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The Critical Calling

Publication Year: 2006

When Richard A. McCormick's The Critical Calling was first published, Andrew M. Greeley commented that in years to come scholars will look back on Father McCormick's work and say, 'This was a man who knew what he was talking about!' In this reissue, with

Published by: Georgetown University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xv

Richard A. McCormick was the defining voice of North American Catholic moral theology in the decades immediately following the Second Vatican Council, which concluded in 1965. Yet he not only left his stamp on Catholic history, but he was also in many ways prescient regarding the challenges moral theology...

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pp. xvii-xx

Vatican II and the two and a half decades which followed represent the best of times or the worst of times, depending on what you read, where you sit, on your expectations, aspirations, psychological mindset and a host of other factors. I should make it clear from the outset that I believe the Council...


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1. Moral Theology Since Vatican II: Clarity or Chaos?

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pp. 3-24

It has been nearly twenty-five years since the close (December 8,1965) of Vatican II. That great Council opened October 11; 1962, in St. Peter's Basilica, with the opening address of John XXIII.1 In that address Pope John stated clearly his hopes and dreams for the Council. It was not to be a Council that discussed "one article or another...

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2. Dissent in the Church: Loyalty or Liability?

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pp. 25-46

The years immediately ahead promise to be interesting for those who navigate the choppy waters of moral theology. The reflections in chapter 1 already foreshadowed this. Just five years ago, Cardinal Edouard Gagnon, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, suggested that ninety percent of American moral...

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3. Moral Argument in Christian Ethics

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pp. 47-69

That statement raises the issue of moral argument in Christian ethics; it does not solve it. For surely, the pope does not mean that concrete moral prescriptions are totally independent of the arguments that can be marshalled to support them. That would be a new fideism in the area of morals that is ill at ease with centuries...

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4. The Chill Factor in Contemporary Moral Theology

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pp. 71-94

At the end of chapter 3, Karl Rahner was cited as saying that the magisterium of the Church "generally shows little gratitude" for the performance of theology's critical tasks. This is a typical Rahnerian understatement. For instance, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith hardly exulted when I accused...

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5. Bishops as Teachers, Scholars as Listeners

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pp. 95-109

The rather obvious stimulus to my title is the new method of episcopal teaching we are seeing in the American Church. We have always had documents and pastoral letters, tons of them. By "new method" I refer to the open and revisionary process that has taken place in the pastorals on nuclear war and peace, and...

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6. L'Affaire Curran

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pp. 111-130

I have already laid out some general perspectives on dissent in the Church in chapter 2. The matter cannot be left there if the overall good of the Church is to be served. On November 15,1968, the American Catholic bishops issued a document entitled Human Life in Our Day. After listing the conditions that govern private...

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7. Pluralism in Moral Theology

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pp. 131-146

These words were written in 1899 as an editorial commentary on the condemnation of Americanism. They could well have appeared in last week's Wanderer or National Catholic Register; for they are a symbol of the Catholic integrist mentality. For such a mentality the very title of this chapter does not represent...

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8. Catholic Moral Theology: Is Pluralism Pathogenic

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pp. 147-162

In previous chapters I have examined the place of respectful disagreement (dissent) in the teaching-learning process of the Church, how it is being threatened by "the chill factor," and how this chill went below the freezing point in the case of Charles E. Curran. The acceptance of a certain amount of disagreement...

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9. Matters of Free Theological Debate

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pp. 163-170

At a June, 1987 meeting of natural family planning experts, John Paul II stated that the Church's teaching against contraception is "clear" and "not... debatable." As he put it: "What is taught by the Church on contraception does not belong to material freely debatable among theologians."1 This statement...

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10. Fundamental Freedom Revisited

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pp. 171-190

It was noted in chapter 1 that the notion of fundamental or core freedom has settled pacifically into contemporary moral theology. It was also noted that this notion is under some recent challenges. In this chapter I shall attempt three things: (1) a brief review of the notion of fundamental freedom; (2) some pastoral...

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11. Theology in the Public Forum

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pp. 191-208

The title of this chapter is admittedly somewhat imprecise. In a sense, for instance, there is no such thing as theology in the public forum. There are only theologians. But even the term "theologians" is sprawling. As soon as one begins reflecting on one's religious faith, theology begins. In this sense, Geraldine Ferraro's deliverances...


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12. The Consistent Ethic of Life: Is There a Historical Soft Underbelly?

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pp. 211-232

I am very grateful to Cardinal Bernardin for having picked the "consistent ethic of life" as the theme around which he has developed so many of his rich presentations since the Gannon and Wade lectures. Cardinal Bernardin has made points that are, in my judgment, utterly essential if the moral vision that is the...

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13. Divorce, Remarriage, and the Sacraments

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pp. 233-253

On November 27, 1985, at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Karl Berg (Salzburg, Austria) called for "more understanding" for divorced and remarried Catholics. He then suggested that "perhaps after a period of penance they might be re-admitted to the sacraments."1 Archbishop Peter Seiichi...

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14. "A Clean Heart Create for Me, O God." Impact Questions on the Artificial Heart

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pp. 255-260

Altman was referring to a report of an advisory panel of The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Albert R. Jonsen, a member of this panel (known as The Working Group on Mechanical Circulatory Support) disputes Altman's claim that the Working Group endorsed...

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15. Genetic Technology and Our Common Future

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pp. 261-272

Dr. LeRoy Walters of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics is chairman of a new Working Group on Human Gene Therapy, a subcommittee of the National Institutes of Health's Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC). On February 21, 1985, Dr. Walters received a letter from Sheldon Horowitz, M.D., of the...

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16. Sterilization: The Dilemma of Catholic Hospitals

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pp. 273-287

In a report in The Washington Post (22 May, 1977), the Worldwatch Institute called sterilization "the contraceptive phenomenon of the 70's."1 In one-third of all married couples in the United States trying to avoid conception, one or other partner has undergone sterilization. This trend has continued into the eighties. Sterilization...

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17. Homosexuality as a Moral and Pastoral Problem

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pp. 289-314

In the sixties and seventies there was a great deal of ink spilled around this subject. The theological literature was, I would guess, a response to an emerging gay awareness and even militancy. Whatever the case, I approach this chapter with enormously mixed emotions. On the one hand, there is a powerful sense of the need...

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18. AIDS: The Shape of the Ethical Challenge

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pp. 315-328

Californian Artie Wallace, 32, was diagnosed with AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) during July 1986. On August 3, 1987, his ex-wife fled with their nine-year-old son Shawn, who wanted to live with his father.1 She feared their son would get AIDS and disapproved of Wallace's living with...

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19. Therapy or Tampering? The Ethics of Reproductive Technology and the Development of Doctrine

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pp. 329-352

On September 8, 1986, the Ethics Committee of the American Fertility Society (AFS) released its report under the title Ethical Considerations of the New Reproductive Technologies.1 The report is the result of eight arduous meetings beginning February 1-2, 1985. As a member of that committee, I would not qualify...

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20. If I Had Ten Things to Share with Physicians

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pp. 353-367

We all have fantasies about what we would say if we were granted one minute with the president of the United States or the pope. Most of us, I dare say, would propose to solve the problems of the world or the Church in a sentence or two. In the never-never land of dreams, both sentences and solutions flow freely. One...

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21. Nutrition-Hydration: The New Euthanasia?

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pp. 369-388

Crista Nursing Center is a 271-bed nursing home in Seattle with a 35- bed nursing wing. In 1984-85 two families, after learning from the attending physician and two consulting doctors that death was imminent for their elderly dear ones, requested the removal of the nasal-gastric feeding tube. The patients had been diagnosed...

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22. The Physician and Teenage Sexuality

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pp. 389-401

A few facts should set the stage for the question I want to raise in this chapter. Every year in the United States, more than a million teenagers become pregnant.1 Of this number, 30,000 are under fifteen years of age. The United States leads nearly all developed countries in pregnancies in the age group fifteen to nineteen...


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pp. 403-414

E-ISBN-13: 9781589014343
E-ISBN-10: 1589014340
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589010833
Print-ISBN-10: 1589010833

Page Count: 434
Publication Year: 2006