MTA-EHE Research Group for Social Ethics and Ecumenics
During this period the research group network was sponsored by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA). The sponsorship was granted on the basis of competition by the General Assembly of the Academy in 1995. The aim of the competition was ". the promotion of forming, operation and researchers' replacement at the institutes of higher education, in public collections, and at research groups working on different fields mainly on the realm of basic researches."
Under the leadership of Prof. András Reuss and by the contribution of Dr. Tamás Béres and two PhD students, Eszter Andorka and Gábor Orosz, was the application "Socioethical Statements of Churches - evaluation, confrontation, pursuit of ways" submitted, the implementation of which has a share in the sponsorship of the Academy under the period of 2003-2006. The accepting institution that also provides the background of the infrastructure is the Lutheran University of Theology at Budapest (EHE).
The research is based on a continuously increasing database including more than one-thousand Hungarian and international statements of different churches. In this manner the necessary ecumenical commitment is not only conditional, but also an essential factor of our work. At the same time this topic is also suitable for connecting theology to the dialogue with other disciplines.
The processing of the statements has started by focusing on three topics: Prof. András Reuss is doing research on "Finding the ways of churches in societies tending towards democracy"; Dr. Tamás Béres is researching into environmental ethics; whereas Gábor Orosz is working on bioethics by analyzing the documents connected to his "assisted human reproduction" topic. In the work Petra Szűcs was also participating as an assistant contributor until October of 2003.
"Finding the ways of churches in societies tending towards democracy"
Regarding the church pronouncements, the actual situation of the Hungarian churches is essential. From this point of view we can see three phases:
a) Between 1945-1948 their freedom of speech was almost complete, and this was also a time of apperception: they realized that their public utterances are an important tool of practicing their responsiblity.
b) From 1948 on they were practically deprived of freedom of speech, but an expectation towards their loyal pronouncements was clearly felt. They said what was expected but sometimes it can be unveiled that very carefully they tried to say something else.
c) Around 1989 the churches started to discover their freedom and speak on their own voice. These utterances are characterized by naivity (due to lack of experience), ignorance, tendency towards the enforcement of group-interest and also by other signs of a transitional period.
The aspects of evaluating church pronouncements are as it follows: (1) what is their social critique (2) what kind of social contribution they have, (3) what they expect from their members. From the point of view of their relation to a democratizing society it is impossible to avoid the aspects of individual freedom and rights, freedom versus justice, the situation of the socially impaired and the question of the style of life.
It is a task to examine whether there is any experience, system of argumentation or theological recognition of other foreign church institutes, which could be of good use for preparing statements in the future, for re-shaping public opinion, for the education of theologians, church journalism, or religious studies.
Evaluating environmental ethics related church-documents
The discussion of the questions raised by environmental ethics covers a relatively recent field of church statements. The relationship of nature and humans living in nature was not only a characteristic of the imagination of the ancient greek, but the basic theological view of the book of Genesis is also formulated within the frames of this relationship. Therefore one could think that when different denominations adopt a position related to nature, then they do not do anything else besides specifying and updating their theological statements which were valid from the beginning. Facing this theoretical possibility, the number of those official statements has in recent years increased which call attention to the necessity of the communal collaboration for the sake of the future in a more rhetorical way, rather than adopting the customary theoretical-theological viewpoints. This direction of research is analyzing the statements with the intention to formulate the environmental reasoning and acting models included by the documents.
Analyzing and evaluating church-documents focusing on bioethics
In the days of genetical revolution the words of Ecclesiastes also seems to be true: "For in much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow. (Ecclesiastes 1,18)."
The rapid development of molecular genetics and the application of its results in the field of medical sciences provoke the whole of society and also individual humans to new ethical questions. New technical possibilities which can serve the healing of people also include the chance of misuse of their power. They arouse hope and fear at the same time. Behind the problems of medical ethics we can always find the question whether it is allowed to modern medical sciences to do all that it should be able to do on the field of researh and therapy? It is also doubtful what kind of influences practical application of technical and scientific possibilities have on the self-definition of man.
The related statements of the church undertake to formulate the traditional christian moral values in a relevant way for the current bioethical questions. Thereby helping to shape the individual, social and political statements.
The textual and rhetorical analysis and evaluation of the statements unveil the theological background of their argumentation, the social connections and their viewpoints different from each other.