Sexual Virtue

An Approach to Contemporary Christian Ethics

By Richard W. McCarty

Subjects: Religion, Philosophy, Gender Studies, Ethics
Paperback : 9781438454283, 305 pages, July 2015
Hardcover : 9781438454290, 305 pages, February 2015

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Introduction: To Reclaim Sexual Virtue
Part I. Getting Situated
1. Sexual Positions
2. Sexual Ethics
Part II. A Moral Framework of Virtue
3. Virtue Ethics and Sexual Virtue
4. Christian Virtue Ethics
Part III. Religious Sources of Moral Authority
5. Understanding Scripture
6. Sex and Marriage
7. The Bible and Homosexuality
8. Curious Interpretations of Nature
9. Church Teachings Revisited
Part IV. Ends of Sexual Virtue
10. Recreational Sex
11. Relational Intimacy
12. Selective Acts of Procreation

Uses virtue ethics to offer a sexual ethics inclusive of LGBT and straight people, one that challenges the longstanding procreative patriarchal norm.


Richard W. McCarty offers a compassionate and inclusive conception of sexual virtue, one that liberates Christians from traditional patriarchal requirements for heterosexuality, marriage, and procreation. Daring to depart from ongoing debates about what Aristotle or Aquinas had to say, this book sets a new course centered on virtue ethics. It employs new insights from the sciences, biblical scholarship, analyses of church traditions, and revisionist natural law thinking. Eschewing simple deconstruction of traditional Christian norms for sexual morality, McCarty offers constructive ideas about what might count as real human goods for people in a wide variety of sexual relationships. Recreation, relational intimacy, and selective acts of procreation are three ends of sexual virtue that promote human happiness and can be appreciated in a broad Christian framework. While primarily referencing the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition, McCarty's work is also vital and accessible to those from Protestant backgrounds. Addressed to LGBT and straight readers, Sexual Virtue provides a compassionate sexual ethics for our time.

Richard W. McCarty is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Mercyhurst University.


"In Sexual Virtue, Richard W. McCarty writes as a revisionist Catholic ethicist to a generally Catholic, but largely ecumenical, audience. Throughout, McCarty moves easily between insider and outsider perspectives on Christian moral norms as he criticizes, redefines, and offers new principles to supplement long-held moral norms … McCarty provides an insightful critical analysis of the use of scripture as a source of moral knowledge. " — Religious Studies Review