Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


THBS100 Introduction to the Bible ; THCT100 What Christians Believe ; THCT216/THCP218 OR THCT316 Introduction to Moral Theology


THCP300 Contemporary Issues in Theological Ethics and THCP303 Contemporary Issues in Moral Theology

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

Moral theology is the discipline which systematically considers relationship between theology and the moral life. In contemporary society, many contexts raise challenging issues for moral theology that have implications both for theological reflection, and for the moral life. These issues include theoretical and methodological issues regarding theological assumptions, moral reasoning methodology, and the interaction between theological ethics and secular, pluralist contexts. Understanding these issues and being able to constructively take a position on them using arguments from reason and the theological tradition is essential to be able to communicate effectively about moral issues in contemporary society and to help others understand what is at stake. 

This unit explores the relationship between moral theology, and personal and community responsibilities in contemporary society. It investigates the ethical and theological resources, and fundamental moral theological methodological issues relevant to contemporary social, economic, cultural, biomedical and environmental issues. A variety of perspectives and modes of moral reasoning are considered in order to facilitate a critical theological-ethical reflection on a selection of specific contemporary questions and concerns. 

The aim of this unit is to help students to acquire the knowledge and develop the understanding and skills needed for them to engage with complex moral theological concepts within the Catholic intellectual tradition and to apply them to contemporary moral issues. The development of such knowledge and skills can guide future behaviours, meet ministerial and employment needs, provide a basis for further study, and support the flourishing of students and their community. 

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 - Outline the history and theological-ethical methodological development of Catholic social and moral thought as contextual responses to particular historical issues and moral debates (GA4; GA5); 

LO2 - Identify and evaluate several moral philosophies and positions in contemporary society and explain their relationship to Christian revelation and thought in the context of debates surrounding specific contemporary issues (GA3, GA4; GA5); 

LO3 - Develop concrete material moral norms through a process of moral reasoning, which incorporates theological reflection, in relation to specific contemporary issues from the fields of social, economic, cultural, biomedical, or environmental ethics (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 


Topics will include: 

  • Theological and philosophical perspectives on personhood in relation to a selection of specific issues; 
  • Catholic social and moral teaching in relation to a selection of specific issues; 
  • Various theoretical frameworks for theological ethics in particular fields; 
  • Specific issues relating to social justice and social ethics, such as environmental ethics; work and business ethics; relations between nations; the experience of indigenous peoples and refugees; and the impact of economic policies on the poor; 
  • Specific issues relating to relationships and sexuality such as celibacy; homosexuality; marriage, divorce, and remarriage; children, regulation of fertility, and reproductive technologies; 
  • Specific issues relating to bioethical decision-making such as end of life decisions; genetics and genetic manipulation and experimentation; organ donation and organ transplants; responsibility and care in health; moral problems related to disease, infection control and resource allocation; 
  • Practical applications of moral reasoning to issues covered in the unit. 

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, tutorials, online learning, video-conferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. 

The unit is normally offered in attendance mode. Students learn through engaging in primary texts, critical analysis thereof, and being asked to formulate critical questions about the texts to be discussed in class. Scaffolded learning activities including deep reading, analytical and critical writing, and reporting and class discussion exercises support the achievement of the learning outcomes. 

Both preparation for class through reading and writing exercises and face-to-face activities enable students to acquire and assimilate knowledge of theological ethical issues and how they relate to practical moral problems in contemporary society. Students will be guided in developing advanced academic skills needed for theological study. 

THCT 308 emphasises students as active, adult learners. Students are recognised as adult learners who engage best when what they are learning is relevant to them and gives them the opportunity to be responsible for their own learning. In many ways, the student is the one who drives the learning forward, and their active participation in this unit is essential. Learning is designed to be an engaging and supportive experience, which helps students to develop critical thinking and reflection skills. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to attempt all assessment tasks and achieve an overall grade of Pass (50% or higher).  

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for students to demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome. 

Task 1 is primarily analytical and aims to develop students’ skills in deep reading of sometimes dense primary texts to thoroughly examine the richness of these texts. Built on scaffolded exercise in class and at home, it also aims to develop the skill to ask critical questions of the texts where the analysis reveals inconsistencies, unsupported premises, historical inaccuracies or interpretive biases. Such in-depth is a necessary skill both for comprehending the challenges of contemporary moral theological theory, but also of its application to contemporary issues. It addresses learning outcomes 1 and 2.  

Task 2 allows the student to apply the skills of in-depth analysis and critical thought about moral theological methodological issues to contemporary moral problems. In so doing, the practical relevance of the theoretical issues is made apparent and the student can demonstrate creative solutions to such theoretical challenges to address contemporary moral arguments.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Analysis of Theoretical Issue: Asks students to critically analyse select texts where the analysis reveals inconsistencies, unsupported premises, historical inaccuracies, or interpretive biases. 


LO1, LO2 

GA4, GA5 

Application of Theoretical Work to Specific Issues: Requires students to apply a moral theological approach to contemporary moral problems 


LO2, LO3 

GA3, GA4 

Representative texts and references

Benedict XVI, Pope. Caritas in Veritate. Encyclical Letter. Rome: Vatican Publishing House, 2009. 

Gustafson, J. M. Moral Discernment in the Christian Life: Essays in Theological Ethics. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007. 

Gascoigne, R. The Church and Secularity: Two Stories of Liberal Society. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2009. 

Justenhoven, H.-G. and W. A. Barbieri, Jr. eds. From Just War to Modern Peace Ethics. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012. 

Keenan, J. F. ed. Catholic Theological Ethics: Past, Present and Future. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2011. 

Kirchhoffer, D. Human Dignity in Contemporary Ethics. Amherst, NY: Teneo Press, 2013. 

Lysaught, M. T. and J. J. Kotva Jr. eds. On Moral Medicine: Theological Perspectives in Medical Ethics. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012. 

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing, 2005. 

Salzman, T. A. and M. G. Lawler, Sexual Ethics: a Theological Introduction. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2012. 

Winright, T. ed. Green Discipleship: Catholic Theological Ethics and the Environment. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2011. 

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