CHA delegate reflects on international gathering of Catholic ethicists

September 1, 2018

Editor's Note: Nate Hibner, CHA director of ethics, attended an international gathering of Catholic theological ethicists this summer where he shared the findings of his doctoral dissertation in the poster presentation "Identifying and Overcoming Scandal in Catholic Health Care: Guided Questions to Evaluate and Mitigate Risks." His impressions of the meeting follow.

In the final week of July, nearly 500 theologians gathered in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to participate in the 3rd International Conference of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church. The theme of the four-day meeting was "A Critical Time for Bridge-Building: Catholic Theological Ethics Today."

Sarajevo, Bosnia
A view of the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on a summer day. In July, the city hosted the 3rd International Conference of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church. © bloodua

The city was under siege for almost four years in the 1990s during the Bosnian War. In a letter read to participants at the opening of the conference, Pope Francis wrote that the location was of "great symbolic value for the journey of reconciliation and peacemaking after the horrors of a recent war that brought so much suffering to the people of the region."

Pope Francis wrote that to counter tensions and divisions in the world, it is essential to build "new paths of closeness between peoples, cultures, religions, visions of life and political orientations."

Speakers from nearly every continent, but primarily from the global south, discussed how theology provides them a necessary grace to create environments for human flourishing within their communities. Beyond the formal presentations, attendees established connections with colleagues from around the world and shared ideas about ways to address the divisive partisanship and the weakening of cooperation around common goals and values that can be seen in politics, among ethnic groups, in international relations, as well as within the Catholic Church.

In his presentation, Fr. Charles Curran, the Elizabeth Scurlock University Chair of Human Values at Southern Methodist University, told conferees that it is not enough for them to determine what is right and wrong, they must act to "bring about change so that what is right becomes present in our society and justice replaces injustice." This action-oriented perspective is fundamental to what ethicist and author Lisa Sowle Cahill calls participatory theological bioethics.

Sarajevo roses
Pitted concrete caused by fatal mortar strikes during the siege of Sarajevo are filled with red resin to commemorate victims. The memorials are known as Sarajevo roses.

Concerning Catholic bioethics, Fr. Curran stressed that those in academia and those working in applied ethics should "give priority to distributive justice, solidarity, the common good and the preferential option for the poor. Participatory theological bioethics must turn its attention more firmly to social ethics and to political grassroots, mid-level, nongovernmental and governmental levels." Fr. Curran highlighted CHA's targeted efforts in all these sectors to win support for a more equitable health care system.

As the conference came to a close, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, head of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Cardinal Vinko Puljic' of Sarajevo led a standing room crowd of conferees in a Eucharistic celebration at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Inside the church, worshipers were united in common belief and mission. On the route back to the conference, attendees passed a "Sarajevo Rose," one of the concrete pock marks denoting a fatal mortar strike that are now filled with red resin as a remembrance of war victims. Thoughts harkened back to Pope Francis' opening missive, in which he wrote, "we are called to recognize every sign and mobilize all our energy in order to remove walls of division and to build bridges of fraternity everywhere in the world."




Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.

Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.