Foundations of Moral Theology

Foundations of Moral Theology

The aim of this course is to discuss the precepts, principles, and values of Catholic morality.

Course code: TH03

Professor: Dr. Joseph Thomas Ekong

Description and Aim of the Course:

The aim of this course is to discuss the precepts, principles, and values of Catholic morality. Of course, morality involves the rational ordering of the human act to the good in its truth, and the voluntary pursuit of that good by human reason (intellect). This course shall focus on the enduring truths that undergird Catholic faith and morals, given the realization that such truths have been so much neglected, misunderstood and misrepresented by the secularist mentality of our contemporary age. It seeks to inculcate the ability to think systematically about the Christian moral life, within the framework of the Catholic tradition, while more broadly attending to current debates in Christian ethics and moral theory. Following the Second Vatican Council's call for a renewal of moral theology, the course draws on the sources of Scripture and tradition, as well as theology, philosophy, and ecumenical conversations. Furnished with the seminars on the principles/norms of moral conduct, the student should be able to give an intelligent account of the Church’s teaching on the moral order and strive to live his/her Christian life on that basis. Moral Theology, sometimes called “Christian ethics,” is the theological discipline concerned with identifying and elucidating the principles that determine the quality of human behavior, in the light of Christian Revelation. It is distinguished from the philosophical discipline of ethics (i.e. Moral Philosophy) which relies upon the authority of Human Reason, and which can only call upon rational sanctions for moral failure.

Thus, Moral theology appeals to the authority of Divine Revelation, specifically as found in the preaching and activity of Jesus Christ. The field of moral theology, its contents, and the boundaries which separate it from kindred subjects, may be briefly indicated as follows: moral theology includes everything relating to man's free actions and the last or supreme end to be attained through them, as far as we know them by Divine Revelation. In other words, it includes the supernatural end, the rule, or norm, of the moral order, human actions as such, their harmony or disharmony with the laws of the moral order, their consequences, as well as the Divine assistance for their right performance. Moral theology tries to depict the deifying presence of God, manifested in human moral choices and actions. It involves the sorts of persons we ought to be (i.e. agency or character ethics), and the sorts of actions we ought to perform (i.e. the ethics of doing).

Objectives of the course:

This course intends to assist students to grow in the following knowledge, skills and attitudes:


  1. To know and understand the basic terminology and concepts of the Catholic moral tradition.
  2. To be able to trace the basic historical trajectory of the Catholic moral tradition from the time of the early Church, through the scholastic and manualist traditions, concluding with Vatican II and its impact.
  3. To understand the role of key figures in the development of the Catholic moral tradition.
  4. To develop a basic understanding of how the Catholic moral tradition contributes to the public mission of the Church.


  1. To read critically the literature in the field, with a view towards developing the abilities to follow arguments, teach, and intelligently discuss issues of morality.
  2. To cultivate the ability to reflect critically on the moral dimensions of human experience, so as to develop an intelligent and affective grasp of the moral issues and values that promote human Dignity.
  3. To acquire the ability to undertake moral discernments, through application of Catholic moral Teachings.


  1. To engender the realization or consciousness that moral theology is not simply a system of ideas and doctrines, but that it must also be lived and applied in a personal, pastoral and prudent way, in one’s life.


  1. Topic: Introduction, Methodology, and Overview of Contemporary Moral Theology
  2. Topic: Moral Theology, Christianity, Sacred Scripture, Faith versus Human Reason
  3. Topic: Traditional Moral Maxims, Theories of Moral Reasoning, and the Challenges of Character Education/Formation
  4. Topic: Natural Law, Thomistic Renaissance, Vatican II and Moral Theology