The Moral Theology of Pope John Paul II
Charles E. Curran
Georgetown University Press, $26.95, 262 pp.
Pope John Paul II’s legacy requires and deserves critically appreciative rumination for many generations to come. Charles Curran’s book is the first, and unexpectedly timely, systematic English treatment of John Paul’s moral theology. This comprehensive volume examines the pope’s use of Scripture and previous magisterial teaching, his Christology and eschatology, and his views on substantive moral matters ranging from human life issues, marriage, sex and family, to social ethics. The book focuses mainly on John Paul’s fourteen encyclicals, since these compose the late pope’s most authoritative moral teaching. Curran avoids miring himself in secondary literature on John Paul’s ethics, which contributes to the book’s accessibility, but also has the unfortunate effect of leaving some of Curran’s analyses underdeveloped and insulated from rebuttals.
Curran rightly notes that the key concern and unifying theme of John Paul’s ethics is the truth about the human person, disclosed in and by Jesus Christ. This truth is the basis of morality. John Paul stresses the person’s incomparable and unique dignity, which is grounded not in human qualities or achievements, but in God’s love, and is realized when one makes a free gift of oneself. The person is social by nature; therefore John Paul stresses the virtue of solidarity, a commitment to cultivate the common good.