By concrete examples, dated and put in context, John T. Noonan, Jr., demonstrates how the moral teaching of the Catholic Church has changed and is changing without abandoning its foundational commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From St. Paul's return of a runaway slave to his master, to John Henry Newman's startle at the idea that slavery is intrinsically evil, the Church resisted condemning slavery. Today, John Paul II has made clear that slavery in itself, everywhere and always, is sinful. Similar revolutions have occurred in the Church's teaching on making money out of lending and on respect for the beliefs of heretics. And another, little-known change is taking place as modern popes grant divorces.
In these changes Noonan perceives the Catholic Church to be a vigorous, living organism answering new questions with new answers and enlarging the capacity of believers to learn through experience and empathy what love demands. He contends that the impetus to change comes from a variety of sources, including prayer, meditation on Scripture, new theological insights and analyses, the evolution of human institutions, and the examples and instruction given by persons of good will.
Noonan also states that the Church cannot change its commitment to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Given this absolute, how can the moral teaching of the Church change? Noonan finds this question unanswerable when asked in the abstract. But in the context of the specific facts and events he discusses in this book, an answer becomes clear. As our capacity to grasp the Gospel grows, so do our understanding and compassion, which give life to the Gospel commandments of love.
Noonans incisive book, based on the Erasmus Lectures he delivered at the University of Notre Dame in 2003, will challenge anyone interested in the history and future of the Catholic Church.See all Editorial Reviews
In high school, in Religion class, we studied the influence of the French Catholic journal L'avernir (The Future). The main editor, a priest, faced a severe dilemma. Read morePublished 15 months ago by J. McGrath
I am not a theologian but I found this book persuasive, well reasoned and very readable. The notion expressed in one of the reviews above that the Church has yet to categorically... Read morePublished on June 8, 2013 by Doug S.
How do doctrinal changes or developments happen in a church that must accomodate insights accumulated over time and within cultures newly encountered? Read morePublished on February 23, 2006 by Halbert Weidner