Congratulations to Barrett Turner, Ph.D.

May 24th, 2015 | By | Category: Blog Posts

The contributors at Called To Communion gratefully rejoice with one of our members on the recent occasion of his academic accomplishment.

On April 29, 2015 Barrett Turner successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, “Dignitatis humanae and the Development of Moral Doctrine: Assessing Change in Catholic Social Teaching on Religious Liberty”, thus earning his Ph.D. Congratulations, Dr. Turner!

Graduation Photo BT
Beth and Barrett Turner with Barrett’s Ph.D. Director, Dr. Joseph Capizzi

Barrett completed the Ph.D. program in Moral Theology & Ethics in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America. The program consisted of two years of doctoral coursework, a year for comprehensive exams, and two years of writing the dissertation. The coursework and comprehensive exams were in the moral theologies of St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Francisco de Vitoria; standard topics in Catholic moral theology such as human action, conscience, virtue, and natural law; and more specialized topics such as biomedical ethics, Catholic political theology, and the use of Scripture as a source for moral theology. Barrett also taught undergraduates during this time.

He has been hired by the College of Liberal Arts at Mount St. Mary’s University, Emmitsburg, MD as an assistant professor of theology, to begin this Fall.

The following is an abstract of Barrett’s dissertation:

Title: “Dignitatis humanae and the Development of Moral Doctrine: Assessing Change in Catholic Social Teaching on Religious Liberty”

Director: Joseph E. Capizzi, Ph.D.

Abstract: Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis humanae (DH), poses the problem of development in Catholic moral and social doctrine. This problem is threefold, consisting in properly understanding the meaning of pre-conciliar magisterial teaching on religious liberty, the meaning of DH itself, and the Declaration’s implications for how social doctrine develops. A survey of recent scholarship reveals that scholars attend to the first two elements in contradictory ways, and that their accounts of doctrinal development are vague.

The dissertation then proceeds to the threefold problematic. Chapter two outlines general parameters of doctrinal development. The third chapter gives an interpretation of the pre-conciliar teaching from Pius IX to John XXIII. To better determine the meaning of DH, the fourth chapter examines the Declaration’s drafts and the drafting committee’s accompanying explanatory speeches (relationes) contained in the Acta synodalia sacrosancti concilii oecumenici Vaticani secundi. The fifth chapter discusses how experience may contribute to doctrinal development and proposes an explanation for how the doctrine on religious liberty changed, drawing upon the work of Jacques Maritain and Basile Valuet.

I argue that DH can be understood as a homogeneous development by clarifying the three elements of the problem in the following ways. First, two pre-conciliar developments in Catholic social teaching prepared for DH, namely, Pius XI’s personalistic doctrine of the common good and Pius XII’s articulation of the new demands placed upon member nation-states in an international juridical order. Second, I argue that DH preserves in a new modality doctrines that some scholars assume were discarded by Vatican II, such as the duty of civil authorities toward the Catholic Church and the place of the objective moral law in limiting free exercise. Third, I draw upon Maritain and Valuet to argue that the inherent elasticity of society, being an operational and not a substantial unity, indicates the limits and possibilities of change in Catholic social doctrine. In the process I introduce to the English literature Valuet’s theory of a development in the ius gentium as a necessary condition for universal exercise of the natural right of religious liberty.

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  1. Congratulations Dr. Turner!

    This is a wonderful accomplishment. May God bless you and your family as you continue to serve Him.

    In Christ,

    David Anders

  2. congrats!

  3. Congratulations, Barrett! Mount St. Mary’s is a wonderful institution (I live not *too* terribly far from it), and you will be a great blessing there! (I’d love to read your dissertation too!)

  4. Congratulations! I, too, would be fascinating to read your dissertation, is it is available. I’ve been wanting recently to do more research in just this area.

  5. Congratulations, Dr. Turner!

  6. I’d love to read the whole thing. The tension present in this exact issue is something I havent been able to reconcile and rather have just “accepted”.

  7. Well done Sir! What a worthy accomplishment!

  8. Congratulations Barrett! Great work!

  9. Will this be available anytime soon?

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