Appeared in Spring/Summer 1996, Vol. XXII, No. 1, 2

John T. Noonan, Jr., the able philosopher, respected jurist, and prominent lay Catholic intellectual, could not have picked a better time-or a worse time-to bring up crucial questions about the development of Catholic moral doctrine. In an article entitled, “Development in Moral Doctrine,”1 Noonan considers the problems posed for Catholic teaching authority by the changes which have occurred in Catholic moral doctrine in the course of the centuries.

It is an appropriate time to consider Catholic moral doctrine because the primary heresies the Church faces today are heresies centered upon issues of moral doctrine. Although virtually every heresy can be found, at least in miniature, in every age, certain ages are marked by prominent heresies that deal with particular themes. In the early centuries, Christological heresies predominated. At the time of the Protestant Reformation, ecclesiological, soteriological, and sacramentological heresies held sway. Today, the scene of battle has moved to questions of moral theology, so that the dominant heresies of our age are moral heresies.

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