Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-7-2021


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

James P. Bailey

Committee Member

Maureen O'Brien

Committee Member

Elizabeth Agnew Cochran


Physicalism, Dualism, Catholic, Moral Theology, Teleology, Natural Law


One could argue the remarkable changes to the landscape of Catholic moral theology over the course of the twentieth century were unparalleled in the history of the Church. Animated by anthropological and pastoral concerns, competing schools of Catholic ethicists introduced novel interpretations of natural law that sought to do greater justice to the entirety of the human person, not merely the physical dimension that tended to be emphasized throughout the manualist era. These unique and competing perspectives that emerged in the middle of the 1900s, found in the revisionist school and the New Natural Law Theory school, shaped the topography of Catholic moral theology in unprecedented ways. Previously unknown methods of moral decision-making came to dominate works of Catholic scholars; this was accompanied by radically new conclusions reached by the dominant revisionist school.

It is these changes that are of interest to the current project. More precisely, this work seeks to reevaluate the present situation within Catholic moral theology through an anthropological lens. Both revisionist and traditionalist scholars alike explicitly operate with the intention of providing ethical systems that correspond to the holistic (i.e., nondualist) picture of the human person emphasized at the Second Vatican Council. But do these theories actually meet their nondualist anthropological standard? This work argues that they do not. It will be argued that the concern to avoid physicalist mistakes caused an overcorrection. In the revisionist school in particular, there has arisen a new dualism whereby the moral body has become irrelevant for Catholic ethical theories. The goal of this project, then, is to examine this dualism and propose modest but necessary principles required for finding a morally relevant place for the human body within Catholic moral theology. If the human body makes up an essential aspect of the human person, then this ought to be reflected in the methodological structure of Catholic ethics. By integrating the principles offered in this work into modern ethical theories, the diversity of thought reflected within Catholicism can remain while simultaneously finding a moral relevance of the human body.