The Ecclesial Dimension of Moral Theology between Magisterium and Sensus fidelium.

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The Ecclesial Dimension of Moral Theology between Magisterium and Sensus fidelium.  The Forthcoming  Congress of the Italian Moral Theologians at Agrigento, Sicily. Invitation to participate – bursaries for students and young researchers.   

By: Vincenzo Viva

Created in 1966, during the fervent Post-Vatican II period, the Italian Theological Association for the Study of Moral Theology (Associazione teologica italiana per lo studio della moraleATISM) has about 250 associates, comprising of lecturers and scholars in theological ethics. It is comprised not only of Italians, but also some foreign lecturers working in the Pontifical Faculties in Rome, and an increasing number of women, who have in recent years entered the field of moral theology. 

As the founding think-tank and promoters of this association there were, among others, three moral theologians who managed well to interpret the need to renew moral theology, helping it to get outside the too narrow manualistic tradition.  These were:  the Redemptorist Domenico Capone (Accademia Alfonsiana), the Dominican Dalmazio Mongillo (Angelicum) and the diocesan priest of Brescia Tullo Goffi. Other key personalities of this association were Enrico Chiavacci, who died in August 2013 at the age of 87 years, Salvatore Privitera, Giannino Piana, Luigi Lorenzetti and Francesco Compagnoni

These scholars developed an “Italian way” to moral theology, endeavouring to make Christian ethics, insofar as it is a theological discipline, more expressive of the moral evangelical message and simultaneously open to a serious dialogue with the public culture.  They are also credited for being able to open themselves up to the foreign currents of thought of the time, especially the French and the German, which enabled them to cultivate a scientific dialogue in different international circles and promote their reception in Italy. The review “Rivista di teologia morale” (founded in 1969) is an important witness of this commitment: it developed as an instrument for the reception of theological knowledge produced in other countries and, first and foremost, to promote a creative moral research in Italy.

In the wake of the seminars and workshops organized in the last decades, ATISM is now preparing for its approaching national congress. It will be the 25th one, which will take place in July 2014 in the graceful setting of the ancient city of Agrigento (Sicily) and it will have also the duty of electing the new President (currently this post is held by Sergio Bastianel).

The congress has as its theme The Ecclesial Dimension of Moral Theology between Magisterium and Sensus fidelium.  The opening session will begin with a free reflection of the Sicilian writer Andrea Camilleri, who is very famous in Italy and abroad for his best-seller novels about Inspector Montalbano; followed by the opening paper of Antonio Autiero (Münster), who will offer an historic-systematic review of the relationship between Sensus fidelium and the Magisterium from the Vatican II Council to the present. 

The first session will dwell on sketching out, on a theoretical level, the two subjects implicated:  the Sensus fidelium (by Serena Noceti, Florence) and the Moral Magisterium (by Alberto Bonandi, Milan).  The second session will focus on two more particular contributions: one is dedicated to the development of the Christian doctrine according to the vision of John Henry Newman (by Rosario La Delfa, Palermo), more pertinent to the Magisterium, and the other more applicable to the Sensus fidelium according to the perspective of J. Fuchs (by Donatella Abignente, Naples).  In the third session some theoretic perspectives will be concretized: “Magisterium and the Faithful in a reciprocal listening” (by Cataldo Zuccaro, Rome) and on the rather philosophical aspect, “A practical check of the normative affirmations” (by Carmelo Vigna, Venice).  The Congress will end with the synthetic report of Francesco Compagnoni (Rome), which will ask about the future assignments of Moral Theology concerning this delicate theme. 

The Congress is open to all those who would like to participate, and, in accordance with a good tradition of the Italian moral theologians, there will be ample space for moments of fraternal sharing. In the social program there are among others: a guided tour at night to the fascinating Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) with its Doric constructions of the ancient Greek city (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), an excursion in the house-museum of the writer Luigi Pirandello with a theatre play, and, of course, various typical dinners which will give an experience of the Sicilian hospitality with its renowned tradition of wines and foods. 

Available are also 5 bursaries which cover the enrollment, the social program, board and accommodation for Licentiate or Doctorate Students or young researchers in moral theology (travel expenses are excluded). The knowledge of the Italian language is required as well as a simple application with a Curriculum Vitae, which are to be sent by the 20th of April 2014 to

The congress of Agrigento will commence in the afternoon of the 2nd July and will end with the lunch of the 5th July.  It is advisable to use the Airport of Catania Fontanarossa, which provides a connection bus to Agrigento almost every hour (duration of the journey, 2½ Hours). The seat of the congress is Hotel della Valle (4*) and the participation fee is Euros 300,-- for single rooms and Euros 270,-- for double rooms per person. For more information and enrollment, please visit the website


Vincenzo Viva, is currently the Rector of the Pontifical Urban College “de Propaganda Fide” and teaches Moral Theology at the Accademia Alfonsiana in Rome.  


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