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Theology Professors Collaborated on Just-Published Book

Moral Vision feature

David M. McCarthy, Ph.D., and Rev. James M. Donohue, CR, Ph.D. collaborated on Moral Vision: Seeing the World With Love and Justice (photo by Maranda Buckley).

Moral Vision: Seeing the World With Love and Justice is not simply another text on the topic of moral theology. The just-published book is the fruit of years of collaboration and friendship between coauthors David M. McCarthy, Ph.D., and the Rev. James M. Donohue, CR, Ph.D., both professors at Mount St. Mary's University. McCarthy is professor of theology and associate provost at the Mount. Donohue is the Mount’s Knott Professor of Theology and director of pastoral ministry education.

The book approaches moral theology in a deep, unconventional and yet practical way. McCarthy and Donohue set out to cultivate a theological vision with the aid of philosophical questions to challenge the reader to consider how one’s view of the world shapes the moral choices one makes and the person one becomes.

McCarthy and Donohue shared insights into the origin, collaboration, and intended use of the book. McCarthy recalled, “I studied the philosopher Julius Kovesi in graduate school who sparked my interested in the idea of morality as ‘form’. Philosophy often approaches the topic of morality with programs and systems of thought, but often without a real vision.” The book recognizes the need for shaping vision. “Wisdom is not always self-evident,” McCarthy said. “It takes formation.”

Both McCarthy and Donohue acknowledged the influence of the Mount core curriculum on the book. “The content of the book certainly references texts from the moral philosophy and theology classes, but also from other classes in the core,” said Donohue. “The chapter on providence drew significantly on the Encountering Christ course.”

The collaboration in organizing ideas and writing the book was a product of years of sharing time together on the Theology Department faculty. “Sometimes when you collaborate on a book, the coauthors’ personalities and differences become apparent, but in writing with Fr. Jim,” said McCarthy, “it was seamless and unified.” McCarthy and Donohue have cotaught classes which easily translated to writing collaboration. “We decided on the chapter topics, who would write which ones, and then we would give each other feedback,” Donohue said.

Donohue recalled when McCarthy first joined the Theology Department. “David was the only moral theologian we had on staff at the time. Then about 15 years ago, David asked me to teach moral theology. I said yes. Later, I thought to myself, ‘Oh my goodness, what did agree to!’” He expressed his gratitude for McCarthy’s encouragement. “David told me to apply my talents and pastoral gifts to the teaching of moral theology, to help students see the world as God sees it. David brings the best out of people.”

William C. Mattison III, associate professor of theology at University of Notre Dame, commented to Donohue that “the amount of Scripture included in the book is extraordinary.” This gives Moral Vision an additional distinction from other moral theology texts. “We want readers to see their lives as they are connected to God’s vision in the Scriptures,” Donohue said. “This requires imagination on the part of the reader; it’s very Ignatian. The reader is immersed in the narrative and people in the Scriptures. Rather than asking, ‘What does this passage mean?,’ the reader must ask questions in relationship to character and story.”

McCarthy and Donohue hope that the Mount and other universities will use the book for moral theology courses. Donohue already used Moral Vision for courses he taught in fall 2018 while in Prague with the Mount’s study-abroad students. McCarthy commented, “Each chapter is written for easy use in the class context. They are about the length of a single class reading assignment.” The book is not exclusively for use in the academic setting. Donohue serves at St. Bernadette’s Parish in Severn, Maryland. Several of his parishioners have read the book, and Donohue reported that they found it to be an “edifying reflection on the moral life.”

McCarthy dedicated the book to Donohue's religious order, the Congregation of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Donohue reflected, “I was touched by David dedicating the book to the Resurrectionists. I am so grateful for my religious community. They have given me many opportunities. It was such a blessing that David recognized this.” While the theological and academic expertise of both McCarthy and Donohue are certainly represented in Moral Vision, the book is also the fruit of their friendship. Their shared experiences and commitment to serving the Mount community as colleagues and friends adds a personal quality and credibility to Moral Vision. Donohue is looking forward to his sabbatical next year when he and McCarthy will collaborate on a book about the vision of marriage.