Introducing Moral Theology

True Happiness and the Virtues

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"A superbly refreshing, accessible primer to Catholic moral theology that will be of obvious and immediate use to a great number of teachers and students. . . . It is easy to imagine this book being widely adopted for introductory courses."--Craig Hovey, Pro Ecclesia
As college students develop their identities and construct their worldviews, they commonly wrestle with fundamental questions such as "Why be moral?" Taking into account feedback he has received from students and colleagues, William Mattison has crafted Introducing Moral Theology, a masterful basic text on Catholic moral theology. This work provides a solid overview of classical virtue ethics (i.e., temperance, prudence, fortitude, and justice) as well as the theological virtues (i.e., faith, hope, and love). Professors and students alike will appreciate the study questions, terms and definitions, bibliographies, and case studies on timely, thorny issues such as premarital sex and euthanasia. Readers will also note that Introducing Moral Theology draws deeply on Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae. While written primarily to and from a Roman Catholic perspective, this text will appeal to a wide swathe of Christian academics and believers interested in theology and ethics.


"Those of us who regularly teach introductory courses in theological ethics know how difficult it can be to present the relevant theories and issues in an effective way. So it is very high praise indeed when I say that Mattison has written a first-rate textbook for beginners in this challenging field. Appropriating Aquinas's organizing principle of the virtues, he draws together the main strands of the Catholic moral tradition in such a way as to reveal its inner logic, and to present this in a clear, accessible, and attractive way. He wears his considerable learning lightly, and while he clearly aims to present traditional Catholic moral teachings, he does so in a way that invites thoughtful engagement and dialogue. This would be suitable in a number of undergraduate and seminary contexts, and scholars in the field will find much of value here as well."--Jean Porter, Rev. John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame

"Introducing William Mattison, hospitable teacher, imaginative lecturer, brilliant raconteur, innovative (yet traditional) moralist, and above all, fellow journeyman on the road to the Kingdom of God! With his casual style, Mattison welcomes his readers into an engaging conversation about the virtuous life, discovered not through some tired lesson plan but through everyday lived, familiar, and shared experience. As he tackles hard questions, from drinking and sex to euthanasia and war, Mattison guides us to see the full possibility of virtue ethics. This no-nonsense book is filled with wisdom, humanity, and graciousness! Get it now!"--James F. Keenan, SJ, Founders Professor of Theology, Boston College

"William Mattison's Introducing Moral Theology provides an excellent overview of the key issues concerning the Catholic approach to the moral life. He presents a clear exposition of basic Catholic principles and interprets them in light of concrete moral issues that will appeal to undergraduates. His writing is engaging as well as fair and balanced. Students in Catholic colleges and universities will benefit enormously from this fine overview."--Stephen J. Pope, professor of theological ethics, Boston College; author of Human Evolution and Christian Ethics

"The new wave in theology is virtue ethics, and Mattison rides it to new systematic heights. He lays out the role of virtue in the good life, shows how virtue relates morality to the rest of theology, then applies virtue ethics to concrete quandaries of Christian living today. Designed as an engaging classroom text, this book will also interest scholars of ethical theory."--Lisa Sowle Cahill, Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College

The Author

  1. William C. Mattison III

    William C. Mattison III

    William C. Mattison III (PhD, University of Notre Dame) is Wilsey Family Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He has edited and contributed to New Wine, New Wineskins: A Next Generation Reflects on Key Issues in Catholic Moral...

    Continue reading about William C. Mattison III


"A rich and challenging book. . . . No one has integrated the virtues with the other fundamental dimensions of Christian ethics as completely and successfully as Mattison does in Introducing Moral Theology. . . . Mattison excels in demonstrating the relevance of the virtues for the most practical aspects of our lives. . . . This book has several strengths. . . . Mattison intersperses its more theoretical portions with chapters that focus on particular test cases. . . . Doing this allows him not only to guide the reader through a variety of arguments on each of these issues, but also to illustrate the relevance of the virtues for helping us think rightly about each case. . . . Mattison recognizes that no account of the moral life that is centered on happiness can overlook the role of passions, emotions and desires. . . . Introducing Moral Theology is an impressive and important achievement. Written predominantly from the Catholic moral tradition, it reaches beyond that tradition by showing how the Christian moral life, as an ongoing initiation into authentic happiness, is inseparable from a life of discipleship."--Paul J. Wadell, Christian Century

"This is a comprehensive response to the question: 'Why be moral?' Among many undergraduates today, the question could not be more pressing and so the utility of a book like this one is readily apparent. It ought to find a wide use in classrooms that teach ethics from a religious, and not merely a philosophical, perspective. Mattison's conversational tone is one of the assets to reading about the moral life, which is one that is difficult for most college students to warm to. . . . It reads as a kindly uncle imparting wisdom in the form of principles--tools for the journey, if you will--that can equip a young person to make good choices. . . . Mattison's thoroughness is displayed by an expert familiarity with the ancient, medieval, and modern sources. . . . The chapters are condensed enough so that students will be able to digest material with relative consistency. The chapters each have a group of addenda that will assist students with some of the technical jargon associated with the study of ethics and the moral theology of the virtues. These include a conclusion, study questions, 'terms to know,' questions for further reflection, and suggestions for further reading. A series of 'test cases' is supplied, as is a relevant bibliography of items that comprise some of the most central work in moral thought today."--Patrick J. Hayes, Catholic Library World

"Mattison's work makes a fresh contribution to public education. . . . All eighteen chapters in this book are packed with intricate details; careful reading will unlock the rich treasure trove of old ideas expressed in modern language. . . . Mattison's book gives a good orientation to Christian moral theology. Therefore everyone can benefit from reading and reflecting on it."--Daniel Jeyaraj, Theological Book Review

"A noteworthy achievement. The author exhibits a broad and nuanced understanding of the wide variety of theological topics addressed. In addition, the book is elegantly organized. The author says clearly what will be addressed in each chapter and section, making it easy to follow. . . . The writing style is accessible to the reader. The author clearly imagines talking to his intended audience. . . . [The book] could provide an alternative to the absence of principles or evaded commitments that so often challenge today's students."--Timothy E. O'Connell, Horizons

"Teachers of undergraduates know the value of a high-quality introductory textbook. William Mattison has written a superbly refreshing, accessible primer to Catholic moral theology that will be of obvious and immediate use to a great number of teachers and students. . . . It makes all of the right first impressions--generous yet rigorous, relevant and timely yet anchored in the riches of the Christian past. . . . The book is particularly well-suited to classroom use. Each chapter concludes with questions for discussion and reflection, terms to know, and suggestions for further reading. Mattison is a gifted communicator with an eye for examples that undergraduates can relate to. . . . It is easy to imagine this book being widely adopted for introductory courses. Its style is deceptively effortless since it just as clearly displays a great deal of sophistication, balance, pastoral sensitivity, and good sense. . . . . Mattison strives to be hospitable and conversational with the real lives of his readers. . . . Nevertheless, Mattison makes it easy for the eager student wishing to continue to pursue such debates beyond this book to know where to turn. It is a textbook that deserves to see wide use."--Craig Hovey, Pro Ecclesia