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Posted July 15, 2004

Book: Formed in the Image of Christ: The Sacramental-Moral Theology of Bernard Haring, C.Ss.R.
Author: Kathleen A. Cahalan
Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, pp. 252

An Excerpt from Jacket:

A sacramental Christology and anthropology form the basis for Fr. Bernard Haring’s moral theology: Christ, as Word of God and High Priest, embodies the perfect expression of worship and obedience. The Christian life is an imitation of Christ’s response to God — we are called to make all responses — religion and morality — a religious response, an act of adoring worship and praise.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Theological and Moral Virtues in Haring’s Moral Theology

The Christian ideal of virtue is not man himself and human prudence or the mere balance and harmony of human life. The fount of virtue, the center and measure of virtue, the goal of virtue is the love of God. For the Christian, virtue in its most comprehensive sense is love. To be virtuous means to abandon oneself to the love of God which gives itself to us. It is the imitation of the love of Christ, the heroic renouncement of self, the outburst of love for God and neighbor.

Defining Virtue

Haring, unlike the manualists, draws upon several sources in addition to Aquinas to define virtue, especially Augustine and Max Scheler, and thereby draws the virtues into his larger theological and moral framework. In defining virtue, Haring emphasizes three main points: Christian virtue is distinct from Greek and Stoic virtue because it is ordered and unified by divine love; Christian virtue is Christocentric; and, Christian virtue requires not mere repetition of good habits, but free, conscious response to the divine word. Drawing from the common tradition that defines virtue as a power within the soul that orientates the human person to the good, Haring defines virtue as “steadfastness and facility in doing good springing from the very heart of man . . . inner equipment of the forces of the soul that is turned exclusively to the good life that cannot be misused. It transcends noble endowment and capacity. It is a permanent capacity (habitus, hexis) of the soul’s powers assuring that constancy in good action that makes a man true to himself in the multiple hazzards of decision and in the most diverse situations of life.”

Theologically speaking, the orientation to the good is an orientation that is given by God and directed to God. Haring shares the Greek understanding of virtue as the power to do good, but rejects the end and purpose of virtuous actions as self-fulfillment, harmony, and happiness. The Greeks also held prudence to be the central or highest virtue, but Haring, following Augustine and Aquinas, places love at the center of the virtues. All virtues springs from love and is oriented by love to God:
Virtue in its fullest sense is that which places the life of the soul in order, for the right order in living is consequent on the right order in loving. To love rightly is to possess perfect virtue, for the order of love is the order of charity. Only the love of God with the noble retinue of virtues animated by it can establish this order in the soul, so that it can rightly perceive the true hierarchy of all the values of love and respond to them.

Table of Contents:

Part I: Bernard Haring and Roman Catholic Moral Theology
1. Reassessing Bernard Haring’s Moral Theology
2. Moral Theology and Sacramental Practice

Part II: The Dogmatic Foundations of Haring’s Sacramental-Moral Theology
3. Word and Response: The Theological Foundation of the Religious-Moral Life
4. Sacraments as Word and Response

Part III: The Christian Moral Life and the Virtue of Religion
5. The Theological and Moral Virtues and the Virtue of Religion
6. The Interior and Exterior Acts of the Virtue of Religion

7. Bernard Haring and Contemporary Proposal in Liturgy and Ethics: Critique and Contributions