Thursday, July 27, 2006

In Search of a “Global Ethic”

Pope Benedict XVI’s recent call for “prayers and penance” for the situation in the Middle East reminded me of Hans Küng’s contention that a “global ethic” is required for the survival of humanity.

In the conclusion of his book The Catholic Church: A Short History, Küng says that the world is in need of “a common ethic for humankind” – an ethic which can be supported by all churches and religions, and even non-believers.

“Our globe cannot survive without a global ethic,” insists Küng.

Accordingly, he lists a number of priorities that the Catholic Church should support in order to advance this “global ethic”:

(i) A social world order: a society in which human beings have equal rights, live in solidarity with one another, and in which the ever-widening gulf between rich and poor is bridged.

(ii) A plural world order: a reconciled diversity of cultures, traditions and peoples in Europe, in which there is no place for anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

(iii) A world order in partnership: a renewed fellowship of men and women in the church and society, in which at every level women bear the same responsibility as men, and in which they can freely contribute their gifts, insights, values and experiences.

(iv) A world order which furthers peace: a society in which the establishment of peace and the peaceful resolution of conflicts is supported, and a community of peoples who contribute in solidarity towards the well-being of others.

(v) A world order which is friendly to nature: a fellowship of human beings with all creatures, in which their rights and integrity are also observed.

(vi) An ecumenical world order: a community that creates the presuppositions for a peace among the nations through a unity of confessions and peace among the religions.

Elsewhere in the conclusion of his book, Küng outlines “four conditions that need to be met if the church is to have a future in the third millennium”.

These “conditions” are as follows:

1. [The Catholic Church] must not turn backwards and fall in love with the Middle Ages or the time of the Reformation or the Enlightenment, but be a church rooted in its Christian origin and concentrated on its present tasks.

2. It must not be patriarchal, fixated on stereotyped images of women, exclusively male language and predetermined gender roles, but be a church of partnership, which combines office and charisma and accepts women in all church ministries.

3. It must not be narrowly confessional and succumb to confessional exclusiveness, the presumption of officialdom and the refusal of communion, but be an ecumenically open church, which practices ecumenism inwardly and finally follows up many ecumenical statements with ecumenical actions like the recognition of ministries, the abolition of all excommunications and complete Eucharistic fellowship.

4. It must not be Eurocentric and put forward any exclusivist Christian claims and show a Roman imperialism, but be a tolerant, universal church which has a respect for the truth that is always greater, it must therefore attempt to learn from the other religions and grant an appropriate autonomy to the national, regional and local churches.

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