Servais Pinckaers is well known by students of Catholic moral theology, & should be known by anyone seeking to better understand the Christian life & how to grow closer to God. The following are all worthy of close reading & rereading:
1. The Sources of Christian Ethics. This is his best-known work, & for good reason. Nearly 500 pages long, this is something of a classic on the history of Christian moral reflection & the need for a return to the approach taken by writers like St. Augustine & St. Thomas, an approach that begins with the longing for happiness or beatitude that marks each human heart. Closely argued, persuasive, & balanced, its reputation is well-deserved. You’ll learn a lot about a lot by reading this carefully.
2. Morality: The Catholic View. A handy précis of the above book. Provides a brief overview of the history of moral reflection, along with Pinckaers’ attempt to recall us to a genuine understanding of happiness as the starting point for that reflection. A good place to start if you want to see what he is up to.
3. The Pursuit of Happiness—God’s Way: Living the Beatitudes. This focuses on the Sermon on the Mount as the “charter of the Christian life” & the Beatitudes as the promises & challenges that draw us into the happiness that God desires for us. Some great stuff on the virtues, as well. This is material Pinckaers covers in varying lengths in his other works, though here it is presented in longer form. The book is a good devotional read, in the best sense of the word. Which means it is neither sappy nor sentimental, but learned, bracing, & directed at the heart, all at the same time.
4. The Pinckaers Reader: Renewing Moral Theology. A collection of 20 of his essays.
Pinckaers is a rigorous scholar, which will lead some to avoid his work, especially the longer book. No spiritual bromides here. He is also deeply interested in helping believers grow in faith, hope, & love, & writes accordingly, which will lead some to avoid all but the longer work. That’s too bad, as both his scholarly & popular works are well-informed, articulate works written in the service of Christ & his Church. He is what Fr. Richard John Neuhaus would have called an ecclesial theologian, which is a high compliment indeed.
In all these works Pinckaers carefully distinguishes between the different understandings of happiness, rejecting the selfish versions & endorsing the broader, biblical one. Along the way he treats us to helpful discussions of pleasure & joy, the origins & development of “moralities of obligation,” the wisdom of the biblical teaching on blessedness, & how any authentically Christian morality will be rooted in God’s transforming work through the Holy Spirit. A biblically-rooted & historically-informed moral theology that is inspiring & edifying: what more could the reader ask for, especially in this day of advocacy-scholarship often intended to challenge & subvert Church teaching?Share on Facebook