PATRICK JOSEPH BOYLE, Marquette University


In the decree, Optatam Totius, of Vatican II the Council fathers urged that the ecclesiastical studies of seminarians be revised and updated. Such a general mandate has caused theologians to re-evaluate many traditional moral teachings of the magisterium. One such teaching concerns the gravity of matter in sins against the sixth and ninth commandments. For years it has been accepted teaching that there is no parvity of matter in such sins. The purpose of this dissertation is to test the validity of this teaching by analyzing its development, the arguments upon which the teaching rests and the pastoral effects of the teaching. The theological climate after Vatican II allowed some contemporary theologians to break with the traditional teaching on parvity of matter and to center their methodological approach to the traditional teaching on four areas: (1) They challenged the traditional understanding of objective evil. The notion that the moral quality of an act could be determined from the act itself, as the manualists taught, was rejected by these contemporary moral theologians. (2) They further questioned whether or not objective evil could be quantitatively measured since such a quantitative measurement of the disorder in an act cannot explain the absolutely qualitative difference between heaven and hell. (3) The fundamental option theory questions the validity of the traditional teaching on the parvity of matter. The heavy emphasis on the subjective aspect of morality has lessened the importance of the objective in determining the gravity of sin. (4) Finally, new insights into the meaning of the natural law and the understanding of the ends of sexuality led to a negation of the traditional teaching of the primacy of the procreative aspect of sexuality. It would seem that most of the pastoral difficulties of the traditional teaching on parvity of matter could be eliminated if the papal magisterium rethought its stand on intrinsically evil matter and if it broadened the notion of matter to include both the premoral act and attending circumstances.

Recommended Citation

BOYLE, PATRICK JOSEPH, "PARVITAS MATERIAE IN SEXTO IN CONTEMPORARY CATHOLIC THOUGHT" (1984). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8409276.