Our Tradition - Department of Moral Theology
Dean Fr. Dariusz Kowalczyk, SJ
Director Fr. Diego Alonso-Lasheras, SJ
A tradition of taking the initiative, "primerear" (Evangelii Gaudium - EG 25). In 1600, Fr John Azor proposed a new, rigorous approach to the study of Christian Ethics to his students in Rome: Moral Theology as a scientific discipline was born. In 1966, one year after Vatican II, Azor's successors at the Pontifical Gregorian University were among the first to reform Moral Theology and teach it as requested by Optatam Totius 16. This meant adopting a "scientific exposition" of Moral Theology, which focussed on the "calling of the faithful in Christ" and on a "life-giving" dialogue with the contemporary world. Since the 1990s, following the teaching of Veritatis splendor 12, the Gregorian has also sought ways to link the moral teaching of the Church's living tradition to the "new law" written by God on the human heart.
Beyond individualism, beyond purely normative ethics. Pope Francis writes: "More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, tied up by norms which make us harsh judges" (EG 49). The Gregorian proposes to its students an approach to Moral Theology in this light. While giving due importance to moral norms, we believe that to "live ethically" is to "live life on a higher plane" (EG 10), to live rooted in the experience of being loved by God in Jesus Christ, and moved by the desire to respond. At the same time, to "live ethically" is to "reach out", to embody "an attentiveness which considers the other ‘in a certain sense as one with ourselves’" (EG 199). Pope Francis' invitation to take a more social and communal approach to moral issues echoes Gaudium et spes 30, the Jesuit tradition, and Benedict XVI's critique of relativistic individualism. Over the years, this approach has become one of the hallmarks of our Department.
The Superior General of the Society of Jesus with Pope Francis
Accompanying a person's discernment. A coherent personalism, such as that embraced by the Church at Vatican II, believes that persons can reach "a level of maturity where [they] can make truly free and responsible decisions" (EG 171). Such authentic autonomy is not arbitrary or narcissistic: it consists in discerning in the Spirit how God acts in history, and cooperating with God's activity. This is precisely the responsible freedom which Christians are called to live, the freedom that moulds the discerning selves that our students are trained to accompany.
Seeing reality from the frontiers and from the margins. The Gregorian, as a Jesuit institution, has been repeatedly missioned by recent popes "to the frontiers", to engage in rigorous and intellectually honest intellectual scholarship, to enter into dialogue with contemporary culture and with other religions. Over the years, we have sought to remain faithful to this mission by empowering and accompanying students to think through the major ethical issues of the contemporary world, thus preparing them to face a public not easily convinced by arguments from authority. The Jesuit charism also asks us to remain close to the poor, and to see reality from the margins, as Pope Francis does.
Many voices in dialogue. Today, there is no longer one "school" of Moral Theology at the Gregorian: 86% of the faculty has been renewed in the last few years, and the present "team" was formed in many countries and universities. Rather, what unites us may possibly be called a "style". Our style is that of dialogue: with contemporary culture, with other disciplines, with the different layers of our Christian tradition, with the cultures and realities of our truly cosmopolitan mix of students and faculty.