University of Notre Dame
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The Centrality of Jesus Christ for Moral Theology: A Critical Appraisal of the Distinctively Religious-Moral Theology of Bernard H?ring

posted on 2008-08-28, 00:00 authored by Lindsey Alison Esbensen
This dissertation seeks to develop the beginnings of a Christocentric ethic that, as such, can be distinctively Christian while also speaking universally to those outside of the Christian tradition. In order to do this, the distinctively religious-moral theology of Bernard H?ring will be retrieved. H?ring's moral theology is a foundation for constructing a Roman Catholic ethic that leaves room for both the person of Jesus Christ and critical engagement with people outside of the Christian community. The imitation of Jesus Christ is central to H?ring's explication of the meaning of Christian discipleship. For H?ring, Christian moral formation and development requires ongoing conversion to the life of Jesus Christ. Häring's focus on response and responsibility, personalism, value theory, and his examination of the virtues emphasize the importance of the distinctively Christian religious convictions in the formation of the Christian moral life. The call-and-response model serves as the recurring motif throughout H?ring's work that underscores the significance of Jesus Christ for moral theology, because Jesus Christ is the invitation of God and, at the same time, the response of humanity to God's offer of grace. In order to retrieve H?ring's Christocentric ethic for contemporary moral theology, certain deficiencies in his work must be addressed, particularly the lack of social context throughout his work. The work of noted Protestant ethicist Stanley Hauerwas provides a social location as well as concreteness to the otherwise abstract and sometimes vague moral theology of H?ring. Likewise, a contemporary retrieval of H?ring's moral theology will serve as a corrective to elements of Hauerwas' Christian ethic. This project thus offers a critical analysis, re-appropriation, and development of H?ring's moral theology for contemporary ethics by maintaining his insistence on the centrality of Jesus Christ in moral theology and on the significance of engagement with those outside of the Christian community.


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Defense Date


Research Director(s)

Jean Porter


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation


  • English

Alternate Identifier



University of Notre Dame

Program Name

  • Theology (THEO)