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A common anthropology
For an ethical Ecumenical Charter
On the occasion of an interview on ecumenism cardinal Kurt Koch declared that one of the major problems faced by ecumenical dialogue today is that controversies between Churches basically regard ethical questions. And that’s also why it is important that they be involved in the dialogue. Most Churches share the same understanding of the human person, which means that we are facing a challenge – according to the cardinal – regarding the need to develop a common ecumenical anthropology, a common teaching on the human person. In my opinion, these terms should be directly related to the question of the joint responsibility vis a vis political, economic and social life. In these areas, we don’t rely or strictly theological principles but rather on the practical consequences of our Christian faith. Most - if not all – controversies object of political debate originate in the various interpretations of the human person. Who is man? When does human life begin and when does it end? Is sexual identity rooted within human life, or is it a question of a free choice? Are a father and a mother necessary for the normal upbringing of a child and do they have a priority voice in the child’s education? Could it be said that basically, children are the “common property” of a society that has the right to govern educational bodies without limitations? Do we work only to ensure the highest possible level of life? Or is work also a form of service to others, in which case we are called to extend our help to the poor, sharing our belongings with them? We could go on with our questions, but the most important one refers to our understanding of the human person. Denis de Rougemont once said that what distinguished Europe from the other continents was the Christian vision of man: “Take away this vision of the human person from Europe and it will be more similar to India”. It is not a question of looking down on Indian culture, but simply of affirming that as Europeans we are different, and that we have a different tradition. Our responsibility towards Europe and its future doesn’t consist in the predominant understanding of the human person, which Christianity brought to the history of our culture. This understanding of the human person encompasses also the integral concept of human rights, expressed, for example, in the European Convention for the defence of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
What cardinal Koch points out is that even though Christians read the same Bible and share the same belief that man was created “to God’s image and likeness”, their unity in upholding and promoting this dignity at the level of social practice is not always evident. In other terms, not always is it possible to count on one another, even when it comes to fundamental issues, which highlights the need to create what may be described as an Ecumenical Ethical Charter.
Such a claim may appear peculiar: we already have a Charta Oecumenica that contains a joint statement on ethical questions, which underlines that “On the basis of our Christian faith, we work towards a humane, socially conscious Europe, in which human rights and the basic values of peace, justice, freedom, tolerance, participation and solidarity prevail. We likewise insist on the reverence for life, the value of marriage and the family, the preferential option for the poor, the readiness to forgive, and in all things compassion”.
This Charter is a very significant document, but according to Cardinal Koch, its ethical dispositions are excessively generic. We must therefore find the ways to improve it. Perhaps an ecumenical ethical Charter would enable to clarify the kind of issues on which we – Christians – can truly count on one another.
18/05/2012 - Piotr Mazurkiewicz - Comece (Europe Infos)