Terisse Zosso

Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Daniel Maguire

Second Advisor

Noel Lazure


Psychologists like Maslow, Piaget, and Kohlberg speak of peak and plateau experiences, ego development, and the moral development of children and adults. Theology has long spoken of the ecstatic moments and stages of mysticism, which seem to parallel much psychological material, but have normally been relegated to the study of mystical theology rather than ethics.

Recently a number of theologians, philosophers and literary critics such as Iris Murdoch, James T. Laney, James William McLendon, Jr., and especially Stanley Hauerwas, have argued for an ethics of character which recognizes the importance of the human subject, his point of view in alternate choices, the subject's interrelationship with others, the pressures that influence his decisions, and how illusions of existential judgment bear on the rightness or wrongness of his actions. Protestant and Jewish scholars, too, are newly interested in life values, display an antipathy toward an ethics of the limits, and recognize that psychology's research and speculation on peak experiences, extrasensory perception, altered states of consciousness, and transcendental meditation have moral implications. These people seek to understand how ordinary people make moral judgment.

Stanley Hauerwas differentiates between character and characterization in his ethics of character. Character, Hauerwas states, is the orientation of the self, the qualification or the determination of one's self-agency which results from certain intentions and beliefs. It is related to and has many different levels of description. Hauerwas source for a philosophy of character and characterology in ethics derives from social psychology and its study of human character.

Loevinger, whose psychometric system is used in this dissertation, is more cautious in using the term character. Psychology, she states, is now endeavoring to specify empirically certain human characteristics, but it will not attempt a full explication of character until it knows more of the ingredients.

Furthermore, the tendency of Hauerwas' ethics of character--despite his insistence that character is not static-is to focus on the more permanent aspects of the person and to miss the evolving quality of personhood
where the vitality and creativity of the Spirit are most evident. Hauerwas' ethics of character lacks the developmental perspective and the methods of studying the characteristics of a person and the individual 's ethical stance as one progresses in life.

Bernard Haering, whose moral theology is used in this study, sought t o bring together the christian experience of the Spirit in a moral, dynamic, hierarchical, psychological, and sociological approach. This
study, as such, will not primarily offer a critique of Bernard Haering, the moral theologian. Any critique of his work will be limited to suggestions arising out of the developmental comparison of Haering and
Loevinger. The psychological study of morals, too, does not offer definitive answers; it respects the tentative nature of its findings and invites other experts to see if their empirical investigations yield the same results.

Our aim in this study is to try to decipher the role human development plays in Christian ethical life, to ascertain what psychological moral growth implies for any study of moral life and renewed theology. The study uses both Haering and Loevinger. From Haering we cull the moral situations and characteristics that correspond with Loevinger's ego development characteristics, both descriptive, experiential, and theoretical. The study seeks to identify the similarities between Haering's work and developmental moral psychology through a kind of comparative analysis. As such, the work is preliminary both as to the method of comparison used to relate the two disciplines and in its results, which tentatively lay a groundwork for future investigators who may criticize moral theology in the light of psychology. At the same time, however, the interdisciplinary comparison raises some very interesting questions and suggestions for moral theology. It suggests that moral theology look
into development for a deeper understanding of the dynamic nature of natural law, poses questions on celibacy, religious life, obedience, self-actualization,
and guilt. Its findings question whether moral theology has made the most appropriate use of the symbols of faith as they appertain to christian life.

The work of comparison studies the common ground of moral development cases, specific intentions, reasons, motivations, and meanings for moral behavior as they are exemplified in Haering's moral theology and Loevinger's theory of ego development. It is limited to the areas of moral behavior relevant to what Loevinger has at least partially validated empirically. Some areas of moral behavior, motivation, and intention will thus be neglected because the relevant empirical data is not yet available. Incidentally, the study may point out areas of disparity between moral theology and developmental psychology but this is not its main aim.

Bernard Haering insists on the need to consider all the possible circumstances and motives that influence an individual's decisions, indicating his cognizance or the subjectivity of the person making a conscious decision. Conversely, Loevinger's point of view begins with the individual's existential response. Since Loevinger' s psychometric scales are the result of tests standardized in thousands of individuals they can be regarded as at least in part critically validated by the best means available, and, if not a good instrument, at least the best available at the present time. The common framework of both experts allows us to make a comparison between the personalistic and developmental ethical systems which, Hauerwas argues, is essential to any ethics of principles, commands, and obligations. We need to bear in mind, though, that subjective and objective ethical stances dialogically work together to further understanding of existential christian life.

This dissertation is divided into three parts. Part One explains the proposed areas to be compared in Haering and Loevinger and the method of accomplishing it. Part Two contains the actual analysis of development in Haering's moral theology. Part Three dialogically draws a theological synthesis for christian life from the results of the analysis. In both parts one and three reference will be made to Paul Ricoeur, whom Jane Loevinger cites as a philosopher who has particularly grasped the
intricacies of psychological and biblical symbol interpretation, which should further our understanding of the respective terminologies. Our interpretations of Spirit will now from Ricoeur's and other theological
analytic and hermeneutic methods. The appendix contains outlines of the stages of development, characteristics of the stages of development, response categories from Loevinger's validated test results, and a
propaedeutic basis for a proposed foundation to study levels of christian moral development in further exploratory studies.

The author wishes to express gratitude both to the departments of theology and psychology of Marquette University, Milwaukee, which encouraged dialogue between the two disciplines on the nature of christian life. Further thanks are expressed to my religious community, the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, who provided the kairos-time for serious study and a life style that fosters a commitment to self-actualization, life in the Spirit.



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