Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, video-conferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Leaders and aspiring leaders of Catholic organisations need to have a developed awareness of their own ethical commitments and the skills to make ethical decisions. They thus require knowledge of the fundamental theories in normative ethics and their relations to Catholic moral tradition. 

This unit draws on the history of philosophical ethics and employs examples of practical decision-making in order to enable participants to develop their own response to the fundamental ethical question, “How should I live?” Case studies drawn from the specific context of the participants’ professional experience are analysed as a means to engage the fundamental theories in normative ethics, which are essential to understanding the Catholic moral tradition. The unit also considers the implications of engaging with ethical questions in a pluralist workplace. 

This unit aims to provide participants with a grounding in philosophical ethics and an understanding of the Catholic moral tradition that will enable them to make informed, ethical decisions in the exercise of their professional roles. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe the sources and methods of moral decision-making in the Catholic tradition, noting comparisons and contrasts with the fundamental philosophical theories (GA8)

LO2 - Analyse moral issues arising in their own professional and personal contexts using scholarly language appropriate to the discipline of ethics (GA4, GA5, GA9)

LO3 - Evaluate moral issues arising in their own professional and personal contexts using the sources and methods of the fundamental normative theories and insights gained from the Catholic moral tradition (GA3, GA4)

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • The Catholic moral tradition and its relationship with normative ethics
  • The history and nature of ethics
  • The Catholic moral tradition and its distinctive sources: e.g. the relevance of human dignity in moral thinking; understanding the nature of the good; exploring the concept of the common good; and the role of ethical behavior in human fulfilment or well-being
  • Relationships between the Catholic moral tradition and contemporary secular theories regarding the moral life and ethical decision-making. In particular, the unit will examine the fundamental ethical theories including natural law theory, utilitarianism, deontological ethics, as well as virtue ethics, exploring their interaction with the Catholic moral tradition

Ethical Issues in contexts

  • Exploration and reflection on ethical issues arising in human services contexts: e.g. truth-telling and lying, confidentiality, professional relationships, loss and grief, tragedy, working with the marginalized and vulnerable
  • Case studies
  • Practical dimensions of moral decision-making in the context of a faith-based organization

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, workshops activities, case studies, class discussions and supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

This unit is offered exclusively in intensive mode in order to cater for the needs of the working professionals and managers who participate in the unit. The participants learn through formally structured and sequenced learning activities such as case studies, class discussions, and written assessment that require participants to analyse, reflect on, and critically evaluate information provided through lectures and class reading. 

The unit utilizes this strategy because it specifically offers a model of adult-learning that recognizes, supports, and respects the wealth of experience and knowledge that participants bring to this unit. This strategy aims at facilitating participants’ appropriation of unit content in relation to their own learning needs and personal growth. As a result, this strategy generates readiness for personal engagement and meaningful professional impact.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy of this unit aims to facilitate participants’ incremental and scaffolded appropriation of unit content in relation to their personal and professional experience and learning needs. The assessment tasks enable participants to synthesize and deepen their learning of philosophical ethics and the Catholic moral tradition. 

The unit utilizes two assessments, each of which scaffolds unit content with respect to participants’ professional contexts and learning needs. The first assessment provides the participant with the opportunity to develop important analytical skills through the identification and description of fundamental normative principles (previously outlined in unit content) operative in the participants’ professional context (LO1, 2, 3). 

The second assessment task both builds on participants’ appropriation of learning in the first and facilitates the participants’ focused application of learning to their professional context (e.g., in a case study) by asking participants to develop a cogent response to a significant ethical issue or challenging situation (LO1, 2, 3). Both assessments provide a strong, practical connection between unit learning outcomes and participants’ professional roles in Catholic organisations. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Short Written Task 

For example: critical précis, analysis of an issue 


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Extended Written Task 

For example: essay, annotated bibliography, review 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8,  GA9

Representative texts and references

Aquinas, T. Summa Theologiae, (eds.) B. Davies and B. Leftow, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2006. 

Baron, M.W., P. Pettit and M. Slote, Three Methods of Ethics. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 1997. 

Gula, R. Reason Informed by Faith: Foundations of Catholic Morality. Paulist Press, 1989. Hornsby-Smith, M. An Introduction to Catholic Moral Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge 

University Press, 1996. 

Kant, I. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, (eds.) A. Wood and J.B. Schneewind. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. 

Pojman, L. How Should We Live? An Introduction to Ethics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth 2005. Kline, S. The Ethical Being: A Catholic Guide to Contemporary Issues. Toronto: Novalis, 2013. Mattison, W. C. Introducing Moral Theology: True Happiness and the Virtues. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2008. 

Pinckaers, S. Morality: The Catholic View. Chicago, IL: St. Augustine’s Press, 2003. 

Rachels, J. The Right Thing to Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy. 6th Ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2012.

Rawls, J. A Theory of Justice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 

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