Christian Moral Principles is the first book of Professor Germain Grisez’s three-volume treatise on moral theology, The Way of the Lord Jesus. As in many treatises on moral theology, especially in the Catholic intellectual tradition, this first volume is dedicated to general ethics: an explanation of the basic ideas behind Christian morality. For example, how do acts of love relate to salvation in the body of Christ? What is the role of emotions in moral choices? How does conscience as a “proximate moral norm” relate to external sources of moral knowledge like the Scriptures? What are virtues? These, among other foundational matters, are discussed in this volume.
We note that Germain Grisez is associatd with a variant of Thomist analysis: With Joseph Boyle and John Finnis, Grisez had propounded what is called the “New Natural Law Theory”, the “GFB” school of ethics or “neo-naturalism” (see some of their essays here), which attempts to recover the original ethical method of St. Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century theologian and philosopher. One of the school’s leaders, Robert P. George, is a leading Catholic jurist in the United States and one of the authors of the Manhattan Declaration, a multiconfessional statement in defense of authentic moral principles on life and family. It is, of course, only one among many schools of Thomist thought, which is only one among many currents of Catholic thought, but it is, in any case, an entirely orthodox ethical school that is faithful to the teachings of the body of Christ.
Persons who are looking for an authoritative restatement of Christian moral teaching that gives more detailed explanations for its basis than the Catechism, whether or not they agree with it, might find Christian Moral Principles useful. The academically curious, especially those who have studied the different currents of Catholic moral thought (personalist, Maritain Thomist, etc.), might like a new ethical perspective; and they might decide if the GFB school does bring back the authentic analysis of St. Thomas, or if it Kantianized Thomism with its conception of practical reasonableness, or even if did both. In any case, Christian Moral Principles may be read both for its faithful explanation of the bedrock ideas of Christian morality and its unique contribution to the ethical and spiritual thought of the Church.