Cross-Cultural Ethics
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How is truth
How Is Truth?

  • “The splendor of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in humans, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens humans’ intelligence and shapes their freedom, leading them to know and love the Lord.” Veritatis splendor

Find the Truth in Moral Methodology :

Let Every Voice Be Heard!

Sacred Texts





Tradtions of

the community

Source content questions
Source Content Questions

  • What is used, and why?

  • What is ignored, and why?

  • What is rejected, and why?

  • What is reinterpreted, and why?

  • Which source(s) is (are) decisive when there is a conflict, and why?

Two contrasting scriptures

The Natural Law is the same for all

Romans 2:13-16 “…what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their conscience bears witness…”

The Spirit speaks in our mother tongue

Acts 2:5-11 “…how is that we hear, each of us, in our native languages them speaking about God’s deeds of power?”

Two Contrasting Scriptures

Competing moral paradigms
Competing Moral Paradigms

  • Only God Can Know the Whole of Reality

  • Thus for the rest of us this knowledge is necessarily incomplete and partial, and we tend to understand complex realities according to models and paradigms

  • Can we speak of authentic cultural paradigms for morality and ethics?

  • Necessary Openness to Revision of All Paradigms—especially in light of new insights

Morality is necessarily complex

Recall Thomas Aquinas’ distinction between speculative and practical reason

In the abstract, speculative realm truth could be universal and unchangeable,

But in the concrete, practical reason rules:

“in matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles

and where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known to all.”

ST I-II, Q. 94, art. 4

Morality Is Necessarily Complex

What whose truth
What & Whose Truth? and practical reason

  • “Truth,” moral or otherwise exists always in a context

  • In that context what we see, and how we see it, will help “shape” the truth for us

  • Therefore, seeing broadly and diversely is part of seeing “correctly”

  • Even the same site will truly look different depending on time & circumstance

The inculturation of truth
The Inculturation of Truth and practical reason

  • If the Gospel is ultimately about the deepest truth of our world and ourselves

  • And if we are called to inculturate the Gospel in every culture

  • Then we must look at this “truth” in a variety of modes

  • And the truth will be both the same and different at the same time

The truth about evangelization
The Truth about Evangelization and practical reason

  • “Evangelization is to be achieved, not from without, as though by adding some decoration or applying a coat of color, but in depth, going to the very center and roots of life. The gospel must impregnate the culture and the whole way of life of men & women.” Evangelii nuntiandi, 20

Stages of inculturation

Translation Stage: and practical reason

Assimilation Stage:

Adaptation Stage:

Inculturation Stage:

Cross-Fertilization Stage:

Deus is Hanunim

Hanunim is Our God

Eucharist Is Chae-sa

New liturgy?

We are all called to filial piety

Stages of Inculturation

Cross fertilization of truth
Cross-Fertilization of Truth and practical reason

  • If inculturation leads to new understanding of moral truth then cross-cultural ethics may help produce a broader and deeper understanding akin to the model of cross-fertilization

  • As inculturation bears fruit in evangelization then this new fruit should be enjoyed by all

Pathways to truth

and practical reasonExperience shows that young priests who have been trained in Rome, near to the heart of the Vicar of Christ, adapt themselves even better than others, to the culture of their own countries”

Msgr. Luigi Bogliolo, Rector of the Urbanianum

“Two of the deepest and most fruitful prayers of Christendom [are] the Stations of the Cross and the Rosary. If nowadays we are so dangerously exposed to the attractions of Asiatic religious practices; it is surely in part because we have forgotten these prayers.”

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect CDF

Pathways to Truth [?]

An alternative path pilgrimage of dialogue
An Alternative Path: and practical reasonPilgrimage of Dialogue

  • C.S. Song’s Stages of Conversion:

  • The World is Different

  • Blessed Ignorance

  • Bi-Lateral Cease-Fire

  • Conversion to Dialogue

The challenge of changing our perceptions

The Challenge of Changing Our Perceptions and practical reason

Can We Allow for the Possibility that There Is Another Way to Look on Our Human Moral Nature?

Seeking out the truth

Seeking Out the Truth and practical reason

Meeting the Challenges of Developing Cross-Cultural Ethics

Culture as framework
Culture As Framework and practical reason

  • Culture as our principal mode of being human, thus the way we are truly human beings

  • There is no such thing as a non-cultural or “a-cultural” human being

  • Thus, to speak of “human nature” one must do so always in a cultural context

Theology of culture
Theology of Culture and practical reason

  • Gaudium et spes states that humans "can achieve true and full humanity only by means of culture”[#53]

  • Culture as our way of being is God-given, and thus essentially good

  • For us culture can be a means by which we act as co-creators with God

Through thick and thin
Through Thick and Thin and practical reason

  • Culture is not easily “thinly” defined but rather requires a “thick” description

  • Geertz’s example of a “wink”

  • Cultural, and especially cross-cultural understanding first requires “decoding”

  • This decoding may be partial & fallible, but this shouldn’t paralyze us

Fundamental values and root paradigms
Fundamental Values and Root Paradigms and practical reason

  • Fundamental Values express assumptions about the world as a whole, and in particular about human nature and concomitant appropriate behavior.

  • These values are incarnated in Root Paradigms, e.g., The Way of the Cross for Christianity

Ethnocentrism and practical reason

  • Culture tends to produce ethnocentrism as a way of viewing the world and especially other cultures in terms of one’s own culture.

  • Ethnocentrism is a natural result of culture’s functioning, but poses great challenges to intercultural communication

Western cultural views

Western Cultural Views and practical reason

“Man [sic] is the measure of all things”

East asian cultural views

East Asian Cultural Views and practical reason


[Heaven and the Human Become One]

Inter cultural communication
Inter-Cultural Communication and practical reason

  • Ethnocentrism as a whole raises many difficulties

  • Fundamental Values and Root Paradigms are usually the last things to change in a given culture

  • Tension between conflicting root paradigms is particularly challenging

The challenge of changing our perceptions1

The Challenge of Changing Our Perceptions and practical reason

Can We Allow for the Possibility that There Is Another Way to Look on Our Human Moral Nature?

Life is coded

Life is Coded and practical reason

The Challenge of Finding the Golden Key

(C.S. Song)

Acculturation the challenge of the meeting of cultures

Acculturation: The Challenge of the Meeting of Cultures and practical reason

  • Acculturation refers to the encounter between member(s) of different cultures

  • Acculturation usually results in some sort of change, which can be both benign or conflictual

What s going on here
What’s Going On Here? and practical reason

And what s going on here
And What’s Going On Here? and practical reason

1984 canonization seoul
1984 Canonization, Seoul and practical reason

Moving to the next stage

Moving to the Next Stage and practical reason

Developing an Ear for Cross-Cultural Dialogue

Nuns at the temple well
Nuns at the Temple Well and practical reason

Buddhist monk jesuit
Buddhist Monk & Jesuit and practical reason

The last challenge

The Last Challenge and practical reason

Discerning, Trusting, and Collaborating with the Spirit

Human face s of decision on vasectomies
Human Face(s) of Decision on Vasectomies and practical reason

32 year old Street Vendor: $5.35 a day with 7 pre-teen children

Doctor with 2 teenagers

One's Garbage is Another's Treasure: and practical reason

Payatas Garbage Dump Village Visit

Chapel Decorations Complete and practical reason

Road to the Montalban Church and practical reason

The Riches of Payatas and practical reason

Prayer of st theresa avila
Prayer of St. Theresa Avila and practical reason

  • Christ has no body on earth but yours

  • No hands on earth but your hands.

  • Yours are the eyes through which He looks out with compassion on the world.

  • Yours are the feet with which He chooses to go about doing good.

  • For as He is the Head, so you are the members

  • and we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Suggested readings
Suggested Readings and practical reason

  • Robert Schreiter, The New Catholicity: Theology between the Global and the Local (1997)

  • James Bretzke, “Cultural Particularity & the Globalization in the Light of Inculturation,” Pacifica 9 (1996): 69-86

  • “Moral Theology out of East Asia” Theological Studies 61 (2000); 106-121

  • “A New Pentecost for Moral Theology: The Challenge of Inculturation of Ethics” Josephinum (Summer/Fall2003): 250-260