- Diverse Voices in Modern U.S. Moral Theology by Charles E. Curran
Charles E. Curran, the Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values at Southern Methodist University, has been an outspoken and controversial presence in the field of Catholic moral theology for more than fifty years. The author of more than fifty books, his latest work consists of twelve chapters (with helpful notes and indexing) and examines twelve significant voices in Catholic moral theology in the United States: John C. Ford; Bernard Häring; Joseph Fuchs; Richard A. McCormick; Germain G. Grisez; [End Page 145] Romanus Cessario; Margaret A. Farley; Lisa Sowle Cahill; Ada María Isasi-Díaz; Bryan N. Massingale; the New Wine, New Wineskins Movement; and James F. Keenan (ix).
Although there is some cross comparison, each chapter focuses on one of the voices mentioned above and can easily stand alone. Curran has chosen these figures because they have used different approaches to moral theology in their work. He cautions, however, that they do not necessarily represent all of the most significant voices in modern Catholic moral theology. The important and very influential voice of Jean Porter, for example, is not included, because her work, in his mind, "does not fit into the category of diverse methods and approaches to moral theology that is discussed here" (x). This reviewer would add that another significant voice omitted in this volume is that of Francis J. Connell, Redemptorist priest, professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America from 1940-58, a manualist, a charter member and first president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, a peritus at Vatican II, and the first recipient of the Cardinal Spellman Award, a precursor of the John Courtney Murray Award, the highest award bestowed by the Catholic Theological Society of America. Connell was one of the most prominent voices in U.S. Catholic moral theology from the 1940s until his untimely death in 1967. Perhaps Curran decided that one manualist voice (that of Ford's) would be sufficient for the very limited scope of his study.
Curran begins with some comments on the reasons for the selection of these particular voices. Although Häring and Fuchs were German moral theologians teaching in Rome for most of their academic careers, he includes them in this volume because they were internationally renowned figures whose thought impacted U.S. Catholic moral theology in very significant ways. He also points out that almost all the voices treated in the volume are individual Catholic moral theologians. The one exception is the New Wine, New Wineskins movement, a group of nontenured (mostly lay) moral theologians that came to the fore in the early 2000s. Taken together, these voices show how the landscape of Catholic moral theology has shifted from the end of World War II to the present, from a manualist approach to moral theology, as it was taught in Catholic seminaries before Vatican II (and even after), to a historically conscious approach that has produced the wide spectrum of voices present on the scene of Catholic moral theology.
As Curran points out in his Preface (ix-xiii), the book has three goals. The first is to present to the interested reader the approaches of some major figures who either have shaped or are shaping the field of Catholic moral theology today. He says that even those who are professional moral theologians may not be aware of how these different authors developed their approaches to moral theology. Although he interjects his own opinions from time to time, he is not interested in offering an in-depth critique of the authors in question. He prefers to let the authors speak for themselves. In doing so, the book is a helpful [End Page 146] summary of what has been going on in Catholic moral methodology since the late 1940s.
The second goal is to try to foster dialogue among those doing Catholic moral theology...