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11 J. L. & Religion 203 (1994-1995)


A discussion of works on moral theology and canon law by Judge John T. Noonan Jr. (1926-2017) from the 1950s to the 1980s, which deal with the subjects of usury, contraception, marriage, slavery, bribery and religious liberty. Its focus is on Noonan’s normative commitments regarding epistemology, theological anthropology and the relation of love, justice and law. The article argues that Noonan was influenced by three core ideas, an epistemological view that moral knowledge is sought after and articulated in particular times and places, an anthropological view that argues the study of ethics, law, and theology must sensitively discern the core purposes of traditional doctrine and creatively apply it to a new situation, and a Catholic “personal communitarianism” that views the common good as something that benefits both society as a whole and individuals. It concludes that Noonan’s commitments provide a useful model for Catholic theology as it faces the challenges of the Post-Vatican II Church, allowing theologians to draw from insight from Catholic tradition while modernizing Church doctrine and giving them a legal mode of reasoning that is circumscribed but not undone by existing doctrine.


Reprinted with permission of Journal of Law and Religion.

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