Mercy and the Failure to Form Moral Imagination

By Nichole M. Flores and Mary Jo Iozzio

Confronted by a classmate’s concern over the possibility of contemporary totalitarian regimes using genocide as a tool of political control, another student commented, “I don’t think genocide is a realistic possibility today.” Contrary to the ongoing destruction of whole cities in Syria, for example –from infrastructure to housing and schools and hospitals and cultural artifacts and to life—the student argued that social media makes suffering and violence visible, thus reducing the possibility of the systematic killing of an entire population of people. Ah, the innocence of college privilege to think public shame via social media would generate social solidarity.

The comment reveals the assumptions of a naïve hope that by exposing regime-responsible suffering and violence social media is sufficient to garner international condemnation and swift cessation of hostilities. It is true that social media now plays a crucial role in publicizing news from around the globe with near instant speed. However, while social media –in commentary and images—can inspire a surge of sympathy, it fails to sustain compassion or prompt material support for those in the midst of a conflict with roots in the dynamics of colonialism as well as the fall of the Ottoman Empire within the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere.

Read more on the CTEWC Forum.

A case for a globally-engaged perspective: A US Latina Perspective on Bogotá

As a part of the planning for the Congreso Latinoamericano de Ética Teológica, convened at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia this past May, coordinator MT Davila (Puerto Rico), stressed the importance of including US Latina/o theological ethicists as participants in the conversation. Congreso organizers included US Latina/o ethicists from a range of ethnic backgrounds (Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican) and regional contexts within the US in an effort to enrich this first Congreso with a breadth of US Latina/o perspectives. I was humbled to be among those asked to participate and to present to our Latin American colleagues my work on human trafficking and aesthetic solidarity. I was troubled, however, by what my participation in the Congreso revealed about the state of theological ethics in the United States: that our discourse, even as it claims “global” engagement, remains largely disconnected from Latin America and other “global south” contexts. Our claims to global engagement rest on developing efforts that would cultivate sustained and meaningful interaction manifest in our local ethical conversations.

Read more at CTEWC Forum.

Human Trafficking: A Lacuna in Catholic Ethics

The persistence of human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, is a cruel irony in the United States, a nation that claims to be committed to the ideals of freedom, liberty, and equality. While accurate statistical data on trafficking is infamously difficult to obtain, the Polaris Project estimates that 20 million people are trafficked globally, with hundreds of thousands trafficked into the U.S.. The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (P.L.106-386) and its reauthorizations (H.R.2620, 2003 and HR7311, 2008) take important steps to rectify this enslavement, but trafficking persists in the shadows of global supply chains that undergird agricultural, domestic, service, and sexual economies. Traffickers prey on the vulnerability of people on society’s margins: women and girls, migrants, and the very poor. These figures only hint at trafficking’s corrosive effect on the project of justice, equality, and freedom in the U.S. and beyond.

While trafficking persists in the global economy, Catholic ethicists have struggled to articulate cogent responses that can inform practical resistance to this blatant violation of human dignity.

Read More at Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church Forum.

The GOP’s Latina/o Strategy: A Mirror for Catholic Social Ethics

Even while the 2016 presidential election is still more than a year away, pundits have begun to predict who will become the 45th President of the United States. In particular, observers are preoccupied with questions pertaining to the role Latina/o voters will play in the race. The GOP’s response to its lagging appeal among Latinas/os reveals a deeper issue pertaining to the party’s relationship with Latina/o communities: while Republicans are willing to talk about Latinoas/os, they fail to cultivate any meaningful relationships withLatinas/os that would help define a platform that responds to their critical concerns in ways that respect and protect human dignity.

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Political Emotion, Religion, and the Pursuit of Justice

July 2, 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act. Political emotion emanating from the religious particularity of the African American Civil Rights movement was a key factor in forging this landmark legislation. This milestone approaches at a time when sibling civil rights victories (e.g., Brown v. the Board of Education 1954 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965) suffer from diminished public and legal support.  With the fragility of civil rights, the U.S. faces also renewed debates about the rights to religious freedom and the role of religion in public life. This uncertain legal and political landscape threatens to destabilize political society by allowing discrimination, segregation, and other inequalities to seep further into the basic political structure of the United States.  In the midst of these political currents, how ought Catholic moral theology respond to the erosion of civil rights protections?

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Synod of Bishops on the Family: Critical Questions from the US

Pope Francis, in the inaugural year of his papacy, captured the imagination of Catholics and non-Catholics alike with his nuanced and pastoral discussions of contested issues from the frontlines of the culture wars.  In July, Francis surprised journalists with his post-World Youth Day remarks revealing a person-centered approach on many of those issues as well as call for a “deeper theology of women.”  In September, he elaborated on these points over a series of interviews with Antonio Spardo, S.J. and published in La Civilta Cattolica. We read Francis questioning an obsessive focus of the Church’s social and moral energy on, for example, issues of sexual morality. Such questioning, however, does not ignore the Church’s moral instruction and concern for those on the bottom rung of the global economy or the Church’s pro-life position when Francis identified abortion with a “throwaway culture” fueling consumerism and exploitation. Having reignited broad interest in family ethics through these remarks, Pope Francis made news again with the announcement that he will convene the world’s Catholic bishops to address family life issues.  Consisting of two meetings in 2014 and 2015, the Synod of Bishops will discern first the complex landscape of Christian family life in the 21st century and then, in light of their findings, develop working guidelines for pastoral care of the person and family.

Read more on CTEWC Forum.

Race and Polarization in the U.S. Church and Public Life

In a recent CNN op-ed, LZ Granderson argues that both major U.S. political parties are complicit in perpetuating racially-based political polarization in the United States by employing rhetoric that fails to appeal across racial divisions. Unfortunately, the social construction of race has infiltrated every institution in the US, including the US Catholic Church, the rhetoric only exacerbates while it ignores the systemic reach of racism. A two-party system that maintains racial division prevents the ideals of a more perfect union as it thwarts the common societal good. The politically, culturally, and racially diverse U.S. Catholic Church is in a unique position to resist divisions based on race. In order to overcome a racially divided society and to strengthen the common good, however, our Church must first acknowledge its own participation in history and this polarizing rhetoric and second incorporate racial justice more fully and explicitly into our social teachings and practices.

Read more on CTEWC Forum.