The Catholic University of America

Tobias J. Nathe Disertation

Final Examination of Tobias J. Nathe

For the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Friday, April 20, 2012 11:00 a.m., Caldwell Room 414


Rev. Brian V. Johnstone, C.SS.R., S.T.D.


The Form Love Takes in the World: On Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Contribution to Ethics

While no one would claim Father Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-88) to have been a moral theologian, least of all him, his work nevertheless provides a foundation for ethical discernment which distinguishes its adherents. Specifically, Balthasar’s faith-first methodology and his understanding of love as both co-extensive with being and possessing the inner form of a vow, adds new depth of insight to the gift character of things and their proper appropriation, not to mention one’s own mission in life. Being and action, for Balthasar, are to be reinterpreted in terms of the self-abandoning love of Jesus Christ, which finally indicates how everything reaches its fulfillment in the cosmic liturgy through the paradoxical surrender of its own prerogatives. In this way Balthasar’s perspective serves to bridge human action with the worship of the triune God.   

After disclosing a number of tenets, such as the nuptiality and fruitfulness of being, which orient such a perspective on being and action in Part One of this dissertation, Part Two is meant to help the reader discern how he or she might apply Balthasar’s “fully Catholic” understanding when approaching various ethical questions. It does this by investigating Balthasar’s own, albeit limited, moral treatises, David L. Schindler’s “Balthasarian” work in three intra-Catholic moral debates, and my own analysis of Balthasar’s thought relative to a Catholic form of life and three models of the relation between theoretical and practical reason. The reader comes to learn how Balthasar’s understanding of the form love takes in the world contributes to ethics without being an ethics in the conventional sense.