At the Center
Capturing the lively discussions, presentations, and other events that make up the daily activities of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.
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Friday, Sep. 12, 2014 9:13 AM
James Keenan, S.J. and Osamu Takeuchi, S.J.
Scholars from eight different countries gathered this week at the Ethics Center for a conference on “Conscience in Catholicism: Rights, Responsibilities, and Institutional Policies.”
Those global perspectives informed the opening session, which focused on foundational questions of conscience. James Keenan, S.J., Canisius Professor and director of the Jesuit Institute at Boston College, and Osamu Takeuchi, S.J., dean of the Graduate School of Theology and professor of theology at Sophia University in Tokyo, led off the discussion.
Keenan argued that conscience is “hardwired” into humans, but “how that plays out” varies from culture to culture. He compared the examination of conscience that followed World War II in Europe to the failure of American society to take responsibility for slavery, which he said has contributed to the continuing problem of race in the United States. “We have never consciously taken responsibility as opposed to Germany, which has never forgotten its role in the Holocaust,” he said.
Takeuchi engaged Christian and Confucian ideas about conscience. He looked at three essential human responsibilities—to ourselves, to the community, and to G-d—as modes of embodying conscience. In that third responsibility, Takeuchi saw an encounter between ethics and spirituality.
The group, most of whom were affiliated with Catholic institutions, explored the role of universities in the formation of conscience. Keenan pointed out that there has been very little research on conscience as it relates to higher education and argued that moral theologians at universities must address such issues as race, gender, inequity, and the hegemony of American power.
“There is no self-reflection at universities,” he said. “If you go into a university library, you will find hundreds of books on business ethics, on medical ethics, on legal ethics—all written by faculty members. You will not find one book on university ethics. None will talk about the mission of a school and whether it's promoting equity, about athletics, about the way we hire adjuncts, the way we invest or admit students. Conscience at universities is not even dormant; that would mean it was once awakened.”
Linda Hogan, vice provost/chief academic officer and professor of ecumenics at Trinity College in Dublin, argued that universities don’t give much thought to their own institutional power. “Generally, universities are broadly conformist and supportive of institutional biases about affluence or race,” she said. “We need to be attentive to the fact that we inhabit and shape institutions which have enormous social power. Instead we tend to focus on individual conscience formation.”
Participants generally agreed that conscience is not only a matter of an individual’s principles; instead, it is informed by culture and community. Bryan Massingale, S.T.D., professor of Theology at Marquette University, put it this way: “The isolated conscience doesn’t really exist. We have to pay attention to the cultural and social dimensions.”
Papers from the conference will be published in 2015 by Orbis Books, edited by David DeCosse, director of campus ethics at the Markkula Ethics Center, and Kristin Heyer, professor of religious studies at SCU, the two conference organizers. Other conference participants were:
- Carol Bayley, vice president for ethics and justice education, Dignity Health Care West
- Julie Clague, lecturer of theology and religious studies, University of Glasgow, Scotland
- Emilce Cuda, lecturer on the Faculty of Theology, Pontifical Catholic University, Argentina
- Daniel Finn, Clemens Chair in Economics and the Liberal Arts, St. John’s University, Minnesota
- Lisa Fullam, D.V.M., Th.D., associate professor of moral theology, Jesuit School of Theology, SCU
- Eric Marcelo O. Genilo, S.J., S.T.D, associate professor of moral theology, Loyola School of Theology, Philippines
- William O’Neill, S.J., associate professor of social ethics, Jesuit School of Theology, SCU
- Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, S.J.,provincial of the Eastern African Province of the Society of Jesus and lecturer in theology and religious studies, Hekima College, Kenya
- Stephen J. Pope, professor of theology, Boston College, Massachusetts
- John Raphael Quinn, sixth archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco
- Eugine Sahana, religious sister belonging to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany, India
Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 11:07 AM
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, will visit Santa Clara University Feb. 24, 10 a.m., for a dialogue on Compassion, Business, and Ethics. Tickets go on sale Jan. 28 at 9 a.m. Lloyd Dean, CEO of Dignity Health, will join the Dalai Lama for this conversation.
The event is sponsored by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.
Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 4:33 PM
A talk highlighting the new Pope, Reform in the Church, and Organizational Ethics. Where have we been, where are we, and where do we go from here? Father Thomas Reese is Senior Analyst, National Catholic Reporter, and Visiting Scholar, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Formerly the editor of America magazine, Reese is the author of a trilogy examining Catholic Church organization and politics on the local, national, and international levels: "Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church" (Harper & Row, 1989), "A Flock of Shepherds: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops" (Sheed & Ward , 1992), and "Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church "(Harvard University Press, 1997). He is a frequent commentator for national news outlets such as NPR, and major news networks.
Sponsor: Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
Date: Thursday September 12, 2013
Location: The Wiegand Cente, Arts & Sciences Building
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Wednesday, May. 1, 2013 10:30 AM
Catherine Wolff shares from her book, Not Less Than Everything, which features vivid stories by contemporary writers on Catholic heroes who appealed to conscience often in the face of the intense opposition of Catholic authorities, May 8, noon-1 p.m., Weigand Center, Arts & Sciences Building, Santa Clara University.
Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 8:57 AM
"Human Rights and Restorative Justice," "Moral Imagination and Civil Economy," these are just two of the topics on the agenda at today's annual meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, Pacific Section, co-hosted by the Ethics Center and the Religious Studies Department at Santa Clara University.
Speakers include George Williams, S.J., the Catholic chaplain at San Quentin State Prison, reflecting on "Theology and Ethics Behind Bars," and Harlan Stelmach and Mohammed El Majdoubi of Dominican University, California, on "Breaking Down the Walls Between Neuroethics and Religious Ethics."
Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 12:34 PM
Center Campus Ethics Director David DeCosse explores how understandings of conscience within the writings of the great 19th century English theologian John Henry Newman may be relevant to contemporary debates around Catholic conscience and freedom, Oct. 24, 4 p.m., in the Learning Commons.
Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 3:14 PM
Cathleen Kaveny, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and Professor of Theology at Notre Dame University, reflects on faith and ethics in an election year in a talk Oct. 10, 7 p.m., at the Jesuit Theological Seminary.
A member of the Massachusetts Bar since 1993, Professor Kaveny clerked for the Honorable John T. Noonan Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and worked as an associate at the Boston law firm of Ropes & Gray in its health-law group.
We are fortunate to present Professor Kaveny through the generosity of the Project on Conscience in Roman Catholic Thought funded by Phyllis and Mike Shea. The event is co-sponsored by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, the Jesuit School of Theology, and Commonweal magazine.
Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2012 7:51 AM
Tom Reese, S.J., research fellow at the Woodstock Center at Georgetown University, referred to the topic of his recent lecture at SCU--"Religion, Ethics, and the 2012 Election"---as the kind of thing one isn't supposed to talk about at the dinner table but the subject everyone wants to talk about.
In his recent presentation, Reese, the former editor of America magazine, began with an analysis of religious voting patterns in the 2012 Republican primaries. Reese pointed out that the two Catholic candidates in the primary, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, received between them about 60 percent of the evangelical vote, while the Catholics went 50 percent for Romney. Similarly, while only one third of evangelical voters think Mormons are Christians, two thirds of Catholic voters think they are.
Reese speculated that these numbers reflect "more about culture than religion." Republican Catholics tend to be better off, better educated, and live in the suburbs, and "Romney looks like one of their neighbors or the boss who hired them," he observed. By contrast, evangelicals tend to be lower income, less educated, and come from small towns. "Romney looks like the boss who fired them," Reese said.
Reese stressed that Catholic clergy do not come out in favor of one candidate or another, unlike many of their evangelical peers. They do, however, take positions on the issues, one of which, during this campaign season, has been religious liberty.
Religious liberty issues have been part of the discussion on the state level for some time, Reese explained. For example, he cited the decision by the Massachusetts and Washington D.C. dioceses to withdraw from the adoption field when state and district law required that they place foster children with gay married couples. In D.C., Catholic Charities also decided not to continue to provide spousal benefits for any of their employees because if they did, they would have had to provide them for gay married couples, as well.
On what is traditionally thought of as the more liberal side of the ledger, the Church has opposed efforts by some of the states to outlaw transport, shelter, or other aid for undocumented immigrants. The Church, Reese said, was guided by the idea of the Good Samaritan and did not want to have to ask people about their immigration status before giving them a spot in a homeless shelter or taking them to Mass. Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles went so far as to tell his priests to break the law and accept going to jail rather than refuse services to the undocumented.
This was the atmosphere in which the controversy over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act exploded in January. Twenty states, Reese pointed out, already had such contraceptive mandates, and Church institutions had variously responded by dropping drug coverage, self-insuring, or complying. This year, the federal government decided to include contraception as one of the preventive services of the Affordable Care Act, for which no copayments can be required.
There was an exemption for religious employers, which defined "religious employer" as
• An employer that has inculcation of religious values as its main purpose
• An employer that primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets
• An employer that primarily serves people who share its religious tenets
• A religious organization that is not required under the Internal Revenue Code to file a 990 information return
Reese believes that if the administration had stuck with just the final part of this four-part definition, the controversy would have been avoided, but the other elements raised hackles, not only among the bishops but also among both conservative and liberal Catholics. They were interpreted as the government telling Church institutions to violate their beliefs.
In February, the administration revised the mandate: Religious institutions would not be required to pay for insurance with contraceptive coverage, but insurance companies would be required to provide this insurance for free, on the theory that it was more cost-effective anyway for the companies to pay for birth control than to pay for labor and delivery.
That revision has not pleased the bishops, for a number of reasons. They see it as an accounting gimmick rather than a solution. An attorney for the US Council of Catholic Bishops also suggested that the exemption should extend to anyone with a moral objection to the mandate, not just religious employers. "If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell," he said, "I'd be covered by the mandate," implying that it would be unfair to ask him, even as a private employer, to participate in a public program that violated his beliefs.
The Catholic Health Association at first welcomed the administration's revision and said it was willing to work with the administration on refining it. But later, CHA proposed a total exemption from the mandate for religious hospitals and universities, with the federal government picking up the tab for contraceptive coverage.
Reese suggested another approach to the controversy. Even in pre-Vatican II days, Catholic moral theologians have made a distinction between formal cooperation with evil and material cooperation with evil. If people cooperate formally, it means that they agree with the goal of the evil person and their action is in service of that goal. Formal cooperation is never acceptable. In material cooperation, a person does not agree with the goal, but might be under coercion or compulsion. A classic example would be the bank teller who stuffs the stolen money into the robber's sack because the robber is holding a gun to her head. In that case, the cooperator is not seen as guilty. Church institutions, Reese argued, could frame the contraceptive mandate issue as one where they are being compelled to material cooperation.
Reese is a distinguished visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. He is a frequent commentator on Catholic issues, with recent appearances on NPR and "The Colbert Report."
Wednesday, Jul. 25, 2012 3:08 PM
Thomas Reese, SJ, popular commentator on the Catholic Churc and the role of religion in politics, will speak August 9, 5-5:30 p.m., in the St. Clare Room of the Learning Commons on the Santa Clara University Campus.
Reese is the author of the Washington Post blog "This Catholic's View," part of the On Faith section. He is the former editor of America Magazine.
Friday, Jun. 8, 2012 11:14 AM
Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson addresses the conference
Ten years after the scandal of child sexual abuse by priests rocked the U.S. Catholic Church to its core, has enough been done to protect children, prevent recurrence, and strengthen institutional accountability and transparency?
The mixed-bag answer to that question was the subject of the conferece "Clergy Sexual Abuse Ten Years Later," held May 11, 2012, at Santa Clara University. The Ethics Center was a sponsor of the event.
Supporters of reform take heart that most U.S. dioceses have a “zero tolerance” policy for priests facing credible allegations – even if they are un-adjudicated. They note that allegations have dropped drastically from the peak of the epidemic after the 1970s, and new allegations now number fewer than a dozen a year nationwide. But critics and reformers alike continue to find problems with the lack of oversight or consequence for rogue bishops who refuse to comply with best practices established by the so-called Dallas Charter. And the legacy of clericalism and spotty accountability has been hard to erase.
The panelists included Karen Terry, Ph.D., the principal investigator for two nationally acclaimed John Jay College of Criminal Justice studies on the nature, scope, and causes of the abuse scandals; Barbara Blaine, who in 1988 founded the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP); Kathleen McChesney, Ph.D., former FBI executive who was the first executive director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Bishops; and SCU Professor Thomas Plante, a consultant on priest sexual abuse who also helps screen seminarians for sexual-abuse proclivities as vice chair of the National Review Board for the U.S. Bishops’ Protection of Children and Youth office.