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Moral Theology for the Twenty-First Century: Essays in Celebration of Kevin Kelly.

MORAL THEOLOGY FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: ESSAYS IN CELEBRATION OF KEVIN KELLY. Edited by Bernard Hoose, Julie Clague, and Gerard Mannion. New York: T. & T. Clark, 2008. Pp. xvi + 301. $140.

As a public voice honoring the life and work of Kevin Kelly, this collection raises the bar on what such Festschriften can achieve. Each essay--26 by friends and colleagues of Kelly and one by the honoree himself--takes a theme characteristic of Kelly's work and mines it for continuing relevance to moral theology in the service of real people and the pastoral care of their self-expressed needs.

The collection is divided into five parts following trajectories from Kelly's work: fundamental moral theology, medical and sexual ethics, social and political ethics, ecclesiology, and the interface of moral and pastoral theology. Vatican II's call for an aggiornamento of the Church and its theology was not missed by mid-century professors of moral theology or their students; these essays build on the council's agenda of renewal, engage the tradition, and advance the conversational moral methodology pioneered by Kelly and John Mahoney--a conversational methodology of "hearing one another into speech through an inclusive model of listening and learning in the round" (4). As John Battle writes of his student experience with Kelly in the late 1960s at St. Joseph's College, Upholland, "it was often remarked that he 'left us with more questions' and 'had not given any easy clear-cut notable answers'.., those who listened to him were left with work to do themselves, having been encouraged on how to think, but not told what to think" (263). As Kelly himself admits, though not specifically addressing the question of authoritative teaching, "discovering God's will is not a matter of discovering what God has already decided we should do. Rather, discovering God's will lies in ourselves deciding what is the most loving and responsible thing for us to do" (286, internal quote from his From a Parish Base [1999]).

The essays on issues in fundamental moral theology explore the role of salvation and the influence of the Spirit in the lives and relationships of the faithful, how conscience operates in a world of so many contingencies, dialogue as a means of uncovering not only the sensus fidelium but a fundamental source of moral knowledge that rises from human experience, of error and authenticity, and of hospitality, healing, and hope. Whether investigating the precepts of the natural law, extraordinary versus ordinary care, or relational responsibility, neither historical nor contemporary moral theology ever swerves far from either medical or sexual ethics; thus, the essays of part 2 engage the tradition on topics such as the moral status of the human embryo, contraception, sexual complementarity, and homosexuality. As many now recognize the global scope of interdependency, the essays of part 3 examine the multiple layers of dependency, particularly as found in gender inequalities (exposed in the HIV/AIDS pandemic), in the balance of the natural world and environmental justice, and in recognition of the equal dignity of all persons--hetero- and homosexual--in light of the common good. Although ecclesiology may not often find a place in moral theology, the relationship between the Church and its thinking on the moral life institutionally, socially, and personally is critical; part 4 bridges the divide by wrestling with ecumenism, inclusivity, church leadership, sacramental integrity, and social justice. The final section, an appraisal of Kelly's pastoral methodology, may form an outline for a dissertation; in the meantime, a graduate seminar would find it a fitting invitation to consider a vocation in moral theology.

Some essays are more colloquial than academic, but this difference ought not to be taken negatively. The less formal essays reveal insights gained from work with Kelly, gratitude for his pastoral approach, and hope for the new directions that may be tried profitably to bring good news to God's people in need. This Festschrift not only introduces readers to Kelly's wide range of influence (at least in the English-speaking world), but it also suggests that members of the guild commit to dialogically probe the depths of the tradition, to bring more experiences to the table, and to collaborate in finding what matters most in and for the real world. With these issues in mind, the collection will be helpful in a graduate course dedicated to the principal preoccupations of moral theology since Vatican II.


Barry University, Miami Shores, Fla.
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Author:Iozzio, Mary Jo
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2009
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