Christian ethics class

Read the case carefully and then respond to the following questions in relation to the case to determine what a Christian ethical response is and why. Be detailed in your response and utilize concepts discussed within the course to support your points.

1. Roles,

Relations and Duties:

What are the various roles and relationships in which the central characters in roles and relationships connect or tie these persons to other persons or groups of persons? As a result of all these differing roles and relationships, what are some of the various moral duties the people in this case have to one another and other persons and/or groups? Are some of these duties more important than others? Which are the most important?

2. Virtues: What kinds of persons would the people in this case need to be in order to recognize and fulfill the various moral duties and challenges facing them here? What are some virtues, attitudes, affections and loyalties they would need to behave as authentic Christians?


1. Identifying the Choice: What is the basic or central choice confronting the people in this case? What are some of the conflicting values or goods that the people in this case will need to make choices about? Are there competing duties that the people in this case have to each other or other persons or groups?

2. Seek Counsel: What moral wisdom or insight can we gain about the choice(s) to be made from the voices of experience, Scripture and tradition? What persons or resources would be most useful in discovering what these various fonts of wisdom have to tell us about the issues or choices in this case?

3. Formulating a Christian Response: What might be some basic convictions that the Christian perspective brings to the central choice or issue in this case? What are some hard questions that need to be answered regarding this choice? Community

1. Social Sins: Are there some social sins embedded in this case? Are there any social ills or injustices, any shared ways of thinking or acting that are contributing to the problems in t his case or making it harder for the people here to make good choices and behave well?

2. Christian Reforms: What sorts of social practices or beliefs might need to be changed to make the structures and institutions discussed in this case more just, more Christian? What kinds of reforms are needed on the institutional or societal level? Why?

Case 1: Jails for Jobs

On a warm autumn evening State Senator Ellen Costanza is sitting in her office listening to Bob Hughes, her campaign manager, and she is not happy. Just a month away from the close of a very tight race for reelection, Ellen?s marginal lead is evaporating. Bob warns her that unless she does something significant in the next few weeks she can forget a second term, and all the good she might have accomplished as a newly appointed member of three important senate committees.

The something significant Bob has in mind is SR 375, a new piece of anti-crime legislation pending before the senate. Calling for tougher sanction and mandatory minimum sentences for a broad range of felonies, SR 375 also includes $780 million for the construction of several new correctional facilities and an additional $120 million to help put three to five thousand more police officers on the streets. Bob is convinced that coming out in support of this legislation is, at present, about the only way to save the election.

?Ellen, this bill is just what the doctor ordered. First, by supporting it you show the voters and the media that even with your opposition to the death penalty, you are still tough on crime. In an instant our challenger?s number one issue evaporates, and that law and order? prosecutor from downstate has to start talking about jobs and education, topics you can beat him on any day of the week. Second, this bill means jobs, and I mean good jobs, for our district. We may not be in the rust belt,? but in the last two decades we’ve lost thousands of high paying factory jobs to overseas plants and seen two military installations close up shop. Todd Meyers, the bill’s main sponsor and the chair of the allocations committee, has made it clear he wants you on board and that if you give him lots of support before the election, then one of those new prisons will be built in our district. That’s going to mean a lot of work for a lot of folks – steady, long term work with pensions and health care.? Now Ellen, I know you have some concerns about building more prisons. But you want the government to do more about domestic violence and to put pressure on deadbeat dads


. Well, sometimes people have to be put in jail to make them see the light or to protect other folks from their violence. And finally, making a compromise here means you get to do a lot of good work toward education, housing, and aid to farmers. Do you think our challenger is going to do any of that if we just roll over and let him win?? Perhaps. Perhaps this legislation would save her campaign and allow her to do real good. Certainly bringing thousands of high paying jobs to her district would help a lot of folks. But is SR 375 really a good idea? True, Ellen?s state does have a high rate of violent crime, though not as high as it was in the early ?90’s, and a lot of people do need to be punished for their offenses, particularly when they are violent. But does that mean that minimum mandatory sentences are a good idea or that we ought to address overcrowding in our burgeoning prison system by building more and bigger prisons? Will putting more police on the streets really help? How much? Are there other alternatives that might be more effective, or humane?

And just what will happen in her district in five or ten years when hundreds and then thousands of these criminals, most of them from downstate, are released from jail? How many will settle in the local community and what sorts of problems will they bring to the area? Will there be a ?crime leak? from the local prison, contaminating neighborhoods and towns in the area? And if the state spends $900 million on this piece of anti-crime legislation, what sorts of programs will be cut to pay for new prisons and police? Will the money come out of education, housing, health care? Should Ellen put her signature on this bill? Should she be one of the swing votes to push it over the top? Sitting there in her office with Bob, Ellen is pretty sure she’s going to have to think long and hard about this. Bob, on the other hand, is certain she only has a few weeks to decide.


Case 2: Health Benefits: ?It’s Not My Problem?

?Jennie, I appreciate what Father Ralph told you in that class on Catholic social thought, and I believe in workers? rights as much as the next guy. Heck, my dad and Uncle Pete were in the union for forty years, and I paid union dues for six years while I was working in a machinist?s shop and going to night school at City University.?

?But, I’m here to tell you that as the owner of a small business I have no legal obligation to pay for health insurance for my employees. And, given the stiff competition I face and my razor-thin profit margin, there is just no way I can provide coverage for the unskilled women working for my cleaning service, at least not if I am going to pay tuition at a Catholic college where you and your brother can learn about social justice and preferential option for the poor.?

?I pay worker?s compensation and social security, and two dollars over minimum wage. And I give these folks two weeks? paid vacation and a full hour for lunch, which is better than they would get at most of the other services in town. What?s more, I give everyone who works for me a bonus at Christmas. If I paid for health coverage for my employees I would probably have to go out of business. We would certainly have to make significant changes in our lifestyle.?


?I appreciate that Dad, Jennie responds, and I get it that it’s not your job alone to carry this burden. But the priests at that Catholic college you and Mom were so eager for me and Mike to attend say that folks have a basic right to health care. It’s like their right to life, liberty, and freedom of religion. And they say – heck the pope says – that our society has a moral duty to provide for that right. Health care?s not just a benefit, it’s a right. But at present more than forty million Americans don’t have health-care coverage, and a huge percentage of those folks are working-class women and men just like your employees.?

?Now, we are the only industrialized Western country without universal health care, in large part because lots of folks like you and Uncle Joe – who haven?t belonged to a union in years – say we shouldn’t have big government or that the free market is the way to take care of things. Well, the free market and competition have got you squeezed so tight you can’t provide the basic sort of health care coverage for you workers that your dad and uncle fought so hard to get for union members fifty years ago.?

?So that sort of leaves  in a quandary, doesn’t it? Either we agree that health care coverage is just a benefit and that the popes and Church are wrong to say it?s a basic right, or we figure out a way to protect this right for the ore than forty million folks who lack access to basic health care. And if you?re right that as a small business owner you simply can?t afford to pay for this coverage and keep afloat, then maybe we need to look at the way we provide for health care in this country. Maybe we need some kind of major health-care reform coming out of Washington. I mean, one way or the other, we’re going to have to figure out how to solve this problem, aren’t we?

?I’ll make you a deal, Jennie, her father replied. You bring home the text book for that course in Catholic social though, and I?ll read it. After all, I paid for it. And in May when I come to pick you up from school, I’ll meet with your Father Ralph and talk to him. But this summer, you’ll come to work with me at the office. You’ll go over the books and you’ll check out all the options for health insurance plans available to small business owners like myself. And together we’ll look at what the politicians in the state capital and Washington are offering in terms of health care reform. Then, in September, we?ll make a plan that you and I and everyone else in this family can actually live with.

?Of course, we may discover that we can’t be just to my workers and pay your tuition at a Catholic college. Or that we need to make significant changes in our lifestyle – which other people in the family might not be so willing to do. Would you be willing to have those conversations and make this deal with me? I suspect that you’re bluffing just a bit here, Dad. But it’s an intriguing offer, and I’d be silly to turn you down, even if it is also pretty scary. By the way,Jenny wondered, does this mean the family trip to Costa Rica is off this Christmas?

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