19. Proportionalism: For and Against, edited by Christopher Kaczor. ISBN 0-87462-618-8. ©2000. Paperbound. Index. 492 pp. $40

“A revolution has taken place among those teaching and writing about ethics in the Catholic tradition. As Richard McCormick notes, a generation ago moralists debated about the morality of ’knitting as servile work, of organ-playing at non-Catholic services, of calling non-Catholic ministers for dying non-Catholics, of steady dating among adolescents, of the gravity of using rhythm without a proportionate reason’...about whether chewing gum broke the Eucharistic fast and Roman theologians who warned of the dangers of ’masked balls’ and certain dances such as the fox-trot, charleston, rumba, and boogie-woogie.

“Times have changed. Today a majority of ethicists in this same tradition question, if not deny, the existence of any moral absolute whatsoever. Unanimous agreement on Catholic teaching about abortion, euthanasia, just war, and sexuality dissolved in just a few years into a cantankerous battle among theologians and philosophers fighting not only about the resolution to this or that particularly difficult case, but also about what constitutes the very fundamentals of morality, in most cases a battle over the moral theory called ’proportionalism.’ What is proportionalism? This book offers an introductory answer to this question through a number of the ’foundational articles’ of those who first advocated this new approach to resolving conflict situations in the moral life and through some of the fundamental critiques of this revision. Among ethicists in the contemporary Catholic tradition, proportionalism is arguably the most influential and prevalent theory of making moral decisions. ’So-called proportionalists include some of the best known names in moral theology throughout the world .... My acquaintance with the literature leads me to believe that most theologians share similar perspectives,’ McCormick states. The sociological influence of proportionalism should not be underestimated.

“Although proportionalism is perhaps the most influential moral theory in Catholic circles, it might also lay claim to being among the most controversial. Though often accused by its critics of being a form of classical utilitarianism, proportionalism is more accurately described as a type of moral analysis that determines the rightness or wrongness of an act by reference to the proportion of non-moral goods and evils caused by the act.“ — From the Editor’s Introduction by Christopher Kaczor


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