Some Specific Theological Topics    



“No Other Gospel”    

In 1965, a group of Catholics, including the publisher of The Wanderer (a weekly Catholic newspaper), established the Wanderer Forum Foundation, which began organizing a yearly meeting: The Annual National Wanderer Forum. The theme of the 1971 meeting was “I came that they may have life,” and the organizers invited Cardinal Patrick A. O’Boyle, Archbishop of Washington, to give the keynote address. The Cardinal discussed the invitation with Grisez, and the two decided that they would accept the invitation if Grisez were also invited to address the gathering, and that he would draft both of their presentations.

Theological views that Grisez would later develop appear in an embryonic form in both addresses, written eight years before he began to devote himself to theology. When Grisez explained toward the end of his address that neither liberal nor conservative political positions are to be confused with the Gospel and that both can be at odds with it, the majority of the politically conservative audience was upset when Grisez affirmed several of his own radical political views. Many booed; some walked out; only a few applauded. During the night, the organizers of the Forum agreed to censure Grisez; and they announced their formal action during the next morning’s session.

The address is copyright © Germain Grisez 1971. He reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale, but hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of the page provided the source is identified and this copyright information is included.

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Cardinal O’Boyle delivered the keynote address just as Grisez drafted it. Titled “I Came That They May Have Life,” it began with the truth Jesus proclaimed by that statement and related to it the truth about human, bodily life that Pope St. John Paul II later called Evangelium vitae—“The Gospel of Life.” That keynote address is copyright © Patrick A. O’Boyle 1971; all rights reserved.

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“Do We Work in Vain for Human Life?”    

From 1963 to 1978, Grisez devoted a large part of the time he had available for research and lecturing to defending human life. During those years, the prospects for the success of pro-life activism seemed to him to lessen considerably. By February 1978, the groundwork had been laid for his work on The Way of the Lord Jesus. Regarding his past pro-life work in a theological perspective, he reckoned it to have been fruitful in ways he had not expected. For the benefit of others who had shared, and even more of those who would share, in that work, he wrote this essay.

The essay is copyright © The Human Life Center Inc. (Collegeville, Minnesota) 1978 all rights reserved.

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“Outline of a Christian Ethics of Life, Sex, and Marriage”    

By 1982, Grisez had substantially completed Christian Moral Principles, which was published in 1983, and was already planning Living a Christian Life, which would not be published until 1993. The broad outline of what would become the 200-page, chapter nine of the latter work was already set, and it seemed reasonable to make it available to pastors likely to find it helpful.

The outline is copyright © Catholic Polls Inc. 1982, all rights reserved.

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“Ten Theses on the Resurrection of Our Lord”    

During 1979–83, Grisez taught Christian Moral Principles to all of the men in the first year of theology at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary. Both in and outside of class, several of his students asked various questions about the resurrection of Christ and the hoped-for resurrection of human persons which sugggested that false teachings were being spread among them. Grisez did not think it prudent to engage in controversy with those responsible, but he thought it obligatory to challenge the errors. So, he drafted ten theses, printed them out, and distributed copies to all his students. He expected that everyone else in the Seminary would soon have a copy, and that the brighter and more faithful students and professors would make good use of his reasoning. To make this page available to others who might find it useful, Grisez eventually published it in The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Newsletter.

The page is copyright © Germain Grisez 1984. He reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale, but hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of the page provided the source is identified and this copyright information is included.

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“Some Reflections on the    
Historical-Critical Approach to Scripture”

For several years beginning in 1983, a group of Catholic scholars interested in thoelogy met privately one weekend each fall at the Franciscan University of Steubenville to discuss some topic the group as a whole had agreed upon. Usually two or more participants prepared papers, not intended for publication, to launch the discussion. In 1984, the chosen topic was the historical-critical method. One member of the group, who held a doctorate in Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute and was a renowned Scripture scholar, undertook the difficult task of describing the historical-critical method and in some respects exemplifying its application. Grisez undertook the easier task of formulating some objections to a few specific aspects of the approach generally accepted by Scripture scholars that he and some other members of the group found troubling.

Because the discussion was private and the papers were not meant for publication, references to the Scripture scholar have been replaced by “Dr. X.” Those references unfortunately do not include a courteous expression of appreciation for that scholar's paper, most of which was clear, informative, and entirely acceptable.

This paper is copyright © Germain Grisez 1984. He reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale, but hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of the paper provided the source is identified and this copyright information is included.

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Below in this column, readers interested in this paper will find an article that treats more fully and decisively a central matter here dealt with briefly: “The Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture.”


Thirteen Columns in The National Catholic Reporter    

In a conversation with Russell Shaw, Thomas Fox, editor of The National Catholic Reporter, expressed an interest in offering his readers a fair sampling of important strains of thought in the Catholic Church. Shaw suggested that Fox could further that interest by engaging a new columnist whose views differed sharply with the opinions of the paper’s regulars. Asked to suggest someone, Shaw proposed his friend Grisez. Fox invited Grisez to supply a column of 750–900 words once a month for a year, and Grisez and his wife agreed to do so.
In the event, they produced thirteen columns:
    “Conservatives, liberals duel over leaking barque,” 22 November 1985, 14.
    “Cardinal Ratzinger’s report may be too optimistic,” 27 December 1985, 12.
    “Synod endorses thrust of Ratzinger Report, ” 24 January 1986, 13.
    “Pastoral on economy needs gospel radicalism,” 14 February 1986, 43.
    “Communal confession easy, but what about the sins?” 21 March 1986, 17.
    “Let dissidents on abortion shape up or be shipped out,” 2 May 1986, 11.
    “Divining the moral dilemma of dissent,” 6 June 1986, 15
    “Theology within ‘the certain gift of truth’.” 4 July 1986, 14.
    “Liberal feminism equals church suicide,” 15 August 1986, 13.
    “Is the church greater than sum of its parts?” 5 September 1986, 17.
    “Will Modernist-traditionalist debate abate?” 10 October 1986, 15.
    “There may be hell to pay if the rich don’t share their wealth,” 16 January 1987, 13–14.
    “U.S. is wrong to intend to kill millions of people,” 22 January 1988, 15.
In accord with the common practice in newspapers and magazines, the titles were supplied, not by the Grisezs, but by the editor. However, in every case the text the Grisezs supplied was printed unchanged. The columns are copyright © The National Catholic Reporter 1985–1988, all rights reserved.

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“This Life and Life Everlasting”    

Amidst its commencement activities each year, Mount Saint Mary’s College held a special convocation bestowing honors on outstanding members of the college graduating class. This convocation included a brief address by a faculty member regarded as distinguished by the President of the institution. In 1987, Grisez was named to give that address. He used the opportunity to try to provide the students being honored with a theological perspective not only on their success but on their entire lives.

The address is copyright © Mount Saint Mary’s College 1987, all rights reserved.

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“On Interpreting Dogmas: A Preliminary Analysis”    

On 1 September 1988, Grisez and two of his colleagues, William E. May and John Finnis, discussed the theological problem of interpreting dogmas. In preparing for this discussion, Grisez made some notes and following it he developed them into a memorandum. To make that memorandum available to others interested in the topic, he later submitted it for publication as a “preliminary analysis.”

This memorandum is copyright © Communio 1990, all rights reserved.

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“Vatican II Documents: Notes for Opening Lecture”    

From the early 1980s until 2007, Grisez repeatedly offered an elective course, available to both seminarians and collegians, on the documents of Vatican Council II. Students read about one-half of the documents, and all the class meetings after the first were devoted to discussing the reading assigned. In the first class meeting, Grisez lectured on the Council itself to introduce its documents.

Grisez makes the notes for the 2007 version of that lecture available here copyright © 2007, and reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale. But he hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of the work provided the source is identified and both the preceding account of the nature of this work and this copyright information are included.

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“The Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture”    

In Christian Moral Principles, chapter 35, question B, and footnote 17, Grisez first presented his reasons for holding that Vatican II reaffirms previous Church teaching that no false proposition is asserted by the human author of any biblical book. Over the years, he dealt with the matter on many other occasions, most fully in a section entitled “The Deposit of Faith, Infallibility, and Inerrancy” in the first draft of chapter one for volume four of The Way of the Lord Jesus.

Grisez offered a revised version of that last treatment when he was invited to contribute to an issue of Letter & Spirit devoted to the inspiration and truth of sacred Scripture. Because several of the other contributors treated important aspects of the matter that Grisez did not deal with, anyone seriously interested in the subject will find it worthwhile to obtain the issue and check out the other articles.

Grisez’s article is copyright © St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology 2010, all rights reserved.

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Readers interested in this article will find a paper higher up this page that deals more generally, although less decisively, with the historical-critical approach to sacred Scripture.


“Natural Law and the    
Transcendent Source of Human Fulfillment”    

When the editors of a festschrift in honor of John Finnis invited Grisez to contribute an essay, he read around in the five volumes of Finnis’s Collected Essays until a remark about “the possibility of a deeper explanation of obligation” caught Grisez’s eye. Reflecting on it, he decided to try to explain how the moral ought (which can emerge in a human being’s practical thinking even before any thought of God or of the ultimate end of human life) obtains much of the depth and force it has for conscientious people from their metaphysical (even if untutored) reflection on God and the ultimate end that one ought to seek, and can gain still greater depth and force for Christians from their faith in God and hope for his kingdom and life within it.

Without even mentioning those who misleadingly call the ethical theory developed by Grisez, Boyle, and Finnis “new natural law,” Grisez thus gives the lie to such critics’ allegation that he, Boyle, and Finnis have no place in their account of morality for the fruit of contemplative thought and faith.

This essay is copyright © Germain Grisez, 2013, all rights reserved. No part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form and by any means without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press.

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“Hell and Hope for Salvation”    

While working on the kingdom of God, Peter F. Ryan, S.J., and Grisez became convinced that universalism and views tantamount to it, that professedly call for Christian hope and that have become prevalent amongst Catholics since Vatican II, in fact evacuate hope. Striving to promote more effective evangelization, Ralph Martin published a book, Will Many Be Saved? that Ryan and Grisez regarded as a sound and helpful critique of some overly optimistic theologies. But Martin did not deploy one line of argument that Ryan and Grisez considered decisive. They therefore published this article articulating that argument.

This article is copyright © 2014 The Dominican Council and the authors; published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. under a Creative Commons Attribution license (see; provided this entire paragraph is included, anyone may without payment freely copy, distribute, transmit, adapt, and commercially or non-commercially use this article

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