The Pinckaers Reader

The Pinckaers Reader: Renewing Thomistic Moral Theology

Servais Pinckaers
John Berkman
Craig Steven Titus
Mary Thomas Noble
Craig Steven Titus
Michael Sherwin
Hugh Connolly
Copyright Date: 2005
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  • Book Info
    The Pinckaers Reader
    Book Description:

    The first collection of its kind available in any language, this volume features the twenty most significant essays written by Pinckaers since his highly praised Sources.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1641-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
    John Berkman

    You have in your hands a collection of twenty essays by the Dominican priest and theologian Servais-Théodore Pinckaers. The Pinckaers Reader represents a selection of Pinckaers’s constructive work in academic moral theology since the mid-1980s.¹ Pinckaers is one of the foremost Catholic moral theologians of this past generation, one whose work has not been adequately introduced to the English-speaking world. Furthermore, Pinckaers has an important and distinctive approach to moral theology, one that in seeking to be thoroughly “recoverist” turns out to offer a distinctive and refreshingly original approach to the Christian life.

    Pinckaers writes primarily in French, and only...

  6. Section I. Thomistic Method and the Renewal of Moral Theology
    • 1 The Sources of the Ethics of St. Thomas Aquinas (2002)
      (pp. 3-25)

      A study of the sources of St. Thomas’s moral teaching can be very beneficial, for it gives us new insights into his texts and broadens and deepens our understanding of his thought. To a traditional reading that makes use of the commentators who came after Thomas, it adds an interpretation of the master in light of the authors who preceded him, and of the sources that inspired him and provided him with the materials for his theological project. Thus, a speculative examination of his work is rounded out by a historical consideration that reveals the genesis and unfolding of his...

    • 2 The Body of Christ: The Eucharistic and Ecclesial Context of Aquinas’s Ethics (2000)
      (pp. 26-45)

      Our topic finds its inspiration in the encyclical Veritatis splendor: “The presence of Christ to men of every time is actualized in his Body, which is the Church” (no. 25). The text elucidates moreover that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that accomplishes this presence in our time. The Holy Spirit calls us and makes us understand the Lord’s commandments, and he accords us grace that strengthens our new life. Such is the New Law, which gives us “life in Christ” and “life in the Spirit,” according to the main headings in the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s...

    • 3 Scripture and the Renewal of Moral Theology (1995)
      (pp. 46-63)

      The Second Vatican Council ratified the biblical renewal that had prepared the way for it. It truly gave Scripture back to the Catholic people, and recommended it as “the very soul of sacred theology.”¹ The Council invited theologians to show the inner coherence of the mysteries of salvation proposed by the Scriptures. Theologians were exhorted to make use of the teaching of the Church Fathers and to engage in speculative reflection, with St. Thomas as a guide, in order to search for the solutions to human problems in a manner suitable to our contemporary times. In particular, the Council affirmed:...

    • 4 The Place of Philosophy in Moral Theology (1999)
      (pp. 64-72)

      Does moral theology need philosophy? What place does it have? What role does it play? In a word, what is the relationship between philosophy and theology in Christian moral doctrine? We could discuss these questions in a variety of ways. The simplest and most instructive is to examine a fully developed theological synthesis on these questions, such as St. Thomas Aquinas’s, which can be taken as a model and is considered a classic: it is the direct heir to the theology of the Church Fathers and serves as a reference point for modern theological currents.

      We can reduce the components...

    • 5 Dominican Moral Theology in the 20th Century (1993)
      (pp. 73-90)

      This text will be a testimony of gratitude to the Revue Thomiste, which published my first articles. In 1955, I wrote “A Study of the Structure of the Human Act According to St. Thomas.”¹ In it, I critiqued the interpretation of the study of the human act in questions 6–17 of the prima secundae as a psychological succession “in twelve stages,” which has become a classic since Billuart. I proposed rather to see in the text an analysis of the structure of the human act. This publication was accompanied in the Bulletin Thomiste² by a review essay that led...

  7. Section II. Beatitude and Christian Anthropology
    • 6 Aquinas’s Pursuit of Beatitude: From the Commentary on the Sentences to the Summa Theologiae (1993)
      (pp. 93-114)

      When we study Aquinas’s successive treatments of “beatitude,” from the Commentary on the Sentences to the Summa theologiae, we are deeply impressed on two scores. First, we marvel at the breadth, penetration, and originality of the research; and next, we are astonished to note how far this teaching, so essential for Aquinas, has been neglected by many of his disciples and by later theology. This essay will examine Aquinas’s successive analyses of “beatitude” in order to assess their import, and above all to discover their evangelical dimension and spiritual impact.¹

      In his Commentary on the Sentences, St. Thomas, being obliged...

    • 7 Beatitude and the Beatitudes in Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae (1998)
      (pp. 115-129)

      The opening questions of the prima secundae of St. Thomas’s Summa theologiae are remarkable, considering the sources and materials they bring together, the care taken in their lengthy elaboration, and the place they occupy in St. Thomas’s grand theological synthesis. The sources of these five questions on beatitude are clearly indicated, being quoted therein.¹ Of the theological sources, Scripture is cited sixty times and the commentaries of the Church Fathers receive sixty-one citations (forty-two citations from Augustine, eleven citations from Dionysius the Areopagite, and three citations from Ambrose and Gregory the Great). Of the philosophical sources, Aristotle is cited sixty-six...

    • 8 Ethics and the Image of God (1989)
      (pp. 130-143)

      When we explore the history of the theme of the image of God in the human person in a very fine article such as the one in the Dictionnaire de la spiritualité on the subject, for example,¹ we are led to make a general observation: the theme is present almost everywhere; it occupies an important place in the theology of both Greek and Latin Church Fathers and among medieval theologians. In the modern period, however, it becomes marginal and often even disappears from view for theologians, at least when they do not follow directly in the path of ancient tradition....

    • 9 Aquinas on the Dignity of the Human Person (1987)
      (pp. 144-164)

      Studying St. Thomas on the dignity of the human person is not a matter of mere historical interest. It can lead us to a deep penetration of our subject and the discovery of its multiple dimensions, while giving us a certain concept of the human person that is a model of outstanding quality and an authoritative witness to Christian thought.

      Let us briefly situate St. Thomas’s reflection on the human person historically and speculatively. His teaching comes at the close of an already lengthy history. Christian theology and Greek philosophy had confronted each other throughout the patristic period; St. Thomas...

  8. Section III. Moral Agency
    • 10 Aquinas and Agency: Beyond Autonomy and Heteronomy? (1978)
      (pp. 167-184)

      The question of autonomy and heteronomy in moral theology is a contemporary one with vast implications. It is connected with the question of Christian morality, its existence and specificity, and with the correlative problem of the constitution of an autonomous rational morality of universal relevance that would provide criteria for regulating action in a pluralistic society like ours, where believers must live and work with nonbelievers.

      I propose in these few pages to look into the question of autonomy and heteronomy in St. Thomas, since he is considered to be one of the principal representatives of Christian moral tradition. At...

    • 11 A Historical Perspective on Intrinsically Evil Acts (1986)
      (pp. 185-235)

      The question of intrinsically evil moral actions is a central preoccupation and topic of discussion for Catholic moral theologians today. It determines the positions they take on concrete problems being debated currently by the world at large: contraception, abortion, torture, etc. If actions such as these are intrinsically evil, one may never perform them under any circumstances. If they are not, then we can imagine exceptional situations providing sufficient reasons to allow us to perform them without incurring any moral guilt.

      The debate surfaced in recent years after the appearance of the encyclical Humanae vitae and the divergences of Catholic...

    • 12 Revisionist Understandings of Actions in the Wake of Vatican II (1982)
      (pp. 236-270)

      Since the Second Vatican Council, numerous factors have contributed to enlivening Catholic moral theology, which had been stranded in the teaching of the manuals of recent centuries. There had already been (particularly Thomist) criticism of these manuals in the period following the Second World War, especially with regard to their narrowness and inadequacy in their treatment of Scripture and tradition.¹ It was inevitable that the innovative trends in the areas of Scripture, theology, and pastoral practice surfacing after the Council, with more or less fidelity to it, should have led like succeeding waves to progressive challenges in the realm of...

  9. Section IV. Passions and Virtues
    • 13 Reappropriating Aquinas’s Account of the Passions (1990)
      (pp. 273-287)

      St. Thomas accords a remarkable place to the study of the emotions in the moral part of the Summa theologiae. This treatise counts the largest number of questions: 27, containing 132 articles. It is more expansive than his treatises on human beatitude (beatitudo) and on human agency combined, or on the virtues and on the gifts, or on law and on grace. This quantitative comparison does not necessarily mean that the treatise on emotions is the most important in the eyes of Aquinas, but it does indicate that he pays particular attention to it. In his carefully elaborated outline, the...

    • 14 The Role of Virtue in Moral Theology (1996)
      (pp. 288-303)

      Virtue is back. Especially in the United States, a widespread discussion about its role in moral theology has been initiated, a discussion modeled on Aristotle’s Ethics, particularly as Aristotle’s thought was developed in the Middle Ages by Thomas Aquinas.

      Accompanying this rediscovery of virtue is a criticism of modern ethical theories. These theories, having broken with Aristotelian tradition, have led to a burgeoning of contradictory systems: a morality of obligation on the Kantian model; utilitarian morality; and a radical critique of morality by Nietzsche. Because of such divergences any discussion between moralists, especially where the foundations and principles of morality...

    • 15 Capreolus’s Defense of Aquinas: A Medieval Debate about the Virtues and Gifts (1997)
      (pp. 304-320)

      In his writing on the virtues, John Capreolus (1380–1444) speaks directly to our time, from a distance of more than five hundred years. Capreolus undertook to defend St. Thomas’s moral theology, which is based on the doctrine of the virtues and gifts, against a trend which he called “new” and which, beginning with the consideration of particular acts, called into question and strongly reduced the role of the virtues. Today we observe a renewal and strengthening of virtue-based morality. For example, we find modest but real evidence of such morality in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in...

    • 16 Conscience and Christian Tradition (1990)
      (pp. 321-341)

      Christian teaching on moral conscience is extremely firm regarding prescriptions and moral rules; at the same time, it is flexible when dealing with the conscience’s field of action, the theological organization of the moral domain. In order to treat adequately the Christian concept of moral conscience, we need to scan the history of moral theology, not simply for erudition’s sake, but rather to make contact with the living sources of Christian moral teaching that continually influence the Church through the working of the Holy Spirit.

      I propose, therefore, a study of what we might call the history of the Christian...

    • 17 Conscience and the Virtue of Prudence (1996)
      (pp. 342-356)

      As stated in Cardinal Ratzinger’s article “Conscience and Truth,” the central problem encountered in moral theology at the present time is the relation between conscience and truth.¹ Is our personal conscience the ultimate judge of the truth of our acts? Is it their very source? Or, is our conscience the witness within us of a superior truth perceived as a voice, a lawgiving light? In a word, is it a consciousness of truth? This question coincides with the pivotal point of the encyclical Veritatis splendor. Our freedom is not absolute; it is a freedom for truth; it grows and fulfills...

  10. Section V. Law and Grace
    • 18 Aquinas on Nature and the Supernatural (1992)
      (pp. 359-368)

      To begin with an observation: the original title of this essay, “Nature and Supernature,” is not exact as far as St. Thomas is concerned. He never used the noun “supernature,”¹ but only the adjective “supernatural.” This means that the concept of “supernatural” is, for him, something relative to an existing nature, but it constitutes neither a subsistent reality nor a kind of order floating somewhere up above nature. The terminology “nature/supernature” has its origin in modern discussions and is based on the hypothesis of a state of pure nature, embodying the concept of a nature that is self-sufficient and independent,...

    • 19 The Return of the New Law to Moral Theology (1999)
      (pp. 369-384)

      Our object here is briefly to retrace the history of the reintegration of the New Law in Catholic moral teaching, from the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council up to two major recent documents, namely The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the encyclical Veritatis splendor.

      In order more fully to appreciate the history of Catholic moral theology since the Council, and in order to observe the starkly contrasting originality and innovative character of recent Roman publications, it is imperative to take into account preconciliar Catholic moral theory such as was dispensed in the manuals of moral theology in the...

    • 20 Morality and the Movement of the Holy Spirit: Aquinas’s Doctrine of Instinctus (1991)
      (pp. 385-396)

      We would like to tackle the role of spiritual instinct in Christian ethics, especially as it appears in St. Thomas’s ethics. Instead of associating morality and instinct, we are accustomed to opposing them and to distrusting instinct. Is it not the role of ethics to teach us to fight against our instincts? Is not its goal to restrain them through precepts and interdictions, through the virtues of moderation, chastity, and courage? To place instinct at the heart of Christian ethics seems to introduce a subversive principle into it.

      The issue becomes more complicated when one realizes that modern moralists have...

  11. Bibliography of Servais-Théodore Pinckaers, O.P.
    (pp. 397-412)
  12. Index of Holy Scripture
    (pp. 413-414)
  13. Index of Patristic, Ancient, and Medieval Sources
    (pp. 415-416)
  14. Index of Proper Names
    (pp. 417-420)
  15. Index of Works of St. Thomas Aquinas
    (pp. 421-422)
  16. Subject Index
    (pp. 423-430)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 431-431)