University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Synoptic Study-Unit 3: Moral Theology

LEVEL 04 - Years 4, 5 in Modular UG or PG Cert Course


DEPARTMENT Moral Theology

DESCRIPTION At the end of S.Th.B. course, candidates are expected to elaborate at length on the following themes. The aim of this study-unit is to examine the students’ ability at synthesis in the field of Moral Theology.

1. Moral norms and virtues are not separate standards of morality. While the virtues sustain the search for a ‘good’ life, norms in both general and Christian ethics identify the types of actions that are incompatible with this search. The quest for a meaningful life presupposes interpretative frameworks or horizons (Charles Taylor) and can only be maintained through the exercise of appropriate virtues and commitment to moral norms. These frameworks give shape and meaning to the individual’s live in moral space and provide answers to the existential questions about the purpose, conduct and direction of one’s life. They provide a challenge for self-transformation and a sense of empowerment, orientation and direction that enable the individual to judge where one stands on moral questions, such as those faced in the context of sexuality, married life and biotechnology. The married couple are called to develop a Christian self-identity through their commitment and life-style within marriage and the family under present-day conditions and in today’s cultural relativism. To escape the pitfalls of subjectivism, married couples need not only to purify their desires by grace and appropriate imagery, but also to discern in conscience the ‘constitutive goods’ embedded in their daily ‘ordinary life experiences’ and decision-making process.

2. Ethical and theological reflection on economics raises the question about the kind of self and the sort of society that is implied in economic systems. The neo-liberal economic system prevailing nowadays privileges the notion of the competitive self and promotes a market type of social relations. The ‘other’ is generally envisaged as an actual or potential rival and the social domain is construed as the domain of free exchange. The ethical challenge, as seen in the context of revelation, is to go beyond competition and exchange and acknowledge the importance of cooperation in economic activity and the value of integrating the economic aspect with the other aspects of life. Some of the fundamental questions that need to be asked from this point of view are: What kind of dispositions should be developed to sustain cooperation in a highly competitive economy? Why is an ethic of solidarity so important in a world driven by economic interests? How can the desire for transcendence shape our desire to procure for our material needs and share in economic growth? What light can the Catholic tradition on the common good shed for a fuller understanding of a truly meaningful economic progress?

3. Contemporary postmodern culture is characterised by its radical pluralism and relativism, even in moral matters, as well as by its openness to the spiritual and the religious. Very often, this is an ‘anchor less spirituality’, separated from any ‘horizon of meaning or of value’, with very little reference to the moral message of religion and its norms, or to one’s religious identity. Yet, this culture presents us with negative but also positive aspects in the way we understand religion and religious life, and in some ways is more open than modernity to the spiritual dimension of human life. In the effort to evangelise this culture, inculturation takes on a special importance.

4. Politics must go beyond tolerance and engage in the shared quest for the common good of society. This includes the promotion and defence of human rights, which, according to our understanding of the human person, includes its social aspect. The work of evangelisation necessarily includes the promotion of justice and of just structures. Yet finding the common good includes necessarily an effort at reconciling differences between persons as well as groups. ‘This is all God’s work’, for ‘he has already reconciled us to himself in Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation’. It also means joining the battle against sin and its effects on the personal, interpersonal and societal levels.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (3 Hours) Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Emmanuel Agius
Nadia Delicata
George Grima
Raymond Zammit

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.

Augustinian Institute Academic Year 2017-18

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