Rev. Rodrigue Constantin is a Maronite priest in the Eparchy of Los Angeles. Prior to his doctoral studies, he served as pastor of Holy Family Church in St Paul, Minnesota, where he also completed a Master’s degree in Theology at the St Paul Seminary and a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology at the University of St Thomas in Minneapolis. He earned a Ph.D. in moral theology from The Catholic University of America, where, under the direction of Paul Scherz, he authored a dissertation, Passions, Virtue, and Moral Growth in John of Apamea’s Dialogues on the Soul, which is the first academic exploration of the Dialogues on the Soul from the perspective of moral theology.
Rev. Constantin’s academic interests include virtue ethics, the dialogue between psychology and theology, and Syriac patristics. He has taught several undergraduate courses at CUA including introductory courses to theology and moral theology and Social Ethics. He is currently assigned as pastor of St Rafka Church in Livonia, Michigan.
Virtue cultivation is an under-researched topic in theological virtue ethics. Moreover, little attention is given in virtue ethics to vice and its impact on virtue cultivation. In this dissertation, I respond to this lacuna by examining the role of the removal of evil passions in moral growth in the Dialogues on the Soul, whose author, John of Apamea, is a fifth-century ascetic who has introduced the discussion of passions in Syriac Christianity. For John, moral growth occurs in three stages: somaticity, psychicality, and pneumaticity. I argue that, for John, the gradual healing from evil passions facilitates one’s moral progress from one stage to another.
After examining John’s theological anthropology, in the first chapter, I explore his views on the relationship of the body and the soul with the passions in chapters two and three. In chapter four, I focus on the morality of the passions, that is, whether the passions in themselves are good or evil, and to what degree one is morally responsible for them. I, then, reconstruct, in chapter five, a list of the passions and their variations in the Dialogues on the Soul, as well as the structure of the passions as stirrings that are intimately connected to thoughts. In chapter six, I synthesize the different techniques of the ascetic therapy of the passions, and, finally, in chapter seven, I show how the ascetic therapy of the passions helps one to progress morally from somaticity to psychicality. The state one must reach on earth is the purity of the soul, which is characterized by the absence of evil passions. This paves the way for the manifestation of true virtue at the pneumatic level. The full manifestation of the natural virtue of the soul, however, is an eschatological gift of the Divine Grace.
Finally, through this dissertation, I aim to draw attention to the central role of removing vice in moral growth and, more broadly, to the significance of Syriac asceticism for virtue ethics.