restricted access The Context of Casuistryed. by J.F. Keenan, SJ. and T.A. Shannon. (review)
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BOOK REVIEWS335 his reference to individual sacraments to the fact that they are sources of grace for the rebirth of the Church in Christ. Terenzio De Poi presents "The Virgin Mary in the Sermones of the Saint." He outlines the Mariology in the Sermones under the categories: the divine motherhood of Mary (Mary as perfect creation, a new creation and mother of Christ), the holiness of Mary (the poor virgin, Mary in glory, cooperation in the work of salvation, conformity with her son, Christian hope and with Mary on the way to heaven), and the mission of Mary. Finally, Giacomo Panteghini presents an overview of "The Popular Piety and St. Anthony." This article outlines present and past forms of devotion, both throughout the work and as witnessed in the basilica of St. Anthony in Padua. As with all collections of articles, this books runs the gambit from scholarly to devotional, well-written to acceptable articles. Of great value is Pompei's article which hopefully will be translated soon into English. The Context ofCasuistry. Ed. J. F. Keenan, SJ. and T. A. Shannon. Georgetown Univ. Press: Washington D.C, 1995. xxiii + 231 pp. The stated purpose of this series of ten essays is to restore casuistry to its rightful place of ethical respectability.1 A strong case can be made that the mark of a good ethician is a willingness to "descend" from the ethereal realm of general moral principles— which are precious few—or the nitty-gritty of the moral crises confronting ordinary people in everyday life by employing the practice of casuistry. Roman Catholic seminarians of the first half of this century will recognize in this volume the return of Titius and Dosithea—or other such fictitious names—to the study of moral dilemmas. 'instead of the usual reviewer's tactic of describe, analyze and critique, I would like to present my reflections on the contents of this volume with apologies to the contributors should they not get equal time and space. 336BOOK REVIEWS The contributors admit the need to root moral principles in metaphysics—the metaphysics of personalism seems to get preference—lest morality degenerate into fundamentalism (blind and often unreasonable adherence to authority) or yield to expediency. Specifying the origin or genesis of high moral principles, e.g. the golden rule, has proved a difficulty throughout the ages. Some medieval theologians, like Bonaventure, postulated synderesis, an innate and certain knowledge of fundamental ethical principles whereby every mentally healthy person "instinctively" knows right from wrong. The editors, however, suggest that principles can be arrived at inductively from experience, although this is not as innovative as it may seem at first glance. Already in his Posterior Analytics Aristotle claimed that one arrived at universals by moving from "in most cases" to "in all cases" unless a counterinstance can be advanced. The essayists generally agree that ethics should deal with the everyday life of ordinary people. To indulge in lifeboat or concentration camp casuistry (relativism or situational ethics) should be construed as a search for "abnorms" rather than "norms." For example, can a woman have sex with a concentration camp guard in order to save her life or the life of her child? If there's only room for one person in the lifeboat, who gets pushed out? Nevertheless, such "abnormal" situations can be seen as pointing to a more general problem confronting all serious ethicians, namely do new facts and new technology require a new morality? One of the recurring themes in the history of ethical thought, often treated as a disjunct, is the contrast between morality based on natural law or an ethics based on divine command. Actually, the best way to interpret the views of the great theologians of the Middle Ages is to treat "natural law" and "divine command" not as disjuncts but as conjuncts. Scotus and Ockham, for example, are correctly portrayed as voluntarists, namely, that the ultimate source of morality is the divine will. However, this treatment too often degenerates into portraying voluntarism as capriciousness or arbitrariness, forgetting that the overarching, normal, daily and usual manifestation of the divine will is the FACT OF THE CREATED UNIVERSE viewed as the basis for natural law...