Friday, June 11, 2010

Primary Source Readings in Christian Morality

Edited by Thaddeus Ostrowski and Robert Smith, 237 pages, St. Anthony's Messenger Press.

This excellent introduction to Catholic ethics as taught by the magisterium offers the primary writings of popes, academics, and pastors all reflecting on good and evil.

The authors don't shy away from sin, and especially original sin, but instead warn about the depth of this in our individual and social lives. The book takes on social sin and justice issues, even linking justice work to the Eucharist.

In following the Ten Commandments, this book is easy for the novice who wants a good introduction to the general issues. It is also beneficial to well-read Catholics who want engaging writing. Rather than a legalistic view of ethics, the authors in this book try to get at the spirit of relationships as well as of the individual. We must fulfill our responsibilities to others and to see the spiritual rather than outward and legalistic character of our actions. Good and evil have spiritual dimensions to them that go far beyond their immediate effects.

Just as importantly, readers will get a sense of the link between theology and ethics, which was one of the most urgent issues in John Paul II's moral teachings. He wanted moral reflection to be grounded in a person's relationship with Christ rather than coming from abstract ideals divorced from the biblical and Catholic theological tradition. Our actions must reflect our belief in God.

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