Using Moral Dilemmas to Teach – A Catechist Shares Her Ideas

Using moral dilemmas to teach Catholic morality is a tried and true, effective teaching method. I recently had an email exchange with a catechist about the topic of teaching morality and, in the course of our sharing, she generously shared with me some moral dilemma scripts she developed for teaching the virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here’s our exchange:

Hi Joe, I, too, am an 8th grade catechist this year.  I appreciate your blog posts which often help me with new ideas and formats. My question is this: have you ever taught a lesson on morality or conscience formation?  Some of the catechists I work with feel as I do, that our kids need to be empower and informed in the faith so that they can make good decisions in high school and beyond.  It’s important to us that we find a way to engage the kids and make this material meaningful to them so that they take something with them when they leave.  And, as a parent as an 8th grader, I also want my son to hear someone other than his parents “preaching” to him.  Any resources you could recommend would also be helpful. Thanks for sharing your faith and supporting all of us catechists.

Hi -N- and thanks for your kind thoughts. Glad to “meet” a fellow 8th grade catechist. I have taught morality and conscience formation before and I have found that dealing with real moral dilemmas is very effective. Kids are full of opinions so it’s a good way to get them engaged so that you can then lay out moral principles that should be considered. I’ve also found that approaching these through the lens of the 10 Commandments is very effective. I’m presently using the Finding God Junior High program (Loyola Press) and work from the materials provided there. I’ve also found a good Website for moral/ethical dilemmas www.goodcharacter.com/dilemma/dilemma.html. I hope this is a good start for you! Let me know what resources you come across. My unit on morality is coming up next month!  -joe


Hi Joe,
Thanks for all your helpful tips on the morality module.  We held our session last night and thought it went well.  After giving them a morality framework based on the laws God has given us, we spent a lot of time role-playing various morality dilemmas.  My co-catechist and I used the topics we found through various resources (Quest Magazine, LoveMyCatholicFaith.com, and goodcharacter.com), but added a script for the kids and inserted places in the dialogue where we could stop and discuss influences on decision making.  We also assigned those who weren’t role-playing the tasks of holding up cards with various fruits/gifts/virtues which the character in the skit had employed to resolve the moral dilemma.  My son, who is in 8th grade, thought it was one of the best sessions and enjoyed it. I’ve attached the scripts for the four dilemmas in the event you feel they would be instructive.  Good luck!

A great big THANK YOU to our fellow-catechist for sharing her creative ideas with all of us!

About Joe Paprocki 2366 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

4 Comments on Using Moral Dilemmas to Teach – A Catechist Shares Her Ideas

  1. I am so glad I clicked onto your weblink from the findinggod.com site. I have been trying to locate moral dilemma situations to bring to MHR SRE 7th grade class. I find that engaging this age group with personal life experiences engages them more. They begin to think about our Catholic Christian values on how they approach life without feeling that we are talking “religion”.

    Thank You!!

  2. Hello,

    At a family reunion this week a relative recalled being taught in theology class that in the (admittedly unlikely) circumstance that an individual must save the life of either his or her spouse or their child, the individual is supposed to (according to Catholic doctrine) save the life of the spouse because they can “have more children.” I have no idea if this extreme moral dilemma has an actual doctrinal answer but I would love to hear your thoughts. It made quite an impression on this relative and led to some lively debate among our group!

    • Et, I’m not aware of any such Catholic “doctrine” that dictates what to do in such an unlikely and extreme moral dilemma other than to strive to save the lives of both, never directly taking the life of one to save the other. If the person is being forced to make such a choice under duress (e.g. at gunpoint) they have been robbed of their freedom to make a sound moral choice. In all cases, we are never to choose one life over another but must always strive to protect all human life.

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