Shaping the Moral Life: An Approach to Moral Theology

By Klaus Demmer; James E. Keenan et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
THE DECISIVE FACTOR: TOWARD
A THEOLOGY OF CONSCIENCE

The Second Vatican CouncihTeaching and History

The Second Vatican Council tried to interpret the signs of the times and find answers to questions at the heart of contemporary humanity. Among them, the question of God occupies a very important place. How is it possible to talk responsibly and convincingly about God in a secularized, self-sufficient, and even trivialized world? What does it mean that God determines all reality and—as in moral theology—is predicated as the ultimate ontológica! ground (Seinsgrund) of moral obligation?

The language of official Church teaching constantly refers to the idea of God's plan with humanity. How should we understand this language in relation to the moral dimension? If ethical imperatives are evident in themselves and—precisely on account of this self-evidence—obligatory, why do we need any reference whatsoever to God as Creator of all things or to God as the Lord of history? Moreover, even if we assume that God exists, what does the reference to God as the highest legislator mean? In what sense should we think of ethical imperatives as God's claims to humanity, without being accused of intellectual dishonesty? Does not such a language invalidate the significance of any theoretical effort in the realm of morality and simply delegate to a transcendent authority the burden of responsibility for our own actions? Isn't a flight from the difficult task of thinking a flight from subjectivity itself?

All of these questions ought to be taken seriously because they convey so much of our contemporary self-understanding. Moral theologians are obli-

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