This contribution aims to offer some points of departure for a theology of creation.
In the present context, developing an ecological theolgy of creation should take into account the complexity of the situation in order to provide humanity with a new paradigm. Such a theology has to face the challenges of putting the relation between God and the whole of creation, and not only anthropocentrism, right at the heart of modern ecological debates.
In the light of the ecological stakes and the urgency to make changes in our lifestyles, the Church and its various social agents are called to show signs of their own engagement for authentic and sustainable development. They should propose to Christian communities steps they can take to demonstrate their consciousness of the environmental question and their desire to act. That is why an ecological theology of creation should also highlight the universal communion of all creatures showing that all creatures belong to God (cf. Wdm 11:26). From this point of view, Pope Francis affirms that an ecological theology of creation should consider all creation as a work of the Trinity, showing that “The world was created by the three Persons acting as a single divine principle, but each one of them performed this common work in accordance with his own personal property.” From this comes the conviction that people and other creatures form a universal family and are imbued with a sacred character.
Because of the profound solidarity between humans and the created world, theology and catechesis of creation are from now on essential to every proposition of the Christian faith. According to François Euvé, based on biblical anthropology, a catechesis of creation should explain the specific responsibility of people towards the rest of creation and show how this vision of the profound role of people is conformed to God’s plan. Finally, an ecological theology should necessarily integrate the notion of human ecology linked with that of integral development, and show the incoherence of expecting only future generations to respect the natural environment.
Presented by Solange Ngah, doctoral student in moral theology
at the Catholic University of Central Africa, Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Patriotism, to a large extent, depends on one’s sense of belonging to his/her country. The sense of patriotism heightens when people feel proud of their country or want to protect their country at a time of crisis. In Hong Kong, loving one’s country may mean loving its history, culture, tradition and/or people. However, in mainland China, loving the nation may require one to love the Communist Party and the Chinese government at the same time.
Since the changeover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty from Britain to China in 1997, the Chinese government has tried to promote the sense of patriotism among Hong Kong people. In recent years, the sense of belonging to China goes downward consistently, due to the tension between the Chinese government/ mainland Chinese and Hongkongers. Such tension comes from different values on human rights, democracy, civility as well as daily life practices and shopping behaviors. In order to enhance the sense of belonging and patriotism, a number of measures have been introduced in Hong Kong, such as making Chinese history a compulsory subject in secondary schools and the legislation of (respecting) national anthem law.
The most recent measure is the broadcasting of a speech on the role and mission of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) under the national constitution and the Basic Law, the mini-constitution of Hong Kong, by a senior mainland official in secondary schools, apart from addressing the Hong Kong top-ranking officials. In his speech, Li Fei, deputy secretary-general of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee and the HKSAR Basic Law Committee Chairman, urged Hong Kong to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty, security and development interests. He pointed out that there are three main questions that Hong Kong has to face: Where are you from? Who are you? Where are you heading to?
These three questions were raised under the assumption that China’s Central Government is the origin of the Hong Kong government and the national constitution is the root of the Hong Kong Basic Law. No matter how special Hong Kong is, Li emphasized, it is under the rule and supervision of the central leaders and the national constitution. The central administration enjoys the comprehensive ruling power.
Li highlighted that Hong Kong should not tolerate any attempts that promote separatism or jeopardize the country’s security, honor and interests. This was referring to the advocacy of Hong Kong’s independence among young people in university campus and the booing of Chinese national anthem in international football matches by some Hong Kong fans. Moreover, Li discussed Hong Kong’s responsibility to guard national development interests.
It is interesting to see that the three questions mentioned by Li are also often asked by moral theologians and virtue ethicists, though the intention and underlying assumption are very different.
Virtue ethicists view moral agents as people freely pursuing their desire for happiness in life. The moral agent, rather than moral action or its consequences, is at the center of moral reflection. They understand human agency as a means of shaping character, which is an important component of decision and action. It emphasizes a person in relationship with others through one’s character and choices. The answer to each question of the three interrelated questions—Who are we? Who ought we to become? And how do we get there?—refers to the virtues. Linking virtue ethics to social ethics would also urge us to think what constitutes a good human life that promotes common good? What virtues do we need to be just and caring? What would a person with relational and social virtues look like? How does one cultivate these relational virtues in our context?
When someone asks who are we that live in Hong Kong, we would say, we just want to be Hongkongers that can decide our own destiny, involving in the decision-making process of those policies that affect our own lives, in order to build a society with just and care.
However, for Li Fei and other leaders of the central government, their main concern is not so much about the moral agency or freedom of Hongkongers. The ruling authority is not inviting Hong Kong people to seek for our identity and explore where to go and how to get there. Rather, the ruling authority has decided the goals of Hong Kong as well as its people. The Beijing Government does not want to see any action or even thought that is not in line with them. This has been exercised explicitly through the Hong Kong government. Thus, when Hongkongers asked for democracy and political participation, they were rejected. Those who employed more radical ways were punished through harsh terms. This can be seen through the harsh punishment of some young pro-democracy activists who joined protests.
It seems that the Hong Kong/Central Government officials neglect the fact that a sense of belonging cannot be taught or imposed on, or be dictated by officials in Beijing or here in Hong Kong. Enough space should be given to Hongkongers as we search for our identity. It is impossible to allow only one way of expressing belonging or patriotism. The only way to foster understanding and respect is authentic dialogue among various parties on an equal base. Meanwhile, to nurture democratic character, practicing democracy in daily life and persistent reflection are indispensable. The words of Alex Chow, one of the student leaders being jailed may inspire us. He said after his release on bail, “Democracy will be my practice in my whole life, as a scholar or an activist, even if there will be suppression.”
This is also true among Hong Kong people who support democracy. Since the Umbrella Movement, there is a split in the pro-democratic camp on the strategy of striving for democracy and social change. On the one hand, the older generation opts for a realistic and pragmatic way of accepting the political reality. On the other hand, the younger generation chooses a more radical way of resistance in order to take charge of their destiny, opting for self-determination or even independence, though they may not achieve much at present. Some of them even have to pay a high price of being jailed.
Such difference is based on the different experiences and realities of generations, as a commentator said. There is no one absolute answer to the right way of striving for democracy and justice. More important is to maintain our ability of reflection and reasoning, willing to listen to the other side and to analyze the pros and cons of various strategies. We should bear in mind that our political stance or strategy is not the only truth and the other side may not be all wrong. Willingness to dialogue and listen is always an imperative to reconciliation in a split society.
Recently, while preparing my thoughts for an upcoming presentation on euthanasia for those in the Permanent Diaconate Program for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, I could not help but to think about Catholic Church teachings in light of many deaths resulting from the misuse of guns or firearms in the United States. A culture of death seems an apt way to describe these tragedies, where large numbers of mass shootings and subsequent police or vigilante killings of perpetrators and others have persisted for decades. Whether active euthanasia or mercy killing or the mass shootings and murders of innocents, the primary intention of death is my operative framework for these reflections. I maintain that in the Catholic Church and US society, there seems to be a good deal of loud voices monitoring end-of-life desires to prevent active euthanasia or mercy killing while, even though the bishops have spoken out on the need for gun control, there seems to be more loud silences from them in light of the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights that protects “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” rather than to offer reasonable limits with gun control.
More Loud Voices on Active Euthanasia and Mercy Killings
I understand active euthanasia and mercy killing to be undergirded by a physician or other moral agent intent on inducing death. Through the injection of lethal substances, their purported aim is to relieve someone in extreme pain, suffering from an incurable disease, or in an irreversible coma. However, the primary medical purposes of relief for active euthanasia or mercy killing, the proximate intention of those means, is death.
Over the last four or five decades, a growing number of loud voices have expressed deep concerns over the moral wrongness of active euthanasia and mercy killing. These voices not only espouse the sixth commandment, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13), but numerous theological, philosophical, and medical ethical research, symposia, seminars, courses, and publications have been dedicated to debating these intentional death-producing processes. As a result, strict controls and guidelines have been instituted to prevent a slippery slope that, nevertheless, gradually accepts active euthanasia and mercy killings. There is a moral responsibility for them not to become the norms in Church and society. For Example, Pope John Paul II writes against euthanasia in “The Gospel of Life” No. 15, and The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the topic in no. 2277. For the general population, there are common and legal documents widely available, such as the living will, Advance Directives, and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, to express one’s end of life desires but that in general someone might look askance at requests for euthanasia or mercy killing.
More Loud Silences
Given that significant time and effort in both the Church and society were spent seeking strategic ways to place controls on active euthanasia and mercy killing so that, even by default, these means of death would not become normative, significant time and effort needs to be put into place for serious discourse, theological symposia, research etc. that promotes common sense gun control. It is important to note a January 14, 2011 Catholic News Services article, “Gun Control: Church Firmly, Quietly Opposes Firearms for Civilians,” that observed the Church’s position on gun control is not easy to find. Apparently, loud silences prevailed then. However, after the December 14, 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut where twenty-six school children and staff were killed, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, submitted “Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence: Protecting our Communities while Respecting the Second Amendment” to the US Congress on February 12, 2013. In “Proposals,” the bishops proposed controls that would 1) require universal background checks for all gun purchases, 2) limit civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines, 3) make gun trafficking a federal crime, and 4) improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence. Still the debates driving gun and firearm control versus the right to bear arms persist, perpetuated and trumped by a presumed liberal democracy and the National Rifle Association, and by fears and suspicions of the other, by an ethos or culture of violence, and by popular slogans such as “Guns do not kill, I do,” “When reason fails, force prevails,” “Keep guns out of the hands of criminals, by them for yourself,” among others.
Furthermore, even despite the proposals by the bishops after the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders, their written actions were not enough to stop mass shootings and murders. For example, consider the June 17, 2015 killing of nine church members inside Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina; the June 12, 2016 mass murder of fifty people inside Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida; the November 5, 2017, mass murder of twenty-six church members inside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This list is not exhaustive; there are many other mass shootings and murders. Nevertheless, all of these mass murders involved single handed shooters intent on killing innocent human beings for a variety of psychosocial reasons—anger, hatred, insecurity, white supremacy/racism, homophobia, etc.
The bishops’ loud silences on gun control need to be exchanged for loud voices similar to their volume on euthanasia –both urgent moral issues. Just as the Church stepped up to do what was needed strategically to promote a culture of life as it relates to active euthanasia and mercy killing, likewise, the Church needs to step up and raise its loud voice to find ways to institute strategies for gun control. The bishops can start with breaking the silence around this moral problem by drawing on their “Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence.” Further, we, theological ethicists can examine mass shootings and murders under the rubric of active euthanasia and mercy killings, exposing them for their intentions of death. Where the Church intends life silence no longer satisfies.
In Germany as in virtually all other countries persons have to identify themselves as “male” or “female” in official contexts, and parents are expected to have their newborn babies identified as boys or girls. While this does not cause any difficulties in most cases, some persons cannot identify themselves in either of these gender categories because they are intersexual. In Germany, at a rough guess, around one hundred thousand persons are affected by this situation (it has to be noted that the statistical numbers about intersex persons are a highly political issue). As long as they do not have a third option this causes severe problems for their social life, participation and recognition. At least this has been the case until the recent judgement (1 BvR 2019/16) by the German Constitutional Court.
In this judgement, published in October 2017, the constitutional court decided on the case of an intersexual person (https://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2017/bvg17-095.html). This person, Vanja, had been registered as “female” in the register of births and requested to have the registration changed into “inter” or “diverse”. This request was denied both by the registrar’s office and by the courts, which referred to the exclusive binary male/female in the German legislation and administrative practice. So the person brought the case before the constitutional court as a matter of their basic civil rights.
The court’s judgement has now changed the situation: the legislation has to revise the civil status law in order to allow persons with no clearly male or female sexual or gender identity to identify themselves as “inter” or “diverse” or with another term that positively represents their gender identity. The lawgiver has to find a solution in terms of language for official registration purposes (apart from the necessity to develop official language the new legal situation may provoke a new public discussion on gender-sensitive language).
The core claim answered by the court’s decision refers to the ethical insight that nobody must be forced to be registered in a way that is against this person’s “nature” or to exist “sexless”. In Germany the only way to avoid the binary of male and female was to give no information on one’s sexual identity at all and thus to be in fact registered “sexless” (and even that was only possible on birth certificates, and only since the first milestone decision of 2013). Without a third option, intersex persons have long been forced to hide who and how they are in terms of sexual or gender identity - or, to put it the other way round, they could not but pretend to be other than they are in order to find a place in society and to avoid social stigmatization. Considering this situation the new judgment has to be seen as an important step towards the full realization of the personality right of all citizens without exception. It helps to overcome a situation of legal and social discrimination of persons whose gender identity does not fit into the categories of male and female.
The court’s decision does not precisely define a “third gender” (though this was erroneously assumed to be the case in much public debate). Rather, it offers a new identity category for persons with bodies that are not easily classed as “male” or “female” without forcing anybody into this new category. It is a matter of respect and of recognition of each individual person insofar as their individuality is not least an expression of their sexual and gender identity.
In the public debate some voices argued that because relatively few persons are affected it is not proportional to make a new legislation for such a small sexual minority. From an ethical as well as from a human rights point of view this is, of course, not a valid argument. The personal dignity and the basic human rights of each and every person need to be respected, protected and fulfilled, no matter how few or how many persons are affected by a certain violation on the level of norms or practices. Thus legislation that prevents some persons from having their personality rights fulfilled must be changed.
This normative claim is in full accordance with a Christian understanding of the person and of human dignity as rooted in the conviction that every human being is God’s creature and a child of the heavenly father. A Christian perspective will also rely on the religious conviction that every human person is addressed by the salvific activity of the incarnation, passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Within this horizon of understanding, contemporary Christian ethics will explicitly acknowledge the deep bodily dimension of personhood and personal dignity. This of course includes the sexual and gendered dimension of human life and identity. From an ethical point of view the existing plurality of natural dispositions of human life has to be taken into account. One has to recognize that there are natural varieties of human sexuality. A variation that does not fit to the binary of male and female must not lead to discrimination and exclusion from full participation in society.
Official voices of both the Roman Catholic and the Lutheran Church, as well as prominent theologians and especially theological ethicists commented positively on the decision of the German Constitutional Court and affirmed the right of intersex persons to official representation. The spokesman of the Catholic German Bishops’ Conference, Matthias Kopp, made the following statement: “If a human being cannot clearly be assigned to the binary order of man and woman, this person must not be forced by legal order or social custom to assign oneself against the individual perception to one of these sexes that do not fit.” (translation mine). Representatives of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) had similar comments on the court’s decision.
In my opinion it is a hopeful sign that the official reaction of the Catholic Church has recognized this claim to realize the personality right of intersex persons. This has to be emphasized especially considering that such a reaction could not be expected in the context of the controversies about gender-issues in recent times, such as the dogmatic use of rigid, scientifically inaccurate, binary classifications of the sexes in Vatican texts, which have resulted in rather harsh and uncompromising statements of the magisterium.
For further ethical reflection and development of the Catholic teaching on the issues of sex, gender and gender identities it will be helpful to take into account theological arguments and judgements from other fields of social ethics: For example, the normative aims of inclusion (especially of handicapped persons) have been clearly confirmed by the German Bishops (as well as by the Central Committee of the Catholic Lay people). The commitment not to exclude persons because of specific bodily or mental dispositions has been clearly stated as a matter of human dignity as well as of Christian love. And it has been emphasized that this claim also challenges Catholic institutions, for example schools (http://www.katholischeschulen.de/Portals/0/PDF/DBK_Dokumente/DBK_Inklusiv.pdf).
We can also refer to the strong and constant commitment of Pope Francis to an inclusive pastoral engagement - his pastoral of mercy, as unfolded in the encyclical letter Amoris Laetitia and in other texts. He vividly argues against exclusion and disregard of persons - be they migrants or refugees, poor people or prisoners or other persons at the margins of the society or community. Time and again he performs symbolic actions in order to urge inclusion of the marginalized. This practical engagement and its theological foundation should strongly encourage the necessary debate within the Church on how to deal with sexual diversity. Unfortunately, the magisterial statements on these issues still sound quite different, as do various speeches by Pope Francis on the question of gender. They seem not to fit well to the pastoral style Pope Francis promotes otherwise. To promote change in these areas, the use of “nature” as a pattern of argumentation needs to be thoroughly revised (which is, of course, not a new claim in theological ethics).
The cautious but encouraging statements of the Christian Churches with regard to the judgement of the German constitutional court may be read as a hopeful impulse for a necessary (and from many sides long-awaited) discussion on the issues of sexual diversity and an ethics of intimate relationships.
To promote these ethical issues in the context of Catholic Social Teaching and of Christian theological ethics is of high importance with regard to social responsibility. The Churches are religiously and ethically ambitious social actors with a message that puts the human person at the center. Thus they have to take on the responsibility to promote the recognition of each and every person regardless of their individual conditions. Obviously, it is a highly challenging social task to create a positive sense of diversity both within the society and the church as social community. Our modern societies are manifold and heterogeneous. Heterogeneity often provokes uneasiness and sometimes resistance, because it challenges traditional rules and certain borders, and it requires tolerance for strange and unfamiliar situations or habits. To live together under the rule of recognition and respect is never an easygoing project. Recognition is not only required with regard to sexual diversity, but also with regard to ethnic and religious plurality and heterogeneity. Therefore the President of the German Ethics Council, Lutheran Ethicist Peter Dabrock, was perfectly right when he connected the specific question of a third category of legal sex with the general challenges of social cohesion in the recent public debate in Germany. Basically it is one aspect of the ongoing process to define and redefine our self-understanding as a society: How do we want to live? Who are we? Who belongs to ‘us’? The German Constitutional Court not only set up a legal task for the lawgiver (as soon as Germany has a new government) to solve by the end of next year. It also defined a huge educational task for the society as a whole - which will challenge us (and many others) for much longer time.
Francisco en Chile: recta final de los preparativos para la visita de 2018
por Claudia Leal Luna
Mientras Francisco realiza por estos días el primer viaje de un pontífice a Myanmar y Bangladesh, en Chile los preparativos para su visita en Enero próximo entran en su recta final. Ha habido polémicas luego de que se hicieran públicas las cifras que costará la visita y se cuestionara la petición abierta a hacer donaciones para cubrir la suma.
Se han escrito columnas apostando por lo que podría o no cambiar a partir de su visita en una Iglesia local agobiada por su irrelevancia pública y por el descenso en los niveles de confianza en la institución… pero también es de notar que una importante encuesta ha mostrado que el 80% de los chilenos ve esta visita como algo positivo para nuestro país y que en la página web de la Comisión preparatoria hay ya 18.000 voluntarios inscritos, listos para ponerse a trabajar en lo que sea necesario.
Los periodistas están ansiosos por ver una salida del protocolo, los profesores de la universidad quieren regalarle sus libros, los niños le preparan dibujos, los hermanos peruanos y argentinos se organizan para venir a verlo a este lado del continente y las diabladas nortinas (esos grupos que le bailan a la Virgen hasta tres días seguidos) ensayan sus coreografías para hacérselas ver.
En este movido escenario, quisiera destacar los esfuerzos que la Comisión de la Conferencia Episcopal para la visita del Papa está llevando a cabo para recepcionar el mensaje de Laudato Si' y hacer de este encuentro una experiencia de ecología socio-ambiental.
Y no se trata solamente de recoger y reciclar toda la basura que necesariamente se generará en eventos multitudinarios, sino de dar contenido a esa visión que muestra que todo está en relación, y que cuando hablamos de ecología nos referimos también a la economía, a la situación de los trabajadores, al ritmo de la vida familiar, y a un largo etcétera donde debemos incluir todas las instancias de relación del ser humano con su ambiente y de los humanos entre sí. Esa afirmación, repetida de muchas maneras en la encíclica, ha sido fundamental para que ella traspase las fronteras de la tradición cristiana y se instale con comodidad en el ámbito académico y político, y por eso no es raro en Chile ver comentando Laudato Si' no sólo a teólogos, sino también a biólogos, ingenieros, sociólogos y profesores.
En este ámbito el mérito de Francisco es el de insertarse con naturalidad y decisión en una larga tradición que durante los siglos XIX y XX fue consolidando la convicción acerca de que: “La acción en favor de la justicia y la participación en la transformación del mundo se nos presenta claramente como una dimensión constitutiva de la predicación del Evangelio, es decir, la misión de la Iglesia para la redención del género humano y la liberación de toda situación opresiva”.
Otro hito culminante de esa reflexión – antecedente ineludible de Laudato Si' – son las recordadas palabras de Pablo VI en Populorum Progressio: “El desarrollo no se reduce al simple crecimiento económico. Para ser auténtico, debe ser integral, es decir, promover a todos los hombres y a todo el hombre” (15). Se trata, en el fondo, de una maduración moral de la afirmación de un Dios Creador; ese contenido de fe que tanto amamos, y que venimos repitiendo como comunidad en cada eucaristía – al menos – desde Nicea, no tendría sentido si no experimentásemos la urgencia de co-crear relaciones justas.
Una variante bastante lógica de este espíritu es definir líneas de acción para que la visita papal sea “sustentable”; que se disponga de información transparente sobre todo lo que concierne a gastos y que se rinda cuenta pública al término de la visita, que las personas lleven sus propias botellas a los eventos para recibir agua, que se tomen medidas para reducir la huella de carbono generada por el desplazamiento de miles de personas y que la convocatoria a las actividades – así como la conformación del voluntariado - sea inclusiva, entre otras.
Una dimensión menos obvia de este carácter ecológico es la que se deja ver en algunos de los eventos contemplados en el programa de Francisco en Chile, por ejemplo, la visita que llevará a cabo el Papa a la cárcel de mujeres de la comuna de San Joaquín, Santiago; se tratará de un encuentro personal, casi íntimo, donde los protagonistas tendrán la oportunidad de mirarse a los ojos y dejarse interpelar en primera persona por las palabras y gestos que tengan lugar.
Fue Francisco quien eligió estar ahí con ellas, con esas mujeres que en la mayoría de los casos no sólo pierden su libertad, sino también sus vínculos de pertenencia afectiva, sus redes sociales y viven invisibilizadas para el resto. Este encuentro personal de Francisco con las mujeres encarceladas de Santiago de Chile es un acto de socio-ecología donde, por un determinado tiempo que escatológicamente tiene aspiración de eternidad, Francisco podrá ser para ellas el rostro de un Dios amor cuya justicia no juzga a ciegas, sino que restaura en la dignidad de ser hijas de un Padre amoroso que sondea el corazón como ningún otro lo puede hacer.
Dependerá de quienes seamos testigos de los pasos de Francisco, que la conversación acerca de los temas que emergerán durante esos días continúe y rinda fruto y, especialmente, que los más desamparados entre nosotros no solo sean visibilizados sino que se sienten a la mesa como un hermano más.
Posters for the Sarajevo Conference
Why Is Africa Allergic to Elections?
Over the past couple of months I have been irritated on a number of occasions to hear “Well maybe Africa just isn’t ready for democracy.” As though ‘being ready for democracy’ is some kind of cardinal virtue, and we have to excuse ourselves for this lack of virtue. Which Africa? Whose democracy? Rather than offer the lame old excuses, like ‘Africa is still young,’ I’ll ask a few more questions.
We see our continent struggling with democracy: So many countries go into convulsions when election-time approaches. Some even refuse to go there, putting off the inevitable with a whole raft of excuses. In others, violent suppression of any potential opposition seems to be the norm. Why do the masses surrender their lives for the political ambitions of their leaders? What kind of leaders allows the shedding of even one drop of blood?
As I write, I am aware of two sins I would like to avoid:
The first is generalization – as though there were ONE Africa, rather than 54 countries housing 1.2 billion people. From the outset I admit that what is said about one corner of this vast continent need not be true of the billion-plus people living here.
The second is presumption: Who am I, as a fair-skinned African, to presume to answer some of the continents’ vexing questions? Well, in the context of the CTEWC reflection, I will presume only to raise questions, and not answer them.
Is it because electoral democracy is a foreign imposition and alien to the African way of doing things? In the mists of our idealized pre-colonial past, decisions were made by councils of elders, the repository of wisdom of our societies. Is this perhaps why, at 93, Robert Mugabe feels more qualified than ever to rule Zimbabwe? Maybe we aren’t in the habit of changing rulers, because chiefs and kings serve for life. Is this why so many post-colonial leaders have difficulty stepping down? Or is it that they are so scared of being unseated, and potentially having to answer for their misdemeanors that they try to cling to power forever? Or has hubris led them to believe that the nation really couldn’t survive without them?
Have we forgotten that in our mythical traditional gerontocracy the elders resolved issues by a process of consensus? Have our leaders lost the art of negotiating and upholding the interests of the other? Is this why they hammer any voices contrary to their own?
Or maybe our allergy to elections is about the technology of the election? Modern elections are computerized, mystified, reserved to a few experts, and therefore lack popular transparency. Do we really need to try to emulate the fancy high-tech developed world with instant results (and instant confusion) at the push of a button, as though elections are only about the numbers? Or might the whole process be more accessible to the tech-illiterate among us, if we used marbles, as they do in Gambia? In this system, by which President Yaya Jammeh was unseated after 22 years, the tallying is very visible, as the marbles of each candidate are spread out in an array. Do we really need to be rocket scientists to visualize the results of an election?
Or do we resent elections, because we are not comfortable without compatriots? Or fear surrendering power to anyone who is not a member of our own ethnic group? Our national borders were carved out without any consultation, and we were thrown together with other races, tribes and language groups to which we have no affinity at all. Are we still shuddering from that experience, reluctant to cohabit and collaborate with people who do not belong to my ethnicity, who eat porridge in a different way to me? What is our sense of the common good? Does the noble ‘government of the people by the people for the people’ only apply when the said people recognize themselves as a people? Why do elections bring about talk of secession of one or other part of a country?
Or are we allergic to winner-takes-all results? Where the winner fills all the top positions with his or her appointees, or ethnic group, and awards contracts to his or her cronies. Are we so intuitively ill at ease with this inherently unjust outcome, that we would rather disrupt the entire process than face possible defeat?
Life is more important than who is sitting at the top table. Why can’t we address our reasons for choosing mayhem over “free and fair elections?” Why must we convulse through each electoral cycle? Why can’t we stop killing each other in the pursuit of democracy?
At Stake: The Soul of the Nation
Music fans lucky enough to score a ticket for the eagerly anticipated October 12 opening of “Springsteen on Broadway” heard the iconic artist opine from the stage of the Walter Kerr Theater: “I believe that what we are seeing now is a bad chapter in the ongoing battle for the soul of the nation.” While it is seldom wise to rely heavily on show-business professionals for political analysis, these words of “the Boss” summarize the current plight of the United States as well as any. These are anything but normal times in U.S. politics; indeed, one great danger would be the normalizing of the regrettable behaviors and needless divisions that are roiling the waters of our polity. But what distinctive roles can professional ethicists play in these trying times? I will mention three.
One obvious option for moralists is to strike the posture of the prophet, denouncing travesties of justice and launching jeremiads against abuses of power. Speaking truth to power and scolding the selfish and misguided has, throughout human history, been necessary but (alas!) it is far from sufficient. It may be wise to reach into our ethics toolbox and select another method in our repertoire of strategies.
A second, considerably more demanding course of action is to assume the role of a policy analyst—the constructive critic who not only diagnoses a problematic status quo but offers realistic, practical, and ethically superior alternatives. This critique requires an effort to marshal data sufficient to persuade citizens (including our legislators) of the folly and death-dealing courses of action currently on display in the US—from the abrogation of complex international treaties and environmental regulations to the jettisoning of support for crucial relief measures (as in Puerto Rico) and health care subsidies that benefit low-income people. Only an ethicist who “does the requisite homework” is well positioned to propose public policy measures that will preserve the crucial values and human well being at stake.
The third and perhaps most distinctive potential contribution by the community of professional ethicists is to engage in a bit of meta-ethics—to invite observers of public affairs to see the big picture into which momentary opinions inhere. The work of meta-ethics can identify the forces that lie behind the “culture wars” and the sharp divergence of opinions on “wedge issues” that divide the nation into rival camps. Those who manipulate public opinion for cynical gain instinctively recognize the power of buzzwords and slogans, and ethicists should as well. One need not master the complexities of linguistic theory in order to appreciate that Americans mean a variety of things when they employ loaded terms like “freedom,” “justice” and “desert.” More broadly, as our most neuralgic “wedge issues” come to be “framed” in sharply divergent ways, meta-ethics could expose the ensemble of values and priorities held by those doing the framing. Ethicists have all the right tools on hand to unravel the complex bundles of opinions on key public affairs. I will mention two issues to illustrate the point, though many more could be cited as examples of the potential for ethicists to make a distinctive contribution to the debate.
The urgency of gun control was driven home by the tragedy of the October 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a nation, we are once again pondering the meaning of the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to bear arms, the challenge of accommodating the intent of the Founders in this age of automatic weapons, and the horror of thousands of lives lost each year to gun violence. Sensible firearms legislation will depend on how activists on each side frame the issue of gun control. Meta-ethics would question: Does a supposedly constitutionally protected right trump all considerations of social responsibility and practical provisions for public safety? As meta-ethics acknowledges, the vocabulary terms used in the unavoidable discussions ahead will largely determine the likelihood of any reform. Progress toward decision-making will be stalled until we recognize, for example, how the gun lobby skillfully frames the issue, employing the attraction of easy access to gun ownership as a proxy for a range of resentments and suspicions of governmental authority. Can we ethicists succeed in framing, with equal deftness, this vital issue in terms of the Founders’ intents and the radically different context of the twenty-first century?
A less urgent but still divisive issue is the headline-grabbing difference of opinion on National Football League players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before games. Looking beyond specific recourse to this protest action (e.g., President Trump proposes that players participating be fired summarily), it is clear that the differences of opinion are, as above, largely generated by the words we use to describe the controversy. Is the brouhaha indeed about disrespecting the flag and the nation? Or is it about asserting freedom of speech? Too often lost in the scramble to frame the issue is the purpose cited by (suspiciously now unemployed) athlete Colin Kaepernick, who inaugurated the practice in 2016: to protest unjustified police violence against people of color. Sadly, debates over the First Amendment protected free-speech actions of these athletes have been a proxy for larger cleavages in the culture wars that have roiled our nation for decades.
Many other controversies could be cited, as precious little terrain is not hotly contested in this contentious and divided nation. Through it all, ethicists may find it hard to do much more than insist on civility and basic respect for one’s opponents. But I hope that we can provide some clarifying light regarding the framing of these and other issues of concern. In so doing, we will be fulfilling our common mission to serve church and society by fostering mutual understanding and keeping alive realistic hope for the soul of the nation: genuine reconciliation of good people who, knowingly or not, are divided by words and ideas that fail to heal our body politic, but rather tear it further asunder.
La pregunta de Lutero y sus implicancias para la ética social
Por Aníbal Torres
A 500 años del inicio de la Reforma Protestante, es interesante observar que al dar importantes pasos en el diálogo ecuménico, los Papas Benedicto XVI y Francisco han querido recuperar una pregunta central que se formulaba Martín Lutero: “¿Cómo puedo tener un Dios misericordioso?” Incluso, el trascendente documento Del conflicto a la comunión comienza con esa pregunta, señalando al final del texto cinco “imperativos” para la conmemoración de dicho acontecimiento histórico. Es en el quinto y último “imperativo” donde se hace una alusión al rol de los cristianos ante la situación internacional: “católicos y luteranos deben dar testimonio común de la misericordia de Dios en la proclamación y el servicio al mundo”.
En atención a tal señalamiento, aquí nos interesa reflexionar sobre las implicancias del profundo interrogante de Lutero para la ética social cristiana. Nos parece que esto es un tema importante hacia afuera de las comunidades eclesiales, porque en ciertos ambientes y contextos se aborda la Reforma como movimiento religioso, cultural y político pero en general se desconoce el camino que han recorrido luteranos y católicos a partir del ecumenismo; es decir, para muchos parecería que aún se estuviese en 1517. Pero también se trata de una cuestión importante hacia dentro de las confesiones cristianas, porque a veces se asume que en el camino hacia la unidad plena y visible entre católicos y luteranos se podría prescindir del “servicio al mundo”, como si el involucro activo en la transformación de las realidades políticas, culturales y económicas no fuese constitutivo de la fe cristiana.
Dicho esto, es pertinente recordar que Benedicto XVI hizo una histórica visita al que fuera el convento agustino de Erfurt (Alemania), el 23/09/2011, donde señaló sentirse con “profunda emoción” por estar en el lugar donde Lutero estudió teología y se formó para el sacerdocio, al igual que manifestó estar sorprendido “en el corazón” por aquella pregunta y agregó: “¿Quién se ocupa actualmente de esta cuestión, incluso entre los cristianos?” Es interesante que el Papa Ratzinger haya señalado tanto la vigencia de ese interrogante como su carácter de ser una interpelación que bajo ningún aspecto debería tomarse por abstracta: “¿Cómo se sitúa Dios respecto a mí, cómo me posiciono yo ante Dios? Esta pregunta candente de Lutero debe convertirse otra vez, y ciertamente de un modo nuevo, también en una pregunta nuestra, no académica, sino concreta”.
Este es un señalamiento que se conecta directamente con la ética social, ya que no pierde de vista los acuciantes problemas de nuestro mundo y el compromiso activo de los cristianos como respuesta a los mismos. Así, la ayuda a los más pobres y descartados se funda en una adecuada relación con el Dios de Jesucristo. En efecto, Benedicto XVI señaló: “Si fuese más vivo en nosotros el amor de Dios, y a partir de Él, el amor por el prójimo, por las creaturas de Dios, por los hombres, ¿podrían el hambre y la pobreza devastar zonas enteras del mundo? (…) No, el mal no es una nimiedad. No podría ser tan poderoso, si nosotros pusiéramos a Dios realmente en el centro de nuestra vida”.
Por su parte, sabemos que para Francisco el “Dios misericordioso” es uno de los ejes de su pontificado. Recordemos que su lema hace expresa alusión a esta cuestión, al tomar el comentario de San Beda el Venerable sobre el llamado de Jesús al publicano Mateo: “miserando atque eligendo”. Esta escena incluso tiene una representación artística de Caravaggio, expresión pictórica que, podríamos afirmar, ilustra el papado de Bergoglio.
En su visita a Lund (Suecia), el 31/10/2016, Francisco volvió expresamente sobre la pregunta “¿Cómo puedo tener un Dios misericordioso?”, señalando: “La experiencia espiritual de Martín Lutero nos interpela y nos recuerda que no podemos hacer nada sin Dios (...) En efecto, la cuestión de la justa relación con Dios es la cuestión decisiva de la vida. Como se sabe, Lutero encontró a ese Dios misericordioso en la Buena Nueva de Jesucristo encarnado, muerto y resucitado”.
Es interesante ver cómo, por un lado, el Papa da al interrogante mencionado un lugar destacado, en continuidad con la centralidad que le atribuyeron tanto el documento referido como Benedicto XVI. Por el otro lado, Francisco deriva de allí algunas orientaciones de ética social para que los cristianos respondan al mencionado imperativo sobre el “servicio al mundo”, pues en ello está la credibilidad de su vida de fe, más aún, le es co-constitutiva: “Juntos podemos anunciar y manifestar de manera concreta y con alegría la misericordia de Dios, defendiendo y sirviendo la dignidad de cada persona. Sin este servicio al mundo y en el mundo, la fe cristiana es incompleta”.
Esto recibió importantes ampliaciones en la declaración Luterano - Católica que se firmó en el encuentro de Lund, donde las iglesias se comprometieron a trabajar en una amplia agenda de derechos a escala global. Así, se manifiesta la defensa de los derechos humanos y la dignidad “especialmente (…) de los pobres”; y también el trabajo por la “justicia”. En esa declaración se expresó además el reclamo por el cese de “la violencia y el radicalismo”, la acogida generosa y la defensa de “los derechos de los refugiados y de los que buscan asilo”. También, se sostuvo que el “servicio conjunto en este mundo” “debe extenderse a la creación de Dios, que sufre explotación y los efectos de la codicia insaciable”, pidiendo por la justicia intergeneracional para garantizar el “derecho de las generaciones futuras a gozar de lo creado por Dios con todo su potencial y belleza”. Por último se pidió por “un cambio de corazón y mente que conduzca a una actitud amorosa y responsable en el cuidado de la creación”.
Estos señalamientos nos ayudan a redescubrir la relevancia de la pregunta de Lutero y su importancia fundamental para la ética social cristiana. Es decir, nos indican que el encuentro con el “Dios misericordioso” que buscaba el reformador, es fuente de la misericordia en tanto virtud no dulzona sino de transformación social, como recuerda el Papa Francisco. Que en Del conflicto a la comunión se aluda al “servicio al mundo” no como algo optativo, que las iglesias pueden hacer o no, sino como uno de los “imperativos” para la conmemoración de la Reforma, demanda a los cristianos tomar muy en serio esas interpelaciones. Que inspirados en la “experiencia espiritual” de Lutero sobre el “evangelio de la justicia de Dios, que es a la vez su misericordia”, podamos nosotros llegar a decir como él escribiera en 1545 al abrírsele una nueva comprensión del obrar divino: “Ahora me sentí totalmente renacido. Las puertas se habían abierto, y yo había entrado en el paraíso”.
 Del conﬂicto a la comunión. Conmemoración Conjunta Luterano-Católico Romana de la Reforma en el 2017. Informe de la Comisión Luterano-Católico Romana sobre la Unidad, Sal Tarrae, Santander, 2013.
 Ídem, p. 111.
 Cfr. Misericordia et misera, 18.
 Del conflicto a la comunión, p. 111.
Idem, p. 111.
Since President Duterte assumed office in 2016, there has been a spike in the number of drug-related killings. While the Philippine National Police has reported 6,225 killings of drug suspects in legitimate operations since July 2016, the Commission on Human Rights and other human rights groups in the country claim the number is much higher, estimated at around 14,000 as of October 2017. The latter figure includes those who died in police operations and in vigilante-style killings that the investigation of Amnesty International had further established as linked with law enforcers.
In the latest nationwide survey of Pulse Asia conducted in September 2017, 73% believe that extrajudicial killings (EJK) are indeed occurring in the drug war. The survey defines EJK as killings perpetrated by state authorities (e.g. police or soldiers), that are not in accordance with the law. The drug war and the President who once likened himself to Hitler in his plan to kill millions of drug addicts and peddlers, nevertheless, continue to enjoy the support of the majority of Filipinos who are predominantly Christian.
This essay explores the various reasons for the explicit support or silence of Filipinos in the face of the summary executions related to the anti-drug campaign. It will employ as framework the paradigms of evil developed by the theologian Didier Pollefeyt in his reflections on people’s complicity in the Holocaust, this time applying it to the Philippine context.
The 1st paradigm diabolicizes the evildoer as a satanic figure or as non-human rendering it impossible to look at the person from a different perspective other than in the light of the evil he has committed (George Steiner). Near the body of 21 yr old Jerico Camitan who was executed together with 17 yr old Erica Fernandez by gunmen in a motorcycle last October 2016, was a cardboard that states: “Tulak ka, hayop ka “You’re a pusher, you are an animal.” Duterte himself referred to drug addicts as non-human: "Crime against humanity? In the first place, I’d like to be frank with you: Are they humans? What is your definition of a human being?" As totally evil, the drug addict/pusher does not deserve a second chance to be healed or rehabilitated in the perspective of this paradigm.
While the 1st paradigm focuses on the free choice of the person to engage in evil, the 2nd paradigm highlights the banalization of the evildoer who has been reduced to a “thoughtless robot” or “victim” that has lost his/her autonomy within the system (Hannah Arendt). A police interviewed by Amnesty International reveals that law enforcers – who normally receive a measly salary – are “secretly” paid 8,000 to 15,000 pesos “per head” by the “headquarters.” In contrast, they get no incentive for simply arresting the suspect.
Some church leaders admitted that they are afraid to speak because of Duterte’s popular support, and lest they themselves become targets of this vigilante-style killing. Others fear that Duterte who is not scared to offend the Church would expose their dirty linens in public.
Village (Barangay) leaders are likewise afraid to share CCTV footages of killings. Witnesses of victims who were shot even if they already surrendered are scared to testify, for fear of retaliation on the part of law enforcers.
The 2nd paradigm considers psycho-sociological factors that breed evil which thus lead to deculpabilisation or excusing the evildoer. But it does not account for how people can be creative in their complicity with evil. The 3rd paradigm explains this by ethicizing the evildoer; the malefactor is motivated by good intentions and is acting in accordance with the ruling “ethics” (Peter Haas). He or she is not just a victim of the system but creative in his/her participation since this allegedly contributes to the perceived greater good. Encouraged by Duterte himself who gave rewards for killing top drug lords, some local chief executives give a bounty reward for police and even citizens for killing suspects and/or criminals.
The EJKs are seen as acceptable, a necessary evil, in the light of the campaign against illegal drugs to promote public safety. Its toleration is an ethical conclusion brought about by a number of factors such as the costliness and slowness of justice in the Philippines, including for victims of drug-related crimes. It may be linked to the view that death penalty (whose implementation in the country has been on moratorium) is a deterrent for heinous crimes that are believed to be committed by people under the influence of drugs. This is also supported by the notion that Asians need a strongman, an iron hand, to bring about peace. Together with the conflicting statistics about the real score of the drug problem in the country, the people may misjudge EJK as “ethically” tolerable. Some who campaigned for Duterte assure others that, as in Davao where the President served as Mayor, if one is not engaged in any wrongdoing, then there is nothing to fear.
A 4th paradigm developed by Pollefeyt himself sees the evildoer as self-deceiver who is aware of the evil that is happening at the same time evades it through various ways to shield the self from getting tainted with the knowledge of one’s complicity with evil. He critiques the 3rd paradigm in the Nazi context, as a form of self-justification and self-deception. Pollefeyt elaborates on the role of fragmentation that creates compartmentalization in the self and facilitates self-deception: an example is a murderous police officer to poor drug addicts when on the job, and a loving husband and father to his wife and children when at home, keeping the ethics of labor and of family separate. There are as well, as Reuters reported, emergency room doctors who “aren’t asking any questions” regarding patients who arrive in the hospitals dead on arrival. “They only record it: DOA.” For as international and local condemnation of the drug war increased, law enforcers started dumping EJK corpses to hospitals to prevent crime scene investigations and the attention of the media, thereby resulting in an increase of dead on arrival patients from 1% in July 2016 to 85% in January 2017.
Within a totalitarian ethic, the emphasis is indeed on sameness, and everyone who opposes is eliminated. In contrast, the biblical ethic challenges us to respond to the vulnerable face of the other. Jesus’ inclusive praxis that invites to his table fellowship the last, the least, the lost, of 1st century Palestine is a counter-narrative that can and should wake up conscientious Christians from complicity to resistance.