Author: Keenan, James F
Date published: March 1, 2013
CHRISTLICHE ETHIK IM PORTRÄT: LEBEN UND WERK BEDEUTENDER MORALTHEOLOGEN. Edited by Konrad Hilpert. Freiburg: Herder, 2012. Pp. 901. euro58.
As Hilpert notes, when thinking of Catholic theological ethics, we inevitably turn to matters like norms, prohibitions, virtues, conscience, and sin; he offers us instead portraits of the life and work of significant moral theologians. Long noted for his work on the history and theology of human rights and for shaping social ethics and its interest in medical ethics, H. brings a much-needed "human" history to moral theology. The 33 studies by some of the most important German-speaking moralists of our time (Mieth, Schuster, Römelt, Münk, Ernst, Merks, Müller, Schockenhoff, Schlögel) begin with Paul and end with Richard McCormick. Each entry gives the life, work, influence and extended bibliography of primary and selective secondary literature. The context of the theologian's life and work are amply described, and contemporary debates are thoroughly covered. For anyone teaching the history of theological ethics, this work is a goldmine. It has all the robust heft of serious German theological scholarship.
Admittedly, the German preference takes precedence; after the Spaniards (Francisco de Vitoria, Francisco Suárez, Gabriel Vásquez, and Tomás Sanchez), the 18 remaining portraits count only Alphonsus Liguon, Philippe Delhaye, and Richard McCormick in the nonGerman gallery. Some lesser-known figures are rightfully brought to light - for instance, Sebastian MutschelTe, who appropriated Kant and introduced autonomy to moral theology; and Joseph Mausbach, who so significantly shaped social ethics. It seems a strectch, however, to include the moral philosopher Viktor Cathrein and the sociologist Werner Schöllgen while omitting the French contribution on the primacy of charity by Gérard Gilleman and René Carpentier or the Belgian Louis Janssens. A university professorship seems to credential a moral theologian; this discredits others who significantly shaped moral theology, like Erasmus, Thomas More, Bartolomé de las Casas, and Odón Lottin. Finally, innovators are the winners: Johann Michael Sailer, Johann Baptist Hirscher, and even Franz Xaver Linsenmann get full treatment, while excepting Hermann Busenbaum and Liguori, the manualists (Jean-Pierre Gury, Antonio Ballerini, Jerome Noldin, Jozef Aertnys, Augustinus Lehmkuhl, etc.) are ignored.
This landmark work sets a high standard for future work, and it clearly needs to be supplemented as our history unfolds.
JAMES F. KEENAN, S.J.