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Morality: The Catholic View Paperback – November, 2003

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 141 pages
  • Publisher: St. Augustines Press; 1st edition (November 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587315157
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587315152
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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53 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This tiny book is, apparently, a condensation of the author's more scholarly "The Sources of Christian Ethics". It is written at a level suitable for those with little or no philosophical background, though even the studied can benefit from his forthright discussion of some of the more difficult topics.
The book is divided into two parts : a survey of the sources of Christian ethics, and a proposal for renewing our moral thought by a return to the classical and mediaeval models. Thus he discusses the sources for ethical reflection in the Gospels and the other New Testament documents (notably the Sermon on the Mount), then relates how these ideas were grafted onto the Greek philosophical tradition by the mediaevel thinkers. He dwells at (comparative) length on the structure of ethics as it was conceived by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century; namely, morality is a search for human happiness and fulfillment. He then relates how this ancient ethical tradition was undermined in the late mediaeval period (it is William of Ockham who gets the lion's share of the blame), and how a new conception of Christian ethics as "ethics of obligation" came to dominate in the post-Reformation period. Finally, he discusses the impact of the Vatican II on Catholic moral reflection, in which he sees hope for a return to the ancient model.
The second part of the book is a reflection on how ethics might be reconceived in the image of Aquinas' ethics. In particular, he argues that our notion of freedom has to be fundamentally changed if we are to refound moral thought, for the dominant notion of freedom in modern times - what he calls 'freedom of indifference' - is at the root of the chaotic state of morality in western society.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Oswald Sobrino on December 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
Pinckaers very clearly and concisely shows that Christian morality is about fulfilling our longing for happiness, excellence, joy, and truth. The end is not merely to obey commandments but rather to obey commandments in order to be truly happy. The power to walk that path of obedience comes not from dry logic but from the gifts of the Holy Spirit that animate the virtues of a Christian. Most telling is Pinckaers' distinction between mere pleasure and joy as two radically different conceptions of happiness. Many of our life-changing moral decisions come down to the choice between transient, superficial pleasure that is illusory and ends in bitterness and even hatred, while true happiness is, in the words of Augustine, "joy born of the truth" (p. 77). Pinckaers describes the path of happiness that ends in lasting joy, not the path of mere pleasure ending in disappointment.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By wvano on September 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an introductory text of unusual depth and breadth. Father Pinckaers' thesis is that since the 14th century moral philosophy and theology have posited human freedom as primary to human nature. From this premise have come a series of "moralities of obligation" in which freedom is seen as restricted by externally imposed moral rules. Almost by definition, such a model tends to disassociate happiness from morality.
According to Pinckaers, a better, more classical, and more Thomistic approach is to consider human freedom as part of human nature, rooted in and ineradicably woven among our yearnings for the good, the beautiful, and the true. Thus the best use of our freedom is virtue, which is not only compatible with happiness but in its highest form (i.e., love) is the source of joy.
Pinckaers' analysis of the fundamental flaw of modernist ethics is penetrating and, in my view, probably correct. The concept of human nature presented here is a high one, and may strike some as too exalted. But that's the point. Catholic morality looks to humanity as it was intended to be, and as it can be when redeemed by grace.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Peter S. Bradley on January 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Servais Pinckaers Morality: The Catholic View.

This is a brief, clear and thoroughly accessible book. Pinckaers exposition of Catholic moral teaching is broken up by a number of tables and charts that expand, illuminate or summarize the points that his points.

Pinckaers divides the work between an historical exegesis and a meditation on the nature of Christian morality.

According to Pinckaers, Catholic moral teaching is not a mere code of prescriptions and prohibitions; Catholic morality is a response, he says, to the aspirations of the human heart for truth and goodness, and seeks to educate men for growth. (p. 1.) Morality today is considered the domain of moral obligations, whereas it was historically viewed as the area in which the question of happiness and perfection were answered. (Id.) Pinckaers points to the Sermon on the Mount as illustrating an exhortation to excellence, rather than a code of conduct. Likewise, Paul exhorted Christians in the second part of Romans to a way of life that would conform to their new life in Christ. Pinckaers calls this kind of moral exhortation "paraclesis" from the Greek work "parakaleo" ("I exhort") from which the term Paraclete, signifying the Holy Spirit, derives. Pinckaers points to the other exhortations as an invitation for Christians to live up to a model of perfect Christian behavior rather than simply following a set of rules.

The theme of exhortation toward virtuous living continued as a feature of Christian moral thinking. St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, subordinated moral obligations to the virtues. (p. 32.) However, over time, particular during modernity, the focus of morality became the calculus of obligation. Aquinas' contributions, such as the treatise on happiness, were forgotten.
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