Moral Theology


Jacob W. Torbeck, M.A.

(314) 910-8892


This course is designed as an introduction to the foundational concepts of Catholic moral theology.  Throughout the course, we will seek to gain a mastery of the questions: what is moral theology?  What are its underlying precepts? How can we use these to help ourselves and others lead a moral life?  


A successful student will finish this class with an understanding of the sources and development of moral theology throughout the 2000 years of Church History, in addition to having a broad familiarity with current ways in which these sources are brought to bear on moral issues.

Furthermore, students will be able to articulate the relation of the human person to the moral-theological dimensions of the concepts of conscience, freedom, sin, grace, the virtues, and the Church.

Thirdly, the student will be able to undertake a self-guided research project into a moral-theological topic of their own choosing.

Finally, the student will be able to articulate how a convincing moral argument can be made from the theological tradition of the Church.


UNIT ONE: The Nature & History of Moral Theology

Lesson 1 (Week 1)        What is Moral Theology?

Lesson 2 (Week 2)        History of Moral Theology: Ancient - Medieval

Lesson 3 (Week 3)        History of Moral Theology: Modern and Contemporary


Lesson 4 (Week 4)        Topics: The Human Person

Lesson 5 (Week 5)        Topics: Law, Freedom, Happiness

Lesson 6 (Week 6)        Topics: Conscience

Lesson 7 (Week 7)        Topics: Moral Authority

Lesson 8 _        Topics: The Moral Act

Lesson 9 _        Topics: Sin

Lesson 10        Topics: Grace

Lesson 11        Topics: Virtues

Lesson 12        Applied Moral Theology: Virtue Ethics

Lesson 13        Applied Moral Theology: Catholic Social Teaching

Lesson 14        Applied Moral Theology: Public & Political Ethics

Lesson 15        Applied Moral Theology: Phenomenology & Ethics

Discussion Prompts: Given at end of Guided Readings / Audio Lectures.


Grading Breakdown:

Research Project - 50% (Prospectus 10%, Introduction 10%, Paper 30%)

Unit Exams - 36% (12% each)

Course Participation - 14%

Course Assignments:

Participation (14 weeks): 4 pts / week.  

Unit 1 Exam - Wk 3 (48 points)

Prospectus – Week 5 (40 points)

Introduction – Week 9 (40 points)

Unit 2 Exam - Wk 11 (48 points)

Research Paper - Wk 13 (120 points)

Unit 3 Exam - Wk 15 (48 points)

Citations in Discussion Posts

For the purposes of the Discussions in Populi, please do provide a full footnote for sources at the end of your post. You will have to type a special character (^) at the beginning and end of your numbers to make a superscript in Populi, e.g. ^1^, ^2^, etcetera. Use the special characters for superscript also in your footnote.

Example Footnote

^1^ Vincent Balaguer, Understanding the Gospels (New York, Scepter Publishers, Inc., 2005), 5, [Hereafter UG].

Also, to bold, italicize, or underline words in Populi, please refer to the “Formatting Guide” located below all discussion/comment fields in Populi.


Required textbooks: 
Morality: The Catholic View
 by Servais Pinckaers
Notre Dame: Augustine’s Press, 1997 | ISBN 978-1-58731-515-2

Other resources provided in .pdf or available online


*A number of these are available for free online

The Holy Bible (any Catholic edition)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

Summa Theologiae IaIIae q. 1-114 - Thomas Aquinas
The Sources of Christian Ethics - Servais Pinckaers
Dependant Rational Animals - Alasdair MacIntyre
After Virtue - Alasdair MacIntyre
Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith - Avery Dulles, SJ
Of the Morals of the Catholic Church - Augustine of Hippo
Sin: A History – Gary Anderson
The Ethics of Aquinas – Stephen J. Pope


(Basis of evaluation with explanation regarding the nature of the assignment and the percentage of the grade assigned to each item below). Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at


A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 D 60-69; F 59 and below


(250-word posting, 50-word response)

Weekly discussions will be open for two (2) weeks after the first day of a lesson’s availability.  Three (3) points will be awarded for the posting, and one (1) point will be rewarded for the response.  The postings and responses will not be graded per se, but instead must simply show engagement with the texts and the prompt to receive full credit.  Late responses will not be graded.  Weekly participation in these discussions makes up 14% of the final grade.  


        The major paper is graded on three categories: content, research, and writing, weighed 40% - 40% - 20% toward the whole paper grade.  Content describes the thoroughness of your thought, how well you’ve argued your case, and the relevance of what you’ve written to the overall point you’re trying to make. Research describes how well you’ve chosen sources, in quality and quantity.  Writing could also be called “expression” or “grammar,” and has to do with appropriate citation, grammar, and so on, but also clarity and appropriate style.  


(F) Failure

(D) Unsatisfactory

(C) Satisfactory

(B) Good

(A) Excellent

Absence of Understanding

Paper shows no awareness of the concepts addressed in the topic by shifting off-topic


Paper demonstrates a misunderstanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic through an inability to re-explain them

Adequate Understanding

Paper demonstrates an adequate understanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic by a re-explanation of them

Solid understanding

Paper demonstrates an understanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic and uses that understanding effectively in the examples it provides

Insightful understanding

Paper demonstrates an understanding of the basic concepts of the topic through the use of examples and by making connections to other concepts


(F) Failure

(D) Unsatisfactory

(C) Satisfactory

(B) Good

(A) Excellent

Missing Research

Paper shows no evidence of research: citation of sources missing.

Inadequate research and/or documentation

Over-reliance on few sources; poor quality of chosen sources; spotty documentation of facts in text; pattern of citation errors.

Adequate research and documentation but needs improvement

Good choice of sources but could be improved with some additions or better selection; did not always cite sources; too many citation errors.

Solid research and documentation

A number of relevant scholarly sources revealing solid research; sources appropriately referenced in paper; only a few minor citation errors.

Excellent critical research and documentation

Critically selected and relevant scholarly sources demonstrating extensive, in-depth research; sources skillfully incorporated into paper at all necessary points; all citations follow standard bibliographic format.


(F) Failure

(D) Unsatisfactory

(C) Satisfactory

(B) Good

(A) Excellent

Incomplete writing

Paper is only partially written or fails to address the topic

Writing difficult to understand, serious improvement needed

Paper touches only on the surface of the topic and proceeds to talk about something else; confusing organization or development; little elaboration of position; insufficient control of sentence structure and vocabulary; unacceptable number of errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage

Acceptable writing, but could use some sharpening of skill

Paper is an uneven response to parts of the topic; somewhat conventional treatment; satisfactory organization, but more development needed; adequate syntax and diction, but could use more vigor; overall control of grammar, mechanics, and usage, but some errors

Solid writing with something interesting to say

Paper is an adequate response to the topic; some depth and complexity in treatment; persuasive organization and development, with suitable reasons and examples; level-appropriate syntax and diction; mastery of grammar, mechanics, and usage, with hardly any error

command-level writing, making a clear impression

Paper is a thorough response to the topic; thoughtful and insightful examination of issues; compelling organization and development ; superior syntax and diction; error-free grammar, mechanics, and usage.


Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.


Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own. At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.

Students, where applicable:

        Should identify the title, author, page number/webpage address, and publication date of works when directly quoting small portions of texts, articles, interviews, or websites.

        Students should not copy more than two paragraphs from any source as a major component of papers or projects.

        Should appropriately identify the source of information when paraphrasing (restating) ideas from texts, interviews, articles, or websites.

        Should follow the Holy Apostles College & Seminary Stylesheet (available on the Online Writing Lab’s website at

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously. Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.


Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required to be in class 3 hours a week and prepare for class discussions 4.5 hours a week. Expect to devote at least 7 quality hours a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.

***FROM THE PROFESSOR: We all have things happen in our lives from time to time that are beyond our control, and for that reason, some flexibility is built into the online lesson schedule (e.g., having two weeks to complete postings on the discussion board).  Nevertheless, if you need an extension on an assignment, it is imperative that you contact Professor Torbeck as soon as you are aware.  


An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.


Professor Jacob W. Torbeck received his MA (Research) in theology from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2012.  He is currently completing a doctorate in Integrative Studies in Theology and Ethics at Loyola University Chicago.  Professor Torbeck’s studies have ranged broadly in the area of philosophical and systematic theology, focusing on issues of the self, culture, revelation, and the use of phenomenology. He has been a member of the International Association for the Study of the Philosophy of Edith Stein (the Edith Stein Circle) since 2011, and his publications and papers focus on issues of the work of Edith Stein, the intersection of mysticism and philosophy, and intersection of Christianity with visual and virtual culture.

Please Note: The instructor reserves the right to change or amend the syllabus as needed.