September THE FIRST (2012)

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September 2012

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

In this issue: 
From the editor
Forum: Nairobi Conference Day-by-day
Bangalore from the NCR New on the website

From the desk of the editor
Dear Friends,

We have had a great past four months. First, MT Davila, the Latin American Regional Director, and I went to Sao Paolo to develop the groundwork for a pan-Latin America conference in 2016 and to begin a study for initiating a scholarship program there.

Then in St. Louis in June, we established a North American Regional Committee and a North American Forum team. We will introduce you to these 9 people for the FIRST of October.

Then in June we negotiated a contract with a new web provider and hope to launch around mid- October our new website. Special Thanks to Jillian Maxey for all this insightful work.

Then in July, Lucas Chan, the Asian Regional Director, and I went to Bangalore for the “National Workshop: Moral Theology in India” at Dharmaram organized by Shaji George Kochuthara. See the article below, or click here to go to the first page of the On-line edition of The National Catholic Reporter” where the article is.

Finally there was the Nairobi Conference in August chaired by the African Director, Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, “CTEWC in Africa after Trento: Engaging the African Synod,” was held at the Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations. In this issue, we simply focus on Nairobi and Bangalore.

We post three entries of the forum, all from Africa, each one dealing with a specific day of the conference.    The first two days are covered by two of our PhD students in Africa, Marie-Rose Ndimbo and Veronica Rop.

Around mid-September we will send you some of the essays about Nairobi being published in several international weeklies.

Regarding Bangalore, we post the NCR essay as well as a link to the website (, where Shaji’s extensive report appears.

All the best,


Call for Papers available on the web: “Asian Theologians on the Universal Church” Asian Horizons, Dharmaram Journal of Theology Vol. 6, No. 4, December 2012

THE FORUM: CTEWC in Africa after Trento: Engaging the African Synod

The First Day

After Mass and words of welcome from Agbonkianmeghe Orobator and Jim Keenan, five presenters followed. Elias Omondi Opongo showed how any company needs the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation but that after the second African Synod, he stressed the need to take into account the traditional practices and rites whose purpose was to restore justice and reconciliation. Richard Rwita reaffirmed that peace is
not just the absence of war and that all cultural resources must be harnessed to achieve genuine reconciliation. For Kifle Wansamo there are certainly several kinds of violence, but any reconciliation requires dialogue and collaboration; there is no real reconciliation with justice only, without the dimension of forgiveness. For his part, Elisha Rutagambwa recalled that the proclamation of the Gospel in Africa must go hand in hand with the
promotion of justice and reconciliation; he noted also that justice restores order, but does not heal the wounds of the victims. After referring to the ongoing conflicts in Africa, Anozie Onyema showed the importance for Christians to both the sacrament of reconciliation, which helps to restore harmony with Christ, and the issue of compensation: what was stolen, needs to be rendered. He concluded that we must address the root causes of sin and conflict.

These interventions were followed by exchanges between participants. There was the testimony of Archbishop John Baptist Odama. Based on his contacts with the Lord’s Resistance Army, (LRA) in his country, Uganda, he has shown that the Church should not merely support those in power, it must also speak to the opposition and the rebels; far from simply denouncing the evil, it must engage wholeheartedly in the process of reconciliation.

In the afternoon, Pete Henriot has shown the necessary link between the charity that pays attention to the poor and justice which involves the establishment of social, economic and political right. David Kaulemu recalled that the Church whose role is to promote moral values must also become a source of hope. Anne Arabome particularly drew attention to the participation of women in the reconciliation process and argued to promote the presence of women in all sectors of life. Philomena Mwaura stressed the need for the Church to train people to denounce injustice and violence. Peter-John Pearson returned to the need to combine efforts to promote justice, which is a common task. Finally, after some discussion, Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala ended the day by providing evidence on the practice of justice in his country, South Sudan.

Overall, this was my first participation in an international conference outside my country (I could not attend Trento).    With the assistance of CTEWC, Nairobi has been for me a source of great joy. I thank the organizers for allowing us the opportunity to meet them all together and to attend this conference with its high theological quality. Everything happened in solidarity and respect. The testimonies were very rewarding. Having the conference in French and English set the norm for future meetings.

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. She is studying for her doctorate at the Catholic Faculties of Kinshasa and is writing her thesis on "The Contribution of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC) in search of peace in the sub-region of the Great Lakes from 1994 to 2010. The Moral Approach.”

Group Photo

The Second Day

The seminar was very interactive, relevant and significant to the Church in Africa as various African ethicists engaged themselves in a continued conversation with the Second African Synod on Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. The first day of the seminar reflected on the meaning of reconciliation to the Church in Africa. This led us to the second day, Wednesday 22 August 2012, on which the presenters and panelists engaged the participants on the topic of Peace. Victor Adangba served as the first presenter while Alison Munro, Nathaniel Soede absent but represented by Ngah Solange, and Anne Oyier served as responders. The moving conversation with Archbishop John Onaiyekan, the archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese, Nigeria, moderated by Teresia Hinga reminded us that the sources of our conflict in Africa may not be religious as such; rather it is a conflict over resources and overlapping interests. It is worth noting that the seven African women under the CTEWC scholarship actively contributed to the lively discussions.

What became apparent in this day is the need to find a workable mode that would guide us towards achievable and lasting peace amidst our diverse concerns in the region. A theology of peace that characterized the Early Christian Community seem inevitable if peace is to become a reality in Africa. This then calls for a deeper evangelization of the African culture as well as an inculturation of the Gospel and a new understanding of church as the family of God that embodies the peace brought about by our elder brother and Master Jesus Christ.

A reflection on the state of peace in the continent calls into question how we live out our African virtue of hospitality. Hospitality is understood as welcoming the other known to be different; receiving someone from outside to enrich the one welcoming is but a necessity in our pursuit of peace. Peace understood as tranquility in good order as presented by Archbishop Onaiyekan has been and still is the cry and the subject of our many discussions and seminars in Africa and indeed in the world church. This perspective of peace bears fruit when it translates into listening, hearing, and allowing the other to be received and vice versa. Since peace transcends age, gender, ethnicity and religion, the need to protect the vulnerable such as the women, children and people with disabilities or those living with HIV/AIDS is for the common good. Critical analysis showed that there is need to break the silence on violence and to work for peace without hiding behind our culture.

Our quest for peace calls for serious dialogue that involves various persons at the Small Christian community to diverse groups. It was encouraging to note that the Church in Africa is aware that she is the family of God with internal conflicts yet full of hope. This was beautifully brought out by a moving conversation with Archbishop Onaiyekan about his work with our Islam brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

An update about CTEWC scholarship by Linda Hogan, A. E. Orobator and Jim Keenan highlighted the need for African women ethicists and moral theologians in the region. The second day ended with an encouraging meeting between the CTEWC Planning Committee and recipients the of CTEWC scholarship. The insightful and open sharing from the planning committee members created a conducive atmosphere for the African women under scholarship to share their own experiences about their lives and their studies.

Sr. Veronica Jemanyur Rop is a member of the Assumption Sisters of Eldoret, a local congregation based in Kenya. She is currently undergoing her doctoral studies in Sacred Theology with a specialization in Moral theology. The topic of her dissertation is “Gender Equality: A Study of the Participation of Women in Integral Human Development Among the Kalenjin in the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret-Kenya. ”

African Women's Scholarship
Dr. Vivianne Minikongo (lower right) with 7 of the 8 PhD candidates 

First day of conference
Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro of South Sudan shares his insights

The Third Day

On 23 August, CTEWC sponsored public lectures on Feminism and on Sustainability at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA).  The lectures were presented in two sessions, each with a panel of three experts, who addressed the topic for 10 minutes and were then able to enter into conversation with the audience in a Q&A session.

The first session – on feminism - was chaired by Linda Hogan from Ireland, and was addressed by David Kaulemu from Zimbabwe, Philomena Mwaura from Kenya and Agnes Brazal from the Philippines.

As first speaker in the session on feminism, Dr Kaulemu expressed his nervousness at addressing this painful issue. He observed that if the world were more peaceful, just and reconciled, then there would be no need for feminism. It is a symptom of a world gone bad, a response to injustices. Since there are always alternatives to any present social forms, it is not possible to impose a single shape on society.  Those who try to do so, even within the church, do so with tragic results. The vision of feminism in Africa, is of improved lives for girls and women in African societies. As such, it is a legitimate impulse to liberate. It is not a single political project, and it appears under a variety of styles. This may cause some authorities discomfort, because it challenges the status quo of the invisibility of women.

Ecclesia in Africa 49 and 65 call for an openness to dialogue, ... to be practiced within the family of the Church at all levels. Hence feminists ought also to dialogue with church and society, as well as among themselves. In this dialogue, some authorities have an ambivalent attitude towards feminist projects, espousing it, but killing it with a thousand qualifications. The question remains of how appropriately to respond to the cry that feminism represents.

In her presentation, Dr Philomena Mwaura offered a case study of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, followed by an account of what women do in the church, and then a proposal for a framework to address some of the concerns of women. She typified African women theologians as ‘activist’ theologians who raise awareness of gender injustice and transform patriarchy. Preferring to avoid the term ‘feminist’ because of its baggage, Mwaura spoke of the role of women theologians as an extension of the women’s movement in the secular world. They are conscious of the web of oppression and exclusion of the voiceless. Therefore members of the Circle have a contextual and communal methodology, returning to the villages and using a women’s narrative hermeneutic, helping women to discover what the Word of God says about their situation. As they engage with wider structures that dehumanize society, and dialogue with women of other faiths, African women theologians can be considered to play a missiological role in the church.

Dr Agnes Brazal’s presentation related African women’s theology to the context of the wider world church. She identified some areas of dialogue between women theologians of the North and the global South. In Africa, women theologians are part of the third wave of the women’s movement, attentive to differences among themselves, no longer as objects of white feminist theologians, but subjects of their own theology. Among the contributions made by women’s theology in Africa, Brazal counted their women’s biblical hermeneutic, their discourse on HIV and AIDS which interrogates masculinities among other things, and their combination of best practices, including the grassroots sharing, creating a space for the voiceless, and collaboration with male feminist theologians.

From her Asian perspective, Brazal observed that the most visible work was done by South African or Protestant women thelogians, and there is thus a need for more Catholic women theologians in Africa. She said that Asian theologians could learn more from collaboration with women, and finally that Jairus’s daughter has indeed arisen and grown up among African women theologians.

Discussion in response to questions from the audience touched on issues of narrative theology in situations of marginalisation and polygamy, work with street women in Nairobi and the challenge to restore their dignity, the term ‘feminist’, the relevance or otherwise of ordination for women theologians, the power exercised by women in traditional societies, and finally how men have become oppressors of their mothers and sisters.

The second session – on sustainability - was chaired by Andrea Vicini of Boston College, and was addressed by Drs Peter Knox from South Africa, Jacquineau Azetsop from Cameroon and Edward Osang Obi from Nigeria.

Peter Knox concentrated on the broad area of ecological sustainability, taking a preliminary definition of the concept from the UN’s Bruntland Commission which describes sustainable development as that which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. From this followed a consideration of the distinction between needs and wants, an evaluation of the most basic needs, and a brief consideration of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Touching on the Millennium Development Goals, Knox suggested that these could be good indicators of true human needs. But other species on the planet also have needs which should be respected if ecological balance is to be found and maintained. Considering that some resources which are consumed to meet human needs, are finite and others renewable, the lecture touched on the Five Capitals Model of the Forum for the Future and the interconvertibility of the capitals. Finally Knox enumerated reasons why he considers the topic of ecology to be an issue of theological ethics, even in Africa where so many human needs are not being met.  These included the principles of holism and of solidarity, a reading of the 7th Commandment, of Genesis 1:28-30, and of African Munus 80.

Dr Jacquineau Azetsop focussed on sustainability of health systems. His emphasis was on the importance and growing role of ethics in shaping healthcare policy and programme design. Azetsop gave the particular example of healthcare in Chad, and specifically the care for people living with HIV/AIDS. The programme, started in 2007, based on the WHO’s five pillars, had several limitations and a low rate of success. Efforts to strengthen the system included a framework to analyse healthcare sustainability, which took into account contextual factors, a profile of activities and organisational capabilities. Values which should shape the policies are: social justice (in terms of geography, gender and age), efforts at prevention, community participation, ownership of the programmes (as opposed to vertically imposed policies), accountability, leadership and governance. However, in many cases ethics remain peripheral, when other factors determine changes in national healthcare policies.

In his presentation, entitled “Just sustainability: A question of boundaries,” Dr Obi Edward Osang considered environmental damage to the Niger Delta caused by the petrochemical industry. International society lacks the political will to confront the issue. In principle, there should not be a conflict between economic development and ecological sustainability, but rather a natural synergy. In practice, ecology is threatened by humans’ unmitigated extension of themselves, underscored by Cartesian dualism and the philosophy that ‘more is better.’ In order to change this trend, Osang proposed to construct a cosmology that reintroduces human persons into the natural ecology, attributing moral significance to other nature.    This applies in Africa as well, where people have traditionally felt bonded to the common other, but are devaluing their own personhood and losing reveretia personae. Citing Magesa’s ‘mutual supplementation’ of humans and ecosystems, Calvin de Wit’s reading of a tripartite relationship between Creator, creature and other creatures in Job 40, and the warning in Genesis 3 of succumbing to the desire for omnipotence, Osang concluded that it is possible to live in peace with our people, with God and with other creatures.    We have to retain the perspective of our own finitude and the omnipotence of God the Creator. In the incarnation, God chose to be subjected to the limitations of creation, thereby revealing created laws. As a community, the followers of Christ should be involved in realising God’s plan for salvation.

In the brief discussion after the three addresses the following topics were touched upon: the Roman Catholic position on reproductive health, Pope Benedict XVI’s reference to the many (spiritual) deserts in the world, the dialectic between mastery over and stewardship of creation, Africa’s performance vis-à-vis the Millennium Development Goals, whether Africans have a particular moral weakness that makes them suffer more from HIV/AIDS, resources that might be used towards ecological sustainability, a determinist notion of nature bringing balance to disturbed ecosystems, and the perpetual impetus towards greater industrial consumption.

After the public lecture, Fr James Keenan launched and signed Catholic Theological Ethics Past, Present, and Future: The Trento Conference (Orbis, 2011). For the purpose of the event, Sr Veronica Rop, one of the recipients of the CTEWC scholarships for the advanced training of African women in theological ethics, invested Jim as an elder of the Maasai tribe, armed with pen and book (representing spear and shield) with which to dispel ethical opponents. James explained the significance of the CTEWC logo as representing the role of ethicists at the interface of church and world, where people are nervous to speak out on painful issues. At this interface the cross emerges as the colourless background that emodies the suffering we see in the world and in the church. The cross embodies love and hope and makes us resilient. It is central to the vision shared by CTEWC, and makes members of the network collaborators and colleagues in Africa and elsewhere. James signed and presented copies of his edited proceedings of the Trento Conference to the Vice-Chancellor of the university, to the library and to the faculty of theology of CUEA.

In return, the university presented gifts of books to James, as well as to the regional chairpersons of CTEWC – Orobator from Africa, Lucas Chan from Asia, Maria Teresa Davila from Latin America and Antonio Autiero from Europe.

In closing, Veronica Rop thanked all the planners, the contributors, the benefactors and the visitors to CUEA, including Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja and Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala from South Sudan, and everybody who had made the day a success. The participants then celebrated the Eucharist with hundreds of members of the university community.

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

Read the article on the national workshop in Bangalore, "Theologians meet to reflect on India's moral issues," in the National Catholic Reporter

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