Keenan (Weston Sch. of Theology) notes that, for the greater part of its history, Roman Catholic moral theology texts have been written to help priests in the sacrament of Penance. Moral theology has thus been a theology of sin and sinfulness and has had little to say about the array of factors that have formed the moral lives of the members of our churches and the heroes of the faith. Keenan proposes to examine some of these factors by considering four key "texts" that have served as the sources for developing our moral wisdom: the person of Jesus in the New Testament, the Ten Commandments, the corporal works of mercy, and the "cardinal virtues" of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. From these texts, he teases out lessons on love, conscience, sin, and suffering, ultimately producing a readable, uncommonly good book that should be required reading for anyone preparing for or engaged in pastoral ministry. Highly recommended for academic and church libraries, as well as for public libraries with a good religion circulation.-David I. Fulton, Coll. of St. Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Praise for the first edition:
[Keenan's books] read like very good sermons or college lectures by a priest both learned and engaged in the world. By making the Catholic tradition come alive, the books invite moral reflection and struggle.
Moral wisdom is hard to come by because it is so complex. Most of us strive for moral wisdom throughout our lives but never totally attain it. In this book, James F. Keenan skillfully brings together deep theological knowledge, historical lessons, acute pastoral sensitivity, broad spiritual experiences, and true prudence in proposing moral wisdom for Christian life and spirituality today.
This is a lovely book! Keenan probes his own experiences of struggle, suffering, and love, interweaving them with biblical reflection and theological analysis. He looks fault and sorrow squarely in the face, yet sustains buoyant notes of hope and commitment. The content of this book is an exercise in the virtue of its title.
Father James Keenan is one of those rare contemporary theologians who compellingly weaves together rich pastoral experience and masterful intellectual inquiry. To read him is to hear not only the considered wisdom of Catholic moral teaching, but to have the privilege of hearing a learned man struggling to work out his own moral practices. In this book, lay readers and scholars alike can see how Catholic moral tradition informs a life of discernment, love, and everyday courage.
James Keenan puts 'flesh and bones' on the abstractions of moral theory and demonstrates from his own personal experience how the Christian moral life is a pilgrimage of faith, hope, and love. Keenan's book will be used widely in college classrooms and seminaries alike. His clarity, honesty, and passion ought to be emulated by every moral theologian.
Father Jim Keenan is one of today's foremost moral theologians. Moral Wisdom reflects his distinctive combination of intellectual mastery of the tradition and sensitivity to today's concerns. He places the older, "sin-oriented" approach to moral theology within its proper context in a sapiential tradition of moral reflection, in a way that is at one and the same time intellectually satisfying and pastorally accessible. While this book is intended predominantly for a general audience, it is also rich in insights for professionals in the field. I recommend it highly and look forward to its publication.
Imagine a book that is at once a source of profound wisdom, a systematic presentation of a moral and ethical tradition, and a 'page-turner!' This is what James Keenan's Moral Wisdom turns out to be. There is nothing facile about this volume, nothing superficial, nothing manipulative. It weaves together autobiography, the stories of others, interpretation of biblical and theological texts, and a deep understanding of what morality is and what the Roman Catholic tradition of moral theology has been and can be when it is at its best. Few will come away from reading this book without imaginative new hope, salutary appreciation for 'hard sayings,' new insight into the meaning of divine mercy, and perhaps experiences of both laughter and the 'gift of tears.' Thought-provoking and informative, opening questions and not shutting them down: here is a significant contribution to ongoing explorations of the moral life.
Keenan's book is sharp, offering constructively critical analyses of fundamental moral theological ideas with a profound respect for the Catholic tradition. Keenan uses his own personal stories to recast moral theological ideas in ways that resonate deeply with our lives. Students and colleagues alike identify well with his struggles with moral issues. The chapters on love, sin, suffering, and mercy are extraordinary.
James Keenan’s gifts as story-teller and teacher have long awakened readers to the imagination’s power to aid in their search for wisdom. My students have found his case quite compelling. This second edition of Moral Wisdom demonstrates his ability to synthesize an account of the historical quest for the good with a clear eye to the contemporary reader’s journey. Keenan gets to the heart of debates about conscience in light of the person’s search for the good and the right during this conflictive twenty-first century. He adds an incisive treatment of social sin that draws on films and an account of our history of racism in an effort to demonstrate society’s power to blind us to evil. His chapter on 'Jesus in the New Testament' has been totally revised so that the reader moves directly into the scriptural texts themselves rather than through the interpretive frameworks of diverse scholars. Keenan’s memorable chapter on suffering is sharper now in that he carefully integrates personal and biographical narratives with accounts from theology and the social sciences. This excellent edition should captivate its readers.
This third edition of Keenan's work demonstrates ever more clearly that it is not a book about moral wisdom but a book of moral wisdom. With an appealing blend of personal stories, Catholic moral theology, and insightful interpretation of human experience, Keenan's volume continues to be a welcome resource for teachers and students.
Keenan is a master at conveying the dynamism of Catholic moral thought, weaving together theological scholarship with autobiography and the arts. He is without peer in his ability to teach through story, revealing the tradition to be nimble, nuanced, and capable of disclosing readers’ own inner lives. Keenan’s magnificence as a teacher shines brightly through the pages of this third edition, and students of the text will reap profound benefits to both their intellect and their humanity.