Reappraising the Manual Tradition

American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 89 (4):557-584 (2015)
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Following the Second Vatican Council, the predominant trend in Catholic moral theology has been decidedly antagonistic toward the tradition that dominated moral theology before the Council, namely the use and formulation of ecclesiastically-approved “manuals” or “handbooks” of moral theology, the contents of which chiefly involved general precepts of morally good and bad behavior as well as the extension of those precepts to particular cases. In this paper, I will oppose the dominant anti-manual trend. More particularly, I will first sketch what I take to be the central aspects of the manual tradition. Second, I will provide several arguments in favor of this tradition. Last, I will raise and respond to objections to this tradition that feature prominently in the works of Pinckaers and Cessario.

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Brian Besong
Saint Francis University


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