Project Description

Centre for Ecclesial Ethics

Becoming a better Church

the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.

(Gaudium et spes, 4)

I. The origins and aims of the Centre

The Centre for Ecclesial Ethics has been established with the aim of enabling, empowering and equipping the Church local and universal, as communities and individuals, to become a better Church in its witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ as the pilgrim people of God.

The Centre for Ecclesial Ethics (CEE) sits within the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, Cambridge and is located in the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Its focus is however both within and beyond the ecclesial shores of the United Kingdom, where it hopes to develop and sustain mature relationships and partnerships of learning and practice with the wider international Christian community.

The initial aims of the CEE are to discern and engage with the emerging challenges and opportunities that confront the contemporary Church; contribute towards a multi-disciplinary response to such challenges and opportunities; and support and enable the Church, in all its diverse expression, to develop and embed practices and systems that can contribute to becoming a better Church

The CEE is at home within the domain of ecclesial ethics, yet as noted above, it will engage across disciplines. The foundational method of the CEE is one of ongoing interdisciplinary discernment and analysis – a method that is rooted in dialogue through a deep attentive listening to the diverse repository of wisdom, both within and beyond the ecclesial community, that necessarily includes the experience and wisdom of the holy people of God, Scripture and Tradition contemporary ethical discourse, and relevant professional disciplines.

The contribution of the work of the CEE to the wider conversation whose focus is ecclesial renewal, is notably provisional in nature, and but one contribution amongst many, and will therefore seek critical and supportive engagement with her contemporary peers and parallel institutes.

‘Let anyone who has an ear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.’[1]

II. The initial focus and work of the CEE

‘Each crisis has a lesson to teach us; we need to learn how to listen for it with the ear of the heart.’[2]

To determine the initial focus and work of the CEE, there is an imperative to listen, discern and identify through dialogue the principle challenges and opportunities that confront the contemporary Church. As we begin therefore to see some signs of light emerging through our global experience of Covid-19, we believe that the most fitting way forward to discern the aforementioned ecclesial challenges and opportunities can be realised through an engagement with the personal, collective and ecclesial experience of this coronavirus pandemic in which we are currently immersed, for ‘each crisis’ does indeed have ‘a lesson to teach us’ and ‘we need to learn how to listen for it with the ear of the heart.’[3]

In order to facilitate this engagement, it is proposed that the work of the CEE for the first twelve months will comprise of three phases.

Phase One will consist of a series of three virtual interdisciplinary seminars for twelve participants that explores the crises, challenges and opportunities that confront the Church as it begins to emerge from the experience of the global pandemic, that will be discerned through a dialogical engagement with our personal and collective experience of Covid-19, and critically analysed through a diverse palette of ecclesial wisdom that can begin to re-imagine a sustainable ecclesial renewal.

Phase Two will engage with and build upon the focus, analysis and fruits of the first seminar series through an engagement with a broader cohort of participants from the wider church community in order to frame such a new ecclesial imaginary in a concrete ecclesial context.

Phase Three in the autumn of 2021 will support the development and embedding of pathways and practices of integral ecclesial renewal that emerge from the first two phases, in support of becoming a better Church. The Centre will also host an Interdisciplinary symposium to reflect and celebrate the progress of the CEE and its partners, and identify the new ecclesial challenges and opportunities that will emerge from a new horizon.

Dr. Liam Hayes

Director, Centre for Ecclesial Ethics

December 2020


[1] Revelation 3:22 (NRSV)

[2] Amoris Laetitia, 232, http://www.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf, [accessed 19.11.20]

[3] Ibid, 232

(Gaudium et spes, 4)

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