Asian moral theologians challenged to break West mindset

Asian theologians have been taken to task by one of their own for being locked into a classical Western moral theology framework.

Sri Lankan Redemptorist Fr Vimal Tirimanna told the first pan-Asian conference of Catholic moral theologians, held in Bangalore, India, last month, that fresh approaches are required.

Theologians have failed to take seriously indications from the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences about living in a specifically Asian context, Fr Tirimanna said.

The FABC has promoted a threefold dialogue with Asia’s poor, cultures and religions to help the Church discover its identity and forge bonds of unity and build community.

Fr Tirimanna teaches theology in colleges in Sri Lanka and Rome.

He said the inclination by Asian theologians to the classical Western framework is “obvious if one were to glance through the syllabuses of Asian seminaries and other theological institutes where moral theology is taught and studied”.

“Even in their writings, the majority of Asian moral theologians seem to be locked inside the Western classical framework of moral theology.”

The “classical European theology”, he explained, perceives faith as a body of truths and dogmas and uses philosophy to explain them.

Asian theology, on the other hand, starts with experience of the faith and analyses concrete situations with the help of sociology, psychology and anthropology, along with Asians resources.

What matters to the bishops in Asia, Fr Tirimanna said, are the daily experiences of their people rather than “purely abstract theological concepts”.

Fr Tirimanna expressed the hope that moral theologians in Asia would work towards a genuinely Asian moral theology.

Such a theology would, among other things, seek to understand issues like suicides of farmers, starvation deaths, pollution and gang war killings.

Interfaith marriages are an “unavoidable reality” in multi-religious Asia, posing both opportunities and challenges for evangelisation in the region, he said.

He wants theologians to help the Church find “pastoral ways to protect the faith” of Asian Catholics who enter into such marriages.


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