With his sympathetic yet critical study of the development of Joseph Fuchs' thought on the natural law, Mark Graham also traces for the reader an extremely important strand of the history of fundamental moral theology in the twentieth century. Graham sees two major stages in Fuchs' thought, which he calls "pre-conversion" and "post-conversion," the conversion in question being brought about by Fuchs' service on Paul VI's birth control commission in the mid to late 1960's. More specifically, Fuchs moved from an understanding of natural law that asserted that its propositions flowed directly from God's will as it is expressed in human nature to an understanding of natural law that primarily and proximately located moral normativity not in human nature but in recta ratio (right reason).
In Part I, Graham explicates Fuchs' "preconversion" understanding of natural law. In the first chapter, Graham addresses in particular Fuchs' defense of traditional Roman Catholic natural law theory against situation ethics. In the second chapter, Graham fills out Fuchs' theory of natural law, addressing issues such as the respective roles of the magisterium and the individual moral agent in its interpretation, the structure of moral norms, and the soteriological import of the natural law. The third chapter of Part I treats Fuchs' service on the Pontifical Birth Control Commission and traces Fuchs' transformation from a staunch defender of the teaching prohibiting artificial contraception to an advocate for change in the teaching, which he expressed as one of the main authors of the "Majority Report" of the commission.
In Part II, Graham articulates the ways in which Fuchs' understanding of natural law changed due to his experience as a member of the commission. Not only did Fuchs change his mind on the specific moral issue of artificial contraception, but he understood that such a change necessitated that he question his concept of the natural law itself. Even more fundamentally, Fuchs understood that changing one's understanding of the natural law meant adopting an alternate anthropology, and Graham devotes the first chapter in the second section (Chapter 4) to Fuchs' adoption of Karl Rahner's transcendental anthropology and, consequently, a more personalist understanding of the human being as a whole, with its attendant emphasis on the historicity of both the person and human knowledge. This appreciation of the particular in moral reasoning leads Fuchs to assert that human knowledge of moral norms is not taken directly from human nature itself, but is learned through experience in the course of human life and is therefore always historically conditioned and developed through reason. Thus Graham entitles the second chapter in this section (Chapter 5) "The Core of Fuchs's Mature Natural Law Theory: Recta Ratio as the Proximate Norm of Morality." In Chapter 6, Graham addresses some issues that round out the whole of Fuchs' mature natural law theory, such as the relevance of Christian faith to natural law ethics and the existence of exceptionless moral norms.
In the Conclusion, Graham acknowledges what he sees as Fuchs' most important contributions to contemporary theology. For example, Graham identifies one of Fuchs' major contributions to natural law theory as the good/right distinction, which avoids an elitist understanding of salvation that asserts that only those who have knowledge of and act in accord with natural law can be saved. Instead, Fuchs asserts that it is the agent's intention to do good (which arises from and reveals one's fundamental option) that is soteriologically significant. Moreover, Fuchs' emphasis on reason and experience leads him to assert that concrete knowledge of particular situations is necessary (although not sufficient) for determining a right course of action, and Graham asserts that this aspect of Fuchs' "post-conversion" moral theory has been a most decisive influence on contemporary moral theologians.
However, with a view to the future of moral theology, Graham points out that Fuchs has left some questions unanswered. What is the relationship between the fundamental option and one's intention to do good, on the one hand, and their categorical realization on the other? Also, Graham contends, Fuchs' anthropology is incomplete and not adequate for a fully developed moral theology because it does not articulate the objective goods that are necessary for human flourishing or discuss how these goods are interrelated. In order to prevent Fuchs' understanding of recta ratio from disintegrating into moral relativism, the role of objective goods needs to be taken into account.
Perhaps Graham's most original contribution in the book is his analysis of the way Fuchs' natural law theory is able to address contemporary social and economic issues such as the environment and consumerism. Moreover, Graham succeeds admirably in accomplishing his stated purpose-he provides a systematic, critical, and comprehensive account of Fuchs' natural law theory that will be useful for contemporary theologians in their quest for a "serviceable" Catholic natural law theory.