The Loss of Moral Vocabulary

I spent most of the day today in a conference on ethics in clinical social work.  The presenter was a nationally known professor, clinician and author. To his credit, he did a wonderful job keeping us on track, presented some great material and facilitated a great case examination.

But I was again left thinking how so much of what is now labeled ethics is actually a process of thinking that is left with a rudder but no destination. It is like sailing a ship in dangerous waters but unable to recognize the stars in the sky which give us a bearing. My profession seems to have lost what has been a tested moral vocabulary of the past. The terms now used are much more nebulous and indistinct.

I then ran across a talk Archbishop Chaput gave on October 15, 2010,  at the Tri-diocesan Catechetical Congress in Victoria, British Columbia entitled, “Repentance and the Renewal in the Mission of Catechesis.” He talks about how we Catholics no longer really know our faith, that we live in a culture of confusion and we have lost our ability to influentially respond to the inexorable effects of our culture on our moral fiber.

He makes three points:

1. Either we form our culture, or the culture will form us.

2. As of now, the culture is better at shaping us than we are at shaping it.

3. We need to change this by sincere repentance and change and an unselfish witness to what we believe. In order to do that, we need to believe and be able to articulate that belief.

Read the talk for yourselves Chaput and see what you think, but I believe he is making a great point: Our culture is doing a better job at “catechizing” us than we are of it because culture has changed the vocabulary of ethical and moral discourse and we have lost our voice by not having taught and believed well what our grandparents so easily believed and articulated.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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