LOS DESASTRES NATURALES COMO RETOS MORALES
Jorge José Ferrer, S.J.
Recinto de Ciencias Médicas – Universidad de Puerto Rico
Tradicionalmente hemos dicho que la ética se ocupa de los actos humanos. Es decir, solamente las acciones humanas llevadas a cabo con suficiente conocimiento y deliberación son susceptibles de valoración moral. Por lo tanto, a primera vista parecería que los desastres naturales caen fuera del campo de la moralidad. Sin embargo un creciente cuerpo de bibliografía, sobre todo en las ciencias sociales, cuestiona que los desastres –al menos la mayor parte de ellos- sean eventos puramente naturales. El desastre tiene, por lo general, un amplio componente social.
¿Qué es un desastre? La primera acepción del término “desastre”, en el Diccionario de la lengua española de la RAE, es “Desgracia grande, suceso infeliz y lamentable.” Pero es evidente que esa definición, siendo verdadera, no nos ayuda mucho para desarrollar nuestra reflexión. Escribiendo desde la óptica de la salud pública, Sarah K. Geale nos dice que se trata eventos destructivos que requieren un amplio espectro de recursos de emergencia para asistir y asegurar la supervivencia de las poblaciones azotadas. Por último, citemos a la eticista Naomi Zack. La autora define el desastre como “un evento (o serie de eventos) que daña o mata un número significativo de personas o que de otra manera perjudica o interrumpe severamente su vida diaria en la sociedad civil”. Combinando estas definiciones, podemos decir que un evento se califica como desastre por sus efectos sobre la vida humana y también. Son eventos que causan muerte y devastación. Desarticulan, además, las vidas de los sobrevivientes, en mayor o menor grado, porque interrumpen la rutina diaria y ponen en peligro el acceso a los medios ordinarios de subsistencia. Las comunidades impactadas necesitan ayuda exterior, normalmente ingente, para poder manejar sus situaciones y ponerse en vías de recuperación.
Ha sido habitual distinguir entre los desastres causados por la acción humana, como las guerras, y los que tienen su origen en las fuerzas naturales, como terremotos y huracanes. A estos últimos se les ha solido llamar “desastres naturales”. Sin embargo cabe preguntarse, como ya se ha sugerido, si debemos hablar de desastres (estrictamente) naturales. Parece prudente distinguir entre el evento natural (por ejemplo, los huracanes Irma y María, que el año pasado azotaron la zona del Caribe) y los daños que del mismo se siguen para las vidas de los seres humanos. Aunque es concebible que haya algunos eventos naturales que afectan a todos por igual en una Región (la erupción del Vesubio a los habitantes de Pompeya, por ejemplo), no es eso lo usual.
En otras palabras, para entender los desastres es preciso tener en cuenta los factores sociales implicados en su génesis y desarrollo. Los riesgos asociados a los desastres están vinculados con la vulnerabilidad creada por la distribución social de la riqueza y el poder. A mayor grado de vulnerabilidad social, mayores serán los efectos negativos ocasionados por la exposición al azote de un evento natural.
Por ejemplo, las personas que viven en situaciones económicas y sociales adversas, tienen viviendas peor construidas, ubicadas en lugares menos seguros. Tienen, además, menor acceso a la información y a los medios para recuperarse de los daños ocasionados por el desastre, como pueden ser ahorros o pólizas de seguro. Lo hemos visto en nuestra Región después del paso de los huracanes. Las casas bien construidas han soportado el embate de los vientos. Y, en general, los mejor situados socialmente han tenido una desarticulación mucho menor en sus vidas. En Puerto Rico, para poner un ejemplo que conozco de primera mano, el huracán María ha puesto al descubierto tanto la desigualdad social interna como la desigualdad de la sociedad puertorriqueña, en su conjunto, en su relación colonial con los Estados Unidos.
Si los desastres tienen una relación directa con la estructura básica de la sociedad, entonces requieren que los teólogos moralistas desarrollamos una reflexión sobre los mismos. Dicha reflexión es más urgente en estos tiempos cuando parece que los eventos climatológicos adversos van a crecer tanto en su frecuencia como en su intensidad. Este dato complica aún más el problema moral, porque dichos crecimientos parecen estar vinculados al cambio climático. En diciembre de 2017, la organización Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (británica) publicó un informe titulado Heavy Weather. En el mismo se hace revisan 59 estudios publicados entre 2015 y 2017. Cuarenta y uno de ellos concluyen que el cambio climático ha incrementado el riesgo de que ocurran eventos extremos. Los mismos se traducen en miles de muertos y en pérdidas económicas calculadas en los miles de millones de dólares (o euros). Y el cambio climático está ligado a las acciones humanas: deforestación, desertificación, combustibles fósiles y el consumo desenfrenado, tanto por las poblaciones de las sociedades industrializadas como por las élites acomodadas de los países pobres.
Los desastres naturales nos imponen, pues, serias exigencias morales. De una parte, nos llaman a trabajar en favor de la justicia social, tanto en el interior de cada uno de nuestros países como –en tiempos de la globalización- en el plano cosmopolita. Pero también nos convocan a la responsabilidad eclesiológica y a la austeridad en el consumo, haciéndonos eco de las enseñanzas del Papa Francisco sobre el cuidado de la casa común (Laudato Si, véanse, sobre todo, el número 34 y los números 203-208) y la superación de la cultura del descarte. En resumen: los teólogos moralistas no podemos seguir dejando los desastres fuera de nuestra agenda de trabajo. Representan uno de los grandes retos morales en estos albores del siglo XXI.
Bibliografía para empezar
Francisco, Carta encíclica Laudato Si, Roma, 24 de mayo de 2015. Link: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
Geale S. K, The Ethics of Disaster Management: Disaster Prevention and Management 21 (2012) 445-462.
Wisner B. et al, At Risk. Natural Hazards, People´s Vulnerabilities and Disasters, London, Routledge, 2004, 2nd edition.
Zack N., Ethics for Disasters, Lahham, Rowman & Littlefield,2009.
Response to Trump’s view of Africa and Haiti
Loathe as I am to give any airtime to the president of the United States of America, and his views about anything, I have been struck by many reactions to his characterisation of the home of 1.285 billion people as “#$%^hole countries.” About 16,79% of the population of the world live in these stinking countries.
The reactions have been various: Some newspapers expressed various opinions about the president’s qualification to judge an entire continent. Others reported the diplomatic and political fallout of the unfortunate comments. Up to the point where the president wrote a conciliatory letter to the meeting of the heads of states of the African Union expressing his profound respect for Africa and its inhabitants. Sober columnists wonder how the president knows so much about our countries. Is it just because the majority of the population is black, that it is possible to make such informed judgments? And if so, doesn’t this smack of racism or prejudice?
Reactions on social media are more diverse: I remember a young Nigerian candidly admitting that our countries have serious challenges, but announcing his best intentions to return from the USA where he is currently studying, to tackle some of the problems. He decries his compatriots who have left the country and from abroad hark on about its many challenges. He wonders why so many Africans risk their lives in perilous attempts at emigration, and end up dying as they cross seas or deserts. He considers both the push and the pull factors, and the gradual diminishment of the more capable residents of the continent.
Another equally patriotic social media commentator lambastes this young man for even acknowledging in public the difficulties that Africa faces. He prefers to concentrate, rather, on the glories of the continent, its historic achievements, and contributions to world culture. He condemns the slave trade and the colonial era that for centuries disrupted any progress or stability on the continent. Unfortunately, the wounds of the past cannot be undone.
Another social media commentator of a more linguistic bent analyses the term used by the president and concludes that it makes no sense.
The residents of Namibia, who had already been at the mercy of the president’s geographical education, invited people from around the world to come and visit their country with its “#$%^hole” deserts, canyons, nature reserves, and peoples. They were using humour to deal with the insult.
Obviously, the president’s pronouncement (later denied) touched a raw nerve among my co-continentals. With characteristic lack of PC-ness the president aired a perception that many people harbour about Africa and Haiti, a perception that embarrasses us. We acknowledge that we do not rejoice in the same levels of development, infrastructure, governance and education as many other countries. Our continent is rich in human and natural resources, and we have elevated to an ideology our particular philosophy of the human person called ‘ubuntu.’ Pope Benedict somewhat naïvely called Africa the ‘spiritual lung’ of the world. While this might be patronising on one extreme, the characterisation given by the president on the other extreme was even more hurtful.
Without denying the shortcomings of our continent, or justifying them in the light of our common history, what is more important than the hurt or damage to pride, is the truth that our continent is more and more marginal. It is seen as a stockpile of natural resources, ready for plunder. It is experiencing a new colonialism – this time from the East – which like the previous colonialism was not motivated by philanthropy. Hearing the occasional outside opinion – as coarsely expressed as it was – should galvanise our efforts to clean up our act on a continental scale and resist insult and pillage from any side.
Giving Birth, Raising Children – The Ultimate Exercise in ‘Space for the Unexpected’
Ellen Van Stichel
“Reality is always different – and more – than we could have expected.” (E. Schillebeeckx)
When writing this blog, it is only a few more days before our third child will be born. Although parents imagine their children already even before conception, the real child will always be different – and more than we could have imagined, to paraphrase Edward Schillebeeckx. Conceiving, carrying, giving birth and raising children thus is an excellent exercise in leaving ‘space for the unexpected’. At a time of easy prenatal testing, we even decided to make this space for the unexpected as big as we could by not wanting to know whether it is a boy or a girl. A deliberate choice, which reflects our openness for welcoming this baby unconditionally. But a strange choice, especially in a country where the non-invasive prenatal test (NIP-test) was chosen as ‘the product of the year 2017’.
With this NIP-test, one can check through the maternal blood whether the unborn child has certain anomalies. The main reason why it is popular is because it predicts whether the child has Down Syndrome, with 99% certainty and at a very early stage in the pregnancy: already by 14 weeks, parents know the result. While Belgium was at first more hesitant than its northern neighbor, the Netherlands to even introduce the test in 2013, it is now a standard part of the prenatal procedure because, since 2017, its high costs are refunded by the social security system. While parents had to pay about 400 euros before, they now hardly pay 10 euros. The reason for this is on the one hand legitimate: since the test was offered anyway, it was considered unfair that only the rich could afford to do the test and thus refunding the cost of the test was seen as democratic. (On the other hand it is also very painful to realize that the costs of this test are so expensive, while there is hardly any money invested in research on Down syndrome and the medical expertise in this area is disappearing.) These questions should have been the object of public debate before introducing the test in the first place, but as commercial companies were the first ones to introduce it, thus making profit from it, the hospitals and later the government couldn’t do otherwise than to allow the public access to the test.) The result does not come as a surprise: in 2016, 31 children with Down Syndrome were born, a decrease of 30%.
Parents, like close friends of ours, who have deliberately chosen to ‘keep’ their Down child, feel like they constantly have to justify their choice. ‘Didn’t you know beforehand?’, people silently think or explicitly ask. It puts the notion of ‘responsible parenthood’ in a completely new light: as if the only responsible choice as parents seems to be to abort when confronted with a positive NIP-test. As our friend put it:
I fear a society where there is only the fake appearance of freedom of choice. (…) Aren’t the really naive people the ones who believe human beings are manufacturable? We talk a lot about social media, which projects an ideal image of people who are not all that happy behind their screens. At the same time, there is no space for those who seem weaker. If I gave birth to one of the last children with Down, I’m happy that the pressure was just not big enough yet not to dare to.
The debate on the test and whether this governmental funding is a good or a bad thing, reached its lowest point when Etienne Vermeersch, an atheist ethicist and in public opinion considered as the ‘conscience of Flanders’, claimed that ‘we hope that in the end they (Downers) will become extinct’.
‘Do we really hope so?’, a Flemish comedian publicly questions in his one-man-show. ‘Do we really want less Downers? Don’t we need more? For what characterizes these persons is their empathy, compassion and positivity – three capacities which would change the world if some of our world leaders including Trump and Kim Jong-un had them’. ‘Moreover’, he continued, ‘if they saw our lifestyles – getting up early to be trapped in traffic, to go to a job we never thought we would do for a living for 8 hours a day, then returning home, caught in traffic again, spending some precious time with the ones we love just before we go to bed early enough to be able to go through the same boring routine the day after - they would probably look at us and call us “morons”’.
Just in case you wonder, yes, we also we decided to do the test, but with the agreement between us that we could never – especially not after the birth of the boy of our friends – choose to abort. (Which is not to say we condemn people who do.) But just to be a bit prepared for the ‘unexpected’, while not aiming at mastering or controlling it.
Sharon A. Bong
‘EWA tasting and seeing Christ as the Bread of Life, Rice of Life and the Meat of Life’
Thirty women, lay and religious gathered at the table of the Ecclesia of Women, feasting on feminist theological discussions, women-centred liturgies and reflection on the occasion of EWA’s eight biennial conference held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 18-21 January.
With the festive theme, ‘Foodscapes: Gastronomy, Theologies and Spiritualities’ digested from the lens of a Catholic Asian feminist theological orientation, 12 papers, including the keynote address were delivered for women’s hearty consumption. Conversational threads simmered with key ingredients drawn from EWA’s faith and praxis of doing theology that is: “inculturated and contextualized in Asian realities; builds on the spiritual experience and praxis of the socially excluded; promotes mutuality and the integrity of creation; and dialogues with other disciplines, Christian denominations and faiths”.
EWA’s theologizing is firstly grounded in the lived realities of Asian women and men and amid the global feminization of poverty and hunger, the poor and hungry Asian women in particular. This is the feminist standpoint that EWA commits herself to that one could taste and see from the Indian platter of experiences. For example, Shalini Mulackal offers a subaltern postcolonial feminist perspective at the intersection of gender, race and caste with regard to the triply marginalized Dalit women; Cyrilla Chakalakal’s poetic and philosophical offering builds on food as memory and the kenosis (self-emptying) of women and the Eucharist; Kochurani Abraham foregrounds women’s agency not only in forging food security but also birthing full humanity through the case study of Kerala’s kudumbashree, a women-led, state-driven initiative aimed at eradicating poverty and empowering women.
EWA’s theologizing is secondly brewed from the “integrity of creation” with homage to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and ingested not only through an ecofeminist but also queer ecofeminist palate. Discussions were spiced with diverging views on re-visioning Christian anthropology. Heejung Adele Cho (South Korea/Canada) reclaims the integral ecology affirmed in Laudato Si – an appreciation of animals as fellow creatures of God – that is manifest through ethical and sustainable farming of animals for human consumption (e.g. Polyface Farms). Mary Yuen (Hong Kong) turns to ecofeminists such as Ivone Gebara who in drawing the parallelism between men who feast on and objectify the earth and women’s bodies, challenges the patriarchalism inherent in Laudato Si. She offers pastoral responses that seek to eschew food waste, e.g. food rescue and assistance programmes (e.g. Food Angel) and the vegetarianism movement in HK.
Sharon A. Bong (Malaysia) in her keynote address, further problematized not only the androcentrism (male-centredness) but also the deep-seated anthropomorphism (humans as imago dei) that runs through Laudato Si. In drawing from ecofeminist vegans such as Carol J. Adams, she calls for a de-centring of the human in creation to better and more fully realise the mutuality and integrity of all creation. She also draws on Agnes Brazal’s feminist cyborg spirituality to argue that even the essence of what it means to be human is increasingly being queered (made strange) and de-essentialised (e.g. the advancement of Artificial Intelligence) with humans becoming cyborgs, engendering fluid, hybrid and plural identities, e.g. human-animal and human-machine.
EWA’s theologizing thirdly dialogues with other disciplines and faiths. Jeane Peracullo (the Philippines), the outgoing coordinator of EWA, draws from a rights discourse and ethics in assessing the relevance and limits of working within an animal rights framework as conceptualized by environmental philosophers such as Peter Singer, Tom Regan and ecofeminist Carol J. Adams. They flesh out moral considerations of ‘nonhumans’ through their capacity, not unlike humans, to suffer and feel pain. Peracullo calls for a contextual, ethical vegetarianism.
Rachel Sanchez (the Philippines) and Stephanie Ann Puen (China/US) whose papers were delivered for the Skype presentations, one of the main courses served at recent EWA ‘buffets’, draw on local indigenous spirituality and the global fair trade movement, respectively. Sanchez’s Christological re-visioning uses key ingredients which include: heeding the call of Filipina theologian Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro to reclaim female images of Christ which she does in the form of rice-making-life-giving goddess Sappia from local myths on the origin of rice (a staple diet in the Philippines and much of Asia) and making the connection with the Basic Ecclesial Community’s rice-sharing initiative in observing Isang Dakot ng Bigas (One Handful of Rice), to feed the poor and hungry among themselves. Puen in drawing from Ester Boserup’s seminal work on women’s role in human development through agriculture, seeks to appraise the Fair Trade movement not only from the faith-based lens of Vocation of a Business Leader document by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace but also a gendered lens through the former’s use of the concepts “good goods, good work, and good wealth” in relation to gender justice for women in the food industry.
EWA’s theologising would be incomplete without savouring the Bread of Life – biblical reflections on food and Asian women. To this end, Bincy Matthew (India) shows how the Lukan (Luke 10:42) and Johannine Jesus (Jn 12:1-8, 13:1-20) invite all women who interiorise their feminised duty to feed men and their families, to step out from these gender stereotypes to choose, as Mary did, “the better part”, the spiritual rather than material plane; Kristine Meneses (Philippines), the new EWA Coordinator, critically reflects on the contemporary foodscape of hunger-abundance through a reading of Eichah (Book of Lamentations) vis-à-vis Tisha B’Av (one of the Jewish holidays) and Lamentations 4.9; and Rasika Pieris (Sri Lanka) offers a feminist theological reading of the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus in light of women’s struggles in Sri Lanka.
Takeaways that will nourish us till the next EWA to be hosted in Malaysia include: fasting from the notion that romanticizes women’s role as providers of food (so that fewer women are hungry less of the time), feasting on the notion that food security is inseparable from gender justice, ‘cooking’ an anthropology of the human in creation that draws from spiritualities that celebrate the intimate interconnectedness of all beings; and for each feminist present deliberating – to eat meat or go vegetarian or vegan - tasting and seeing Christ as the Bread of Life, Rice of Life and the Meat of Life!
 EWA thanks the seven video-conferencing participants that include Nontando Hadebe, St. Augustine College (Johannesburg, South Africa), Sr. Anne Achieng and Elias Opongo, sj, Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations (Nairobi, Kenya), Mary Jo Iozzio, Boston College, (Boston, USA), Christine Firer Hinze, Fordham University (New York, USA), Katherine Ward, Marquette University (Milwaukee, USA), Gina Wolfe and Sr. Dianne Bergant, Catholic Theological Union (Chicago, USA), and Lisa Fullam, Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara (Berkeley, USA).
Report on the Ecclesia of Women in Asia Videoconference Session
On January 18-21, 2018, the eighth biennial meeting of the Ecclesia of Women in Asia convened in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. On Friday, Jan. 19, a videoconference joined scholars from three continents at several venues in an exhilarating international and interdisciplinary seminar. In the United States five sites hosted remote participation: Fordham University, Bronx, NY, Boston College, Boston, MA, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, IL, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, and Jesuit School of Theology/Santa Clara University, Berkeley, CA. In Africa two sites hosted: Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations, Nairobi, KE and St. Augustine College, Johannesburg, ZA.
Our first paper was by Rachel Joyce Marie O. Sanchez, Ph.D. candidate and instructor at Ateneo de Manila University, who invited us to ponder what it might mean to think of Christ as the Rice of Life, an image linked to the traditional Philippine story of Sappia, the goddess of mercy, who gave her life as rice for her people. The powerful image of Christ as Rice of Life reminds us of our communal and ecological relationships, and the connection to Sappia brings a feminine and Filipina image in contrast to the traditional androcentric and Eurocentric images of Christ.
Next up was Stephanie Ann Puen, Ph.D. student in Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University, whose paper was titled: “Women and Labor in Food Production: Insights from the Vocation of a Business Leader and the Fair-Trade Movement.” Puen described just labor in Catholic social thought, then noted that in practice, that framework does not recognize the effects of race, culture, and gender (among others) on business. The Fair-Trade movement, while it still has work to do in its own practices of gender equality, is “a step in the right direction.” In sum, “a gendered lens in understanding work is required in order to genuinely result to ‘good goods, good work, and good wealth.’”
The Q&A period which followed the presentations on site and from remote venues demonstrated the potential for this kind of conference. Questions came from all over, literally! We experienced the riches of international dialogue on questions of common interest, our points of agreement as well points of different inflection or importance in different milieux. I am immensely grateful for this opportunity, a sentiment shared by many as we concluded our time together with a sign-off from each of the remote sites to our sisters in Ho Chi Minh City.
Special thanks go to our presenters for their stimulating papers, and of course to all involved in hosting the EWA conference all over the world. Thanks to web-host Gina Wolfe of the Catholic Theological Union and Rick Mauney, CTU’s Director of Educational Technology, who made this the most glitch-free EWA event yet.
#MeToo Exposes a Casuist’s Taxonomy of Misogyny
Mary Jo Iozzio
I am a Luddite when it comes to social media and have clearly not appreciated the full extent of individuals who participate in this communication platform or to the notion of assertions that individuals contributing all manner of information form a community. Nevertheless, I have had to pay attention to the #MeToo movement, for the signal that any “#” sends to the social net, adding one user’s account to the continually growing contributions to this phenomenon –technology advances apace and we fail to do likewise at our peril (What are #). Many more of us have had to pay attention to its content since the phenomenon went viral after actor Alyssa Milano used the hashtag following the sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.
Suggested by a friend: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.
3:21 PM – Oct 15, 2017
Yet, as Tarana Burke, social activist and founder of the Me Too/You Are Not Alone Movement, recognizes: “sexual violence happens on a spectrum.” It is to this spectrum that I want to consider a casuist’s taxonomy of misogyny since, as Catholic theological ethicists, we are called to reflect upon and respond to this sin and “to use [our] privilege to serve other people” (MeToo Founder).
One of the methodologies I introduce to my students to help unpack the critical ethical issues of the day is casuistry. The first issue of this semester is #MeToo and Time Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year choice of The Silence Breakers. With casuistry I want to consider the permutations and nuances of the degrees of misogyny on a broad spectrum –from rape and other sexual violence, to sexual coercion, to sexual harassment, to ambient sexual banter, to complicit, complacent, or fear-induced silence. One of the reasons that #MeToo serves the lesson well is the millions of #posts that offer a glimpse into the kinds of criminal, violent, immoral behavior that survivors have endured. In many of these #posts, cases can be discerned wherein the offense bears sufficient resemblance to misogyny –the hatred of women—such that misogyny can be parsed and remedies explored. This pervasively sexist culture is not new (in the US alone, 87% of women surveyed report having experienced sexual violence), yet today social media defies the hope of perpetrators that their behavior will remain untold.
Casuist reasoning begins with the circumstances of the case (the who, what, where, when, how, and why), moves then to a comparison of those circumstances to a catalogue of similar cases to determine whether this case resembles paradigm-informed or precedent-setting application of a maxim, and concludes with adjudication of the affair in light of circumstantial coherence with or departure from successful past practice. What are some of the circumstances exposed in #MeToo: a socially powerful man, advances –with flirts or with force—toward a girl or woman or boy or man, anywhere and anytime, to confirm his power; what resembles this set: objectification, shaming, physical abuse, passive and active aggression, rape. No maxims –except those constructed to protect the culture of un-interrogated and uninterrupted abuse of power—permit such behaviors.
Consider the serial sexual violence case of Larry Nassar, team doctor for USA Women’s Gymnastics. Rachael Denhollander, the first to accuse Nassar with effect and the last of 156 survivors to speak at his sentencing, reported that more than 200 women had alleged abuse over a span of almost 30 years—some when they were just 6 years old, some who tried to expose him but who were “silenced, blamed and … sent back for continued abuse.” Consider the re-opened Judiciary Committee review of then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas as a parallel case in the culture of disbelief among an all-male-and-all-white panel of Senators among many others including the viewing public when hearing allegations of sexual harassment against nominee Thomas by his former colleague, now Brandeis University Professor, Anita Hill. Hill recalls “In 1991, there were so many people who just didn’t believe there was a problem … and the more women who come forward will help us sear it in the public imagination the experience of harassment, as well as the horror of it –that its not just harmless flirtation.” And lest any of us think ourselves immune, complicity deceives the safety that silence promises for witnesses and victims alike but which regrettably continues to foster the kinds of environments that enable and the tacit approvals that breed sexual and other abuses of power –from the chancery and the Vatican to boardrooms, locker rooms, classrooms, and ...
#MeToo has exposed the past practice of permission to assume and consume sexual exploits with impunity. #MeToo has exposed a widespread culture of misogyny and the vulnerability of women and girls, and some men, to sexual violence. Now let’s work with #MeToo and its companion #TimesUp. Let’s unite our voices to demand that those who have abused power be called to reckon with their actions. Let’s break the silence to expose, confront and squash the culture that protects such abuse and abusers. Let’s work to de-stigmatize and empower every survivor and their advocates, to disrupt the institutional structures that facilitate sexual violence, and to stand in solidarity for individual and community healing from sexual violence so all may flourish as a matter of social justice and love. Oh, and not lightly, #MeToo.
El Peligro del Populismo
Durante los últimos cuarenta años, los Estados Unidos ha estado lidiando con recurrente olas de populismo. La elección de Donald J. Trump es el más recién síntoma. El cristianismo en los Estados Unidos fue y sigue siendo un importante catalizador del populismo.
Esta historia se remonta a los 1800, cuando comenzó el Segundo Gran Despertar. Ese evento tenía la intención de revivir la comprensión protestante y calvinista del cristianismo, lo cual ayudó a dar forma a la fundación de los Estados Unidos y contrarrestar la creciente influencia de la Revolución Francesa en la cultura estadounidense. Sin embargo, ese objetivo fue abrumado por la explosión de fe religiosa que el avivamiento desencadenó al oeste de las Montañas Apalaches. Allí, los bautistas, los metodistas y otras iglesias cristianas buscaron evangelizar a una población que se expandía rápidamente en lo que entonces era la frontera estadounidense. (La Iglesia Católica Romana hizo sus propios esfuerzos para organizarse en esa misma región).
Este Despertar tuvo éxito. El cristianismo se identificó como una religión del pueblo. Esta es una razón importante por la cual las iglesias en los Estados Unidos permanecieron llenas durante la mayor parte de su historia. Desafortunadamente, el cristianismo pagó un alto precio por este éxito. Este avivamiento les permitió a los estadounidenses privilegiar sus experiencias individuales y subjetivas de Dios por encima de cualquier tradición teológica cristiana recibida, o cualquier autoridad eclesiástica. Hoy en día, si un ministro o sacerdote intenta enseñar la Palabra de Dios, y a sus congregantes no les gusta el mensaje, estos ignorarán el mismo, cambian de iglesia e incluso comenzarán nuevas sectas. La fe cristiana se ha convertido en una mercancía, destinada a satisfacer las necesidades subjetivas de las congregaciones en lugar de decirles la verdad. Estas personas se vuelven vulnerables a los charlatanes religiosos que dicen cumplir esos deseos.
El populismo desatado por el Segundo Gran Despertar fue un factor importante en la elección de 1829 de Andrew Jackson a la presidencia. Esto ayudó a impulsar la creencia, aún sostenida por muchos estadounidenses, de que su ingenio nato subjetivismo es tan bueno o mejor que la formación de profesionales. Irónicamente, rechazar la orientación profesional y el asesoramiento de profesionales instruidos y capacitados, hace que las personas sean más vulnerables a presiones sociales y económicas, donde tal experiencia podría ayudarlos a navegar la vida constructivamente. La gente comienza a pensar que están siendo detenidos por fuerzas fuera de su control. Y se enfocan en personajes carismáticos y mesiánicos que dicen poder salvarlos, pero que no pueden.
El ingenio autóctono de un pueblo, a menos que esté formado por una teoría sólida basada en la sabiduría de milenios y bajo una dirección constructiva de las instituciones democráticas, a menudo produce incompetencia, frustración y el despotismo para salvar a las personas de su propia locura. Los falsos mesías, como lo es el populismo que lo engendra, siempre les fallan a las personas que se cree que liberan.
A Life of Dignity for All: The Foundation of Sustainable Development
Anthonia Bolanle Ojo, SSMA.
The recent discussion on ecological issues is based on the fact that, even though changes have always taken place, today, the changes are more numerous and more rapid. And in many instances, they are more radical, challenging the dignity of the human person. Hence the Church, and even the whole world at this particular time speak of sustainable development. Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while at the same time sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depend. The desired result is a state of society where living and conditions and resources continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural system.
The foundations for the Catholic Church’s engagement with sustainable development are found in the Church’s doctrine of the goodness of creation and in her firm resolve to defend the dignity of each human being, especially the poor and the vulnerable. They also derive from her belief that people have a responsibility to work for the well-being of all humanity. The dignity of every human person, independent of ethnicity, creed, gender, age, religion, etc. is the foundation of Catholic Social Teaching (CST).
CST teaches that each and every human being has value, is worth great respect and must be free from any exploitation. Respect for human dignity in the Church’s discussion about sustainable development, therefore, implies commitment to creating conditions under which individuals can develop a sense of self-worth and security. True dignity comes with an assurance of one’s ability to rise to the challenges of the human situation. Such assurance is unlikely to be fostered in people who have to live with poverty, hunger, oppression and injustice. All these make it impossible to live a life commensurate with human dignity. However, a safe, clean and self-sufficient environment can provide human beings with all that is necessary in order to express their dignity and to live in genuine freedom and solidarity with each other. Therefore, the Church demands the provision of resources necessary for optimum human development and even human participation in their own development.
CST teaches that societal development must respect the inherent dignity of the human person. Through the principle of the universal destination of earthly goods, CST holds that the resources of the earth are provided by God for every human being. Hence it is the right of people to help themselves to the earth’s resources in order to defend their dignity. Also by the principle of subsidiarity, the Church teaches that people must be allowed to contribute to social development. This implies that it is an affront to human dignity for a government or any agency to prevent people from doing what they can do for their sustainable development. As created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27), human beings have by their very existence and inherent value, worth and distinction, and are also creative; through the resources of the earth, they can transform their own lives and their society.
This above indicates that any form of development and societal transformation must take note and respect the human person who is the beneficiary of development. Gaudium et Spes 26 clearly states that: “The social order and its development must invariably work to the benefit of the human person, since the order of things is to be subordinate to the order of persons and not the other way around.” This shows why the Church has inspired service to others, particularly to the most poor and vulnerable.
To show the urgency of sustainable development in our contemporary society, it is instructive to know that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, commonly known as the Sustainable Development Goals, are worldwide aspirations for human and societal development adopted in September 2015 at the United Nations General Assembly. The Goals’ preamble shows a remarkable synergy with the guiding principles of CST: “As we embark on this great collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind. Recognizing that the dignity of the human person is fundamental, we wish to see the goals and targets met for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society. And we will edeavour to reach the furthest behind first.” The Goals also point out that, in the face of climate change and environmental degradation sustainable development cannot be achieved until we can deliver for all people equitably, and enable all people to reach their potential. Also that sustainable development can be achieved with partnerships among the public sector, private secular organizations and religious groups. Instead of legal coercion, moral conviction and values are the driving forces behind the joint action that the goals propose. These can increase the overall impact beyond that of any organization acting alone.
As in CST, it is clear that the affirmation of the ‘dignity of the human person’ is at the center of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Catholic notion of the preferential option for the poor is aligned with the goals’ endeavor “to reach the furthest behind the first.” It is also interesting to know that at the launch of Sustainable Development Goals, Pope Francis endorsed the goals, calling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development “an important sign of hope.”
In conclusion, sustainable development has a place in the celebration of Christmas. God came to the world in His Son Jesus Christ to affirm the dignity of the human person. This is clear in the words of Pope Francis that, where God is born, hope is born, persons regain their dignity. Yet even today, great numbers of men and women are deprived of their human dignity, and, like the child Jesus, they suffer cold, poverty, and rejection. We pray that our closeness to the Word Incarnate may be felt by those who are most vulnerable, such as the internally displaced persons, the prisoners, the sick and homebound, the elderly, victims of human trafficking and the drug trade and women who suffer violence (cf. 2015 Traditional Urbi et Orbi Message on Christmas Day).
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND PROSPEROUS 2018.
 United Nations, The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming all Lives and Protecting the Planet. Synthesis Report of the Secretary General on the Post 2015 Agenda. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/majorgroups/post22015/synthesisreport, 15/12/2017.
 United Nations, Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld, 15/12/2017.
What Are the Implications of the "Very Possession" of Nuclear Weapons Being "Firmly Condemned"?
By Tobias Winright
On November 10-11, 2017, I attended an international symposium on "Prospects for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament" at Vatican City. Sponsored by the the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and hosted by the its prefect, Cardinal Peter Turkson, invited attendees and participants included UN and NATO officials, 11 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, activists, and academic experts. It was the first major international gathering on disarmament following the UN's "Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons" from earlier in July that calls for the total elimination of these weapons of mass and long-term destruction.
Several theological ethicists were also present. From the US, in addition to myself, theological ethicists included Georgetown University's Drew Christiansen, SJ, who was one of the presenters, as well as Laurie Johnston of Emmanuel College, Margie Pfeil of the University of Notre Dame, and James Patrick O'Sullivan of St. Joseph's University. Some of us have been working together in recent years as part of the Project on Revitalizing Catholic Engagement on Nuclear Disarmament that "is helping to empower a new group of Catholic bishops, ethicists, and young professionals to contribute to the current ethical and policy debate on nuclear disarmament, particularly in the United States." The Project is co-sponsored by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, in collaboration with: the Office of International Justice and Peace, US Conference of Catholic Bishops; the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University; and Boston College; with support from The Nuclear Threat Initiative. We have met at Stanford University, at the USCCB headquarters in Washington, DC, and at the House of Lords and the University of Notre Dame's campus in London. San Diego's Bishop Robert McElroy has also been a regular participant, and he too gave a presentation at the Vatican meeting.
A highlight of the symposium was an audience in Clementine Hall with Pope Francis, during which he stated:
"Nor can we fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices. If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned. For they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race. International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms. Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity (cf. Message to the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, 27 March 2017). Essential in this regard is the witness given by the Hibakusha, the survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together with other victims of nuclear arms testing. May their prophetic voice serve as a warning, above all for coming generations!"
Indeed, a Hibakusha was one of the speakers during the symposium, and she was the only one to receive a standing ovation afterwards by everyone in the auditorium.
But Pope Francis's bold remark about nuclear weapons also attracted our attention, specifically: "the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned." As I noted in a short piece at Sojourners , this reflects a development in Francis's position on nuclear weapons "compared to his predecessors."
Previous popes, from John XXIII to Benedict XVI, criticized nuclear weapons, but the possession of nuclear weapons as deterrence was conditionally accepted as an interim ethic by Pope John Paul II, who said in a message to the UN in June 1982 that the system of deterrence could be regarded as "morally acceptable" as "a step on the way toward a progressive disarmament."
As Bishop McElroy interpreted Pope Francis's position now, however: "Deterrence was accepted in a specific set of conditions; namely, that the nations of the world, individually and together, would be moving toward disarmament. That has not happened." McElroy added, "The condition under which there was a limited acceptance … those conditions have evaporated."
Prior hints of this development surfaced in December 2014 when Pope Francis questioned deterrence. As Archbishop Silvio Tomasi, who at the time represented the Holy See at the UN (and who also participated in the gathering on Nov 10-11), explained, "…the use of deterrence was accepted as a condition for avoiding worst results, but not as a value in itself." Tomasi added that not only the use but also "the possession" of nuclear weapons "is not at all acceptable."
It is therefore urgent that Catholic theological ethicists around the world reexamine the question of nuclear weapons. Given the current situation with North Korea, wherein US Defense Secretary, and former Army general, H. R. McMaster has said that the international community now faces "what might be our last best chance to avoid military conflict," we need to address this issue with the energy and rigor that our teachers and colleagues employed — with significant effect — during the 1980s. One of the areas that now needs attention, for instance, is what the implications of Pope Francis's remarks are for Catholics — especially those who serve in the military, or those, like me, who pay taxes in countries possessing nuclear weapons. Indeed, this was a topic of much discussion among us theologians, bishops, and clergy during breaks and meals at the symposium. The traditional framework for moral reasoning having to do with the cooperation with evil, I think, is highly relevant here, as I began to suggest at Sojourners. How can Catholics who live in the US, the UK, and other nations with nuclear weapons serve in their military without formally or immediately-materially cooperating with evil, either of which are morally illicit?
Another important thing to note from the symposium and from Pope Francis's statement is the connection with "integral development." The end of the symposium's title provides a clue about what I have in mind here, "integral disarmament." As Pope Francis noted, it is the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Populorum Progressio, which "set forth the notion of integral human development and proposed it as 'the new name of peace'" (no. 14). In his closing remarks to the symposium, Stephen M. Colecchi observed, "Integral disarmament and integral development are connected." He especially loved an insight another attendee shared, namely, that a "world without nuclear weapons is not the present world minus nuclear weapons." To me, this echoes Gaudium et spes's "Peace is not merely the absence of war; nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies;... Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called an enterprise of justice." Indeed, I think a better, more positive way of naming "integral disarmament" would be "integral peacemaking" as I proposed a year ago or, as I have more recently suggested in connection with Pope Francis's call for "integral ecology" in Laudato Si', "integral peacebuilding" in a new book edited by Daniel DiLeo on the encyclical. Perhaps a new moral framework for Catholic teaching on war and peace, which another gathering held at the Vatican called for in April 2016 , should integrate the best insights and practices of nonviolence and just war theory under such an "integral peacemaking" umbrella, thereby developing further Vatican II's call for us to "undertake an evaluation of war with an entirely new attitude" (Gaudium et spes, no. 80).
As we Catholic theological ethicists prepare to convene together in Sarajevo, where war and peace comes immediately to mind, I look forward to seeing contributions from my colleagues from all around the world on these urgent matters.
AUSTRALIA’S POSTAL SURVEY ON - SEX MARRIAGE
By Hoa Trung Dinh SJ
A postal survey on same sex marriage was conducted by the Federal Government of Australia between 12 September and 7 November 2017. The survey asked eligible persons on the federal electoral roll to answer one question, “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
It proved to be a deeply divisive issue for Australian society, and particularly for Catholics.
While most young Catholics see this in terms of marriage equality, many Church leaders see this as a direct attack on the institution of marriage which is at the core of a civil society.
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, wrote in his pastoral letter in August 2017, “We sincerely believe that there is a core and fundamental wisdom and truth in the traditional definition and understanding of marriage that should not be ignored and is worth keeping for the health and future of our society.” While affirming the dignity of all those who identify as having same sex orientation, Archbishop Hart maintains, “the Catholic Church will continue to teach and preach the truth that marriage is a union of one man and one woman and encourage all people of good will to embrace the fullness of that truth.”
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher began his article on The Daily Telegraph on September 8, 2017 with this, “Marriage is taking quite a beating right now. Many people are muddled about what marriage is, have lost confidence in its achievability, or have given up even trying.” While acknowledging – with Pope Francis – that “many people with same-sex attraction are hurting and feel alienated from Church and society” Archbishop Fisher pointed to the fact that people who believe in traditional marriage are now suffering discrimination in Australia. He expressed concern that church institutions such as schools, hospitals and welfare agencies will be bullied for supporting traditional marriage in the current climate where “Faithophobic slurs are now all too common”.
Paramatta Bishop Vincent Long Nguyen expressed a more nuanced view on this issue. In his pastoral letter dated 13 September 2017, he wrote, “It is important to remember from the very outset that the postal survey is about whether or not Australians want the legal definition of civil marriage changed to include same-sex couples. It is not a referendum on sacramental marriage as understood by the Catholic Church.” He concludes, “Catholics, in keeping with the tradition of the Church, are asked to exercise their consciences, ensuring that they are informed as they come to exercise their democratic rights in the coming postal survey.”
Jesuit lawyer and public advocate Fr Frank Brennan put emphasis on the legal protection of religious freedom for Australians. It is the freedom of religious personnel not to conduct same sex marriages. It is also the protection for employees, protection for churches as employers and property holders, protection for churches as educators, and protection for parents and guardians wanting to teach their children according to their religious faith or wanting to spare their children teachings inconsistent with their religious faith. Fr Brennan wrote, “The Marriage Act amendments need to include adequate protection for freedom of religion in the conduct of marriage ceremonies. Other issues of religious freedom should be dealt with by the tweaking of existing legislation such as the Fair Work Act and the Sex Discrimination Act.”
On 15 November, the results of the postal survey were released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Of the 12,727,920 Australians who responded to the survey, 7,817,247 (61.6%) answered “Yes”, and 4,873,987 (38.4%) answered “No”.
On 7 December 2017, the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 was passed in Parliament. In the Act, marriage is defined as “the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”. The Act upholds the right of religious ministers to refuse to marry a same-sex couple if same-sex marriage is contrary to their religious beliefs, or the beliefs of their church.
Churches or religious organisations will be allowed to refuse access to their facilities if they are being used for a same-sex marriage if the wedding does not conform to their religious views of marriage.
No doubt contentious issues related to same sex marriage will demand public attention in the context of work relations, health and aged care services, and school education for years to come. The Church will certainly have a role in leading the public toward greater respect and justice for all if She is attuned to the promptings of the Spirit amidst the signs of the time.