INAUGURAL LECTURE DELIVERED IN BIGARD MEMORIAL SEMINARY ENUGU, AT THE INAUGURATION CEREMONY OF THE 2013/2014 ACADEMIC AND FORMATION YEAR BY REV FR. DR. ALBERT IKPENWA, ON THIS DAY 30TH OCTOBER, 2013.
Your Excellency Most Rev. Charles Hamawa Bishop of Jalingo Diocese
Our very Rev and dear Fr Rector Ukoro T. Igwe
My fellow formator and members of Staff…
My dear Seminarians and distinguished guest…
At the beginning of this new academic year I stand before you to engage your astute minds in a discourse aimed at whetting your intellectual appetite and seeking answer to a problem, which I believe touches us both individually and collectively. Even if at the end I succeed in raising more questions than answers, my work is done, since providing us with materials for meaningful discussion is already a step in the right direction and a catalyst for more discussions. The onus lies on us both collectively and individually to continue to discuss the issues to be raised here not only within but also outside the four walls of this seminary till veritable answers are proffered.
The title: Culture and Moral responsibility: Individuality and communality at a crossroad?
This paper as the title suggests, presents us with the dilemma of determining whether culture is a gift (donum) or a giver (donator) in the construction of a morally responsible human community. If it is a gift, given by who? If it is a giver, on what ground can an inanimate, impersonal and incorporeal concept assume a moral status in such a high profile enterprise i.e. the construction of a morally responsible human community? How and to whom do we ascribe moral responsibilities for the good and bad trends, most visible in human cultures?
Whose responsibility is it to ensure that one does not become a slave to culture?
How does our culture influence our religion and how does our religion influence our culture? Lastly, how do we apply the dynamics of culture and moral responsibility to tackle the challenges of our time especially in the areas of finance and priestly/healing ministries in order to build a humane Christian community worthy of the name?
We shall attempt to answer these questions under three major subheadings
Part one deals with what we understand by culture being a gift (donum) and a giver (donator) in the construction of a morally responsible human society
Part two deals with moral responsibility per se: its nature, subject and object
Part three deals with Culture and disordered value system within the context of individual and collective responsibilities. Here culture of corruption and culture of belief/Healing ministry will be discussed as issues demanding urgent application of the theory of responsibility within a specific cultural milieu.
1. What is Culture
Sergio Bernal Restrepo, describes culture as
socially patterned human thought and behaviour, which is learned and shared. It is a way of life. Culture consists of symbols, ideas, and patterns of behaviour, which are interrelated.1
Taking this definition as a point of reference, culture is the sum total of the codified world- view of a people that identifies them as a distinct group among the families of men. This is given the fact that though human persons have basically the same constitution, the circumstances and environment within which they are born and raised are peculiar and exert different pressures and influences on the individuals. Individuals taking into consideration the circumstances they find themselves fashion out codes of conduct that best serve their interest and assure their survival as a people. According to Hans Jonas, Culture is not constructed by a single person but is a product of the dynamics of interchange of experiences among individuals within a group, given the circumstances and the challenges of their particular milieu.2
2. Culture and Cultures
It is because different groups of people have to contend with different challenges and circumstances that we can talk of diversity of cultures. But just as no man is an island, different cultures are daily brought face to face with each other. If this interaction takes place peacefully, individuals existing within those cultures would have little problems adjusting and accommodating new values because such adjustment is necessary for the integral development of the human person. In fact, David Crocker pointed out that there is need for what he described as insiders and outsiders within any cultural set-up. While the insiders represented by those who are indigenous to a culture are important for the maintenance of important cultural values, the outsiders represented by those from other cultures, help bring in
1 S. B. RESTREPO, “An Ethical Assessment of Globalization” in Globalization Ethical And Institutional Concerns: The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Acta 7, Vatican City 2001, 62.
2 H. JONAS, The Imperative of Responsibility, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1984, 9.
new ideas to fecund and re-invigorate the indigenous culture.3 This is because no culture is perfect and thus, every culture is always in need of ideas to help it grow and develop. If on the other hand the interaction between different cultures is in the form of a violent clash, as is the case between conquerors and the conquered, the result will be the imposition of the cultural values of the conquerors on the conquered.
Of these two models, the latter is seen as problematic because of the harms associated with it. This is because when the cultures involved do not meet themselves on the basis of equality but rather on the basis of the conqueror and the conquered, it is logical for the „conqueror‟ to impose its cultural values on the „conquered‟. In such a situation, it becomes the rule that “what is good for us should be good for them and what is bad for us should be bad for them.”4 In his encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate Pope Benedict XVI warned against cultural eclecticism and cultural levelling. While the former connotes situations where different cultures exist side by side with little or no effort to enter into dialogue with each other, the later refers to situations where one culture uncritically accept values from other cultures with the understanding that one culture is as good as the other.5 Thus, no effort is made to sieve through the culture before accepting what is new and different in it. Within this context, one notices a shift towards a uni-cultural society where those cultures that are technologically disadvantaged run the risk of losing their cultural identity and taking in, hook, line and sinker the cultural values of those that are at advantage. A prominent example of this is the culture of consumerism. Here,
…in order to stimulate and guarantee the consumption of their products, the media are used to disseminate notions and models of development and lifestyles, which serve the interests of the large corporation. In this way they contribute to the formation of a coherent cultural system, which, in turn, will serve the interests of the global capitalist system. 6
Since cultural values are necessary for the survival of individuals within a given ambient, the loss of such values do not only result in the disorientation of individuals but also affects the whole social institution because the foreign culture may not be adequate enough to address peculiar problems within a determined ambient. Thus, the symbiosis that should exist between the human person and culture may be lost. This is why we should take a closer look at the proposition, which considers culture as a gift and go further to determine what or who is behind this gift.
3 D. A. CROCKER., “Insiders and Outsiders in International Development” in C. KOGGEL ed., Moral Issues in Global Perspective, Broadview Press, Canada 1985, 150.
4D. A. CROCKER., “Insiders and Outsiders in International Development”…, 150. 5 BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, AAS 101 (2009), no. 26. 6 S. B. RESTREPO, “An Ethical Assessment of Globalization”…, 65.
3. The symbiotic relationship between culture and the individual
A. (Culture as a gift (domum): A gift from whom or what?)
That culture exists, is not in contention, but when it comes to what or who constitutes culture, that is, to whom or what does culture owe its givenness we run into difficulties. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that man is the author of culture, which most scholars affirm.7 But the danger in jumping to that conclusion without qualification is that culture could be subjected to the whims and caprices of men. As Hans Jonas observes, “in the image he entertains of himself…man now is evermore the maker of what he has made and the doer of what he can do, and most of all the preparer of what he will be able to do next.”8 Seen from this dimension culture could be taken as a mere invention of man whose moral significance depends on man alone. Thus, we need to qualify the relation between culture and the human person in such a way that man‟s impute in the formation of culture is recognized but at the same time appeal to an authority or authorities whose role in the emergence of culture brings in the highest form of objectivity and morality that is not subject to man‟s whims and caprices.
Firstly, we appeal to the authority of human nature itself. In the Politics, Aristotle argued that man is a political animal because it is in his nature to exist in a state.9 This means that the life of inter-subjectivity or orientation towards the other contrary to the position of Thomas Hobbes and some other thinkers is natural to man. Without this natural orientation towards the other, no human being could have survived let alone develop at all. This is because development in this sense presupposes the existence of a capacity or capacities that can be transformed from a latent point (terminus ad quo) to a point of actualization (terminus ad quem). Bearing in mind that according to GS 59, “culture flows from man‟s rational and social nature,” culture is then parts and parcel of man‟s social nature. It therefore follows that one can establish a correlation between the origin of culture and the origin of the human society. Thus, the emergence of human culture just like society would have been impossible if man had no natural capacity from which culture could develop. In his book L´Uomo Questo Paradosso, Sabino Palumbieri alludes to these capacities when he postulated what he referred to as subjective culture. By subjective culture he refers to the inherent capacity in man as individual or as a group to organise and transform in a constructive way the givenness in
7. S. PALUMBIERI, L’Uomo, Questa Meraviglia, Antropologia Filosofica II, Urbaniana University Press, Citta`Vaticana 2000, 178.
8. H. JONAS, The Imperative of Responsibility, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1984, 9.
9. ARISTOTLE, The Politics…, Book I, ii, 1253a1.
nature, ordering them to an end.10 Having a capacity or capacities that can be transformed from a point of latency to a point of actualization, means that purposefulness is inherent in such capacities. Thus culture which emanates from these capacities has a purpose and according to S. Palumbieri the end of culture is the development and the growth of the human person, thus developing what is latent in man.11
Contrary to this is the position of Thomas Hobbes and some other thinkers12 as earlier stated. If the position of Thomas Hobbes and co that man is not by nature a social being were to be true, it would follow that man is also by nature not a cultural being. Thus, in the state of nature where there was “a war of all men against all,”13 where life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” culture just like society and social structures was invented by men to liberate themselves from the unbearable condition, which nature itself has exposed them to. But this argument is self-defeating because if man in the state of nature could develop a social system then it means that there was no state of nature in the real sense of it since he could not have thought of how to fashion a social system if he did not have by nature the capacity to do so. Otherwise men could have eliminated themselves anyway and there would have been no reason to ascribe moral responsibility to him and his activities.
From the ongoing arguments, it is one thing to extoll the power of the human ingenuity and industry in developing whatever will best promote his/her good – be that a social system, technical know-how, way of life etc. and another thing to claim that it is not in his nature to develop such. If they were not encoded in his nature, developing them would have been an impossible task since you cannot give what you don‟t have. Thus, Culture could only be associated with human ingenuity and industry for the very fact that these attributes owe their being to capacities inherent in human nature.
However, there is no doubt that as the level of relationship expands outwards, alliances could be established based on mutual understanding. The Vatican II document GS affirms that,
10 S. PALUMBIERI, L’Uomo, Questa Meraviglia, Antropologia Filosofica II, 177.
11 S. PALUMBIERI, L’Uomo, Questa Meraviglia, Antropologia Filosofica II, 192.
12 This concept is supported by J.J. Rousseau who held that apart from the family no society is natural to man and even at that this natural bond in the family dissolves as soon as the children come of age. see J. J. ROUSSEAU, The Basic Political Writings on the Social Contract …, 148. Again for F. Nietzsche, the relationship to the other is not a natural anthropological constituent of the human person, but introduced from the outside. See F. NIETZSCHE, L’Anticristo, Ferruccio Masini, trad., Adelphi Edizioni, Milano 2005, 52. For this reason, the conflict between the individual and society is bound to be a conflict without end with the individual always trying to affirm him/herself at the expense of the others. See S. PALUMBIERI, L’Uomo, Questa Meraviglia, Antropologia Filosofica I…, 316. This view is reminiscent of Hobbes‟ concept of the individual and society as we have seen above that lead to the establishment of the „social contract‟, whereby all decide to surrender every power, authority and personal interest to a sovereign for the interest of all. See T. HOBBES, Man and Citizen…, 118.
13 T. HOBBES, Man and Citizen ed. B. Gert New York 1972, 118.
“some social ties like Family and political association arise from Man‟s nature. Others flow from his free choice.”14 This is why some thinkers tend to divide society into: natural or primary society and voluntary or secondary societies.15 While natural or primary can be seen represented in family, tribe or race, voluntary or secondary societies is seen as the coming together of persons for a common purpose. In his bid to trace the root of the basic moral norms in the human society, C. Taylor states,
Perhaps the most urgent and powerful cluster of demands that we recognize as moral concern the respect for the life, integrity, and well-being even flourishing, of others…virtually everyone feels these demands, and they have been and are acknowledged in all human societies. Of cause the scope of the demand notoriously varies: earlier societies, and some present ones, restrict the class of beneficiaries to members of the tribe or race and exclude outsiders, who are fair game, or even condemn the evil to a definitive loss of this status.16
The second authority not in terms of gradation is the divine authority. The Vatican II document GS offers an indirect insight into the relationship between man‟s work and divine design when it states , “by the work of his hands and with the aid of technical means man tills the earth to bring forth fruit and to make it a dwelling place fit for all mankind; he also consciously plays his part in the life of social groups; in so doing he is realizing the design, which God revealed at the beginning of time, to subdue the earth and perfect the work of creation and at the same time he is improving his own person: he is also observing the command of Christ to devote himself to the service of his fellow men.”17 Thus, we can draw a parallel between man‟s work and the design established by God and insist that Culture as expression of human intelligence belongs to the design of God. It is in bid to establish the relationship between culture and God‟s design that people like Toyebee looks at culture from vertical and horizontal dimensions. While horizontal dimension has to do with what man with his intellectual and physical prowess is able to construct by himself, it is the relationship with God in the vertical dimension that is the soul of culture. Without this vertical dimension culture loses its meaning.18 In fact according to this analysis, the quality of a culture improves or diminishes according to its level of alignment to or estrangement from religion.19 This
14 GS., no. 25
15 K. H. PESCHKE., Christian Ethics, Moral Theology In The Light Of Vatican II. Vol II…, 518
16 C. TAYLOR Sources of self..., 4.
17 GS., 57.
18 A. TOYNBEE, A Study of History, London-Oxford 1939.
19 Ibid., Civilta`al Paragone, Milano 1949, 243.
religious dimension of culture is also supported by Mario Montani who after enumerating the properties of culture, placed religion at the vertex of these properties.20
We can see here that linking culture with Divine design and insisting that culture is natural to man makes the cooperation with the divine design a good – that man should desire, if man is to realise himself. This way of looking at culture attributes purposefulness to it instead of leaving it open to mere arbitrariness. However, ascribing purposefulness to culture does not in any way give culture a deterministic undertone since in the type of cooperation being referred to here, man still maintains his free will. According to Hans Jonas, “the independent good demand that it becomes purpose. It cannot compel the free will to make it its purpose, but it can extort from it the recognition that this would be its duty.”21 (Jonas 84).
This section has tried to examine culture from the point of view of a gift (donum), both from nature and from God. It is a gift which man has to cooperate with if he is to realise himself. However, this is not all there is about culture, because it appears as if culture once established has the tendency to take a life of its own and turn to influence the very being responsible for its existence. This is why Pope Benedict warns against the risk of enslavement and manipulation, which the human person is exposed to within the context of culture.22 How this is possible is what we are going to examine in the next section: Culture as a giver (donator) in the construction of a morally responsible human society.
B. Culture as a giver (donator) in the construction of a morally responsible human society
To understand the possibility of culture becoming a giver in the construction of morally responsible human society let us first of all consider what Palumbieri referred to, as Objective culture.
i. Objective Culture
Sabino Palumbieri describes objective culture as the articulation of the subjective product of the human capacity, into a structured hierarchy of values.23 Thus, the subjective culture which we have examined above, fecund the objective culture, which in turn, impresses upon the subject –its provider– a broadly articulated world-view that transcends the individual whims and caprices. Born into society, the individual is exposed to a wealth of accumulated values that is the result of a long period of individual and collective exchange of ideas. This is what
20 M. Montani, Filosofia della Cultura, Problemi e Prospettiva, Las, Roma 1992, 44.
21 H. JONAS, The Imperative of Responsibility, 84.
22 BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, no., 26.
23 S. PALUMBIERI, L’Uomo, Questa Meraviglia, Antropologia Filosofica II, 178-180.
Mark O‟Keefe‟s described as the process of objectification24. For him objectification is the process through which social framework impresses its norm on the internal dispositions of individuals, which they have externalised through their actions. Then the process through which the value objectified passes from generation to generation is what Mark O‟Keefe described as the process of internalisation.25 Thus,
as a child is socialized through the process of informal and formal education and training, he or she internalises the value-relationships which are the foundation for the structures and institutions of society.26
The human person therefore owes his knowledge and hierarchy of value to society that preceded him/her and that has consciously or unconsciously moulded his or her way of thinking, through social and cultural norms. In this way, by the time a child reaches the age of reasoning, his or her way of thinking has already been formed to a large extent that it will be difficult to introduce any change from outside of him/her.
ii. Two ways through which society influences the individual using external pressures
Here, Mark O‟Keefe describes how society could work from outside of the individual to make sure that he or she follows its dictates27:
a. What is used is direct violence or the threat of violence. Here those that wish to fall out of line with the society find themselves face to face with institutions created by the society to enforce the will of the society. Here one calls to mind the influence of police force.28 This type of means used by the society can be likened to what the pope described as “the force of law or…the law of ”29
b. Through social Stratification
“In this case the society is stratified into diverse classes and genders with every member of the society identified with one social class or another. Each class
24 O‟KEEFE Mark, What Are They Saying About Social Sin?…, 45.
25M. O‟KEEFE, What Are They Saying About Social Sin?.., 44.
26 S. BASTIANEL, “Strutture di Peccato: Riflessione Teologico-morale”…, 50.
27 Cf. M. O‟KEEFE, What Are They Saying About Social Sin?…,52.
28 Cf. Idem.
29 JOHN PAUL II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia…, no. 43.
exerts pressures on and some degrees of expectations on her members thus putting them within checks and balances.”30
iii. Three ways through which society influences the individual using internal pressures
With regards to how society works from inside of an individual, M. O‟Keefe presents the following means:
a. The role theory. Here, “a role may he understood as a „typified response to a typified expectation‟…while various roles have varying degrees of exactness in the range of expectations which they carry, they all direct action and also provide attitudes concerning life in general and how it ought to e lived by the person in that role. In this way external institutions are embodied in persons by means of role expectations.”31
b. The sociology of knowledge. Here, “one‟s view of reality and of one‟s place in it is largely learned from society…the person‟s moral vision dispositions, intentions, conscience, and decision-making are unavoidably situated in the social world, therefore not only exists outside the person but, in a sense, exists within the person as well.”32 It is within this context that we can place the influence of 33
c. The reference group theory. “This is identified as a collectivity whose opinion, convictions, and courses of action are decisive for the formation of one‟s own opinions convictions and decisions.”34 It is in this realm that one can associate the influence of „peer pressure‟ on the individual
It is pertinent to point out that the process of objectification is not a deterministic process since what is objectified was already externalised by the individual or group as subjective culture as treated above. The human person retains his or her freedom, as a responsible person even in the midst of seemly insurmountable pressures. However, it is good to point out that freedom here does not mean absolute freedom for “sociology and human
30 Ibid., no. 52.
31 M. O‟KEEFE, What Are They Saying About Social Sin? …, 53.
32 Ibid., 54.
33 Cf. SRS. no. 20.
34 M. O‟KEEFE, What Are They Saying About Social Sin? …, 56.
experience itself remind us that there is no such thing as absolute, sovereign individual freedom of knowledge.”35 This brings us to the area of responsibility.
Going from the fact that culture is both a gift (domum) and a giver (donator) in the construction of a morally responsible human community we infer that man is both at the giving and receiving ends within the dynamics of cultural changes.
Firstly, being at the receiving end of culture does not mean that he swallows everything line hook and sinker. As a rational being, what is received even at the level of objectification and internalisation is still subject to the evaluative capability of the individual human person and ordered in an already established framework.36
This means that the decision not to act or to act and also how and where to act rests on the individual person.
Secondly, being at the giving end of culture means that cultural values are traceable to individuals who through their actions externalised what is the product of their internal capacities. This is because the subjective culture invests on the human person the power to arrive at judgements and make projections that are autonomous.37
In either case, man carries with him some forms of responsibilities, which he cannot but attend to if he is to promote not only his own good but also the good of the entire human race both born and unborn. In this section we examine what we mean by responsibility as follows:
2. Nature of responsibility
According to Hans Jonas, there are two ways of being responsible (a) Formal responsibility and (b) Substantive responsibility
i. Formal responsibility: by this he means somebody being directly or indirectly accountable for what was done. To be directly responsible means that the act done is directly traceable to the person whom it is imputed For example: he or she did it. To
35 Ibid., 56.
36 S. PALUMBIERI, L’Uomo, Questa Meraviglia, Antropologia Filosofica II, 185.
37 S. PALUMBIERI, L’Uomo, Questa Meraviglia, Antropologia Filosofica II, 179.
be indirectly accountable for what was done means that the act committed by ones subordinate could be indirectly imputed to him since having charge over that subordinate entails also diligent supervision of his or her actions within the framework of the mentor‟s area of competence. E.g. presidents and ministers, medical students and the Consultant, driving school teachers and their students, parents and their children, seminarians and their formators. Here it is not strange to hear that civil suits were brought against such mentors to redress damages incurred by their subordinates.38 (Jonas 90-92) I mentioned civil suits because the gravity of the action performed and the chain of responsibility contribute a lot in determining the concomitant punishment to be meted out.
ii. Substantive responsibility has to do with the responsibility we have over objects or persons. It is different from the formal responsibility because rather than concentrating on actions performed directly or indirectly it deals with what is to be done for the welfare of those or objects under one‟s care. According to this assertion, “first comes the „ought-to- be‟ of the object, second the „ought-to-do‟ of the subject who, in virtue of his power, is called to its care.” Here one can talk of “feeling responsible” for
Under substantive responsibility one can talk of natural and contractual responsibility.39
a. Natural responsibility: here “we have a case of responsibility instituted by nature, which is independent of prior assent or choice, irrevocable, and not given to alteration of its terms by the participants; and, in that prime example, it encompasses its object totally”. Here one can refer to parental responsibility 40
b. Contractual responsibility: here the person voluntary vie or accept an office where he exercises his power over objects or persons. Unlike the natural responsibility, contractual responsibility does not bind indefinitely, one can always resign or be released of such responsibility. This refers to offices or places of work
c. Self-chosen responsibility: Here the paradigm of politicians seeking power in order to burden themselves with responsibilities comes to mind.
3. Subject and object of Responsibility
i. The subject of responsibility is the human person. The human person is endowed with rational/spiritual soul which places him above all other creatures. This rational/spiritual soul
38 H. JONAS, The Imperative of Responsibility, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1984,
39 H. JONAS, The Imperative of Responsibility, 95.
makes it possible for him to enter into relationship with others and places into his hand the leadership role in the created world. “…what is man that you should keep him in mind mortal man that you care for him…you have made him little less than a god; with glory and honor you crowned him gave him power over the works of your hand, put all things under his feet…” Ps 8:4-6. The fact that this endowment is natural to man makes it an imperative that it should be used to achieve goals for which it is meant to realise, that is for the good of others. What is the sense in having powers which one cannot use or use wrongly? A good example is the parable of the talents cf Mt 25:14-30. This is why S. Palumbieri writes that the subject of culture is man.41
ii. The object of responsibility is primarily other human persons both present and future. This is because even though man is endowed with qualities that elevate him over and above other creation he is still not self-sufficient and so must contend with lacks and imperfections that leave him open and in need of the other. This lack of self-sufficiency is most evident in the helpless nature of man at his nascent stage where without adequate care and protection he cannot survive not to talk of developing to his full capacity. Coupled with this is the fact that even after passing through the stages of development, he can never become an omniscient being capable of knowing all that there is to be known and also being in position to carry out every undertaking at will. Thus, one depends on the other to supplement one’s lack in one area or the other while the other may in turn benefit from one’s own area of competence. This means that man is responsible for and also the responsibility of
The Secondary object of responsibly is everything that exists outside of man, which is under the control of man. It is of note that the advancement in the area of technology has meant that year by year areas in nature that were hitherto considered to be outside the scope of man’s control are today not only subjected under man’s control but could be endangered by man’s activities in nature. This raises moral questions as to how and to what extent man should go in carrying out his responsibility over nature.
Since we are concerned with culture and the individual role we shall concentrate on how and to what extent man should display his responsibility in forming and being formed by culture.
41 S. PALUMBIERI, L’Uomo, Questa Meraviglia, Antropologia Filosofica II, 183
Culture and disordered Value System: Culture of corruption and culture of belief/healing ministry within the framework of individual and collective responsibility
1. Disordered Value System and moral imperative
As was indicated above, cultural values undergo the process of externalisation, objectification and internalisation or what S. Palumbieri described as Subjective and objective culture. The driving force behind this process is the realisation of the human good. This is attested to by the fact that the natural capacities inherent in subjective culture are capacities oriented towards the human good. Put in another way, the purpose of culture is the realization of the human good as we have already mentioned. If this is the case, cultural values once articulated impose a moral imperative on the human person who is by nature oriented towards the good. As Hans Jonas points out “the good or valuable, when it is this of itself and not just by grace of someone‟s desiring, needing, or choosing is by its very concept a thing whose being possible entails the demand for its being or becoming actual and thus turns into an „ought‟ when a will is present which can hear the demand and translate it into action.”42 However, it is possible that the process of externalisation, objectification, and internalization of a value could be derailed from its identification with the good. This is because when the reality objectified is not in consonance with the objective good of the human person, what is by nature evil could be misconstrued as good and what is good could be misconstrued as evil and passed down from generation to generation in the process of internalisation. In search of the reason behind such inversion of values, Karl Rahner rightly points out that “culture, remaining creaturely as it does, is determined by all man‟s existential categories: finitude, jeopardy, sinfulness, ambiguity, openness to the incalculable, need of redemption, state of redemption.”43
even those who have attained a sufficient level of insight to question these disordered values may find themselves powerless to overcome the magnitude of reality so perceived within the society, thus, structures, for better or worse, exercise a great deal of formative influence on persons, this influence is often quite subtle and thus difficult to detect, resist and overcome. 44
Bernard Häring also occupied himself with the extent to which a milieu contributes in forming an individual from birth. In his own words,
42 H. JONAS, The Imperative of Responsibility, 78.
43 K. RAHNA et al, Dictionary of Theology, Crossroad Pub, New York 108.
44 M. O‟KEEFE, What Are They Saying About Social Sin?…, 51.
A great deal depends on the quality of the milieu of community into which the child is born, and whether the evil in the environment is sufficiently counteracted by a genuine faith community and holy people. If the young person is exposed to a perverted milieu that is in no way qualified by good elements, then it might well be that the noisy voices of the idols could conceal the tiny voices of a remote culture of the good and stifle the innate desires for righteousness45
This is why the Pope John Paul II emphasised the need for a good foundation upon which the individual conscience is built and formed.46 If proper foundations are not laid and society fails to enshrine the basic value or the good into her systems and structures, the result would be what Bernard Häring described as value blindness, which are as follows:
i. Three types of possible value-blindness,
a. All-pervasive blindness to value. Here one is blind to the basic value, which he described as the good and therefore is not in any condition to appreciate other values that are subsumed in the basic value. In fact those in this situation lack the knowledge of what value is all about;
b. Partial blindness to value. Those who fall into this category are those who are aware of the basic value but are blind to a particular value or sets of values due to the loftiness of these values or lack of self will to relate these values to the basic values;
c. Blindness in the concrete application of a type of value. Those who fall under this category are those who have knowledge of the basic values and its relation to other subordinate values but run into difficulties when these values are in conflict with their unconquered personal and selfish interest.47 This type of blindness to value is more prevalent in
These dynamics can positively or negatively influence culture to the extent that the end of culture is jeopardized or outright derailed. Meditating on the inversion of human values especially the marital values, Pope John Paul II stated,
in the context of a culture which seriously distorts or entirely misinterprets the true meaning of human sexuality, because it separates it from its essential reference to the person, the Church more urgently feels how irreplaceable is her mission of presenting
45 B. HÄRING, Free and Faithful in Christ, vol. 1…, 165.
46 Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 2 December 1984, AAS 77 (1985) 185-275, no. 61.
47 B. HÄRING, Free and Faithful in Christ, vol. 1…, 183-184.
sexuality as a value and task of the whole person, created male and female in the image of God.48
Again in his Encyclical letter Evagelium Vitae, he described the tendency of governmental and non-governmental organization to promote contraception and abortion, as the promotion of the “culture of death.”49
Here, we shall only examine the culture of corruption/poverty and culture of belief as disordered value system within the context of individual and collective moral responsibilities.
2. Culture of Corruption and Poverty: individual and collective responsibility
Some have argued that naturally man is moved to act on the basis of self-interest. It is argued that by protecting his self-interest the individual realizes himself and in so doing set in motion a process whose end product will ultimately lead to the development of the entire human society. Even though many eminent scholars have demonstrated the unsustainability of such a proposition, there exists today tacit or explicit demonstration of total or partial support of the said proposition by a good number of people, groups or even States. Otherwise how could one dispute the undeniable link between pursuit of self-interest and corruption? In his book Democracy and Civil Society in Nigeria Hasan Kukah writes, “the problem with the political class lies in the fact that most of them are actually made up of chunks of many unprincipled men and women who have colluded with the military in the pauperization of Nigeria.”50 The same could be said of the present day politicians and businessmen whose pursuit for self- interest has impoverished the nation.
In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI maintained, “many people today would claim that they owe nothing to anyone, except to themselves. They are concerned only with their rights, and they often have great difficulty in taking responsibility for their own and other peoples‟ integral development. Hence it is important to call for a renewed reflection on how rights presuppose duties if they are not to become mere license.”51 Such an attitude cannot but feed the embers of corruption whereby funds meant for the development of infrastructures end up in private purses thus strangulating any hope of fostering the wellbeing of the masses. When corruption is not combated on a personal level (the subjective culture) it could eat into the social fabric, thus leading to what could be described as a culture of corrupt practices. It is situations like this that Pope John Paul II was referring to when he talked of
48 JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Familiaris Consortio, FC., no. 32.
49 JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter, Evangelium Vitae, 25 March 1995AAS 87 (1995), 401-522. no. 12.
50 H. KUKAH, Democracy and Civil Society in Nigeria, Spectrum Books Limited, Ibadan 1999. 220.
51 BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, no. 43.
structures of sin. “The sum total of the negative factors working against a true awareness of the universal common good, and the need to further it, gives the impression of creating, in persons and institutions, an obstacle which is difficult to overcome.”52
However some people claim that poverty excuses on from corruption. Writing on corruption among African leaders, E. Ekwuru attests,
The African modern political institutions with their overt capitalist forms and structures have become potent framework for oppressive intrigues of systematic self- sabotage and backwardness. One thing that should be noted is the fact that African dictators are not just power-mongers but reckless wealth-seekers…they are true products of a culture of poverty and underdevelopment.53
By attributing this phenomenon to a culture of poverty he means that poverty creates a situation, whereby those cutup in its web, have limited choice or control over providing themselves with the necessary means of sustenance, not to talk of self-realization. In a situation of scarce job opportunities, individuals are ready to accept any type of work even under inhuman conditions, just to keep body and soul together. However, when such work fails to provide the individuals with means of providing themselves and their families with basic necessities of life, they end up considering corrupt practices as the only means of escaping the bitter test of poverty. It is this tendency embedded deep in the subconscious of many African politicians that make‟s fighting corruption a vicious circle. This is confirmed by Joseph Stiglitz a onetime Nobel Prize winner, who asserted,
today, throughout the developing world, there is enormous focus on one vital aspect of governance: corruption…When government officials are eking out a living on minimal wage, it is understandable though not forgivable, that they demand bribes before they will do the job they were hired for. At least these ill-gotten gains are used to pay for food or education for their children.54
He is by no means supporting corruption but stating some of the causes of corruption and the difficulties involved in eradicating it. However, once corruption is entrenched in the system for whatever ground, eradicating it becomes a problem. The case of politicians embezzling million if not billions of dollars from the national coffers do not portray the image of persons struggling to feed their children but persons with a megalomania tendency.55 J. ONIYEKAN writes concerning corruption in Nigeria, “the worst type of corruption is the „legal‟ and
52 JOHN PAUL II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, no.36., Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1987.
53 E. EKWURU, The Price of Being Human as an African in the Contemporary World, Totan Publishers Lagos 2000, 83
54 J.E. STIGLITZ, Making Globalization Work…, 55.
55 J. ONAIYEKAN, Thy Kingdom Come; Democracy and Politics in Nigeria Today, Gaudium Et Spes Institute, Abuja 2003, 33. Cf. E. EKWURU, The Price of Being Human as an African in the Contemporary World…, 82.
official corruption carried out with blatant impunity by those in authority. The armed robber, when caught, is justly punished for taking what does not belong to him. But all around us, people take with impunity what is not theirs. Some, for example, merely sign documents and neatly divert huge sums of public funds to their own private use. Others claim the right to pass laws approving for themselves public funds well beyond their due. It is the legal thefts and official corruption that ills the nation more, rather than the giving and taking of little bribes here and there in office corridors.”
For the above reasons one can conclude that corruption is entrenched in the socio-economic and political framework of Nigeria as a whole. Whether it is corruption due to poverty or corruption due to selfishness it is clear that Nigeria has embraced the culture of corruption; that is a culture, which has distanced itself from the objective good established by nature and God himself, as was discoursed in the first part of this paper. Connected to the culture of corruption is the culture of Praise singing. Politicians, who let the crumbs fall from their tables in terms of embarking on one project or another or making donations even to the church while withholding the fattest portion of what belongs to all of us, have their names written in gold. One hears often: after all he is working, others ate and did nothing. Does doing what one is elected to do give him the right to steal the country blind? One cannot tackle corruption without the education and coscientization of the citizenry as regards their moral rights and responsibilities. When citizens know their rights and moral responsibilities, they will ask questions and demand such from their leaders. When leaders are not ready or willing to live up to their duties and responsibilities, a change of government becomes expedient, as is obtainable not only in the developed countries but also in so many developing countries of the world. In fact in his recent interview with vanguard newspaper Chief Mbazulike Amaechi one of the surviving ministers of the first republic stated, “we joined politics for what we could do for the country now they join politics for what they can take.”56 He joined the Zikist movement at the age of 18 and was incarcerated several times together with others who were fighting for our independence. And they were happy, just like first Apostles, for being persecuted for fighting a just course (Act 5:40-41). Such was the spirit of the founding fathers of this country and we all have the moral responsibility to work in and for the same spirit bearing in mind that such spirit can never be found in a culture that promotes disordered values.
56 VANGUARD 4th Oct 2013 p25.
3. Culture of Corruption and the moral responsibility of Priests and
Here we shall turn to ourselves and ask if corruption is also visible in the church – how does the church stands in matters regarding corruption? Is it possible that what plays itself out in the politico-economic world is also perceptible within the four walls of the Church? Put bluntly, is it possible that corruption exists in the church? In as much as we cannot talk of culture of corruption in the church, because thanks be to God, there is no reason to believe that it has eaten into the fabric of our existence, we cannot deny the so many cases of corruption involving so many church personnel. Cases of embezzlement of funds by priests, seminarians and other church functionaries abound. Here, money meant for projects like Church building, mission schools, hospitals etc end in private pockets. Some claim that due to lack of proper organization or remuneration of priest, many do not know the boundaries between personal and parish funds and many live under the doctrine – if the Father does not eat church‟s money will he eat that of the pagans? Again, it is sad to note that the general conversation at most of the informal gatherings of priests or seminarians or even women religious revolves round which priest, seminarian, woman religious is richer than which. Priests are identified with the type of cars they ride rather than the branch of theology or philosophy they represent. Last year Fr. Clement Obasi presented a paper dedicated to issues concerning priestly remuneration and the boundaries between personal and parish funds. It is part of our formation to be informed and also inform ourselves on issues raised by Father Obasi and others as regards our rights and responsibilities within the context of the management of churches‟ fund. Two weeks ago Fr. Anthony Eze summed up our just concluded annual colloquium by throwing the responsibility to form ourselves squally on our shoulders. According to him we owe it to the people of God to form ourselves well, in order to be veritable instruments in the hands of God who has called us in to the Ministry.
In relation to the above responsibility, S. Palumbieri draws a parallel between culture and being cultivated (cultura, colto e la cultivazione).57 Here, he reemphasizes what he had earlier said on the importance of the integral formation of the human person, in order to create cultural values worthy of the name.58 In the same vein Joseph Fucks points out “the discovery of moral norms and judgments is an act of human culture”.59 Thus, in our own case, the importance of passing through the seminary and letting the seminary pass through the seminarians has always been emphasized. A person who is cultivated will manifest it in his
57 S. PALUMBIERI, L’Uomo, Questa Meraviglia, Antropologia Filosofica II,193.
58 IBID., 179.
59 J. FUCKS, Personal Responsibility and Christian Morality, Georgetown University Press, Washington D.C. 99
relationship with others and the earthly goods. A person who is not, will also demonstrate it in his relationship with others, and the earthly goods. This is why some people are referred to as money miss roads. Their attitude to money and their lifestyle depict them as uncultivated persons.
4 Culture of belief/healing ministries and moral responsibility of priests and seminarians.
Related to the above is the abuse of the sacraments under what some describe as the culture of belief at its extreme form. Let me underline that the culture of belief in itself, which is a form of apprehension is not bad when combined with other forms knowing. The problem today is that uncritical belief system is taking a form unprecedented in the short history of our local church. Within this context, one can discourse the distortion of the sacraments especially that of the sick AKA the healing ministry.
A cursory look at the state of affairs within these ministries presents us with cases of priests and also seminarians feeding fat on our peoples‟ gullibility and susceptibility in matters of faith and belief. In his article “The Epistemological Basis of the Belief in the Occult and Paranormal and the implications of this belief System in Nigeria” Emeka M. Onwuama opines “in (Nigeria) different sorts of groups, in offices, for instance, accept the poplar notion that occult practices are potent, consequently, events are readily interpreted through the prism of the occult. In this way, perfectly ordinary things and events take occult coloration. This sort of atmosphere makes people to feel compelled to seek spiritual fortification of their lives and properties. The result is the reinforcement of both the belief and the practice of the paranormal and the occult.”60 He agrees with Bodunrin and Olusegun Oladipo that “the predominant intellectual orientation in Africa today is not the culture of inquiry, but the culture of belief.”61 According to this thesis, instead of working hard to ensure a well- deserved promotion out of merit or engaging the human mind in finding solution to our different existential problems, many Africans – the elite included – waste time and energy moving from one dibia to another or from one prayer ministry to another fighting real and imaginary spirits. In his book Ach Afrika a German Journalist Bartholomäus Grill documents the predominance of this belief system in Africa and how many religious and political leaders
60 E. M. ONWUAMA “The Epistemological Basis of the Belief in the Occult and Paranormal and the
implications of this belief System in Nigeria” in Spirits: Occultism, Principalities and Power ed. Charles A. Ebelebe, CSSp., San Press Enugu 2012. 70.
61 O. OLADIPO, “Knowledge and African Renaissance,” West African Journal of Philosophical Studies Vol 2., 1999. 7.
are feeding themselves fat from it.62 No wonder we are where we are. How many Africans are credited with any of the gigantic discoveries in human history? he asked.63 It is a pity that whereas the western elite has gone a long way in liberating its people from the culture (shackles) of superstitions and backwardness a lot of us are busy doing the contrary to our own people. Thus, rather than liberating people from the shackles of a negative belief system some of our healing ministries are reinforcing them by providing the so called spiritual fortification in exchange for monetary and other material benefits. It has often been suggested that the true taste of the sincerity of the so called ministers is their readiness to turn over the management of financial aspect of the ministry to competent diocesan authorities while devoting themselves “to prayers and to the service of the word” as the early Apostles did in (Acts 6:4). Some are of the opinion that if the faithful are not provided with this dibia priests they will join the Pentecostals. But if teaching the faithful the authentic catholic doctrine will make those without faith to turn away that will not be the first time in the history of the church and the church is better off without such people. In Jn 6:52-71 Christ did not change his doctrine because some decided it was too much for them and turned away.
Again today, inculturation is at the center of most theological discourse within the local church. On this theme, most of our local authors have spent time lamenting on the harm done to our culture by the early missionaries. In as much as cases of unsympathetic attitudes towards indigenous cultures by the early missionaries are undeniable, we must not fail to appreciate their effort in demystification and demythologization of the so called powerful idols and jujus. While Shanahan was reputed to have had no problems sleeping in shrines on his way to mission stations others were not afraid to build their churches and schools in the so called evil forests. Even in Chinue Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, the extent of this demystification was so great that the villagers who expected the missionaries and their converts to be stuck down by the gods once they invaded the evil forest, could not believe their eyes when the said people went about their business, as if nothing had happened!64 But today we are sending the believers back to the idols and jujus in the name of healing from the root or binding the spirit of the dead etc. thus, mystifying again what has been demystified by the early missionaries (white man). Or maybe we should agree with Ogbu U. Kalu that these gods and idols were und would never be conquered!65
62 B. GRILL, Ach Afrika, Pantheon Verlag, München 2012. 133-139.
63 IBID., 368.
64 C. ACHEBE, Things Fall Apart, Doubleday, New York 1959. 148 ff.
65 O. KALU, The Embattled Gods, African World Press Inc., New Jersey, 2003. 324-335.
This paper does not in any way intend to dismiss or degrade the idea of ministry and ministers as a whole. In fact one of our biblical experts Rev. Sr. Sylvia Nwachukwu in her article “Biblical perspectives on Spirits, demons, principalities and powers” pointed out, that the existence of demons, Satan, or evil spirit and principalities is supported both from theological and biblical points of view.66 What is here being emphasized or should be emphasized is our mission – to liberate and not to shackle our people in perpetual fear of real and imaginary spirits or worst still, capitalizing on their ignorance to rip them off. Our responsibility towards the people of God should be in line with the teaching of the church. Taking the mission of St Paul as a paradigm Sr S. Nwachukwu states, “his (St Paul) particular pastoral strategy of detailed catechesis, argumentation and vibrant exhortation to the faithful on any problem should be adopted as relevant for today‟s pastoral activity. In this regard, theologians and leaders of Christian communities have the greater responsibility.”67
The responsibility of leading the people of God to the Truth is a subject treated in the recent encyclical of Pope Francis The Light of Faith. He writes, “We need knowledge, we need truth, because without these we cannot stand firm, we cannot move forward. Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing. It remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves.”68 We do not only need to tell ourselves the truth, we have the responsibility to tell the people of God the truth. In order to tell the truth we have to know the truth. Our seminary formation is oriented towards the discovery of the truth about faith. It would be therefore a tragedy for any seminarian to pass through the seminary without allowing the seminary to pass through him, thus ending up leading the people of God away from the true faith.
In summary, there is no doubt that problems of disordered cultural values exist both locally and globally. In fact no culture can presume to harbour within herself the whole truth or encompass within itself the totality of human values or claim to be free from bad cultural traits.69 This is why it is imperative to look beyond what man is capable of producing by himself to two authorities which were mentioned in the first part: Nature and Divine.
66 S. NWACHUKWU, “Biblical perspectives on Spirits, demons, principalities and powers” in Spirits: Occultism, Principalities and Power, 221-252.
67 IBID., 252.
68 FRANCIS, Encyclical letter Lumen Fidei, Libreria Editrice, Vaticana 2013, no., 24
69 S. PALUMBIERI, L’Uomo, Questa Meraviglia, Antropologia Filosofica II, 187.
In his encyclical Africae Munus, Pope Benedict XVI writes, “in her concern for relevance and credibility, the Church needs to carry out a thorough discernment in order to identify those aspects of the culture which represent an obstacle to the incarnation of Gospel values, as well as those aspects which promote them.”70 With this statement, the pope confirms the existence of good and bad cultural traits but reiterates the fact that where good and bad cultural traits exist side it is our duty to eliminate the bad traits. We have seen above the role of the individual in the construction of a socio-cultural-framework. It follows that good and bad cultural traits are traceable to the individuals who contributed to their coming into being. Badly formed individuals give rise to badly formed society thus perpetuating a culture of a perverted value system. It is then our responsibility, as the Pope points out, to sieve out what is not in consonance with the truth and promote what is in consonance with the truth.
This we can do by knowing the different levels of responsibilities as discoursed in part II of this paper and applying them in accordance with our relationship to others in a most dutiful manner.
70 BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Arficae Munus, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2011, no., 36.