of the Linacre Centre for health care ethics, organized and sponsored a one-day symposium, which dealt with four questions.

In May 1995, Robert G. Kennedy, Professor of Management, University of St.Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota, organized sessions with several groups of business persons, two groups of seminarians, and a group of philosophy faculty.

In May 1996, Joseph G. and Soonie Santamaria, friends deeply interested in the entire project of which this book is a part, kindly and very generously sponsored and hosted a visit by Jeannette and me to Australia. With the help of Anthony Fisher, O.P, and Nicholas Tonti-Filippini in Melbourne, and Robert O’Connell in Sydney, Joseph Santamaria organized twenty-nine sessions during which I obtained useful feedback on fifty-two questions. Many of the groups consisted of people especially competent to criticize the proposed replies to certain questions—barristers, business people, labor leaders, natural family planning teachers, nurses, physicians, priests, provincial legislators, psychiatrists, students, and so on. Some participants had prepared in advance and many participated enthusiastically; discussion was lively and criticism frank, and most participants seemed to enjoy the sessions.

Most parts of the manuscript were used in at least one class at Mount Saint Mary’s College and Seminary. Edward J. Filardi, Jacqueline M. Israel, Thomas R. Klein, Meghan M. McArdle, and Mary E. Scarola helped me begin work on the book; Richard W. Champagne, Patrick J. DeMeulemeester, Peter A. Giannamore, Daniel P. Leary, and An N. Vu read and criticized more than half the manuscript; as the book neared completion, B. Wayne Blanchard, Kathleen E. Caulfield, Megan L. Dove, and Wieslaw Walawender worked with me on selected questions. Each of these students taught me many things, but Wayne Blanchard’s comments and criticisms were exceptional in quantity and quality—the work of a mature and able colleague.

I thank all these persons for their help. Each contributed something of value to this book.

Because of the difficulty of the questions, those who helped with the volume often disagreed with one another and with me. Most of those disagreements have been resolved, but not all. Indeed, no one who contributed to the book agrees with everything in it. Therefore, those whose help I acknowledge should not be regarded as coauthors, and nothing in the book is to be attributed to any of them as if it were his or her publication. Like me, my collaborators here and in other publications assert only those things to which they attach their names as authors or coauthors.

Mount Saint Mary’s College
Emmitsburg, Maryland 21727-7799

2 February 1997
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord