Moral theologian; b. Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, July 5, 1912. Fuchs entered the diocesan seminary of Cologne in 1931 and was ordained a priest of that diocese in 1937. He studied at the Gregorian University, receiving licentiates in philosophy and theology. In 1938 he entered the German province of the Society of Jesus and received an S.T.D. from the Jesuit theologate at Falkenberg, Holland, in 1940. After four years in parish work, he returned to study, receiving a Th.D. from the University of Münster in 1946. Having taught moral theology at St. George Hochschüle from 1947, Fuchs was appointed to the faculty of the Gregorian University in Rome in 1954. Although he reached the mandatory retirement age of seventy in 1982, he remained active, providing consultation to faculty and students of the Gregorian.
A prolific author, Fuchs's writings include 14 books, several of which are collections of essays, as well as more than 50 other articles. Over the years, he gave extended attention to a wide variety of issues. His early writings focus on the theology of sexuality and marriage in St. Thomas Aquinas. Between 1958 and 1960 he published four textbooks on various areas of moral theology patterned on the classic "manualist" tradition but introducing new insights, which he used in his teaching at the Gregorian University and which were exported by his multinational student population. The early 1960s were especially fruitful, resulting in articles on new issues in sexual ethics, the place of law in human society, and a sundry other topics. In 1965 he published Natural Law: A Theological Investigation, a major work in the field of Catholic moral theology and a pivotal document in Fuchs's own intellectual history. It coincided with a long series of publications exploring the implications for moral theology of the vision of Vatican II, particularly as that vision is articulated in Gaudium et spes.
A major turning point in his career was Fuchs's membership on the Papal Commission on Family, Births, and Population of 1965–68. He is alleged to have been an author of the so-called "majority report" that Pope Paul VI ultimately rejected in the writing of Humanae Vitae. In any case, Fuchs's views on the permanence, universality, and exceptionlessness of concrete moral norms changed as a result of his reflections during these years.
Though Fuchs has addressed a variety of specific questions, his abiding focus, particularly in the years since Vatican II, has been the core commitments on which a Christian morality is based. He discussed the character of the natural law, the relationship of human morality and Christian life, the identity of the moral person, the shape and limits of moral norms, the role of conscience, issues of secularism and religious commitment, and the significance of moral community, especially the Catholic Church as an institution, for personal moral decision making. In many of these areas, Fuchs gives evidence of being deeply influenced by the theological anthropology of Karl rahner.
Fuchs's influence has been worldwide, thanks to his role at the Gregorian University. That influence is greater yet because he taught in the ecclesiastical period prior to, during, and since the Second Vatican Council. Indeed, he is both a commentator on and a major contributor to the renewal of moral theology occurring in this period. Along with his colleague at the Alphonsianum University, Bernard Häring (also born in 1912), Fuchs has been described as a "revisionist" and associated with the methodology of proportionalism.
Bibliography: f. fuchs, Natural Law: A Theological Investigation (New York 1965); Human Values and Christian Morality (Dublin 1970); Personal Responsibility and Christian Morality (Washington 1983); Christian Ethics in a Secular Arena (Washington 1984); Christian Morality: The Word Becomes Flesh (Washington 1987); Moral Demands & Personal Obligations (Washington 1993). t. o'connell, Changing Roman Catholic Moral Theology: A Study in Josef Fuchs (Ann Arbor 1974).
[t. e. o'connell]