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CHRISTIAN MORAL PRINCIPLES A Review Discussion * GRMAIN GRISEZ'S new treatise on moral theology when complete promises to be the most important work in the field (at least in English) to appear since Vatican II. The second volume is to deal with the responsibilities common to all Christians, the third with those proper to particular Christian vocations, and the last with those which the members of the Church as such have to one another. It will be difficult to ignore so comprehensive a work, but there is danger it will be misunderstood and slighted because it challenges so many received opinions which now dominate the teaching of Christian ethics in American Catholic seminaries and theological schools. Its tone is aggressive and its criticism of current trends severe, so that it is likely either to provoke angry replies or the hostile " silent treatment." Significantly its principal author (at present Professor of Christian Ethics at Mount Saint Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Maryland) is not a cleric, or even by former profession a theologian , but a layman whose University of Chicago doctorate was in philosophy. Throughout the work the examples are chiefly drawn from his experience as a married layman and the father of a family. While it exhibits extensive and intimate knowledge of the classical and contemporary theological literature , its freedom from clerical and academic bias is refreshing, * Ohristian Moral Principles (Volume 1 of The Way of the Lord Jesus, four volumes). By GERMAIN GRISEZ with the help of JOSEPH M. BOYLE, JR., BASIL COLE, O.P., JOHN M. FINNIS, JOHN A. GEINZER, JEANNETTE GRISEZ, ROBERT G. KENNEDY, PATRICK LEE, WILLIAM E. MAY, and RUSSELL SHAW. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Pte$s, 1984. Pp. xxxiii + 971. $35.00. 450 ClIRISTIAN MORAL PRINCIPLES 451 and its philosophical precision and rigor reassuring in view of the vague rhetoric all too common in recent theological writing on moral topics. Above all it is inspired by a profoundly Christian sense of the transforming power of living faith through incorporation in the Lord Jesus (Grisez's favorite way of speaking of him) and the social and ecclesial character of Christian life. Those who might expect that Grisez's work, because of his well known "hard-line" works on contraception and abortion, would simply be the old manual theology warmed over, or a commentary on Part Two of the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas, will be surprised, even shocked, to find that his is a very original theory of morals, frankly critical of the Thomistic moral system, and even more critical of post-Tridentine moral theology. Because I think that Grisez's new theory is important and that its importance may be obscured by its invitation to polemics, I will first discuss the positive structure of his theory, then deal with his refutation of current errors, and, finally, briefly state my own reservations. The fundamental insight which inspires his whole synthesis is Christological. Just as in Jesus the divine and human natures are united without commingling or diminution of either, so in the Christian life our participation by grace in the divine life in no way diminishes human self-fulfillment. Grisez believes that the influence of Greek ethics both in its dualistic Platonic form and in its Aristotelian body (matter) -soul (form) unity was based on the false, elitist notion that human perfection consists in contemplation rather than in the fulfillment of human nature in all its needs. This led, as is evident in the thought of St. Augustine, to an ethics in which human values are regarded as mere means to the achievement of the beatific vision understood as an intellectual good. The ethics of Aquinas is free of Platonic dualism but it has retained from Aristotle this same elitist and intellectualist concept of beatitude as contemplation, as is evident from St. Thomas's doctrine of the natural desire for the beatific vision. 452 BENEDICT M. ASHLEY, O.P. Grisez's program, therefore, is to revise traditional moral theology in a way that will do full justice to the fulfillment of human nature in its own right but in relation to our participation by grace in the divine nature through incorporation in the Lord Jesus and his Church...


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