Ethics of the Word: Voices in the Catholic Church Today

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Overview

In Ethics of the Word beloved priest and author James F. Keenan, SJ, discusses the power of the Word in the Church. Keenan argues that we need new ways to build trust and open communication in the Church on all levels-from bishops to parishioners. Keenan's engaging style blends stories, Scripture, and theology to show readers the importance of both speaking and listening. The book covers topics ranging from difficult confrontations to apologies to the language of faith, hope, and love.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a religion that calls its central figure “the Word made flesh,” words clearly matter. Keenan (Moral Wisdom) explores their use in hopes of promoting among Catholics a respectful and honest way of speaking. The author, a priest and ethicist who teaches at Boston College, began to record his ideas about how church members talk in a series of essays published in Church magazine. Here, he develops them further, revisiting such topics as lying, promise keeping, civil discourse, challenging words, and apologies. Keenan breathes life into his thoughts by illustrating them with examples from his personal history and relationships. For instance, in a chapter on the value of silence in the face of certain events, he tells of the loss his parents suffered when their home was destroyed by fire and how “respectful silence”—not the spoken word—was what they most needed as they coped with the tragedy. Keenan has given readers much to consider and makes a convincing case that all of us, regardless of faith tradition, could benefit from an “ethics of the word.” (May)
America
Written in narrative style, each short chapter contributes to the ultimate goal of increasing understanding and transparency in our interactions. Integrating both memoir and moral instruction, the book draws the reader into profound reflection on appropriate words related to everyday experiences like absorbing the meaning of family relationships, learning to live with loneliness and grieving for the deaths of parents....Threaded into the engaging personal narrative of each chapter are powerful moral challenges....Ethics of the Word is a helpful and instructive book, given the many experiences of loss and and suffering, misunderstanding and scandal that characterize much of our everyday lives. Whether among family and friends or church and civic community, Keenan enables the reader to see the impact of his or her words—both comforting and cutting words, the positive and the negative. Our choice of words affects everyone we encounter. Choosing them conscientiously, consonant with the word of God, the author demonstrates, makes for a world that is whole, sacred and intact.
August 2010 America
Written in narrative style, each short chapter contributes to the ultimate goal of increasing understanding and transparency in our interactions. Integrating both memoir and moral instruction, the book draws the reader into profound reflection on appropriate words related to everyday experiences like absorbing the meaning of family relationships, learning to live with loneliness and grieving for the deaths of parents....Threaded into the engaging personal narrative of each chapter are powerful moral challenges....Ethics of the Word is a helpful and instructive book, given the many experiences of loss and and suffering, misunderstanding and scandal that characterize much of our everyday lives. Whether among family and friends or church and civic community, Keenan enables the reader to see the impact of his or her words—both comforting and cutting words, the positive and the negative. Our choice of words affects everyone we encounter. Choosing them conscientiously, consonant with the word of God, the author demonstrates, makes for a world that is whole, sacred and intact.
Library Journal
Keenan, S.J. (theology, Boston Coll.) has written a splendid book examining the how and why of human discourse within Catholicism today. Keenan masterfully incorporates the complexities of the recent sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church from the perspective of what was said and what remained unspoken. His goal is not to place blame but to seek an avenue of dialog that can facilitate both healing and reconciliation. While using the recent moral crisis as a springboard to effect a more honest conversation, the whole book could best be summed up as a theology of communication or a spirituality of the spoken word. Keenan posits a Christian model of sharing words with one another that is fundamentally based on the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. His writing style is fresh, while the narrative is peppered with an abundance of pastoral anecdotes that truly manifest the ethical principles of the text. VERDICT Recommended for public and church libraries collecting in the area of ethics and pastoral theology; a fine title for private reflective reading or small group discussion.—John Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., Platteville
America
Written in narrative style, each short chapter contributes to the ultimate goal of increasing understanding and transparency in our interactions. Integrating both memoir and moral instruction, the book draws the reader into profound reflection on appropriate words related to everyday experiences like absorbing the meaning of family relationships, learning to live with loneliness and grieving for the deaths of parents....Threaded into the engaging personal narrative of each chapter are powerful moral challenges....Ethics of the Word is a helpful and instructive book, given the many experiences of loss and and suffering, misunderstanding and scandal that characterize much of our everyday lives. Whether among family and friends or church and civic community, Keenan enables the reader to see the impact of his or her words—both comforting and cutting words, the positive and the negative. Our choice of words affects everyone we encounter. Choosing them conscientiously, consonant with the word of God, the author demonstrates, makes for a world that is whole, sacred and intact.
Lawrence S. Cunningham
James Keenan's latest book is more than worthy of high praise for its deep learning lightly worn; its pastoral heart that manifestly inspires; its self revelation that never becomes mawkish; and, blessedly, for its lucid prose.
Margaret A. Farley
In this book James Keenan gently but effectively articulates a new call for us to take our words seriously. Profound human experiences of suffering, scandal, loss, misunderstanding, and healing evoke theological-imperatives to truthfulness, respect, and reconciliation. The book will inspire its readers to find and understand languages of vocation, faith, and hope. The language of love ultimately takes center stage in this thoughtful proposal for an ethic of the word.
Thomas Reese
Despite church scandals and controversies, Keenan shows that God's word can still inspire, renew and guide Catholics in the 21st century. Hearing and proclaiming the word is the vocation of every Christian, lay and clerical.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742599574
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/16/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 198
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

James F. Keenan, S.J., holds the Founders Professorship in Theology at Boston College. He is the author of a number of books, including Moral Wisdom and The Works of Mercy. He writes periodically for Church, America, The Tablet, and The Boston Globe.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: As I See and Hear It 1

Part I A Church in Need of New Ways of Living the Truth in Love

Chapter 1 Ethics Inside the Church: Looking Back, Looking Forward 7

Chapter 2 Proposing an Ethics of the Word 15

Chapter 3 Learning an Ethics of the Word 21

Chapter 4 Silence in an Ethics of the Word 27

Part II The Humanity of Our Discourse

Chapter 5 The Human Voice 35

Chapter 6 Memory 41

Chapter 7 Conscience 47

Chapter 8 A Critical Challenge: Recovering Christian Dialogue 55

Chapter 9 Modeling Christian Dialogue: The First International Cross-cultural Discourse on Theological Ethics (Padova, Italy, July 2006) 61

Part III Forms of Christian Discourse

Chapter 10 Teaching 69

Chapter 11 Conversations 75

Chapter 12 Civil Discourse 79

Chapter 13 Being Called 85

Chapter 14 Taking Vows 91

Chapter 15 Apologizing 97

Chapter 16 Appreciating the Limits of Language 103

Chapter 17 Reporting the Truth to Hurt Another 109

Chapter 18 Lying and the Obligation to Get the Story Right 115

Part IV Words

Chapter 19 Beautiful Words, Good Words 123

Chapter 20 Words of Death and Gratitude 129

Chapter 21 Challenging Words 135

Chapter 22 Words of Life 143

Chapter 23 Words of Greeting and Farewell 149

Part V Faith, Hope, and Charity

Chapter 24 The Language of Faith 157

Chapter 25 The Language of Hope 163

Chapter 26 The Language of Charity 169

Index 175

About the Author 185

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