Original Research - Special Collection: Morality in history

The Roman Catholic conceptualisation of morality: Its essence and distinctive character

Stephen J. Pope
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 45, No 1 | a2970 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v45i1.2970 | © 2024 Stephen J. Pope | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 August 2023 | Published: 23 January 2024

About the author(s)

Stephen J. Pope, Faculty of Theology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, United States; and Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Over the course of its history Catholicism has generated several different conceptions of morality. The early medieval church conceived morality primarily in terms of caritas and other virtues, the modern church generated a legalistic conception of morality, and the post-Vatican II church proposes a relational conception of morality.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The essence of morality concerns natural virtues and natural moral law, which all people of goodwill can grasp, appreciate, and act upon. The distinctive conception of morality is identified with our ultimate end, the beatific vision, the theological virtues, and the ethics of discipleship centred on caritas.


morality; Thomas Aquinas; natural law; the ‘new law’; justice

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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