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ST. AUGUSTINE ON NATURE, SEX, AND MARRIAGE. By John J. Hugo. Princeton, NJ:
Scepter Publishers, 1998. Pp. 237. $38.95.
This book first appeared from the same publisher in 1969 in the wake of Humanae Vitae.
Although Hugo, a Catholic priest, does not mention the papal encyclical directly, he does make it
his expressed purpose to defend the relevance of Augustine’s moral theology for the Catholic
Church today, particularly with reference to contraception (21). Hugo relies heavily upon
Étienne Gilson’s The Christian Philosophy of St. Augustine (1960) for his analysis. The book
reappeared in 1998 with no evident changes except for a brief preface added by Ronald Lawlor,
O.F.M. Cap.
Hugo seeks to establish the truth and relevance of Augustine’s sexual ethics by answering
two major criticisms of his thought (21). In answer to the charge that Augustine’s thought is
tainted by Neoplatonism, Hugo seeks to show that “Always he assimilated into Christianity
whatever of Platonism was useful, rejecting whatever he could not thus assimilate” (33). The
second criticism is that Augustine’s idea of “concupiscence” amounts to calling natural sexual
desire evil. Hugo avers that concupiscence, which does correspond to natural desire for
Augustine, is not evil in itself but is only called such because it arises from evil and leads to evil
due to original sin (70). Hugo states these two theses directly. The real unifying thesis is
unstated, but it is clearly that Augustine was right and that his teaching is identical with Catholic
teaching all the way through Vatican II.
The argument proceeds in two parts. The first part, pages 31-92, is an exposition of
Augustine’s doctrine of man from his mature works (after 391). It is in this section that Hugo
argues his two stated theses. The second part of the book, pages 93-188, consists in application
of Augustine’s theory of man to sexual ethics, particularly from De Bono Coniugali and other
treatises related to marriage. He places particular emphasis on the fact that the three goods of
marriage which Augustine gives the Church—children, mutual faith, and sacrament (119)—are
inseparable (143). The quality of Hugo’s argumentation varies. His demonstration that
Augustine thought man to be a unity of body and soul (33), contrary to Neoplatonism, has merit.
On the other hand, Hugo begins chapter three with an explanation of why Thomas Aquinas
thought natural sexual desire to be good and then proceeds to read Aquinas back into Augustine.
He claims that Augustine thought fallen man’s nature to be “intact” but in “a disordered state.”
This “disorder” does not become evil until it entices the will (63). The problem is that, for
Augustine, disorder is evil, as Hugo’s own second chapter implies. Although desire remains
problematic, Hugo does prove, from the innocence of marital sex intended for procreation, that
Augustine did not think sexual pleasure was inherently sinful.
As a scholarly study on what Augustine actually thought, this book has limitations. It
does contain a subject index, an author index, and a chronology in the back, but the bibliography
has not been updated from the original 1969 version, and the endnote format makes it difficult to
track Hugo’s interaction with the secondary literature. As a spirited defense of the Catholic
Church’s teaching on contraception, however, the book is worth reading.
Catholic University of America
Word count: 525
BRETT W. SMITH
TRS 201: FAITH SEEKING UNDERSTANDING
GUIDELINES FOR BOOK REVIEWS
Stylistic and Other Requirements
1) Bibliographical information should head the first page of the review according to the following
format:
SHARING IN CHRIST’S VIRTUES: FOR A RENEWAL OF MORAL THEOLOGY IN LIGHT
OF VERITATIS SPLENDOR. By Livio Melina. Trans. William E. May. Washington, DC: CUA Press,
2001. Pp x + 211. $24.95.
2) The body of the review should not exceed 525 words.
3) Reviewers should give their name and location (institution and/or city) at the end of the review.
4) Please indicate the total word count for the body of the review (i.e., everything except bibliographical
information, name and institution).
5) When running off book reviews make one copy for the instructor and post an electronic copy on the
course Bb site (in the Discussion Board section) for access by other members of the course.
Additional Guidelines/Suggestions
1) Page numbers may be cited in parentheses if you use direct quotations from the text.
2) Typical format:
First paragraph: give the context. Who is the author debating with? What studies have preceded
it? What are the theological or other issues which the book seeks to address? Does the book serve to
advance scholarship?
Second paragraph: Describe the thesis of the book–in the light of the preceding paragraph.
Third paragraph: Describe briefly the structure or contents of the book–i.e. try to show the
logical development of the thesis in the structure of the text. If the book does not have a thesis or does
not hang together this is a point for criticism.
3) What kinds of sources are used? What is the principle which guides their selection?
4) Look for pertinent ideas or themes which run throughout the text.
5) Identify the strengths of the text. Identify its weaknesses.
6) Do you recommend it or not? and if you recommend it, for whom? for what purpose? at what level
(introductory or research)?
7) Does it have an index? (i.e., can it be easily used as a resource–librarians in particular like to know
this).
8) Examples of proper style and format may be found by consulting the reviews in Theological Studies.
2
The instructor will provide a list of books from which students may choose. Titles not on the list
are welcome but should be approved by the instructor before work begins. It is recommended
but not required that students choose a book pertaining to the topic on which they intend to write
their paper. The book could then be one of the three required theological sources.
Due date: March 16
Completion of this assignment is intended to result in the following Student Learning Outcomes:



2
Interpret theological texts of different eras and genres with care and precision
Express theological ideas and arguments clearly in writing.
Utilize scholarly tools effectively for continued learning in the discipline of theology.
Possible Books to Review for TRS 201
1) Does God exist?
Plantinga, Alvin. God and Other Minds.
_____ (ed.). The Ontological Argument: From St. Anselm to Contemporary Philosophers.
Feser, Edward. Five Proofs of the Existence of God.
Kenny, Anthony J. P. The Five Ways: Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence.
2) What is the proper relationship between faith and reason?
John Paul II. Fides et Ratio.
Wilkins, Stephen (ed.). Faith and Reason: Three Views.
3) Is the Bible true?
Kitchen, Kenneth. On the Reliability of the Old Testament.
Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths.
Pontifical Biblical Commission. The Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture: The
Word that Comes from God and Speaks of God for the Salvation of the World.
Warfield, B.B. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible.
4) Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
Craig, William Lane. Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the
Resurrection of Jesus.
Habermas, Gary, and Anthony Flew. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection
Debate.
Wenham, John. Easter Enigma: Are the Resurrection Accounts in Conflict?
Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God
5) On what basis can God justify a sinner?
Castaldo, Chris. Justified in Christ: The Doctrines of Peter Martyr Vermigli and John
Henry Newman and Their Ecumenical Implications.
Lutheran-Roman catholic Joint Commission. Church and Justification: Understanding
the Church in Light of the Doctrine of Justification.
Tavard, George H. Justification: An Ecumenical Study.
6) Why did God become man in the person of Jesus?
Cole, Graham. The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation.
Monahan, William B. St. Thomas Aquinas on the Incarnation.
7) What does it mean to say Jesus is really present in the Eucharist?
Abbot Vonier. A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist.
Journet, Charles. The Mass: The Presence of the Sacrifice of the Cross
Müller, Michael. The Blessed Eucharist: Our Greatest Treasure.
ST. AUGUSTINE ON NATURE, SEX, AND MARRIAGE. By John J. Hugo. Princeton, NJ:
Scepter Publishers, 1998. Pp. 237. $38.95.
This book first appeared from the same publisher in 1969 in the wake of Humanae Vitae.
Although Hugo, a Catholic priest, does not mention the papal encyclical directly, he does make it
his expressed purpose to defend the relevance of Augustine’s moral theology for the Catholic
Church today, particularly with reference to contraception (21). Hugo relies heavily upon
Étienne Gilson’s The Christian Philosophy of St. Augustine (1960) for his analysis. The book
reappeared in 1998 with no evident changes except for a brief preface added by Ronald Lawlor,
O.F.M. Cap.
Hugo seeks to establish the truth and relevance of Augustine’s sexual ethics by answering
two major criticisms of his thought (21). In answer to the charge that Augustine’s thought is
tainted by Neoplatonism, Hugo seeks to show that “Always he assimilated into Christianity
whatever of Platonism was useful, rejecting whatever he could not thus assimilate” (33). The
second criticism is that Augustine’s idea of “concupiscence” amounts to calling natural sexual
desire evil. Hugo avers that concupiscence, which does correspond to natural desire for
Augustine, is not evil in itself but is only called such because it arises from evil and leads to evil
due to original sin (70). Hugo states these two theses directly. The real unifying thesis is
unstated, but it is clearly that Augustine was right and that his teaching is identical with Catholic
teaching all the way through Vatican II.
The argument proceeds in two parts. The first part, pages 31-92, is an exposition of
Augustine’s doctrine of man from his mature works (after 391). It is in this section that Hugo
argues his two stated theses. The second part of the book, pages 93-188, consists in application
of Augustine’s theory of man to sexual ethics, particularly from De Bono Coniugali and other
treatises related to marriage. He places particular emphasis on the fact that the three goods of
marriage which Augustine gives the Church—children, mutual faith, and sacrament (119)—are
inseparable (143). The quality of Hugo’s argumentation varies. His demonstration that
Augustine thought man to be a unity of body and soul (33), contrary to Neoplatonism, has merit.
On the other hand, Hugo begins chapter three with an explanation of why Thomas Aquinas
thought natural sexual desire to be good and then proceeds to read Aquinas back into Augustine.
He claims that Augustine thought fallen man’s nature to be “intact” but in “a disordered state.”
This “disorder” does not become evil until it entices the will (63). The problem is that, for
Augustine, disorder is evil, as Hugo’s own second chapter implies. Although desire remains
problematic, Hugo does prove, from the innocence of marital sex intended for procreation, that
Augustine did not think sexual pleasure was inherently sinful.
As a scholarly study on what Augustine actually thought, this book has limitations. It
does contain a subject index, an author index, and a chronology in the back, but the bibliography
has not been updated from the original 1969 version, and the endnote format makes it difficult to
track Hugo’s interaction with the secondary literature. As a spirited defense of the Catholic
Church’s teaching on contraception, however, the book is worth reading.
Catholic University of America
Word count: 525
BRETT W. SMITH

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