The Catholic University of America


Final Examination
Rev. Daniel D’Alliessi
for the degree of
Doctor of Sacred Theology
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
3:00p.m., Caldwell Hall, Room 125
The Second vatican council’s teaching on erroneous conscience as seen through the development of “De Ordine Morali”
Director: Rev. Brian Johnstone, S.T.D.
This dissertation examines Roman Catholic teaching on erroneous conscience within the statement on the dignity of moral conscience in paragraph sixteen of the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes (GS).  The first chapter of three chapters is a study of the common teaching of the Catholic Church concerning erroneous conscience at the time of the Council.  This is accomplished by investigating the definitions of conscience, erroneous conscience, and related notions as expressed in two popular preconciliar dictionaries.  Next, focus is placed on the major works of two moral theologians who played important roles in the conciliar texts on conscience, namely, Franz Xavier Hürth, S.J. and Bernard Häring, C.Ss.R.  The first chapter aims to illustrate both that there is common teaching with regard to erroneous conscience expressed in the preconciliar moral tradition, and that this common teaching when presented with a certain vocabulary tends to pertain to one of three paradigms of moral reasoning described by Brian Johnstone, C.Ss.R.  The second chapter focuses upon the texts on erroneous conscience that were developed for the Council, starting with paragraph nine of De Ordine Morali, continuing as Schema XVII/XIII,and concluding with the approved text of paragraph sixteen of GS.  With reference to the historical circumstances leading to the genesis of each text, it is a diachronic examination which situates erroneous conscience within the larger teaching on conscience of each text and shows how the teaching compares with previous drafts.  The third chapter seeks to consolidate the findings of the preceding chapters with the aim of explicating GS 16’s teaching on erroneous conscience and its significance for Catholic moral theology today.

          There has not yet been a study of the GS 16’s teaching on erroneous conscience with reference to the drafts that preceded it, and the writings of the two influential moral theologians who each played major roles in formulating those texts.  This dissertation aims to contribute to a more refined theology of erroneous conscience through a study of the development of the conciliar text into its final form with special attention to the language and paradigmatic presuppositions used to present GS 16’s teaching.