Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 5-6-2016


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

George Worgul

Committee Member

Elizabeth Cochran

Committee Member

Gregory Olikenyi


Catholic, Doctrine, Human, Sexuality, Theology, Tradition


The most volatile area of contention in the discourse between a pure secularized world and the Church in contemporary times is located in the area of sexuality, marriage and family life. Modernist and liberal post enlightenment culture accuse the Church to be unchanging, and unreflective of modern ‘personal’ choices in the contested areas of human sexuality. Within the Church, there are voices also who call for ‘developments’ in such areas of doctrine. For over forty years, these conversation has taken on many shades of grey coming to a head with questions of discordancy and same sex unions among other pressing and related issues.

This dissertation aims to contribute to the ongoing conversation by attempting to clarify the foundational understanding of what constitutes the possibility of a development in doctrine or the lack of it. There are five chapters of this work devoted to this endeavor. In chapter one the encyclical tradition of a hundred years timeline, focused on questions of sexuality and family life are reviewed to establish a historical development in the magisterial position of the Church. Chapter two is devoted to John Paul II’s Theology of the Body which is set up as the frame work upon which this project argues for what is perhaps the current magisterial position on the topic under discussion. In chapter three, a review is undertaken to explore questions about the natural law which forms a bedrock of Catholic argument in its moral theology and for cases of personal sexual ethics. A historical analysis is employed to see how the theory itself has evolved from its ancient origins, into scholasticism, and how it has been used in political jurisprudence. More importantly to its reemergence within the last century as the new natural law theory which seeks to establish the same argument purely from a philosophical aspect and without a theistic foundation.

Four theological voices are engaged in chapter four to try and locate what broadly contemporary and wider theological contexts have to say from an anthropological, feminist, and cultural context. In chapter five, the idea of development of doctrine is reviewed. The questions of discordancy and same sex unions are used as theoretical frame work to presenting how development in doctrine has the possibility of a shift or the impossibility their off. A hypothetical idea is borrowed from liturgical theology, using the idea of ‘matter’ and ‘form’ to explain essentials of Christian doctrine (also known as dogma) which remains unchanging as defined position. And the accidental aspects of Christian doctrine which is open to re-interpretation in the light of new cultures and new questions. The entire notion of doctrine rests on ‘Christian tradition’, therefore a question of tradition, and what is being traditioned across time is explored to clarify the process necessary for proper understanding of development. In conclusion, some pastoral recommendations are made based on current papal and magisterial documents as possible means of approaching newer questions raised by a secularized and post enlightenment world.