The value of a festschrift is determined by the quality of the contributors and the degree to which a theme is present and developed. This book is written by the doctoral students of James Hanigan, a professor of moral theology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Hanigan's work is known for demonstrating the important relationship between the systematic faith claims of Christianity and the moral life. As Keating's first sentence of the Introduction claims, "The study of Catholic moral theology is a vital one for those who wish to understand what faith in Jesus Christ has to do with the freedom of one's own reasoned behavior." (xi)
Moral Theology consists of five parts. The first, The theology of Christian Living, includes articles by Norbert Rigali, William Spohn, and Ronal Mercier. This section provides some historical context to the contemporary approach to moral theology. Specifically, Spohn's article examines the role Christology and the New Testament should play within moral discernment. Mercier recognizes the absence of the theology of the Holy Spirit in moral theology and suggests specific contributions a pneumatology can have—especially at the level of the transformation of character.
Part Two examines the Means of Christian Living through articles by Dennis Billy, James Bretzke, and Pamela Smith. These essays are most specific to moral methodology. Human experience, the use of the Scriptures and the role of the Church and its teachings form the triad of the sources of moral theology for Catholicism. However, the means by which these sources are to be employed are debated. These three essays demonstrate the position of their respective authors who in turn demonstrate the complexity of Hanigan's work on the issue of method in moral theology. These three essays are able to stand alone better than most found in an edited work.
The third part of the book, The Work of Christian Living, is concerned with conversion from sin. Walter Conn writes on Newman, Kenneth Himes on Human Failing, and Richard Gula on Morality and Spirituality. No text on moral theology is complete without a discussion of sin and conversion. Yet these essays, each in its own way, places sin within the greater context of the grace of Christ - as Hanigan's own work does. Sin is the breaking of a person's relationship with self, community, and God. Sin can only be understood in light of these relationships.
The final two parts of the text are The Essence of Christian Living and The Service of Christian Living. David McCarthy writes an excellent piece on the role of love in fundamental moral theology. He not only attempts to define love (no easy task) but argues for a specific and effective role love can play within moral theology. Timothy Muldoon and Todd Salzman reflect on Natural Law and its possible influence upon contemporary moral theology. Finally, Lisa Sowle Cahill discusses the common good of the global society—reminding the reader that the Christian concept of neighbor goes well beyond the house next door. The salvation of the individual is depended upon the salvation of all.
James P. Hanigan is an important and influential Catholic moral theologian. A reading of the list of contributors to this book demonstrates that much of his influence has not occurred via his own writings but that of his students. Clearly he has done an excellent job training the next generation of moral theologians. This text stands as a testament of how Catholic moral theology has developed over the past three decades. It also points in the direction of where this theology may be headed. It is an important text for anyone teaching Christian moral theology to know.