Who We Are

Our Mission

Since theological ethics is so diffuse today, since practitioners and scholars are caught up in our own specific cultures, and since our interlocutors tend to be in other disciplines, there is the need for an international exchange of ideas in Catholic theological ethics. Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (CTEWC) recognizes the need: to appreciate the challenge of pluralism; to dialogue from and beyond local culture; and, to interconnect within a world church. 

While pursuing critical and emerging issues in theological ethics, CTEWC engages in cross-cultural, interdisciplinary conversations motivated by mercy and shaped by shared visions of hope. It does so by supporting new as well as isolated scholars in theological ethics, fostering the exchange of ideas via its online platforms and regional networks, and publishing a book series.

A Note From Our Founder

Our network is based on the simple assumption that we ethicists need to be better connected.  We also realized during our years of work that we had to extend our network to those literally on the margins, to those whose voices have not been heard, and whose insights have not been recognized. In fact for that reason, when we realized in 2006 that in all of Africa, not one woman had a PhD in theological ethics, we successfully started a scholarship for African women that supported and accompanied 8 such women in their doctoral studies.  This generated other possibilities for women’s voices in Africa and today 13 years later there are more than 24 African women with doctorates in our field.

We began our network simply with the need to be connected with fellow ethicists but, in time, we realized we needed to extend ourselves in our connectedness geographically. Through our conferencing (in Padua, Manila, Trento, Nairobi, Berlin, Krakow, Bangalore, Bogotá and Sarajevo), our book series, our monthly newsletter, and our visiting professors program, we have tried to ask: is anyone missing, is there anyone we need to support or engage, is there anyone we have failed to recognize? Our network has become, then, a catalyst for re-envisioning how we investigate ethics and how we report our findings better by being better connected globally, through multitudinous localities, respecting the contributions of each.

But just as we try to connect with our peers, so too we Catholic Theological Ethicists talk about matters that others do not think should be discussed: condoms, needle-exchanges, sex workers and brothels, unions, global warming, terrorism, human rights, stem cells, sexual abuse, pedophilia, sale of human organs, clean water, health-care, rape, pre-natal healthcare, HPV, HIV, transgender persons, women in the church (from altar girls to cardinals), human trafficking, abortion, female circumcision, political corruption, warfare, nuclear weapons, trade talks, migration, sexual pleasure, transhumanism, violations of conscience, refugees, sanctuaries, border-crossing, world hunger, gun control, cyborgs, etc.

I think each of us believes that we need to talk and write about these matters because maybe no one else will.  I remember being in Rome during the peak of the US sexual abuse crisis and a Boston reporter asked me, “Are you not afraid to speak out?”  I said, “Of course I am, but as a priest who teaches theological ethics in Boston, I cannot very well remain silent.”

Each of us has heard the command to love and when we look at the world and the church, we often see human suffering and therein we know that we have to respond to it.

Motivated by love, we are connected by faith and hope to respond.  We believe that this is our shared vocation and we support each other in living it out.

James F. Keenan, SJ

Founder, Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church
Canisius Professor of Theological Ethics – Boston College


Planning Meeting in Munich

From October 11-13, 2019, a small group of ethicists representing CTEWC’s five regions met in Munich to plan for the next generation of the network. Read more about the meeting here.


Recent Publications about CTEWC

In his 2019 article for Religions, James Keenan describes the history of CTEWC’s international conferencing and hopes for building bridges for the future; his full text is available here: “Pursuing Ethics by Building Bridges beyond the Northern Paradigm.”

In their 2019 article in the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, Linda Hogan and Kristin Heyer analyze the scope and impact of CTEWC; its full text is available here: “Beyond a Northern Paradigm: Catholic Theological Ethics in Global Perspective.”


Communication with the Vatican

In July 2018, Pope Francis wrote this message greeting the participants from every continent gathered for the CTEWC Conference in Sarajevo, “Building Bridges for the Future.”

Over the course of a week in March of 2017, members of the CTEWC planning committee were given the opportunity to discuss ethical priorities with leaders in the Vatican and of Roman institutions. They met with three university leaders (Gregorian, Urbanium, and Alphonsionum), Cardinal Prefects of six Congregations, Father General Arturo Sosa of the Society of Jesus, and culminating in an audience with Pope Francis. Photos and accounts of the papal audience are available here, and photos from other meetings can be found here.