Benedict XVI and Moral Theology

fr. earlPope Emeritus Benedict XVI has left the Church an extensive legacy of moral teachings, not only as pope, but also as the Prefect of the CDF under Pope John Paul II. Fr. Earl Fernandes, Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at the Athenaeum of Ohio, spoke last night to the Student Theological Forum at the Cincinnati seminary on the three significant areas of this focus. Below is the transcript of this ever relevant talk.

The following is a rough summary of the article of Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, “Il Magistero del Pontefice emerito Benedetto XVI nell’ambito della Bioetica,” which appeared in Medicina e Morale 2013/2: 259-274.

Before his election as the Bishop of Rome, Joseph Ratzinger was the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for more than twenty years, coordinating the work for the elaboration of official documents which bear his name and that of John Paul II and which also bear his theological and doctrinal reflection. In considering Benedict XVI’s contribution to moral theology, we restrict ourselves to three major areas: 1) Beginning of Life Issues; 2) Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality; and, 3) The Ethics of Social Development and Human Ecology.

Beginning of Life

In 1978, Louis Brown, the first “test-tube” baby, was born. In the 1980s, in the US and in the West, various ethics committees were formed (ex- Warnock Commission in the UK and CHABI in the European Community, of which the Holy See was an extraordinary Observer in 1982-1983). The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith began its own study and formed a group of specialists to examine bioethical questions culminating in an official document – the Instruction Donum vitae– the Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and the Dignity of Procreation in February 1987. The document contained the signatures of Joseph Ratzinger and Alberto Bovone and was approved by John Paul II. The document covers a wide range of premises, subjects and judgments that were already present in the encyclical Humanae vitae of Paul VI.

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