By Romanus Cessario O.P.
First released in 1991, The ethical Virtues and Theological Ethicsintroduced readers to an strategy in Christian ethics that used to be now not then a lot fashionable. even supposing the second one Vatican Council had marked a departure from the legalistic code of right behavior for Catholics (known because the Catholic Reformation as “casuistry”), few Catholic theologians had but started to discover an ethics in keeping with ethical virtues instead of one in response to slim, prescriptive rules.
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Paul's teaching, "When we cry, 'Abba! ' it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom 8:15,16), and affirmed that the divine energy informs the Christian believer's every action. And though the antiPelagian tracts of St. Augustine did argue against the view that the Christian life amounts simply to a human life lived in a world generally transformed by grace, still the patristic authors did not engage in much speculation as to how one might distinguish the human and divine elements in the moral life.
The true distinction of the human person lies in the common inbred capacities proper to the species, even though each individual embodies these in different ways. Since this native potential originally exists in a pure state of indeterminacy, the same person experiences a certain poverty. As a result of this indeterminacy, the moral life involves an educative and developmental process. And the progress of virtue or the growth of vice depends upon how successfully an individual can modify these indeterminacies into qualities of excellence.
Vicious habitus produce a vicious individual; virtuous habitus, a virtuous person. < previous page page_40 next page > < previous page page_41 next page > Page 41 As Aquinas points out in the case of one who merits capital punishment, vicious habitus formation in a given individual can reach a point where something of the excellence which belongs to human nature disappears. 19 On the other hand, the potentiality ingredient in each created nature argues for the possibility of renewed moral reform.
Moral Virtues and Theological Ethics by Romanus Cessario O.P.