Servais Theodore Pinckaers was born in Liege (Belgium) in 1925 and raised in the village of Wonk (now part of the commune of Bassenge) in Belgium’s Walloon region. In 1945 he entered the Dominican Order and pursued his studies in theology at the Belgian Dominican studium at La Sarte, obtaining his license in theology (1952) under the direction of Jerome Hamer, writing his thesis (tesina) on Henri de Lubac’s Surnaturel. He pursued doctoral studies at the Pontificia Universit San Tommaso d Aquino (familiarly known as the "Angelicum"), attending the classes of such notables as Garrigou-Lagrange, Paul Philippe and Mario Luigi Ciappi. His dissertation, written under the direction of Louis-Bertrand Gillon, was a study of the medieval theology of hope, entitled “La vertu d’espérance de Pierre Lombard à saint Thomas” (1954).
Upon completion of his studies, Fr. Pinckaers returned to the Dominican Studium at La Sarte to teach moral theology. He was there from 1954-1965. It was there that Fr. Pinckaers undertook his first efforts to renew our understanding of moral theology, foreshadowing the Vatican Council’s call to renewal by several years. The fruits of these labors, which had been published as articles in various places, were subsequently drawn together in his groundbreaking study, Le renouveau de la morale (1964). It was also at La Sarte that he wrote the textual analysis and commentary for Questions 6 through 21 of the Prima Secundae (i.e., Aquinas’ treatise on Human Acts) for the Revue des Jeunes’ bilingual edition of the Summa Theologiae. Fr. Pinckaers refers to his time at La Sarte, both as a student and later as a professor, as the time when he attained the insights that he would subsequently present and develop in his later work. The central insights were (1) the primacy of the Word of God, as a living Word that speaks to every generation and which is higher than any merely human word ; (2) the foundational importance of the fathers of the Church, especially Augustine ; and (3) the lasting value of St. Thomas’ method and insights (cf. S.-Th. Pinckaers, "My Sources," Communio [American Edition] 26  : 913-915).
After the Studium at La Sarte was closed in 1965, Fr. Pinckaers went to the Dominican priory at Liege and engaged in pastoral ministry for the next eight years, years that shaped the pastoral concern expressed in much of his work. Then, in 1975 he was called to fill the French language chair in fundamental moral theology at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, where he taught for the next twenty-five years. As emeritus professor he remained in Fribourg, in residence at the international Dominican priory of St. Albert the Great (the “Albertinum”), until his death on 7 April 2008. He was eighty-two.
His most well-known work in English is The Sources of Christian Ethics (1995), which has been well-received by a surprisingly varied cross-section of the Church in America. Other works in English include Morality : the Catholic View (2001), The Pursuit of Happiness : Living the Beatitudes (1998), and the collection of his essays, The Pinckaers Reader : Renewing Thomistic Moral Theology (2005). See also the essay, “The Sources of the Ethics of St. Thomas Aquinas,” in The Ethics of Aquinas (2002). Among his other works are La faim de l’Evangile (1977) ; La justice évangélique (1986) ; Ce qu’on ne peut jamais faire. La question des actes intrinsèquement mauvais : Histoire et discussion (1986) ; La Prière chrétienne (1989) ; L’Evangile et la morale (1991) ; La morale catholique (1991) ; and La vie selon L’Esprit : Essai de théologie spirituelle selon saint Paul et saint Thomas d’Aquin (1996). In 2001, he wrote a new textual analysis and commentary for the first five questions of the Prima Secundae (i.e., Aquinas’ treatise on happiness) for the second edition of the Revue des Jeunes’ bilingual edition of the Summa Theologiae (Traduction et commentaire du traité de la béatitude [Ia-IIae, qq. 1-5]). After a period of inactivity following a heart attack, Fr. Pinckaers published, A la découverte de Dieu dans les Confessions (2002), the first of a two volume study of St. Augustine whose general title is : En promenade avec saint Augustin. He also published Plaidoyer pour la vertu (2007), which was one of three works to receive an honorable mention as runners up for the Grand Prix catholique de littérature for 2007. In the year before his death, Fr. Pinckaers prepared several texts for publication, among them Passions et vertu (2009).
Servais Pinckaers served on several Roman commissions, including the Commission that wrote the Catechism of the Catholic Church, contributing to the moral section, and the preparatory commissions for the encyclical Veritatis Splendor. From 1992 until 1997, he was a member of the International Theological Commission.