Moral Theology & Christian Ethics

Moral theology/Christian ethics is that branch of theological inquiry that studies in a systematic way the practical implications of God's revelatory intervention in Jesus Christ. It is concerned with the kind of people we ought to be and the kinds of actions we ought to perform or avoid. In pursuing its task, moral theology must draw upon every available source of understanding: scripture, tradition, relevant human sciences (such as psychology, sociology, economics), and human reason.

“What difference can faith make for morality when people today recognize that people of various or no faith can live a virtuous, honorable, moral life?”
— William Mattison, Associate Professor of Theology

Therefore, any adequate study of moral theology, in elaborating "the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world" (Vatican II, Decree on Priestly Formation, 16), must be not only "thoroughly nourished by scriptural teaching," but also broadly interdisciplinary. Furthermore, it will take ecumenism seriously because it is clear that what the Spirit works in the hearts of others "can contribute to our own edification" (Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, 4).

At Notre Dame, the doctoral program in moral theology responds to these broad mandates in several ways. It studies a number of subdisciplines, including social, medical, and foundational ethics. The program encourages interaction with philosophical ethics. While the program concentrates on the Roman Catholic tradition, it engages and is open to a variety of traditions. It demands course work outside of the field of moral theology (e.g., systematic theology, scripture).