Vatican II and sexual ethics: Past, present, future

Todd A. Salzman, Michael G. Lawler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


This article explores Catholic sexual ethics, past, present, and future. Part 1 investigates the shifting theological views on human sexuality that preceded Vatican ii and influenced its theological debates. Part 2 explores three methodological and anthropological shifts approved by a large majority at the council and thus promulgated as official Catholic perspectives. All three shifts have had a major influence on Catholic sexual ethics since the Council. The first is the shift from a classical perspective to a historically conscious one. The second is the shift from a sexual anthropology that sees procreation as the primary end of sexuality and marriage and the mutual love of the spouses as a secondary end, to a sexual anthropology that sees procreation and the bonding of the spouses as equal ends of marriage. The third is the shift from a focus on sexual acts to a focus "on the nature of the human [sexual] person and his acts" (Gaudium et spes, 51). The nature of the human person precedes and guides his or her acts, and "human activity must be judged insofar as it refers to the human person integrally and adequately considered." Part 3 predicts changes in Catholic doctrine on contraception and homosexuality in light of these shifts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-313
Number of pages17
JournalToronto Journal of Theology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2016


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies

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