August THE FIRST (2012)

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August 2012

In this issue:
From the editor 
CTEWC Scholarship Programme for African Women Profile: Sr. Achieng Anne Celestine Oyier Ondigo
Forum: South Africa, USA, and Philippines
New on the website

Jim Keenan S.J - Editor
Jillian Maxey - Layout

From the desk of the editor
Dear Friends,

This issue is packed with great FORUM articles (Do Rhinos have rights? Freedom of Religion in the Philippines; ¿A dónde vas Occupy? ) and great reports from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. One thing missing is the report on Bangalore and the absolutely great work that Shaji George Kochuthara did in hosting the National Workshop: Moral Theology in Bangalore. I expect to post an article on the event by September THE FIRST. But as one person put it so aptly, the seminar exceeded all our expectations.

Still, our eyes are on Nairobi!

Roughly 40 of us will head off around the 18th of August. Pray for us, especially our host Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator. It is a great undertaking. By the way, of the 35 African participants, 15 are women (10 of these are either finishing or in the middle of their PhD studies).

All the best... Jim


Shaji George and Robert Gascoigne have joined the Asian Regional Committee (

NEW: Aldo Marcelo Cáceres Roldán, OSA’s, IGLESIA Y GLOBALIZACIÓN. La herencia de Juan Pablo II y la novedad de Benedicto XVI


Este libro ofrece de modo sintético la comprensión y valoración que la Iglesia Católica hace del fenómeno de la globalización. Sobre todo, desde el magisterio social heredado de Juan Pablo II y desde la novedad de las enseñanzas de Benedicto XVI. La Iglesia no es indiferente a los desafíos que brotan en el contexto global; todo lo contrario, está pendiente de ellos e intenta ofrecer claves para una orientación eticamente correcta y moralmente cristiana ante este fenómeno.

Meet Sr. Achieng Anne Celestine Oyier Ondigo Member of the CTEWC Scholarship Programme for African Women

Oyier Ondigo

Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph (FSJ) (Asumbi) is an indigenous congregation of women in Kenya founded by a Mill Hill priest Fr. Philip Scheffer in 1936 at a place known as Asumbi. I am one of the finalist members of this congregation. I am Sr. Anne Achieng Oyier Ondigo born and brought up in Kenya. I belong to the Luo tribe with their capital city in Kisumu near Lake Victoria, the biggest lake in Africa. Nowhere else in Kenya is the scenery as beautiful as in this area. Amazing stones on top of each other, some named the crying stones, others the first-wife’s stone (kit-mikayi) among others. Stories and myths abound behind the formation and mystery of the phenomenon of these magnificent stones. I went to a local primary school in my small village in Rapogi. Later, I joined a government secondary school. I furthered my studies at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree in education in 2005, and wrote a project on the need to review the school curriculum that was psychologically and physically negatively affecting Kenyan children. Through the CTEWC scholarship for the advanced training of African women, I completed my Masters in Peace Studies and International Relations the previous year (2011) at Hekima College, a Constituent College of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. My Master’s thesis was on transforming the youth culture of violence in secondary schools and the role of peace education.

Working Experience
I have taught in three government girls’ schools in Kenya and in 1999 I was awarded a silver spear of the nation award for the contribution and promotion of girls’ education in Kenya by the then president of The Republic of Kenya. In collaboration with other key holders in the area, we fought to rescue girls who were married off at their tender age to both young and old men alike against the girls consent. As a result, we put up girls Boarding Schools to protect the girls and assist them go through their education smoothly marrying after their successful education. The strong desire to liberate these girls put us into conflictual and tensed relationship with some of the girls’ parents. To the joy of the community and the entire nation, many of these girls are now leading figures in the country.

Now and Future Focus
I hope that my studies at the next level will further motivate and facilitate my service and desire to glorify God, sanctify self and lead other souls, to God. I am currently working as a volunteer to initiate a psycho-peace programme on pastoral prison peace apostolate. This is an initiative that will work with the victims and the victimized, the offender and the offended, the prisoner, their family and community. The idea was born as a result from a long observation of the experiences of ex-prisoners; being rejected by family members and even killed by some community members. This practice is escalating and goes unabated, unchallenged, and unstopped here in Kenya and many parts of Africa. The Programme aims at promoting peace and enhancing social harmonious relationship in and out of prison. I have the passion to join fellow women educators in forming and informing the conscience of the people towards ethical transformation for the common good of all.

Sr. Anne Celestine Achieng Oyier Ondigo FSJ

CTEWC FORUM: South Africa, USA, and The Philippines

Human rights! What about Rhino rights?

The wholesale slaughter of rhinoceros for their horn vexes citizens and ethicists alike in South Africa. Over the past six decades, these two species – the black and the white rhino – had been brought back from the brink of extinction by the careful breeding programmes of wildlife authorities. With renewed poaching, they are are once again gravely threatened. The status of their three Asian counterpart species is unclear as they are seldom seen in their former home ranges. Nowadays these long-lived slow-breeding relics from the Miocene era have been reduced to barely sustainable isolated populations in the wild with minimal genetic diversity in national parks and a few private game reserves. The greatest proportion of these behemoths survive in South Africa.

Poachers typically locate the animals, shoot them with high- calibre rifles, hack off the horns, and try to make off before animal-protection authorities arrive. Up to 1500kg of meat, bone, gore and leather are left to rot in the sun.  The horn is thickly matted hair at the end of the nose, and consists mostly of keratin, which is the chemical that makes up finger-nails and hair. Said to be rich in calcium and potassium, the horn is used principally in China for traditional medicine, including the treatment of high blood pressure, fever and other ailments. In the West the myth persists that the horn is used in the East as an aphrodisiac. The horns are also highly prized for their lustre and are used in ormanental carving – often, but not exclusively in the hilts of traditional daggers in Yemen and Oman. Despite government bans on the sale of rhino horn products, they are still freely obtainable in the Arabian Peninsula.

Before even considering the rights of the animals themselves, the trade in rhino horn already speaks volumes about the exploitative nature of international trade in Africa’s natural resources. The horn increases in value by several orders of magnitude, and little of that value ends up in Africa. Poachers receive a few dollars for the horns they risk their lives to hack off. Yet final buyers can apparently pay upwards of US$ 50 000 per kilogram.  The trade in endangered species replicates so many other trade relations.

Reflection on the moral status of animals is not highly developed in our part of Africa. Where life and death are cheap, where people in their thousands die annually in violent crimes and motor accidents, or with treatable diseases, where girls as young as 12 are having children, and babies are left to die at the roadside, it seems a luxury to worry about animals. And those who do raise their voices over animal rights often receive an unsympathetic hearing.

If we are not to treat animals simply as commodities to be exploited, like livestock bred for consumption, then we need to realise that they merit moral consideration. Rhinos are not the same as disease-carrying mosquitoes or rats, the killing of which can be regarded as a service. They differ from cattle, sheep and goats, which are bred for their meat. Rhinos raise the question of what it means to ‘own’ an animal that is essentially wild. They survive these days in national parks or on private reserves. Come to think of it, what does it mean to own vast tracts of land cut off from the communities surrounding them? This notion of ownership of terrain and its usufruct is at odds with traditional African notions of common ownership of property.

However, traditional African morality does recognise stealing as a crime, particularly in relation to livestock. And the theft and slaughter of cherished symbols of the wild, in order to feed the appetites of cultures on another continent is an even more grave an infringement. Instead of receding, the appetite for rhino horn seems to be growing. Of course one wants to be respectful of other people’s cultures. But these cultures’ unsustainable practices have caused the local extinction of the prized species and now rely on exporting mayhem to other continents. Surely in most moral systems, they cease to warrant respect.

Peter Knox SJ is a member of the Jesuit Institute in South Africa (see He teaches systematic theology at St Augustine College in Johannesburg and St John Vianney Seminary in Pretoria. In 2008 he published AIDS, Ancestors and Salvation (Paulines: Nairobi), a reworking of his doctoral thesis. Peter’s email is

 ¿A dónde vas Occupy?

El primer aniversario del movimiento Occupy Wall Street en los EEUU me hace reflexionar sobre el papel del eticista en los movimientos sociales.

En el otoño del 2011 ocurrieron una serie de protestas en contra del capitalismo irresponsable de los bancos y agencias financieras. Estas protestas se esparcieron por todos los Estados Unidos y otros países. En todas las protestas la idea central era la misma: la economía de consumo descontrolado y de maximización de ganancias es un afronte a la sensibilidad y dignidad humana y ambiental.

Momento de confesión - Pensé que éste sería un movimiento que confrontaría al pueblo estadounidense con las consecuencias inhumanas de un capitalismo descontrolado y de una cultura basada en la adquisición de bienes materiales. Ví en el planteamiento de los ideales del movimiento una sincronicidad con los principios centrales de la doctrina social de la Iglesia (DSI). Existen paralelos en la economía (OWS denuncia excesos en el sector financiero con un alto costo humano mientras la DSI defiende la dignidad humana y la opción por los pobres), el ambiente (OWS denuncia la contaminación de recursos naturales y la dependencia excesiva en el petróleo mientras la DSI defiende la distribución justa de los bienes de la creación y el cuido al patrimonio ambiental); y la política (OWS denuncian el control excesivo del gobierno por el cabildeo de las empresas mientras la DSI defiende la subsidariedad y la participación democrática de todo ciudadano en el bien común y su destino político). Considerando esta afinidad “me lancé a la plaza”, visitando el campamento en Boston, organizando una posible respuesta teológica, escribiendo reflexiones para blogs haciendo las comparaciones anteriormente mencionadas.

Hoy día el movimiento está en un período de enfriamiento. Luego que los campamentos fueron desmantelados el movimiento se concentra en diseminar información y activismo sobre causas más específicas como la pérdida de hogares de manera injusta, diseminación de información y activismo contra abusos policiales, y protestas sobre problemas ambientales. Este mes, por ejemplo, el movimiento responde a un incidente de abuso policial en California a la vez que planifica el 1er aniversario del movimiento.

¿Cual es el rol del eticista?

Encuentro el silencio de la iglesia frente a éste movimiento problemático. En octubre se diseminó un documento del Consejo Pontificio para la Justicia y la Paz declarando apoyo a la reglamentación supra- nacional de la economía global.1 Aunque el documento le hace eco a los principios de la DSI, y presenta los desafíos reales de la economía, el mismo no discute movimientos solidarios a esta posición. Si el enfriamiento del movimiento se debe a la fragmentación del mercado, el ciudadano apaciguado como consumidor, y la ausencia de una imaginación o conciencia social que piensa y que pide que otro mundo es posible, entonces los líderes de las iglesias tienen un papel sumamente importante que aportar al escenario de los presentes movimientos sociales.

El pensamiento ético debe estar presente en las consideraciones públicas sobre los elementos más esenciales de dichos movimientos. ¿Será prudente en estos casos apoyar abiertamente aquellas dimensiones de un movimiento que en su esencia comparte tanta afinidad con los principios más básicos de nuestra fe? En el caso de OWS existe un gran número de personas que, aunque no participaron directamente de las protestas, estaban de acuerdo con la mayoría de las críticas y demandas. Este grupo que piensa, siente, y sufre en su propio cuerpo los abusos de la economía capitalista de predación (el 99%) pero que no participa del activismo social es precisamente la audiencia crítica de nuestras iglesias y nuestras voces como eticistas. A éstos les hablamos cuando tratamos de relacionar los signos de los tiempos con las fuentes de reflexión ética, que para la mayoría se encuentran separadas una de la otra de manera casi absoluta.

En momentos en que nuestras ciudadanías se encuentran confrontadas con la oportunidad de reflexionar sobre la dignidad del ser humano, propio, de la comunidad, del país, y a nivel global, debemos responsabilizarnos para servir de enlace entre la DSI y las ideas más dignas de dichos movimientos.

Honestamente creo que sufro de una parálisis compartida por mis compatriotas. La misma me limita a protestar sobre las indignidades de la situación económica, sin necesariamente exponerme a ser una voz pública que se responsabiliza por la concientización del pueblo para un cambio social íntegro, justo, y digno. Siento un llamado profundo a participar de la concientización del pueblo relativamente cómodo, aquel que se considera anejado de la pobreza absoluta de aquel ‘otro’. Ese pueblo que goza de por lo menos dos o más comidas completas al día y una educación primaria garantizada, ese pueblo también necesita activismo social y ocupación concientizada. Como eticista debo de tratar de darle ánimo al primer movimiento que mejor ha declarado las injusticias del capitalismo desmesurado en los EEUU. Debo de contribuir a las bombillas de la incubadora que vaya acalorando a las partes del movimiento que se han enfriado, quizá porque los líderes religiosos, en su mayoría, se mantuvieron al margen del movimiento. Contribuir a la concientización nos hace vulnerables. Esta semana descubrimos que el cuerpo de investigación federal allanó los hogares de activistas en el área noreste de los EEUU para recuperar planes de protestas, listas de participantes, y cualquier otro material que ayude a congelar completamente el movimiento.

Aún más, se han complicado y hecho más estrictas las leyes relacionadas con las protestas públicas en consideración a las elecciones presidenciales del país en Noviembre. La labor concientizadora tendrá un costo quizá más grande aún. ¿Cómo ves tú el rol del eticista en los movimientos sociales de tu país?

MT Dávila is assistant professor of Christian ethics at Andover Newton Theological Seminary in Newton, MA, USA and the chair of the Latin American Regional Committee.

Freedom of Religion in Government Offices

A proposed bill, the “Freedom of Religion in Government Offices Act,” has caused heated debates among church leaders, politicians, and ordinary citizens in the Philippines. The bill is praised by some as a timely application of the separation of Church and State. Others have condemned the bill as an attack on religious freedom. If passed into law, the bill would prohibit the display of religious symbols and the celebration of religious rites within the premises of government offices, departments, and bureaus. The reaction from the Catholic hierarchy against the bill is fierce. The concerted efforts of church leaders, politicians, and ordinary citizens opposed to the bill would most likely prevent it from being made into a law. However, the ongoing debate is a good opportunity for Filipinos to explore the issue of Catholic dominance and privilege in the public sphere.

An aspect of the issue is the way other Christian denominations as well as other faiths have been marginalized by over-zealous Catholics in government. Catholic symbols such as giant rosaries or images of Mary are prominently displayed in government buildings. Although there have been efforts to use ecumenical prayers and rituals for government events, Catholic rites remain the default religious ceremony on many occasions. There is either indifference or ignorance among Filipino Catholics how these government-sponsored practices can be offensive and discriminatory to non-Catholics.

The issue of Catholic dominance goes beyond the display of symbols. A presumption of Catholic privilege seeps into the rhetoric used by some Catholic s, both lay and clergy, in public debates with the government. Many of their statements lack sensitivity to the pluralistic nature of Filipino society. In debates about proposed laws on contraception or divorce, the Catholic way is asserted as the only way or “the Filipino way” and church law is presumed to be higher than civil law. Positions from other faith traditions are recognized only if these opinions support the Catholic position.

It would be good for Filipinos, especially religious leaders and those who decide public policy, to listen to what the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church has to say on the matter:

Because of its historical and cultural ties to a nation, a religious community might be given special recognition on the part of the State. Such recognition must in no way create discrimination within the civil or social order for other religious groups;” (#169): 

“Those responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority (#422).

Humility, sensitivity, cooperation, and openness to dialogue are virtues that Catholics need to practice frequently and consistently when interacting with people of different faiths in the public sphere.    The practice of these virtues will help the Church take its proper place in a pluralistic society without losing its prophetic voice.

Eric Genilo is a member of the Society of Jesus. He is an assistant professor at Loyola School of Theology in the Philippines. He finished his doctorate at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts (currently the School of Theology and Ministry of Boston College). His doctoral dissertation was on the methodology of the American moral theologian John Cuthbert Ford, S.J.

Asian Regional Report

Further Information on the International Conference on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II, 2013, Bangalore, India

Last month we have reported on the upcoming international conference, entitled “Revisiting Vatican II: 50 Years of Renewal,” under the auspices of Asian Horizons: Dharmaram Journal of Theology (January 31 to February 3, 2013). The Convenor, Rev. Dr. Shaji George Kochuthara, CMI, has provided us with some updated practical information.

Confirmed Event-Partners:

Pontificio Consiglio per scienze storiche (Vatican), Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), Faculty of Theology, Katholieke Universiteit (Leuven, Belgium), Catholic Theological Faculty, University of Tübingen (Germany), Fondazione per scienze religiose Giovanni XXIII (Bologna, Italy), Institut Catholique de Paris (France), St Augustine’s College (Johannesburg, South Africa), Universal Church Division, Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart (Germany).

Call for Papers and Posters:

They invite abstract of papers for parallel sessions and poster presentations on Vatican II documents and related themes, especially on the following:

o History of Vatican II o Interpretation of the Council 
o Documents of the Council o Post-Conciliar Teaching 
o Reception of the Council in the Universal Church o Reception of the Council in Asia 
o Eastern Catholic Churches o Dei Verbum and Post-Conciliar Biblical Theology 
o Post-Vatican II Moral Theology o The Church's Relationship with the World Today 
o Ecclesiology of the Council and Post-Conciliar Developments 
o Liberation Theology 
o Lay Theology o Role of Women in the Church 
o Mission and Evangelizaiton 
o Priesthood 
o Religious Life
o Vatican II and Ongoing Renewal of the Church 
o Contemporary Issues and Response:
o Inculturation 
o Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations 
o Social Justice 
o Socio-Political Issues 
o Globalization 
o Marriage and Family 
o Education 
o Healthcare 
o Human Rights 
o Migration

The papers in the parallel sessions should be delivered in 20 minutes and should not exceed 2000 words. For posters, basics include, up to 800 words of text. To apply to present a paper/poster, please send the abstracts in 300 to 350 words. Last date to submit the abstract of papers and poster presentations: November 10, 2012.

Please send the abstract of papers and posters and the necessary information electronically to: Rev. Dr Shaji George Kochuthara, CMI, Convenor
Email: OR OR

Bursary: Limited number of bursaries, to meet the expenses of travel, boarding and lodging are available for those from Africa and developing Asian countries.

Website: The website of the conference, which will include the call for papers, has just been launched: Please visit the website for all the details.

We look forward to seeing you there!
Lúcás Chan, Committee Chair

Informe de América Latina


El Padre Juan Francisco Tomás nos informa que el próximo 24 de agosto realizará la defensa de su tesis doctoral en teología moral: “Epistemología y Método de la Teología Moral en Clave de Diálogo Plural y Secular Según la Bioética Teológica de Javier Gafo”. Su director de tesis es Humberto Miguel Yáñez, SJ, con Maria Cuneo y Tony Misfud participando en el tribunal de defensa. El acto tendrá lugar en el Colegio Máximo, sede de la Facultad de Teología de la Universidad del Salvador, Área San Miguel, Pcia. Buenos Aires. Juan Francisco les pide a todos oración para una defensa exitosa.

Gustavo Irrazabal acaba de publicar un libro: G. Irrazábal, Ética de la sexualidad, Ed. Ágape, Buenos Aires, 2012. Con motivo del Año de la Fe, escribió un comentario para la revista Criterio: La fe cristiana y el desafío del emotivismo, Criterio 2383 (2012) 44-46

En la misma revista: “Mater et Magistra. Mirar la sociedad con realismo y esperanza”, Criterio 2376 (2011) 37-39. También nos informa de un artículo que debe salir en estos días en la Revista Franciscanum n.158: “Biblia y moral”. Los criterios de interpretación en el documento de la Pontificia Comisión Bíblica (2008), más detalles cuando sea publicado oficialmente.


Tony Misfud envía saludos a todas y a todos y nos informa que el próximo mes (agosto) saldrá publicado un libro, titulado Decisiones responsables: una ética de discernimiento. La publicación es del Centro de Ética de la Universidad Alberto Hurtado (Santiago).

MT Davila, Committee Chair

African Regional Report

Nairobi Program



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August newsletter New “clearing house” addition: CALL FOR PAPERS—Journal of Spirituality and Christian Mission and Asian Horizons

Newly posted publications: Pawlikowski


Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church

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