Family Ethics

Practices for Christians

Julie Hanlon Rubio

"Suitable for undergraduate and graduate students, especially those preparing for ministry, or adult study groups."
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How can ordinary Christians find moral guidance for the mundane dilemmas they confront in their daily lives? To answer this question, Julie Hanlon Rubio brings together a rich Catholic theology of marriage and a strong commitment to social justice to focus on the place where the ethics of ordinary life are played out: the family.

Sex, money, eating, spirituality, and service. According to Rubio, all are areas for practical application of an ethics of the family. In each area, intentional practices can function as acts of resistance to a cultural and middle-class conformity that promotes materialism over relationships. These practices forge deep connections within the family and help families live out their calling to be in solidarity with others and participate in social change from below. It is through these everyday moral choices that most Christians can live out their faith—and contribute to progress in the world.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Be Concerned with the Ordinary?

Part I: Resources from the Catholic Tradition

1. A Catholic Theological Understanding of Marriage

2. Between the Personal and the Political: Families as Agents of Social Change

3. Grace, Sin, and Holy Families

Part II: Practices

4. Practicing Sexual Fidelity

5. The Practice of Eating: Love, Justice, and Mercy

6. How Much Is Enough? The Practice of Tithing

7. Serving: Reimagining a Central Practice of Middle-Class Family Life

8. Family Prayer as Practice of Resistance




"But, in Rubio’s view, contemporary Christian theology— with such concepts as covenant, intimacy and egalitarianism combined with mutual self-giving and solidarity—has resources for dealing with the challenges. Catholics on both the right and the left use the same resources and concepts even if normally they find themselves disagreeing on concrete issues. For both, to be ‘promarriage’ is to take marriage seriously and provide

support for its flourishing."—The Way

"Suitable for undergraduate and graduate students, especially those preparing for ministry, or adult study groups."—Jacob Kohlhaas, Religious Studies Review

"This book dives into the tradition and situates itself within academic discussions, but it is written in accessible prose that is always connected to the practical and everyday lives of families. It is certainly appropriate for the educated non-specialist, and will be an invaluable resource for pastors and other Christian leaders ministering to families."—The Way

"Even coming from a rich Catholic background of understanding, her concepts and applications can be used by any denomination. . . . Anyone looking for a refreshing read on family ethics will not be disappointed with Dr. Rubio's work."—Theological Book Review

"Very compelling indeed. . . . Rubio provides the theological community with a new and refreshing way of thinking about the 'goods of marriage.' . . . This book is a 'must read' for anyone who is interested in family life, marriage and relationships in general. It will provoked much discussion in many areas of sexual morality as well as making ordinary married couples feel more at home in theological discussions on sexuality, family and marriage."—The Furrow

"Rubio outlines the thickest and most accessible vision yet of Catholic family life in contemporary America. . . . Rubio's book should gain a very wide audience, for its significance goes beyond advancing the conversation in marriage and family ethics. The book is also suggestive of a way forward for Catholicism generally, one that advances on the lightweight accomodationism of liberals and the unfailing political severity and legalism of conservatives. How so? By an actual retrieval of some of the best work done in early 20th century Catholicism. Instead of simply rejecting anything 'pre-Vatican II' or inventing some supposed set of free-floating pieties that will 'return' us to those days, Rubio actually seeks out the 'nuanced' and 'rigorous analysis' of the literature of that time. In it, she finds both the counterculturalism she desires and the realism she needs. Her work here is suggestive for moral theologians a caricature of the evils of "the moral manuals" may overlook much of value that was unfortunately lost amidst the politics of the postconciliar Church."—Catholic Books Review

"Julie Hanlon Rubio’s social ethics approach to family moral practices provides long-overdue tools for acting thoughtfully on the competing projects and commitments that absorb most of the waking hours of ordinary people. Graceful and subtle with no loss of prophetic clarity, it will set a new standard for family ethics."—Cristina L. H. Traina, associate professor, Department of Religion, Northwestern University

"An extraordinary and challenging book on the somewhat ordinary topic of family life. In theory Rubio deftly develops a Christian ethics recognizing both grace and sin as a basis for Christian family life. She convincingly shows how five distinct family practices can not only bring about communion in the family but can also serve the common good in solidarity with the poor."—Charles E. Curran, Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, Southern Methodist University

"A splendid re-visioning of the vocations of marriage and family for Catholics in today's world. Moving past the moral debates of the Vatican II era, Rubio inspires and challenges by linking the social vocation of the family to the concrete practices and problems of family life. She speaks from the realism and wisdom of experience, backed by current data on real-world social trends, relationships, and human behavior. Rubio is that rare voice that manages to keep ideals in clear view while appreciating the importance of negotiation, compromise, persistence, and practicality. This book will satisfy everyone from scholars to students to all those working out connections between faith and family."—Lisa Sowle Cahill, Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College

"Julie Hanlon Rubio has given us the complete book on marriage and family. She weaves Christian theology, worship, and social ethics into the real fabric of everyday life in the home. The scope of the book is impressive. More remarkable, however, is the ease of its integration of Scripture, Catholic social thought, and moral theology in practical matters of sex, food, and money."—David Matzko McCarthy, Fr. James M. Forker Professor of Catholic Social Teaching, Mount St. Mary’s University

"Not simply a Christian 'how-to' manual on the challenge of applying Christian moral teaching to the family; [Rubio] provides a thorough ethical analysis of family life informed by a rich theology of Christian marriage, an astute reading of diverse ethical traditions, and a healthy leavening of wisdom gained from personal experience. Quite simply, with this volume, Julie Hanlon Rubio has now emerged as one of the most insightful theologians today on the theology of marriage and family."—Richard R. Gaillardetz, Murray/Bacik Professor of Catholic Studies, University of Toledo


Supplemental Materials


Winner of the 2011 Catholic Press Association Book Award for Family Life

About the Author

Julie Hanlon Rubio is associate professor of Christian ethics at Saint Louis University. She is the author of A Christian Theology of Marriage and Family and coeditor (with Charles E. Curran) of Readings in Moral Theology No. 15. Rubio lives in St. Louis with her husband and their three sons.

272 pp., 6 x 9

Mar 2010

272 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-639-2
Mar 2010

272 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-667-5
Mar 2010

Moral Traditions series
David Cloutier, Darlene Weaver, and Andrea Vicini, SJ

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