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Review of The Moral Dignity of Man

by Dr Pravin Thevathasan

In The Moral Dignity of Man, Fr. Bristow convincingly demonstrates the insufficiency of contemporary morality especially in dealing with contemporary moral problems. Only an ethical system that respects the natural moral law can respect the dignity of the human person.

The critical circumstances which face us today are not evaded:

"Ignorance is rife among younger generations and confusion widespread among their elders. The Christian moral ethos has been seriously undermined and very often its principles have become, at best, a matter of debate."

Nevertheless, the author succeeds in portraying Christian moral teaching in a positive light. There are generous quotations from the Papal encyclicals, especially Veritatis splendor and Evangelium vitae as well as from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The first five chapters are perhaps the most crucial in that they describe the basic principles in morality: conscience, the natural law, the dignity of the human person , etc.

These principles are dealt with clarity and respect for Catholic tradition. There is a useful history of philosophical thinking - with the nonspecialist very much in mind which reminds us of the author's own philosophical background.

Fr. Bristow succeeds in demonstrating the basic inadequacy of alternative ethical systems, especially Kantian ethics and utilitarianism. These chapters provide the reader with the basic "tools" required to analyse contemporary moral situations in the light of faith and reason.

The remaining chapters deal with family morality (the sacramentality of marriage, the contraceptive mentality, etc.) and with medical ethics (abortion, euthanasia, reproductive technology and co-operation in evil.)

This work has succeeded as "an exposition of Catholic moral doctrine with particular reference to family and medical ethics in the light of contemporary developments." It is also immensely practical.

Dr Pravin Thevathasan

This version: 31st August 2010

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