February THE FIRST (2013)

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February 2013
Welcome to the FIRST
The newsletter of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (CTEWC)

In this issue:
From the editor    Forum: 4 new essays    Jim Keenan S.J Editor
Announcements    New on the website    Jillian Maxey Layout

From the desk of the editor

I hope you have each had the opportunity to visit the newly designed web site, www.catholicethics.com.
We have been getting wonderful reactions from readers.

In this issue, I first want to congratulate Sr. Annah Nyadombo of Zimbabwe who successfully defended her dissertation 3 weeks ago at the Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity College, Dublin. Annah received scholarships from Trinity College, Dublin, CTEWC, and
the Diocese of Mutare, Zimbabwe. Over the years she has been the only African woman from the cohort of 8 African women PhD candidates studying outside of Africa.

We also give a word of welcome to William C. Mattison, III, a new Forum contributor. Read his essay on the religious freedom discussion in the United States.    While you are at it, see the other Forum essays: Shaji George Kochuthara's essay on the international case of woman who was raped in India, Sr. Marie-Rose Ndimbo's essay on the electoral concerns of the bishops of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sebastian Mier's reflections on the Continental Congress of the Theology held in San Leopoldo, Brazil, last October.

And feel free to write a reply to them on the website. (Go to http://www.catholicethics.com/forum-submissions. One you click on the title of a particular essay, you can scroll to the bottom of the page to leave a comment)... Shaji George's essay has already prompted reflections.

Lastly, since social media is such a convenient means for communicating all across the globe, along with our newly designed site, we have launched a CTEWC Facebook page, Twitter account, and LinkedIn group. It’s up to you get them them up and running! See details below.

I wish you all the best.


There are now more ways to be in conversation:

Follow CTEWC on Twitter
Like CTEWC on Facebook
and Join the CTWEC group on LinkedIn

Congratulations to Sr. Annah Nyadombo of Zimbabwe for defending her dissertation successfully in Theological Ethics at Trinity College, Dublin.
Annah will received her PhD from Trinity College, Dublin.

Her dissertation title is: A holistic pastoral approach to HIV/AIDS sufferers: reduction of stigmatisation in Zimbabwe.
Annah received scholarships from Trinity College, Dublin, CTEWC, and the Diocese of Mutare, Zimbabwe.

You can write to her at nyadomba@tcd.ie

Lucas Chan's new book, The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes: Biblical Studies and Ethics for Real Life. (Rowman and Littlefield/Sheed and Ward, 2012) is now available.

This book constitutes a major step forward in the blending of biblical studies and ethics. Moreover, it brings together scholarly research, wisdom, and practical insights for our daily lives. It offers treasures for any reader seeking paths for moral and spiritual growth.

-Margaret A. Farley, Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethics, Yale University Divinity School

More reviews of Lucas’ book are available on the CTEWC website:

About the Author
Yiu Sing Lucas Chan taught at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, a graduate school of Santa Clara University. He will be teaching at Trinity College, Dublin, in 2013.

Stephan Goertz, Katharina Klocker, and Rudolf B. Hein have editing a book in honor of CTWEC Planning Committee member, Antonio Autiero.

Fluchtpunkt Fundamentalismus? Gegenwartsdiagnosen katholischer Moral (in honour of Antonio Autiero), Verlag Herder Freiburg 2013.

More information:

Autiero's activities are placed in the field of fundamental moral (ethical theories of the subject) and in the field of bioethics. 1997-2011 he was also director of the research center in religious and theological sciences at the Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Trent / Italy.

Our African Women Scholarship recipients were recently the subject of an artcle by Josh McElwee of NCR.
Read the article: http://ncronline.org/node/42951

A new article by Agnes Brazal, "Redeeming the Vernacular: Doing Postcolonial-Intercultural Theological Ethics," from Asian Horizons is now available at:

Visit the catholicethics.com to submit your articles, books and announcements for posting. Look for the “We Need Your Resouces” area on the homepage to submit and browse publications, job openings, grants and fellowships, and announcements.

The University of Dublin Trinity College
Trinity College Dublin is seeking to appoint key positions to the newly established Loyola Institute and to the Confederal School of Religions, Theology and Ecumenics, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. www.tcd.ie/hr/vacancies

Trinity College Dublin is seeking to appoint a theologian of international reputation to the Loyola Chair of Catholic Theology, located in the newly established Loyola Institute. The closing date for receipt of completed applications is: noon, Friday, 1st March 2013 

Assistant Professor in Systematic Theology (permanent)
Applications are invited for a permanent full-time position in Systematic Theology in the Catholic tradition based in the newly established Loyola Institute within the Confederal School of Religions, Theology and Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin. The closing date for receipt of completed applications for the Assistant Professor in Systematic Theology is: noon, Friday, 1st March 2013

Assistant Professor in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (permanent)
Applications are invited for a permanent full-time appointment based in the Loyola Institute, within the School of Religions, Theology and Ecumenics, from candidates with a Ph.D. in the field of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. The closing date for receipt of completed applications for the Assistant Professor in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is: noon, Friday, 1st March 2013

Assistant Professor in Early Christianity (5 year contract) Applications are invited for a five year appointment based in the Department of Religions and Theology, within the Confederal School of Religions, Theology and Ecumenics, from candidates with a Ph.D. in the field of Early Christianity. The closing date for receipt of completed applications for the Assistant Professor in Early Christianity is: noon, Friday, 1st March 2013

Applications will be accepted through e-recruitment only. Full information on the positions and application procedures can be obtained at: www.tcd.ie/hr/vacancies

CTEWC Forum: India, Mexico, DCR and the U.S.

That Delhi Girl!
In the last couple of weeks India has been witnessing an unprecedented public anger and grief over the brutal rape of a 23 year old girl, a medical student, in Delhi. She was gang-raped by six men in a moving bus on the night of 16 December. She was returning home with her friend. The six men, including the driver of the bus, beat up the friend, raped the girl, beat her up and brutally tortured her and finally threw both of them out of the bus. She was admitted in the hospital in a very critical condition and finally on 28th December she succumbed to death. The name of the girl is not revealed (though the media have given several psuedonyms to her).

She would have been just one of the thousands of rape victims in India. But the unprecedented public reaction over the incident made her an extraordinary girl! Just consider: the prime minister, the president of India, the chief ministers, political party leaders, religious and social leaders invited people to pray for her recovery, made several times public statements joining the grief of the people, on her death expressed grief, the prime minister of India made official media address a couple of times on the incident, assuring strong action against the culprits, requesting people to remain calm... The prime minister, the president of the congress party and other leaders went to the airport to receive her body and paid homage, when her body was returned from Singapore where she was taken for treatments.

People's protest following this heinous crime was unexpected. No political party or no organisation took the initiative. Without any formal organisation people came (perhaps initiated by social media). They came... they came in hundreds... they came in thousands... youth, students, people of all classes and age groups, men and women, shouting slogans against the violence on women, against the inaction of the authorities, against the patriarchal structures that inflict violence on women, against the failure of the legal system, against the insensitivity of the police,... lighting candles, praying for the victim, after her death, for the repose of her soul, with tears. There was no one to lead them... but they were/are resolute and fearless. The police used all their force - blocking the roads, closing down the metro stations for days, beating up the protesters, teargas shells and water cannons, but nothing could deter the people. We never saw the government authorities so disturbed and shaken, not knowing what to do to regain the confidence of the people. Though sporadic violence occurred (perhaps due to some hooligans who crept into the crowd), people said that they wanted only peaceful protests.

Perhaps she was known only to her friends and family. But, she has become a national symbol! A national symbol of women's struggle for dignity; a national symbol of the dissatisfaction with the ruling class that ignores the safety and security of the people; a national symbol of people's power.

This brutal crime, though one among hundreds of rapes a year, has touched the conscience of the nation. It has shaken the pillars of power, leaving them directionless. Two of the accused themselves admitted of the crime and demanded on themselves death sentence. Many hotels and organisations have cancelled the new year celebrations as an expression of solidarity. The government is urgently working on a reform of the law to ensure safety and dignity of women and more severe punishment for the culprits.

A few reflections:
1. Democracy, has in many ways failed to respond to the hopes and needs of the people. In many countries we find a self-centred ruling class, concerned only about their power and gains. If this is not addressed urgently, deep dissatisfaction in the people may lead to political instability and even violent reactions.
2. The legal system often fails to ensure, leading to distrust and anger in the vast majority. What can be done about it?
3. In spite of the sense of anger, grief and despair and the brutality that the girl was subjected to and her sad death, she has become a symbol of hope - that nothing can suffocate people's thirst for justice and dignity, that people will rise against the structures and a ruling class that ignore their responsibility to people. This is nothing but the working of the God of Justice, who continues to be active in the history of humanity. This is the ray of hope even in the darkness of grief, anger and despair that enshrouds the society at the moment.
4. The absence of the Church in these protests has been conspicuous. The Church leaders condemned the violence and condoled her death. But, many noticed the absence of Church leaders in these protests, though some say that perhaps a few nuns participated. I do not intend to say that Church leaders should take part in all demonstrations. But, when a nun is molested, we organise public protests and invite others to join us in solidarity. When such an incident which deeply touched the conscience of the nation, we have remained almost spectators. This is indicative of our style of functioning, unless such issues are of importance for our institutions.
5. Any structure or system that discriminate women will weaken our stance against injustice and violence on women.

Shaji George Kochuthara, CMI (kochuthshaji@gmail.com) teaches moral theology at Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram (DVK) (Pontifical Athenaeum of Theology, Philosophy and Canon Law), Bangalore, India. He has published The Concept of Sexual Pleasure in the Catholic Moral Tradition (Roma: Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 2007) and a few articles. He is the editor-in-chief of Asian Horizons: Dharmaram Journal of Theology and the Chairperson of the Institutional Ethical Review Board of St. John's Medical College, Bangalore.

To comment, go to: http://www.catholicethics.com/forum-submissions

Please note: Sebastian’s article is available in Spanish at

Theological ethics in the Continental Congress of Latin American theology

In the Nov. 1st newsletter Emilce Cuda has already shared about this congress in San Leopoldo, RS, Brazil, which took place on October 2012. Her reflection focused mainly on the environment in which it developed. This is a very important dimension and one that I consider one of its main fruits (as in Padua and Trento): to strengthen hope in difficult times ,socially and ecclesiastically. This contributed to numerous attendees (750) with broad participation of women and youth. But now I will focus more on the abundant content: a dozen large conferences, 21 workshops and 30 panels.

The various branches of theology, although with their own objectives and methods, are closely related and can not be so neatly separated one from the other. The predominant method of liberation theology follows the steps of seeing, judging and acting, and the Congress basically followed these steps.

Moreover, theology can not improvise profound changes frequently. Yes there are those universally symbolized by Vatican II, and in Latin America by Medellin and Puebla. This is relevant because on comparing the various presentations of this conference with what Ronaldo Zacharias, Tony Mifsud and I (and others) did at Trent, I cannot find major differences. Rather, I find confirmation.
The situation retains basically the same features: crushing hegemony, increasingly consumerist neoliberal capitalism, resulting unemployment and misery and destruction of ecosystems, political parties that are subject to economic power and that pursue their own interests with a high degree of corruption, and slow moving leftist currents in South America; mass media with increasing technical capacity and in complicity with the powers above, and first world culture. Two phenomena already present in previous decades, but with a notable increase: the flows of migrant workers to richer countries and drug trafficking with great violence.

With this panorama in mind, societal challenges predominated the agenda. Facing these challenges, theological ethics is inspired by the preaching and works of Jesus, which proclaim the reign of God on behalf of all the downtrodden, and, in the secular realm, it relies on human rights claims at the individual and collective levels. Also highlighted was the contribution of indigenous cultures against the voracious consumerist desire to "live better", postulating a simple "live well". In this way theological ethics speaks against injustice with the contributions of the economic sciences and eco-environmental policies that document the disasters perpetrated by the current system, and which inspire and motivate many social movements, including the wide range that is linked through of the World Social Forums and its meetings with up to 200 thousand participants.

Participants in the Congress also addressed more cultural challenges. Here they were able to find a more properly ethical discussion. Examples of topics addressed include the place of women and gender theories, ecumenism and religious pluralism, multiculturalism and postmodernism, indigenous and African cultures ...

Finally I lift up the work of a number of women theologians stands out as the most innovative contributions, achieving movement beyond previous claims, and presenting fresh and inspiring formulations.

More information on content of the conference is available at
http://amerindiaenlared.org/noticia/235/libro-virtual--la-teologia-de-la-liberacion-en- prospectiva---congreso-continental-de-teologia/).    And if you wish to access my contributions to our congresses of Padua (theological ethics challenges in AL, option for the poor and bioethics) and Trento (contribution of indigenous culture to current ethics) emphasizing precisely this approach of TL's, I may be contacted at <smier@sjsocial.org>

Sebastian Mier SJ has been professor of moral theology at the Jesuit Theology Institute, Pontifical University of Mexico, since 1980. He has served as responsible for university pastoral mission (1977-1990), in base ecclesial communities (198601996), and collaborating with indigenous ministry since 1992. He is a regular contributor to the mexican theological journal Christus, since 1971. His doctoral thesis is titled: The Social Subject in Fundamental Morality: confirmation of BECs in Mexico (UPM, 1986).

To comment, go to: http://www.catholicethics.com/forum-submissions

Please note: Marie-Rose’s essay is also available in French at:

As the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) Face the Elections in the DRC in 2011
Were There Some Recommendations?

The choice between political leaders is often an occasion to consider the reasons for the past and to determine to build for a better future. Citizens' interests are sometimes conflicting, such a choice can lead to tensions and even conflict. This was particularly true in Africa in recent years following the democratization of political life. Hence the need for the churches, other states and non-governmental organizations to help people clarify the real issues of the election, the conditions for their development and the risks that they bring.

Since the first elections of the Third Republic in 2006, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) has spared no effort to inform Christians, so that elections lead to useful results for the nation that can be accepted by all. CENCO has published for this reason several messages and statements. In the recent presidential and parliamentary elections of 2011, the solicitude of CENCO has been in evidence through its Justice and Peace Commission whose observers, mainly through three interventions, offered recommendations that we are pleased to recall: the exhortation of the Standing Committee after its meeting on February 21 to 25, 2011, the statement of Cardinal Monsengwo after the publication of the results of the second round of presidential elections, and finally the message of the plenary meeting convened in January 2012.

Well before the 2011 elections, CENCO offered their ultimate challenge: the advent of good governance, development and respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms (No. 3). To achieve this goal, elections must be free, transparent, along with a true separation of powers and of control both internal and external. In other words, the will of the people must be respected (No. 4-6). More elections must take place in a secure environment (No. 10). In this perspective, CENCO lamented the hasty and quick revision of the Constitution and the electoral law, as well as the irreverent campaign waged against the prelates who denounced this revision. CENCO then made various recommendations to the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI)(to call for impartiality and to respect the results), to the organizing authority (to provide security for the people and monitor the electoral data), to the police and the Army (to remain apolitical), to the political actors (to abstain from all forms of violence), and finally the population (to vote in conscience without capitulating to gifts, tribalism or regionalism).

Despite these warnings, many observers have deplored the conditions and procedures under which the flawed elections of 2011 took place. It is in this context that a bold statement read to the press, the Archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Monsengwo said that the presidential results announced conformed with neither justice nor the truth of the polls, and that the candidate declared the winner received fewer votes than the loser. Finally he challenged the alleged winner to refrain from ruling the country.

The third and final message of CENCO on the 2011 elections, noted some positive aspects of the electoral process (internal financing of elections, the efforts CENI to deploy monitors), but it dwelt on the elections’ weaknesses (many irregularities, especially in the final tallying of the votes, which is a shame for the country and undermines the credibility of published results: No. 6). On this basis, CENCO in turn invited, one after the other, the declared winner not to govern the country in light of the lying, cheating, and violations of freedom of expression (No. 8), the people not to give in to pessimism and violence; CENI to challenge and even to resign so as to teach the government the lesson of the electoral debacle; the Supreme Court of Justice to speak the law in conscience and in independence; and the international community to focus on the interests of the Congolese people etc..

Marie-Rose Ndimbo Ngbiangonda is a member of the Religious of the Congregation of the Sisters Daughters of Mary of Molegbe, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). She is a recipient of a CTEWC scholarship. Currently, I am at the Catholic University of Congo, where I am preparing my thesis on "Justice, Peace and Reconciliation in the minds of Bishops of the sub-region of the Great Lakes.”

To comment, go to: http://www.catholicethics.com/forum-submissions

Boundaries and Protections of Religious Freedom

For this issue of The FIRST, I write about the topic of religious freedom given its importance in the recent U.S. election. In this period after the November election and before Barack Obama’s second inauguration, the topic is fitting, even though it seems difficult to reflect on anything in the aftermath of the carnage at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 26 people, 20 of them children, were killed in Newtown, CT. Perhaps silence in this period of mourning is the only appropriate response at the moment (and so I pause). As my colleague David Lantigua reminds us,
“Our initial response should be careful not to attempt to explain away the suffering by identifying some cause.    We are not prepared as a society to face such evil without first responding to the countless victims and their families. ... Only silence will enable us to weep and grieve with those who are weeping right now" (Joel Achenbach, "Amid Grim News of School Massaccre, Newtown, Conn., becomes Everytown, America," Washington Post, December 14, 2012).

As to religious freedom in the U.S., I offer three observations.    First, the topic must be contextualized within the global issue of religious freedom. As National Catholic Reporter columnist John Allen notes, religious persecution across the globe is arguably at an all time high, even with the obvious difficulties of measuring such claims. As many as 150,000 Christians are martyred annually. Any reflection on threats to religious freedom in the U.S. must recognize the relative scope of the issue in the U.S.

Second, despite efforts by American Catholics (including leadership from the U.S. Bishops) to make religious freedom a central issue in the 2012 election, that effort largely failed. Religious freedom has been a front page issue in the U.S. in 2012 since the well-known Health and Human Services mandate required insurance companies of all large organizations (except “religious institutions” defined narrowly enough to exclude Catholic hospitals and universities) to include contraceptive, sterilization, and implantation-prevention drug coverage. Despite a majority of U.S. Catholics affirming that religious organizations should not have to pay for services they find morally objectionable, and affirming that the Obama administration has “gone too far in placing restrictions on religious freedom,” Obama won a majority of the Catholic vote. There is material here to encourage both sides of the HHS issue. But it also suggests the need for a third and final point.

Third, the Catholic intellectual tradition offers much-needed resources to sort through the proper scope of religious freedom. Most agree that “religious freedom” should not be used as a basis to protect just any individual or group practice What then does this freedom protect? A distinction is required between religious practices per se, and engaging in some temporal activity with its own intelligible goals that are illuminated by religious beliefs.    The HHS case concerns the latter.    The activity is providing sound health care and, though that practice may be illuminated by religious beliefs, it is not solely a matter of religious beliefs. To use a commonly misused term, the matter is one of natural law. Catholics affirm that grace perfects rather than obliterates nature and have resources to explain how this dynamic occurs. Hence Catholics should be able to describe why their vision of health care provision is intelligible not only on the basis of religious beliefs but also on the basis of its correspondence with the goals of health care. Just because a treatment is medically administered does not make it health care. The moral status of contraception, sterilization, and abortion are important topics in themselves. A distinct question is whether these activities fall within the purview of the immediate goals of health care, or whether the goals of health care as implied by the mandate’s required provisions extend beyond what can accurately be described as “health care provision.”

The election is over, and perhaps removed from the public “noise” that accompanies U.S. politics, Catholics can continue to deploy our rich tradition to better illuminate the proper bounds of religious freedom.

William C. Mattison III is an Associate Professor of Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. He is the author of Introducing Moral Theology: True Happiness and the Virtues (Brazos, 2008) and co-founder of the New Wine, New Wineskins Symposium for Catholic Moral Theologians. He is currently working on a book on moral theology and the Sermon on the Mount.

To comment on William’s essay, go to: http://www.catholicethics.com/forum-submissions

New on the Website

February newsletter
Job opening details: Four positions, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland New
Publications: Lucas Chan, Stephan Goertz, Katharina Klocker, Rudolf B. Hein (Ed.), and Agnes Brazal
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