Ethics in Catholic Universities’ teaching and research programmes

The 2014 seminar of the Federation of European Catholic Universities (FUCE), centred on the theme of Ethics, provided a unique opportunity to reassert their aim of becoming places of cross-disciplinary education, debates and dialogues with civil society.


A mong its numerous positive outcomes, the FUCE seminar debates were particularly successful in demonstrating the fundamental role played by Catholic universities in sharing, teaching and researching European thinking Ethics. The last edition indeed brilliantly proved this point.

Right from the opening speeches, the event’s quality and diversity impressed its guests. The first speaker, the Ukrainian Bishop Boris Gudziak, made the audience listen to and gather “live” information and analyses on the current geopolitical tensions of this part of the world. He reminded the audience that the different Jewish, Muslim and Catholic communities fight together “by studying, writing, speaking and praying together”.

“Making Europe known”

His Grace Hippolyte Simon, archbishop of Clermont-Ferrand and former member of the COMECE (the European Community Episcopacy Commission), talked about the place and role of “European Catholic Universities.” He briefly reminded the audience of the distinction between the EU, born out of an economic agreement following the Paris and Rome treaties of 1957, and the “old Europe”, continent to which St Martin of Tours, born in Hungary, already affirmed to belong in the fourth century. Through Europe’s Fathers and several moving testimonies, he highlighted the fundamental importance of Franco-German and German-Polish reconciliation, spiritual moments at the heart of European construction. According to him, Churches and Catholic Universities should endeavour to “make Europe known”, a con-tinent where one can first and foremost benefit from Peace. Through training and education, universities must help young generations to learn information on past and present Europe and thus acquire a “European conscience”.

Copyright : iStockphoto/F. Prochasson

Cities at the heart of the expansion and innovation

In a more political presentation, Georges Kepenekian, first deputy Mayor of Lyon, reminded us of the town’s cultural roots (including the invention of printing, the role of county magis-trates and the development of trade) which contributed to Lyon’s integration within Europe. According to him, Europe’s history is closely linked to its cities, through their expansion and innovation. He referred to a “new age of cities”, which should offer both culture and econo-my, and therefore establish a new link between metropolises and their territories.

“For the first time, the Lyon catholic University welcomed fifty Chied Education Officers or representatives of different European Catholic universities part of the FUCE network from the 15th to the 17th of may 2014"

On May 16th, the seminar gathered, other than Chief Education Officers and/or their representatives, several scientists and heads of University Departments of Ethics. The theme was the following: “How are the specific features of the Catholic University revealed through the key ethical issues in education and research”?

The role of Ethics in research and education

Thierry Magnin, President of UCLy and President of the FUCE, mentioned, in his introduction, the importance for Catholic universities of including Ethics in their teach-ing and research programmes. Then, through a brief summary of the European Charter of fundamental European rights, he presented the main chapters and key principles of the Church’s social teaching: dignity, freedom, equality, solidarity, citizenship, justice and de-mocracy. In a second part, he presented the concept of Ethics applied to family sciences, medical sciences, but also, today, to economics, science and technologies. Provoking a little, he underlined the importance of the interaction between theology and other subjects.

To conclude his speech, Thierry Magnin presented a project of “expertise structure” in the field of Ethics within the FUCE. This “structure” would be composed of experts from Catholic universities and could shed an original and common light on key ethical issues.

“Through training and education, universities must help young generations to learn information on past and present Europe and thus acquire a “European conscience””

Following his speech, Dr Padraig Corkery, Dean of Theology at the Pontifical University of Maynooth, summed up the key issues of bioethics: the restrictions of our choices and free-dom, the role of justice in answering these questions. Is the ethical code part of our professional or private life? What is the impact on one or the other for believers and non-believers? He also reminded the audience that one of the purposes of Christian anthropology is the development of Man in its entirety as well as transcendence.

Social and solidarity-based economy as a model

Luigi Bruni from LUMSA, who came from Rome, talked about Ethics and the economy from a Catholic perspective. Does capitalism of a Catholic essence exist? Has the relationship between happiness and money evolved? Is it still linked to virtue? He reminded the audience of the impact of the Reformation: a context conducive to the development of consumerism and differing interpretations of capitalist traditions from America (philanthropy) and from Europe (Latin tradition with the concept of gratuity). He concluded by recalling that the social and solidarity-based economy must inspire the current economy, by referring to the impact, still significant today, of Lyon’s social Catholicism.

Dr. Vincent Grégoire Delory, from the Catholic Institute of Toulouse, then brought up, with enthusiasm and passion, the theme of Ethics of Science and the key debates surrounding it today: Distinguishing life and the living; ReThinking of the living; Will we produce the living? What are the consequences, and its societal impacts? Nature, culture, artifice? Is the living patentable? According to him, Ethics of Science are fundamental to understand today’s world and the role of Catholic universities in this field is more and more recognised. He concluded his speech by presenting the Higher School of Ethics of Science, part of the Catholic Institute of Toulouse, which boasts numerous courses on science and faith. He also referred to the INRA/INSA consortium in science epistemology as well as the Bachelor’s Degree in life Science created at the Lyon Catholic University.

Linking educational background to faith

Andrzej Szostek, teacher at the Ethics Chair of the Catholic University of Lublin (Poland) developed three questions which, from his point of view, “affect humanity” and remain fun-damental for the Christian vision of Man. He firstly spoke of the recognition of holiness and dignity of all human life. He then raised social issues: the opposition and increasing gap between rich and poor which remains one of the biggest challenges to face when fighting for a fairer world. Finally, he concluded on the theme of freedom and truth: according to him, a Catholic university student must establish a link between his educational background and his faith.

Rosa Pinto, from the Faculty of communication of Salamanca University, spoke of Ethics applied to communication means, and more specifically journalistic Ethics. Working journalists, as well as future communication professionals, must know and apply their profession’s ethical code to fulfil their prime purpose of informing society. Faced with dilemmas, their choic-es are thus driven by ethical principles.

Four workshops concluded the scientific part of this day. The chosen themes were the following: Ethics and Economy; Bioethics and Ethics of the Family; Ethics of Science; Ethics of Communication Means. The conclusions of these projects will enrich and contribute to the establishment of FUCE European expertise networks in the field of Ethics.

Copyright : UCLy

Nicole Ughetto

Director of international relations.