Date of Award

Fall 1992

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Duffy, Michael K.

Second Advisor

Doherty, Dennis

Third Advisor

Rossi, Philip


The understanding and use of conscience has undergone evaluation within the broader efforts of the renewal of moral theology called for by Vatican II. A review of the literature reveals that among contemporary moral theologians there are differences in the way conscience is understood and employed. These differences are reflected in the distinct perspectives of "revisionist" and "non-revisionist" or traditional Roman Catholic moral theologians. Because conscience is a central issue in Roman Catholic moral theology and pastoral practice, and since "freedom of conscience" and the "rights of conscience" are often invoked in response to both theological issues and pastoral concerns, an analysis and evaluation of contemporary theological understandings of conscience is called for. This dissertation studies the nature and function of conscience in contemporary Roman Catholic moral theology. It does so by examining, comparing and evaluating the ways in which conscience is understood by two representative contemporary moral theologians: Germain Grisez who represents the non-revisionist or more traditional school of Roman Catholic moral theology and Bernard Haring who represents the revisionist school of Roman Catholic moral theology. An Introduction summarizes the historical development of the notion of conscience. Chapters One and Two examine the nature and function of conscience in the theology of Thomas Aquinas who serves as the historical anchor for the present study. The third chapter presents Germain Grisez's work regarding conscience and its role in moral theology. Chapter Four summarizes the work of Bernard Haring and his thinking relative to the nature and function of conscience. Finally, a concluding chapter suggests the similarities and differences between Grisez and Haring and sketches the groundwork of a contemporary theology of conscience which attempts to bridge the gap between Grisez and Haring while returning to Aquinas and the importance of the virtue of prudence and the role of the Spirit in the formation of conscience. The Conclusion also argues for the reestablishment of and the need for a strong relationship between conscience, its formation and the spiritual life.



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