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CATHOLIC SOCIAL AND SEXUAL ETHICS: INCONSISTENT OR ORGANIC? } OHN S. GRABOWSKI Catholic University of America Washington, D.C. MICHAEL J. NAUGHTON University of St. Thomas St. Paul, Minnesota HIS ARTICLE evaluates Charles Curran's proposal that here is an unjustifiable methodological split between recent fficial Catholic social and sexual teaching.1 Specifically, this study will argue that the dichotomy between recent Catholic social and sexual teaching is not so sharp as Curran and others suppose, and that the real differences which do exist between these two strands are neither arbitrary nor unjustifiable in light of a Thomistic view of the human good. This study will proceed by first providing an overview of Curran's thesis concerning the divergent methodologies employed in Catholic social and sexual teaching as he and other moral theologians have presented it. It 1 We know of no writing that explicitly challenges this thesis. When this idea is mentioned it is only supported. Among the studies which mention or develop this idea see: Kenneth R. Overberg, An Inconsistent Ethic? Teachings of the American Catholic Bishops (Lanham: University Press of America, 1980); Richard Gula, What Are They Saying aboiit Moral Norms? (New York: Paulist, 1982), pp. 34-48; Reason Informed by Faith (New York: Paulist, 1989), pp. 34-35 and chap. 16; Christopher Mooney, Public Virtue (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), pp. 146-50; Richard McCormick, " The Consistent Life Ethic: Is There An Historical Soft Underbelly ?", delivered for the Symposium "A Consistent Ethic of Life" at Loyola University of Chicago, November 7, 1987, pp. 10-13; and idem, "Human Sexuality: Toward a Consistent Ethical Method," in One Hundred Years of Catholic Social Teachings, ed. John A. Coleman, S.J. (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1991), pp. 189-97; Russell B. Connors, "Justice and Sex: Differing Ethical Methodologies," Chicago Studies 27 (1988) : 181-190; Thomas F. Schindler, Ethics: The Social Dimension (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1989), pp. 70-75; Patrick T. McCormick, C.M., " Abortion: Retooling for a New Frontier," New Theology Review 5 (1992): 48-61. SSS 556 JOHN S. GRABOWSKI & MICHAEL J. NAUGHTON will then offer a critique of this position by considering the unjustifiable dichotomies it creates between reason and nature, the physical and the personal, and historical consciousness and classicism . We conclude that while tensions exist between these two kinds of teaching, the social and sexual teachings of the church are held together organically rather than juxtaposed inconsi ~tently. I. CURRAN'S POSITION ON THE CHURCH'S MORAL METHODOLOGY Two Interpretations of Natural Law Throughout much of his work, Curran calls attention to two divergent understandings of natural law articulated in the history of Western thought and adopted by the Church.2 Similar observations have been made by other moral theologians.8 According to this view, Cicero (43 B.C.) exemplifies one strand of the natural law tradition when he speaks of " true law which is right reason in accord with nature." 4 The focus of this "order of reason " approach to natural law is on the rationality and prudential judgment of the agent in his or her own concrete situation.5 Ulpian (228 A.D.), who describes natural law as " that which 2 See, for example, Charles Curran, "Absolute Norms in Moral Theology," in A New Look at Christian Morality (Notre Dame: Fides, 1968), pp. 74-89; "Dialogue with Social Ethics: Roman Catholic Social Ethics-Past, Present, and Future,'' in Catholic Moral Theology in Dialogue (Notre Dame: Fides, 1972), pp. 116-35; " Natural Law," in Directions in Fundamental Moral Theology (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 1985), pp. 119-72; "The Changing Anthropological Bases of Catholic Social Ethics," in Moral Theology : A Continuing Journey (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 1982), pp. 173-208. s See, for example, Timothy O'Connell, Principles for a Catholic Morality, 2nd edition (San Francisco: Harper, 1990), pp. 149-60; John Mahoney, The Making of Moral Theology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p. 110; Gula, What Are They Saying, pp. 34-35 and Reason Informed, pp. 222-223. 4 De Republica, lib. iii, c. xxii: "Est quidem vera les recta ratio, naturae congriiens." The citation is from M. Tullii, ed. (Rome, 1852), pp. 405-406. 5 See T. O'Connell...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 555-578
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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