Volume 28, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2008
James F. Keenan
From Teaching Confessors to Guiding Lay People
The Development of Catholic Moral Theologians from 1900—1965
TWENTIETH-CENTURY CATHOLIC MORAL THEOLOGIANS HAVE ABANDONED their long-standing primary task of being teachers of priests who need specific interpretations of the law to hear confessions properly. By 1965 they had become guardians of the personal consciences of lay people seeking to become disciples of Christ. This shift was occasioned by a sustained debate between manualists and revisionists in which they argued about the primary locus of moral theology (whether in actions or in persons), about the locus of moral truth (whether in normative, magisterial teaching or in personal judgments of conscience), and about the objectivity of moral truth (exclusive or inclusive of the moral agent).