Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

THEO 185 Introduction to Christian Ethics

Summer 2015 - Session II

Rome Center Summer Session II 2015                               

Theo 185:  Introduction to Christian Ethics[1]

Mon. & Wed. 8:30 – 12:40 pm


Instructor:      Aana Marie Vigen, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics;avigen@luc.edu



This section of Theo 185 (a Tier 1, core course) invites students to explore the relationship between human and ecological health as seen through ancient, medieval and contemporary Roman contexts and engaging Christian theo-ethical reflection.  It also counts toward the Bioethics Minor.  Students will learn about human and ecological health, illness, fragility, and well-being and how Christians have understood these concepts.  Together, through a combination of field trips, engaging readings, and dynamic discussions, the students and professor will grapple with contemporary ethical challenges around food, water, and disease in the context of climate change.   We will also explore health and healthcare inequalities.  And throughout, students will learn about some of the central theological themes and affirmations of the Christian tradition, emphasizing Roman Catholic thought, such as understandings of the God-human relationship, the nature of the human person, creation, human responsibility and the common good. 



Our class includes at least two (and possibly three) fieldtrips to health and ecology-related sites, including:  The Vatican Observatory (outside of Rome), a Roman Hospital/Clinic serving immigrant and low income populations, and possibly either the Tiber River/Roman Ghetto Museum or the Roman Baths. These sites address class themes pertaining to historical Christian understandings of health/healing, Christian understanding of the relationship between science and faith, and addressing current human and ecological health challenges in the context of climate change. There will be minor expenses associated with the fieldtrips. In addition to roundtrip transportation fares to and from these sites, some of the sites will require an admission fee.  For example the Ghetto Museum entrance is approximately 12 Euros and additional site visits under consideration will also entail an entrance fee. Also as an example, a standard, one-way (75 minutes) bus ticket costs 1.50 Euros (about $ 1.75).  To be safe, students should anticipate and set aside a tentative fieldtrip budget of approximately 25-35 Euros (currently approximately $28-$40).  Finally, a completely optional day trip to Assisi may be planned for a Friday or Saturday.  This trip would also entail additional transportation and entrance fee costs.



40 points          Final Essay (synthesis of reflection on readings & field trips)

35 points          Midterm Exam (In-Class)

20 points          Reading Responses (2 total; each is worth 10 points max.)

10 points          Field Trip Reflections (2 total; each is worth 5 points max.)

10 points          Participation & Preparation

10 points          Initial Reflection on Ethics & Values:  What Matters




125-118           A (94%)           117-114           A- (91%)

113-110           B+ (88%)         109-105           B (84%)           104-102           B- (82%)        

101-98             C+ (78%)        97-92               C (74%)           91-88               C- (70%)

87-84               D+ (67%)        83-75               D (60%)                                  

74-0                 F (59%)


Participation & PreparationTime is precious and we have very little of it so let’s make the most of it!  Do the assigned readings and be ready to discuss them.  Being prepared also means that you are ready to listen attentively to others and to reflect actively on the material/class discussionIf you “check out” during class, miss class, arrive late, turn in assignments late without contacting me, fall asleep in class, etc., I will assume that you are not taking the course very seriously.  Such actions will negatively affect the participation grade.  You are expected to attend every class on time (except in the case of an excused absence). 


I value the participation not only of those who “talk a lot,” but of those who demonstrate that they are thoughtfully engaging the course materials—the more consistency here, the higher the participation grade.  Merely giving opinions/comments without this engagement—is not very helpful.  This engagement can be done by disagreeing with, building on, or pointing out a specific point from the readings and commenting OR by asking a question.  Your participation grade may also be assessed by your performance on any unscheduled quizzes or in-class scribbles.  Our class conversations, quizzes, and scribbles will generally focus on the required readings assigned for the particular day. 


My Working Definition of Ethics & Values:  What Matters”:  This assignment is meant to help you reflect on what ultimately matters to you.  If you were to define ethics for a friend or family member, what would you say?  How would you describe the ethics or values by which you try to live?  How do you look at life/the world and your place in it?   If you wish, you may briefly mention what you want to do with your life vocationally, but that is not to be the focus of the piece. You will receive the full points possible as long as:  you complete it on time, you take it seriously, you write clearly, and you reflect honestly.  Write NO MORE than 1-2 pages! Bring this assignment to class with you on the first day.


Reading Responses: On 2 days noted below, compose 2 page response to the readings. The objective of this assignment is to show in a concise manner that you read the assignment, understood it, and reflected upon it.  If you misunderstood the main point of the reading, or if the response shows no solid engagement with the readings, you will receive 0-5 points; 6-7 points indicates borderline; 8 points means very good engagement & 9-10 points means excellent engagement. 


*A general guide:  In 2 paragraphs (using your own words!), articulate a central point or two of the readings.  Then, explain your response to the reading(s):  What did you learn? What interested you? What is your reaction? With what did you particularly agree/disagree?  You may type these directly into Sakai.


Midterm Exam & Final Essay:  The test may consist of definitions, fill in the blanks, short answers and/or essay questions based on the required readings. Some questions may be drawn from those developed by you in a scribble assignment or in a group conversation about the readings. The final paper (3-5 pages, double spaced/typed) will integrate attention to course readings and to the field trips.


Extra Credit:  I may offer a couple of optional readings.  I will post them on Sakai or email you web links. You may write up a one page (typed/double spaced) reading response to any ONE of these readings for a max. 2 points extra credit.  



It is your responsibility to ensure that your work is submitted on time. Use Word (doc or docx) when you upload attachments.  For the reading responses, you may simply type them directly in the dialogue box in Sakai.  Upload/type in assignments to Sakai BY the start time of the class session for which they are due.  If you are having computer problems, bring a hard copy with you to class.


Deadlines: Out of fairness to your classmates, all assignments turned in late will be docked ½ point per day.  Don’t cut or come late to class in order to finish work—it will be counted late anyway! 


Exceptions:  There can be exceptions to the deadline policy, in cases where fairness requires that lateness be excused.  If you believe that such an exception should be made in your case, initiate a consideration of this matter with me in a timely fashion, before the due date of the assignment, if possible.  In short, be proactive!


Academic Integrity:  All the University policies regarding various forms of academic dishonesty, such as plagiarism (using/paraphrasing/downloading/cutting and pasting material that is not your own without acknowledging it), selling or buying papers, cheating on exams etc., stated in the current Undergraduate Studies Catalog are in effect in this class.http://www.luc.edu/academics/catalog/undergrad/reg_academicintegrity.shtml


Students with Disabilities: Students with special needs who are entitled to accommodations should inform me of that fact as soon as possible.  Any student who requires accommodation in class (for essays, exams, or in-class projects) must go through the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSWD) office; otherwise, without a note from that office, I am not able to provide special accommodations to any student: http://www.luc.edu/sswd/index.shtml


Mechanical Mistakes: Incomplete sentences and gross errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization and grammar will be noted.  Overly sloppy writing may affect your grade on the reading responses. Please inclusive language when referring to human beings. 


Citation of Sources:  There should not be a need for you to use a large number of direct quotations from readings or other research.  However, you should always attribute ideas to their source. So, always refer explicitly to both the title and author of any assigned reading(s) to which you are responding.  If you cite outside sources (not assigned readings), use footnotes to give the necessary information.  Put book titles (and all foreign words) in italics. Put the titles of articles and church documents in quotation marks.  If you are referring to information found on the web, you need to cite the author’s name and the title of the article or news story (if there is one) in addition to giving the full website address. 



Learning happens best when all class participants collaborate together.  All of us (including me!) can learn a lot from class.  So, it is crucial that each of us does our very best to respect everyone else in the class and to take the work of learning seriously. Listen attentively in class. Napping, passing notes, rolling one’s eyes, etc. will not be tolerated.  It is disrespectful and silencing.  Cell phones and other hand-held devices are NOT welcome.   Laptops may NOT be used in class unless special permission is given.


I ask a lot of you and I will work just as hard.  It is my responsibility to do all I can do to assist you in doing your best.  Together we will craft mutual course expectations that will outline the ways in which we are all accountable to one another.  I welcome and encourage you to meet with me during the session.  Check in with me on an assignment, if you need help or have a concern, or if you want to discuss some aspect of class. 


Tips for Success:  Above, get excited to dive in the course materials and field trips!  2nd, Stay Organized!  Keep all of your notes, assignments, and handouts together and in order. Bring to class the book(s) and/or readings for the day.  If you don’t print out the Sakai articles, take notes on them and bring these to class. 


IF YOU MISS CLASS:  You are responsible for picking up anything distributed during any classes you miss. Get class notes from a classmate.  If a personal situation, family crisis, or illness interrupts your ability to attend and/or prepare for class, you need to contact me in a timely fashion and we will discuss the possibility of taking an “Incomplete” for the course.  Be proactive!  What counts as an excused absence:  1. An illness for which you have a doctor’s note or documentation from a clinic.  2. A serious illness/emergency or death in the family.



Many of the readings are on Sakai.  There is one required book:  Jung & Jung, Eds., Moral Issues & Christian Responses, 8th Edition. (Fortress: 2013)


I also make optional a couple of chapters from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Ethics by David Ingram and Jennifer Parks.  Those Selections are on Sakai so you do not have to purchase the entire book.  



ALL required readings are in Moral Issues & Christian Responses (MICR) or are on Sakai


Note:  Minor adjustments may be made to course readings and/or field trips, depending on logistics. 



M 6/29            3 Topics for the Day

Introductions & Overview of Key Sources, Terms & Steps in Christian Ethics

What’s Distinctive about Christian Ethics?  A Christian Moral Vision

Contrast with a Predominant Economic Vision

Read:              Handouts on Moral Deliberation Steps & Terms (Sakai); ix-xii & 33-38 in Doing Right & Being Good (Sakai); “A Christian Vision of Life” (Gathje, Sakai); 1-11 & 68-72 (Jethani) in MICR; & Sandel, “What Isn’t For Sale? Online: 


Due/Bring to Class:  My Working Definition of Ethics & Values:  What Matters” –We’ll Discuss!


W 7/1              3 Topics for the Day

Sources in Christian Ethics:  Scripture, Tradition, Reason & Experience

Avoiding 4 traps in Ethical Reflection

Early Christian Understandings of the Moral Self, Health, & Healing

Read:              15-25 & & 33-36 in MICR (Intro, Brueggeman, Tribble, Hogue); “Conclusion” by Vigen; brief selections from Early Christians on Health/Healing, 2 different takes on the Moral Self from Luther & Aquinas (all on Sakai)

Due:                Reading Response:  In dialogue with the readings, does religion have a place in 21st century ethics?  What do see as both a possible contribution and as a possible concern?  In all, what sources do you prioritize in the doing of ethics?


M 7/6              FIELD TRIP to the Roman Ghetto and Tiber River OR to the Roman Baths

W 7/8              3 Moral Theories in Christian Thought:  Virtue Ethics, Natural Law, & Liberation Ethics

Read:              Selections from Glittering Vices, Gathered for the Journey & Gutierrez and Paul Farmer (Sakai)

Due:                Reading Response:  In dialogue with the readings, what moral theory/theories most attract and/or repel you?  Why? What do you see as central strengths and/or weaknesses of 2 of the theories in doing ethics?

M 7/13            Why Social Analysis is need in Christian Ethics (1st hour):  Global Health Realities

Midterm Exam on Sources & Moral Theories in Christian Ethics

Read:              Short Selections from World Health Organization & Paul Farmer (online & on Sakai)


W 7/15 Field Trip to the Vatican Observatory



M 7/20                        Human & Ecological Health at Stake:  The Moral Imperative of Climate Change

Read:              Ecological Encyclical & McKibben (on Sakai): 253-255; 260-263; 272-282 in MICR

Due:                Response to Field Trips


W 7/22            Last Class:  Field Trip to a Roman Hospital or Clinic


F 7/24              Final Paper due:  Synthesis of Readings and Field Trips

[1]Theo 185 is part of the LUC Core Curriculum. It also counts toward the Bioethics Minor.

[2]*Complete reading/writing tasks BEFORE/BY the start of class for which they are assigned.