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A Morally Complex World: Engaging Contemporary Moral Theology Paperback – January 1, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Glazier; No Edition Stated edition (January 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814651585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814651582
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The author has the art of engaging the minds of those he teaches so that they in turn engage his mind. The result is an appealing and readable work.

In this book, Bretzke is both realistic about the world we live in and faithful to what is central to Christianity as revealed by Jesus Christ. His work is a leaven to empower believers at many different levels of their pilgrim journey to be able to navigate through the complexity and ambiguity of a morally complex world as faithful disciples.
Catholic Books Review

Bretzke’s diagrams, clear style, examples, glossary, and overall pastoral approach make the book an ideal text for undergraduates and study groups on Christian ethics. It also provides direction for specialists to further explore and develop questions of ethical method as they face the ever growing challenges of a morally complex world.
Theological Studies

This text will be ideal for undergraduates and so should be stocked for their use. . . .The text is clearly delivered and when material is particularly vexatious, helpful charts to facilitate understanding accompany it.
Catholic Library World

Those who are looking for an engaging, easy to read introduction to several critical issues of moral method will find this book illuminating. Bretzke not only brings the reader up to speed on the debates on method in Catholic moral theology, but he also provides fresh ways of thinking about it. His application of theory to cases, his instructions for engaging moral debate and for providing moral guidance should make this book a welcomed resource for theology students and anyone in pastoral ministry.
Richard M. Gula, S.S., Professor of Moral Theology, Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley, California

Having taught in four countries on three continents, James Bretzke is no foreigner to our 'morally complex world.' With the experienced intelligence of a well-traveled guide, he leads us with great facility through the difficult terrain of moral theology. Invoking the best of both our long-standing tradition and its contemporary interpreters, he comments on conscience, Scripture, natural law, sin and moral reasoning and, as he does, we inevitably find him as 'engaging' as the issues he proposes. A truly informative and enjoyable work.
James F. Keenan, S.J., Gasson Professor, Boston College

James Bretzke's new book combines the best of the old in Catholic moral theology with the best of the new. He integrates the attention to Scripture and Christian experience mandated by the Second Vatican Council with the clarity about moral norms and confidence in human moral reasoning that moral theology has traditionally shown. His accessible prose and clear examples make this an eminently 'teachable' book for undergraduates and other educated readers.
William C. Spohn, Santa Clara University

This reader-friendly and personal text is informed by the best in classical and contemporary theology. Directed to those who are not afraid of the pluralism, ambiguity, and complexity involved in ministering in the contemporary world, this book in fundamental ethics distinctively develops both the sacred and rational dimensions of moral decision-making, thus offering a needed and necessary addition to the field.
Ed Vacek, Weston Jesuit School, Cambridge, Massachusetts

About the Author

James T. Bretzke, SJ, STD, is associate professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Francisco, and an adjunct professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology-at-Berkeley. He has written three

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By LYNN J. LABUDDE on January 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
A Morally Complex World: Engaging Contemporary Moral Theology by James Bretzke is a wonderful book for anyone interested in moral development and theology. Bretzke does not write down to the reader but challenges them to think. He does a wonderful job bringing morals and ethics from Aristotle to the modern day thinkers. His chapter on conscience is definitely the peak reading of this book, making the reader look for more on the subject. A conscience in this morally complex world is more than Jiminy Cricket.
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Everything I had hoped it would be. It equips the reader to work through moral complexities while keeping in balance the sources and tensions that shape a situation and its discernment. Living the moral life is hard work and Bretzke does not pretend there is one answer to be found when faced with the big questions of life on the micro and macro scale. He sheds light on the gifts and cautions of all the sources which was very helpful.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Paul S. Clemens on January 25, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good book for the layman who wishes to become familiar with moral theology. Easy to read, clear, complete, and useful for spiritual growth.
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18 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Roseanne T. Sullivan on March 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
In this book Fr. Bretzke teaches complex methods for evaluating the morality of actions - while Catholics who follow traditional teachings would call the same actions "sins" without Bretzke's methods. Putting individual conscience above Church teachings identifies Fr. Bretzke with a breed of theologians who believe the Vatican II Council licensed them to redefine what the Church teaches and to claim that traditional Catholic morality is wrong. People who think the way Fr. Bretzke does never bother to explain why they stay in a Church they believe was so misguided for so long, or how they were granted the grace to understand more than the great saints that came before them.

Fr. Bretzke impugns the maturity of people who base their values on what the Magisterium teaches, using statements like the following: "To sit back and wait for a clear-cut response from any outside moral authority, even if it be the Pope, would result in a sort of moral infantilism."

Fr. Bretzke does not credit the writings of others who defend the Church's traditional teachings, prominently Pope John Paul II.

The following quote from the Pope's encyclical on moral theology seems to apply to theologians like him.
" Certain currents of modern thought ... exalt freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values. . . [T]he traditional doctrine ... is rejected; certain of the Church's moral teachings are found simply unacceptable; and the Magisterium itself is considered capable of intervening in matters of morality only in order to `exhort consciences' and to `propose values,' in the light of which each individual will independently make his or her decisions and life choices."
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