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Catholic moral theology is a major category of doctrine in the Catholic Church, equivalent to a religious ethics. Moral theology encompasses Roman Catholic social teaching, Catholic medical ethics, sexual ethics, and various doctrines on individual moral virtue and moral theory. It can be distinguished as dealing with "how one is to act", in contrast to dogmatic theology which proposes "what one is to believe".
Doctrine is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or in a belief system. The etymological Greek analogue is "catechism".
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.
Catholic social teaching is the Catholic doctrines on matters of human dignity and common good in society. The ideas address oppression, the role of the state, subsidiarity, social organization, concern for social justice, and issues of wealth distribution. Its foundations are widely considered to have been laid by Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical letter Rerum novarum, which advocated economic distributism. Its roots can be traced to the writings of Catholic thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo, and is also derived from concepts present in the Bible and the cultures of the ancient Near East.
Sources of Catholic moral theology include both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and philosophical ethics such as natural law that are seen as compatible with Catholic doctrine. Moral theology was mostly undifferentiated from theology in general during the patristic era, and is found in the homilies, letters and commentaries on Scripture of the early Church fathers. During the Middle Ages, moral theology developed in precision and scope through scholasticism. Much of the Catholic Church's current moral theology, especially regarding natural law, is based in the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, which is regarded as one of the best treatises of Catholic moral theology.
The Old Testament is the first part of Christian Bibles, based primarily upon the Hebrew Bible, a collection of ancient religious writings by the Israelites believed by most Christians and religious Jews to be the sacred Word of God. The second part of the Christian Bible is the New Testament.
The New Testament is the second part of the Christian biblical canon, the first being the Old Testament. The New Testament discusses the teachings and person of Jesus, as well as events in first-century Christianity. Christians regard both the Old and New Testaments together as sacred scripture.
Natural law is a philosophy asserting that certain rights are inherent by virtue of human nature, endowed by nature—traditionally by God or a transcendent source—and that these can be understood universally through human reason. As determined by nature, the law of nature is implied to be objective and universal; it exists independently of human understanding, and of the positive law of a given state, political order, legislature or society at large.
Contemporary Catholic moral theology is developed by acts of the Magisterium, by the Pope, other bishops, and by the works of lay Catholic moral theologians, which include magisterial teachings, as well as (in some matters) theological opinions. Examples of Catholic moral theologians include St. Alphonsus Liguori, Germain Grisez (author of The Way of the Lord Jesus) and John Finnis (author of Natural Law and Natural Rights). Moral theology tends to be advanced most authoritatively through official statements of doctrine, such as papal encyclicals, which are based on the dogmatic pronouncements of Ecumenical Councils (e.g., Vatican II), Sacred Scriptures, and Sacred Tradition. In addition, moral theologians publish their own works and write in a variety of journals devoted in whole, or in part to moral theology. These scholarly journals are helpful in making the theology of the Church more clear and accessible to others, and serve as a forum in which scholarly discussion of understanding and application of issues occurs. However, these journals per se do not add or remove anything from Catholic teaching.
The magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church is the church's authority or office to give authentic interpretation of the Word of God, "whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition." According to the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, the task of interpretation is vested uniquely in the Pope and the bishops, though the concept has a complex history of development. Scripture and church tradition "make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church", and the magisterium is not independent of this, since "all that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is derived from this single deposit of faith."
The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, is the bishop of Rome and ex officio leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Since 1929, the pope has also been head of state of Vatican City, a city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696–1787), sometimes called Alphonsus Maria Liguori, was an Italian Catholic bishop, spiritual writer, composer, musician, artist, poet, lawyer, scholastic philosopher, and theologian.
The curriculum for formation of priests commonly includes required and elective courses in Catholic moral theology.
In education, a curriculum is broadly defined as the totality of student experiences that occur in the educational process. The term often refers specifically to a planned sequence of instruction, or to a view of the student's experiences in terms of the educator's or school's instructional goals. In a 2003 study, Reys, Reys, Lapan, Holliday, and Wasman refer to curriculum as a set of learning goals articulated across grades that outline the intended mathematics content and process goals at particular points in time throughout the K–12 school program. Curriculum may incorporate the planned interaction of pupils with instructional content, materials, resources, and processes for evaluating the attainment of educational objectives. Curriculum is split into several categories: the explicit, the implicit, the excluded, and the extracurricular.
Formation is the personal preparation that the Catholic Church offers to people with a defined mission, such as the priesthood or membership of a religious order such as the Society of Jesus. Such formation involves a program of spiritual and academic training. In the case of priestly formation, the typical location concerned is the seminary either operated by a Diocese for the purposes of training Diocesan or Secular clergy or operated by a religious order for the purpose of preparing its members for priestly ordination.
The priesthood is one of the three holy orders of the Catholic Church, comprising the ordained priests or presbyters. The other two orders are the bishops and the deacons. Only men are allowed to receive holy orders, and the church does not allow any transgender people to do so. Church doctrine also sometimes refers to all baptised Catholics as the "common priesthood".
Logos is a term in Western philosophy, psychology, rhetoric, and religion derived from a Greek word variously meaning "ground", "plea", "opinion", "expectation", "word", "speech", "account", "reason", "proportion", and "discourse". It became a technical term in Western philosophy beginning with Heraclitus, who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge.
Christian theology is the theology of Christian belief and practice. Such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as on Christian tradition. Christian theologians use biblical exegesis, rational analysis and argument. Theologians may undertake the study of Christian theology for a variety of reasons, such as in order to:
Sola Scriptura is a theological doctrine held by some Christian denominations that the Christian scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith and practice.
Christian philosophy is a development in philosophy that is characterised by coming from a Christian tradition.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Christian theology:
Liberal Christianity, also known as liberal theology, covers diverse philosophically and biblically informed religious movements and ideas within Christianity from the late 18th century onward. Liberal does not refer to progressive Christianity or to political liberalism but to the philosophical and religious thought that developed and grew as a consequence of the Enlightenment.
Biblical infallibility is the belief that what the Bible says regarding matters of faith and Christian practice is wholly useful and true. It is the "belief that the Bible is completely trustworthy as a guide to salvation and the life of faith and will not fail to accomplish its purpose. Some equate "inerrancy" and "infallibility"; others do not."
The infallibility of the Church is the belief that the Holy Spirit preserves the Christian Church from errors that would contradict its essential doctrines. It is related to, but not the same as, indefectible, that is, "she remains and will remain the Institution of Salvation, founded by Christ, until the end of the world." The doctrine of infallibility is premised on the authority Jesus granted to the apostles to "bind and loose" and particularly the promises to Peter in regard to papal infallibility.
Sacred tradition, or holy tradition, is a theological term used in some Christian traditions, primarily those claiming apostolic succession, such as the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, and Anglican traditions, to refer to the foundation of the doctrinal and spiritual authority of the Christian Church and of the Bible.
Prima scriptura is the Christian doctrine that canonized scripture is "first" or "above all" other sources of divine revelation. Implicitly, this view acknowledges that, besides canonical scripture, there are other guides for what a believer should believe and how he should live, such as the created order, traditions, charismatic gifts, mystical insight, angelic visitations, conscience, common sense, the views of experts, the spirit of the times or something else. Prima scriptura suggests that ways of knowing or understanding God and his will that do not originate from canonized scripture are perhaps helpful in interpreting that scripture, but testable by the canon and correctable by it, if they seem to contradict the scriptures.
Humani generis is a papal encyclical that Pope Pius XII promulgated on 12 August 1950 "concerning some false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of Catholic Doctrine". Theological opinions and doctrines known as Nouvelle Théologie or neo-modernism and their consequences on the Church were its primary subject. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1877–1964), professor of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas Angelicum, is said to have been a dominant influence on the content of the encyclical.
Christian ethics is a branch of Christian theology that defines virtuous behavior and wrong behavior from a Christian perspective. Systematic theological study of Christian ethics is called moral theology.
Dogmatic theology is that part of theology dealing with the theoretical truths of faith concerning God and God's works, especially the official theology recognized by an organized Church body, such as the Roman Catholic Church, Dutch Reformed Church, etc. At times, apologetics or fundamental theology is called "general dogmatic theology", dogmatic theology proper being distinguished from it as "special dogmatic theology". In present-day use, however, apologetics is no longer treated as part of dogmatic theology but has attained the rank of an independent science, being generally regarded as the introduction to and foundation of dogmatic theology.
Anglican doctrine is the body of Christian teachings used to guide the religious and moral practices of Anglicans.
Margaret A. Farley is an American religious sister and a member of the Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy. She was Gilbert L. Stark Professor Emerita of Christian Ethics at Yale University Divinity School, where she taught Christian ethics from 1971 to 2007.
Catholic theology of sexuality, like Catholic theology in general, is drawn from natural law, canonical scripture, divine revelation, and sacred tradition, as interpreted authoritatively by the magisterium of the Catholic Church. Sexual morality evaluates sexual behavior according to standards laid out by Catholic moral theology, and often provides general principles by which Catholics are able to evaluate whether specific actions meet these standards. Much of the Church's detailed doctrines derive from the principle that "sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive [between spouses] purposes". At the same time, the Bishops at Vatican II decreed that the essential procreative end of marriage does not make "the other purposes of matrimony of less account."
A dogma of the Catholic Church is defined as "a truth revealed by God, which the magisterium of the Church declared as binding." The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
The Church's Magisterium asserts that it exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging Catholics to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.
Lamentabili sane exitu is a 1907 syllabus, prepared by the Roman Inquisition and confirmed by Pope Pius X, which condemns errors in the exegesis of Holy Scripture and in the history and interpretation of dogma. The syllabus itself does not use the term 'modernist', but was regarded as part of the Pope's campaign against modernism in general and philosophical evolutionism in particular. The document specifically affirmed that the Sacrament of Reconciliation was instituted by Jesus himself, as in the Gospel of John 20:22-23.
Bernard Häring was a German Catholic moral theologian, and a Redemptorist priest.
Francis Jeremiah Connell, C.SS.R., was a Redemptorist priest, professor, author, and noted Catholic American theologian. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts and died in Washington, D.C.
The theology of Scripture in the Roman Catholic church has evolved much since the Second Vatican Council of Catholic Bishops. This article explains the theology of Scripture that has come to dominate in the Catholic Church today. It focuses on the Church’s response to various areas of study into the original meaning of texts.