The Christian Conscience and Ethical Dilemmas

Guidance from the Catholic Tradition

Course Description

Created by Dr. Maura Ryan, a Notre Dame Theology Professor, for STEP, this course explores the meaning of conscience in the Catholic Tradition and provides participants with tools for drawing on faith in responding to moral decisions.

Course Content

Unit 1: Foundations of the Catholic Moral Tradition

  1. The Human Person
  2. Freedom and Knowledge
  3. Economic Justice For All
  4. Catechism: The Natural Moral Law

Unit 2: Faith and Morality

  1. A Sense of Sin
  2. Catechism: Freedom and Virtue
  3. Freedom and Happiness

Unit 3: Conscience and Moral Decision-Making

  1. The Formation of Conscience
  2. The Holy Spirit and the New Law
  3. Catechism: Moral Conscience, Sin

Unit 4: Christian Conscience and Choices in Interpersonal Ethics

  1. Catechism: Truth and Falsehood
  2. Evangelium Vitae
  3. Catechism: The Person and Social Life
  4. Euthanasia

Unit 5: Christian Conscience and Choices in Social Ethics

  1. Catholics in the Political Realm
  2. Evangelium Vitae
  3. The Death Penalty

Course Format

  • Created and instructed by Notre Dame Theology Professor.
  • Six weeks in duration, with one week for orientation.
  • Typically 15-20 students in each course.
  • All lecture text and all required reading available online in course.
  • Supplemental readings are provided to encourage further exploration of topic, internet links provided for all readings.
  • Written assignments (150-200 words) required.
  • Facilitator moderated chat sessions with students in course.

Required Texts

  • All course materials are available online in the course.

Participation Requirements

  • Read assigned texts; keep notes, questions, and comments for class discussion.
  • Participate in the class discussion using the Forums area: post at least 2 comments, questions, or responses per unit.
  • Write 150-200 words in response to the assignment in each unit.
  • Participate in at least 3 scheduled chat sessions throughout the course.
  • Complete the course evaluation.

Time Expectations

5 to 7 hours per week, depending on your learning style and schedule.

Course Certificate

A certificate of completion awarding 35 contact hours will be sent upon completion of all course requirements.

Meet the Developer

Dr. Maura Ryan

Dr. Maura Ryan

Dr. Ryan's primary interests are in the areas of bioethics and health policy, feminist ethics, and fundamental moral theology. She co-edited a book on global stewardship with Todd David Whitmore and recently completed a book on reproductive technologies to be published by Georgetown Press. Her articles have appeared in the Hastings Center ReportThe Journal of Philosophy and Medicine and Ethics and Behavior. She is on the Board of Directors for the Society of Christian Ethics and the editorial board of the Religious Studies Review and Ethics and Behavior. She serves on the St. Joseph County Healthcare Advisory Consortium and the ethics committee for Hospice of St. Joseph County. Currently she is working on the challenge of assisted suicide for feminist ethics.

B.A., St. Bonaventure University, 1979; M.A., Boston College, 1987; M.Phil., Yale University, 1991; Ph.D., Yale University, 1993