Moral choice and how it stems from identity, sense of context, and world view

January 31, 2016

From the Global Sisters Report, with gratitude.  See a long list of nuns’ blogs at the bottom of this post.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious passed an Assembly Resolution last August, in which we women religious leaders committed to “examine the root causes of injustice and our own complicity as congregations, and to work to effect systemic change as we struggle to establish economic justice, abolish modern-day slavery, ensure immigrant rights, promote nonviolence, and protect Earth and its biosphere.” If we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny, each of these threads is key. Ignoring one risks unravelling the whole. It is important not only to take concrete steps to address these issues, but also to face our own complicity in the networks and structures of social sin that deny our God-given mutuality and breed such injustice.

Privilege may make indifference possible, but indifference itself can also be viewed as a choice. We can choose to be indifferent to the reality of social sin, or in the words of Pope Francis we can respond by engaging in “positive initiatives which testify to the compassion, mercy and solidarity of which we are capable.” (Message for World Day of Peace, 2016)

In her book, Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocide: Identity and Moral Choice (Princeton University Press, 2011), political psychologist Kristen Renwick Monroe examined the responses of ordinary people to an extreme example of social sin — the Nazi holocaust. Her analysis of extensive interviews with rescuers, bystanders, and Nazi supporters led her to conclude that “identity constrains choice” across all three groups. In other words, how those living in Nazi Germany saw themselves in relationship to self, others, and the world radically influenced their response and actions.

Those who supported the Nazis saw themselves as victims and in danger. They chose to strike out against target groups out of their perceived need for self-preservation. Bystanders saw themselves as weak with little control over the situation. They chose indifference. A common response was, “But what could I do? I was one person alone against the Nazis.”

Most people, please God, are not likely to face the dramatic life and death choices that were almost an everyday occurrence under the Nazi regime. Yet, we are nonetheless connected to the network of injustice that impacts neighbors near and far.

In this age of connection, how we see ourselves in relationship to self, others, and the world is key. Do we see ourselves as weak, disconnected, or victims? Or do we choose to see ourselves as connected and able to make a difference? Pope Francis encourages us to do the latter: “I would ask everyone to take stock of this reality, in order to overcome indifference and to win peace.” (2)

Susan Rose Francois is a member of the Congregation Leadership Team for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. She was a Bernardin scholar at Catholic Theological Union and has ministered as a justice educator and advocate. Read more of her work on her blog, At the Corner of Susan and St. Joseph.

1 Franciscan Way – Sisters of Saint Francis of the Martyr Saint George

Abbey of Saint Walburga – Benedictine Nuns (OSB) in Virginia Dale, Colorado

All this life and heaven too – Sister Silvana Dallanegra, RSCJ (Society of the Sacred Heart)

At the Corner of Susan and St. Joseph – Sister Susan Rose Francois, CSJP (Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace)

Backlit with Joy – Sister Jean Hopman, OSU, and Sister Elisa Ryan, OSU (Ursuline Sisters, United States Province)

Benedictine Sisters of Yankton – Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, South Dakota

Bring it for God – Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Indiana

Catherine’s Cafe – Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa (Order of Preachers, OP)

Catholic Benedictine Sisters Discernment Blog – Sisters of Saint Benedict of Saint Mary Monastery in Rock Island, Illinois (OSB)

Catholic Faith Corner – Sister Kathleen Glavich, SND (Sisters of Notre Dame)

Caught Up in God: Cenacle Journal – Sister Rose Hoover, RC (Cenacle Sisters)

Collaborative Dominican Novitiate – Dominican Novices (Order of Preachers, OP)

Colwich Novitiate – Benedictine Nuns of Saint Mary’s Abbey, Colwich, England

Communitas et Caritas – Sister Juliet, RSCJ, in formation with the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Connect with Mercy – Sisters of Mercy of the Americas (RSM)

Contemplative Horizon – Sister Hildegard Pleva, OSsR, (Redemptoristine Nuns, Order of the Most Holy Redeemer)

Daughters of Charity, Province of Saint Louise Archives – Archive staff, Daughters of Charity (DC)

Diary of a Sister-in-Training – Tracy Kemme in formation with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati (SC)

Discovering God’s Calling – Sister Cheryl Rose, HM (A Nun’s Life Ministry)

Dominican Contemplative Nuns – Corpus Christi Monastery, Menlo Park, California (OP)

Dominican Life on Lotus Lane – Dominican Sisters of the Monastery of the Infant Jesus in Lufkin, Texas (OP)

Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey – Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey (OP, Order of Preachers)

Drink Deeply, My Daughter – Amanda Kern in formation with the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul (DC)

Express Blog – Sisters of Notre Dame, Toledo Ohio (SND)

FCJ Sisters’ Blog – Faithful Companions of Mary

FSPA for Justice and Peace – Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration

Franciscan Footprints – Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis, Peoria, Illinois (OSF)

Franciscan Life – Sister Ann Marie Slavin, OSF (Sister of Saint Francis of Philadelphia)

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity – Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity (FSCC)

From the Heart – Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart (MHSH)

Grace to Paint – Sister Maresa Lilley, SND (Sisters of Notre Dame)

Habitually Speaking – Sister Monica, OSF – Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity (FSCC)

Happynun Thinks Aloud – Sister Colleen Clair, FMA (Salesian Sisters of Saint John Bosco)

Hell Burns – Sister Helena Burns, FSP (Daughters of Saint Paul)

History Nun – Sister Maxine Kollasch, IHM (A Nun’s Life MInistry)

Hope-full Signs – Sister Judith Andrews, SJH (Sisters of Jesus Our Hope)

Horarium of Now – Sister Julie Vieira, IHM, (A Nun’s Life Ministry)

IHM Calling – Sister Kathy Onderbeke, IHM (Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, Michigan)

iBenedictines – Holy Trinity Monastery, Howton Grove Priory, UK (Benedictine Nuns, OSB)

In the Hands of the Potter – Sisters of Notre Dame (SND)

In the Shadow of His Wings – Passionist Nuns, Kentucky

Let Christ Be Formed in Me – Postulants of the Daughters of Saint Paul (FSP)

Life at the Convent – Sister Mary Lou, OSF (Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, Minnesota)

Light Through Stained-Glass Windows – Sister Susan Doubet, OSB (Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania)

Little Company of Mary – Little Company of Mary Sisters of Ireland

Living Justly – Sister Kathleen Ryan, SND (Sisters of Notre Dame)

Living Scripture – Sister Mary Terzo, FMA (Salesian Sisters of Saint John Bosco)

Living the Tradition: A Benedictine Blog – Sister Lynn Elisabeth Meadows, OSB (Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, Alabama)

Living the Zeal of Benedict – Sister Marilyn Schauble, OSB (Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania)

Love, the driving force: a journey of discernment – Sarah Rudolph, in formation with the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Ontario, Canada)

Messy Jesus Business – Sister Julia Walsh, FSPA (Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration)

Monastery Happenings – Sister Florence Vales, OSC (Poor Clare Sisters of New Jersey)

Mystics and Prophets – Sister Amy Hereford, CSJ (Sisters of Saint Joseph)

Notes from Stillsong Hermitage – Sister Laurel M. O’Neal, Erem Dio (a diocesan hermit in the Camaldolese tradition)

Nun News Blog – Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery (aka the Desert Nuns)

Nunblog – Sister Anne Flanagan, FSP (Daughters of Saint Paul)

NunEssential – Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT (Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity)

Nunsuch – Sister Sandy Yost, CSJ (Sisters of Saint Joseph)

OPreach – Sister Patricia Farrell, OP (Dominican Sisters of San Rafael; aka Order of Preachers)

Our Franciscan Fiat – Sister Christina M. Neumann, OSF (Franciscan Sisters of Dilligen, US Province)

P R Woman for Christ – Sister Mary Peter Martin, FSP (Daughters of Saint Paul)

Reflections of an RSCJ – Sister Helen Rosenthal, RSCJ (Religious of the Sacred Heart)

Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky – Sister Anne Higgins, DC (Daughters of Charity)

The School Sisters of Saint Francis – Sister Mary Michael and Sister Maryana, OSF

Seeking God: A Benedictine Blog – Benedictine Sisters of Queen of Angels Monastery in Mt. Angel, Oregon

Sister Helen Prejean – Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ (Congregation of Saint Joseph)

A Sister of St. Joseph’s Blog – Sister Joanne Gallagher, CSJ (Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston)

Sister Rose at the Movies – Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP (Daughters of Saint Paul)

The Sisters’ Blog – Sisters of Saint Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana (OSB)

Sisters of the Gospel of Life – Sister Rosanne Reddy and Sister Andrea Fraile (Glasgow)

Sisters of the Holy Family – Sisters of the Holy Family (SHF)

Sisters of Providence Blog – Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana (SP)

Sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery – Benedictine Sisters in St. Joseph, Minnesota (OSB)

Sisters of Saint Dominic – Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York (Dominicans, OP)

Spirit of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul – Sister Denise LaRock, DC

Sr. Stephanie’s ABCs – Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

Streams ‘n Stirrings – Sister Jean Hinderer, CSA (Congregation of  Sisters of Saint Agnes)

Sunflower Seeds – Sister Melannie Svoboda, SND

Take with You Words – Sister Genevieve Glen, OSB (Order of Saint Benedict; aka Benedictines)

Unable to Grasp God’s Essence – a member of the Cenacle Sisters (RC)

The Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown, Ohio – Sister Therese Ann Rich, OSU (Order of Saint Ursula)

Visitation Monastery – Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis (congregational initials: VHM)

Wandering in Wonder – Colleen Gibson in formation with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia

Window to the Soul – Sister Marie Paul Curley, FSP (Daughters of Saint Paul)

Windows on Ursuline Life – Ursuline Sisters (OSU, Order of Saint Ursula)