Germain Gabriel Grisez (born 1929) is a prominent and influential Catholic moral theologian. Grisez's lengthy masterpiece is his three-volume Way of the Lord Jesus. Grisez moves ably between the spheres of philosophy and theology, articulating a new form of natural law thinking, consonant with the teachings of the Roman Catholic magisterium.
The first volume, Christian Moral Principles, synthesizes the fundamental truths of Catholic faith with an account of the starting points of moral judgment that God causes human beings to know naturally—what St. Paul calls the law that God writes on human hearts (see Rom 2.15). The book begins with an account of free choice, conscience, moral principles, human action, and sin. It goes on to explain how integral human fulfillment will be realized in the fulfillment of all things in Christ, why everyone should follow Jesus in his redemptive work, and how the human and divine are related in each Christian’s life. It then describes the Christian virtues and shows how each Christian’s life should be shaped by prayer, by his or her personal vocation, and by participation in the sacraments. Finally, the book explains the authority of the Church’s moral teaching and deals with theological dissent from it.
Living a Christian Life, the second volume, gathers up and synthesizes what Scripture, tradition, and Church documents teach about specific moral questions. That teaching—including the norms which in recent decades have commonly been the targets of dissent—is presented accurately and explained so as to make clear its truth in the light of the Gospel and a profoundly Christian humanism. More attention is given to affirmative responsibilities than to negative ones; the diversity of personal vocations is taken into account; and the communal character of Christian life is borne in mind. Every major area of life is considered, and the treatment covers all the responsibilities common to all or most Catholic lay people (including marriage and family) and those common to clerics, religious, and the laity (including the exercise of the theological virtues).
Difficult Moral Questions, volume three, deals with the responsibilities of lay people in various specific situations and occupations. Potentially of course the subject matter is endless, so the book treats only two hundred difficult questions that are either widely asked, especially important, or usefully illustrative. Though the answers as such are not directly part of the Church’s moral teaching, they express and apply moral principles and norms taught by the Church. The first forty-two questions concern religious and family responsibilities. The next fifty concern health care, both from the point of view of caregivers and patients. Sixty questions concern the environment, property, business, work, advertising, and public relations. The final forty-eight have to do with education, civic life, and legal and political matters. Each question and answer stands on its own, so that readers can skip those in which they are not interested; but systematic study of this volume will increase the reader's ability to think through many sorts of moral issues and his or her insight into some of the constant features of several important fields of action.
Philosophically, Grisez is a harsh critic of proportionalism, also called revisionism (not to be confused with utilitarianism). The school of moral theology that he adheres to is called the Basic Goods Theory. Both BGT and proportionalism were reactions to Pope Paul VI's papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae. They both revise in different manners and degrees the method of Principle of Double Effect to determine the morality of specific actions.
He also criticizes Catholic theologians who dissent from teachings of the ordinary magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.
Along with philosopher John Finnis, who teaches at Oxford and Notre Dame, Grisez launched a new, theoretically sophisticated version of natural law theory, sometimes known as "New Natural Law" theory. The theory is adumbrated in Finnis' landmark Natural Law and Natural Rights, and developed in other works by Joseph Boyle, Robert P. George and William May.
Grisez is emeritus Professor of Christian Ethics at Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg, MD.
- The Way of the Lord Jesus Complete text of the three volumes and additional material
- Abortion: The Myths, the Realities, and the Arguments Complete text of Grisez's 1970 book
- The Making of a Moral Theologian 1996 article on Grisez's personal and professional life, including his work for Cardinal O'Boyle of the Diocese of Washington D.C., authored by Russell Shaw
- Personal Vocation: God Calls Everyone by Name ZENIT interview from 2003
- Biotechnology and Human Dignity in the Thought of Germain Grisez, by Nicholas C. Lund-Molfese, describes the necessity of the Christian virtue of hope in choosing the good of the human person in so-called "hard cases."
- Thoughts on Humanae Vitae, Then and Now on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the publication of the Papal Encyclical that reaffirmed Catholic teaching on artificial birth control.
- Photo and remarks on being awarded the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network's Paul Ramsey Award in 2005