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Inculturation in moral theology

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May 13, 2016

sedosREFLECTION - Julian Saldanha, SJ. 

1. A Necessary Task

The task of inculturation in moral theology is part of the inculturation of theology in general. It is a task which was laid on the 'young churches' by Vatican II. From the customs and traditions of their people, from their wisdom and their learning, from their arts and sciences, these churches are to borrow all those things which can contribute to "the revelation of the Saviour's grace, or the proper arrangement of Christian life" (AG 22). To this end, "theological investigation must necessarily be stirred up in each major sociocultural area". In this way, "a better view will be gained of how their customs, outlook on life, and social order can be reconciled with the manner of living taught by divine revelation. As a result, avenues will be opened for a more profound adaptation in the whole area of Christian life" (AG 22). This mandate was repeated by Pope John Paul II in 1998 in his encyclical Fides et Ratio, with explicit reference to India. After referring to India's rich religious and philosophical traditions of great antiquity, he declared: "In India particularly, it is the duty of Christians now to draw from this rich heritage the elements compatible with their faith, in order to enrich Christian thought" (AG 72). Yet, compared to other branches of theology, moral theology has been very tardy in undertaking inculturation. Furthermore, even twenty years after Vatican II, moral theology in India had remained tied to canonical and philosophicalethical ways of thinking.1 It was found "to be weighed down, among other things, by paternalism, legalism and individualism". 2 One reason for the general tardiness may be that inculturation in this field is very challenging and difficult; it can also prove quite controversial. All the same, it is incumbent on moral theologians to render this service to the local church. It is much easier to purvey/impose on the young churches a readymade moral theology elaborated in a Western context. Questions and problems arising from the 'Third Church' of the Southern hemisphere hardly figured in the media in the run up to and during the Synod on the family in Rome in October 2015. It indicates that the Church has not entirely shaken off its Eurocentric bias. Communion for the divorced and (civilly) A hogged the limelight, but not the problems involved in inter-faith marriages which have been on the rise in Asia. Moral theology in India must confront the questions and problems which our people face here. What contributes to the challenge of inculturating moral theology is not only the great cultural diversity involved but also the large role which reason must play in this field.

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Source: Sedos Bulletin, April-May 2016

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