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A Church That Can and Cannot Change


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About the Author

John T. Noonan, Jr., is a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, California. He is a historian of ideas, distinguished lecturer, and author of thirteen books.


"Noonan aims to demonstrate that Catholic moral theology can and does develop, often enough in response to forces-including moral forces-external to the Church. That he does so masterful a job has obvious implications for on-going Catholic debates over birth control and a great deal else. It is readily accessible to a general audience, thanks to his admirably lucid prose." -The Jurist

"John T. Noonan's writing is tight, the examples are striking, the one-liners abundant, and the treasure-trove of amazing (and egregious) ecclesial statements is eye-popping. ...excellent book...." -Catholic Library World

"[a] magisterial work.... This book should be high on the list of must reads for anyone interested in Catholic moral theology but also for any educated Catholic who wants to understand how you can teach one thing in the past and another thing today."-Theology Today
". . . immensely valuable and scrupulously researched. . . . [a] trenchant historical account." -Commonweal

"...Noonan has written a stimulating book dealing with questions of great importance."-First Things

"...vital reading for those involved in reforming the church."-Conscience

"Noonan's thesis is that while the Catholic Church cannot change in holding to the deposit of faith, its moral doctrine has changed with regard to slavery, usury, and religious liberty, and it is in process of changing with regard to the dissolving of non-sacramental marriages. . . This is a thoughtful and scholarly work, which raises questions for both moral and systematic theologians." -The Catholic Historical Review

". . . well-written and well-documented . . . ." -America

"Highly recommended." -Choice

"John T. Noonan, Jr., . . . applies the concept of the development of doctrine to morals and shows how the moral teaching of the church can and cannot change." -Theology Digest
"What Noonan brings . . . to this invaluable book is unblinking honesty about the record of the church to which he is deeply devoted. That is a standard for anyone wishing to pursue the conversation."-The New York Times Book Review

" . . . a scholarly and innovative modern approach to the teachings of Catholic fundamentals within the context of the modern church." - The Midwest Book Review

"Noonan offers an intrepid analysis of unambiguous development in Catholic moral teaching that should cause the Church to celebrate rather than diminish the dynamic process of development . . . This enlightening, challenging, and hopeful book should contribute substantively to an appreciation of the constructive role of the development of moral doctrine in Catholic theology." -The Heythrop Journal

"Having been an office neighbor of Judge John Noonan at the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress while this book was developing, I am delighted to see it in print. It is a careful and yet bold application of the concept of 'development of doctrine' to morals rather than to dogma, and a brilliant taxonomy of Christian attitudes toward slavery. The result of Judge Noonan's research is a deeper, if more complex, understanding of just what the continuity of the Orthodox-Catholic tradition implies. I look forward to discussing it with the author at greater length, and I cannot imagine any serious person who would not benefit from reading it." -Jaroslav Pelikan, Yale University

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