|Legionary Fathers Michael Ryan and Joseph Tham in the city of Hong Kong, China.|
December 19, 2009. Hong Kong, China. In late October and
early November, Legionary Fathers Joseph Tham and Michael Ryan visited
the Chinese cities of Hong Kong and Xi’an. In both
cities, they attended and gave conferences on business ethics and
On October 29 and 30, the priests flew to
Hong Kong to attend an international congress entitled “The Common
Good for the 21st Century: Beyond Individualism and Collectivism –
A Sino-American Dialogue.” The congress was organized by the Center
for Ethics and Culture of the University of Notre Dame,
in conjunction with the Center for Applied Ethics of the
Baptist University of Hong Kong, gathering experts from the United
States, Hong Kong, and other Chinese cities. The talks will
be published by the University of Notre Dame Press.
at the Center for Catholic Studies of the Chinese University
of Hong Kong, Fr Joseph gave a talk entitled “Suffering
Technology” and Fr Michael gave another on “Steering Economics: Convergence
of Ethics and Rules.”
Fr Joseph’s talk on Suffering Technology
touched upon the paradox of how modern technology is a
worldly response to human suffering, as seen in many bioethical
issues such as stem cells and euthanasia. But, he went
on to argue, this is ultimately an inadequate response because
it fails to address the spiritual answers to suffering.
|The flyer for Fr Joseph Tham's talk on "Suffering Technology," given at Center for Catholic Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.|
also gave another conference entitled “Christian Contribution to Business Ethics”
at the Center of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong.
This conference addressed the very current topic of how the
economics crisis could be avoided by a strong business ethics
based on the social doctrine of the Church, and not
by merely increasing the number of regulations and rules to
In addition to various meetings, Fr Tham and Fr
Ryan had the honor of greeting Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun,
the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, and Bishop John Tong
Hon, the current bishop.
From Hong Kong, the two priests
journeyed to the mainland city of Xi’an, where from November
1 to 3, they attended an international congress on “Constructing
Chinese Bioethics and Deepening Healthcare Reform.”
At this congress, Fr Joseph
Tham gave a talk entitled “Family and Healthcare Decision Making:
Cultural Shift from the Individual to the Relational Self in
This event was organized by the Xi’an Medical College,
Jiaotong University, and the Center for Applied Ethics of the
Baptist University of Hong Kong, with participants from the United
|Fr Michael Ryan, LC, gives a talk entitled "The Christian Contribution to Business Ethics" at the Center of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong.|
States and various cities in China.
Openness and interest
When asked what
stood out most from the visit, Fr Joseph Tham highlighted
the enterprising spirit of the Chinese, who “seem to thirst
for progress,” primarily but not exclusively in the economic sphere.
observed that the country’s fast-paced economic development has resulted in
noticeable changes in the past 20 years. This recent visit
to China was his third trip, after having visited 10
cities as a tourist in 1985 and 1992. This time,
he saw a higher standard of life and greater material
prosperity on many levels. But most of all, there he
noticed a sense of urgency to grow and develop into
a leading economic power.
“They have a lot of curiosity, thirst,
and interest about what is happening in America and Europe.
The people have a spirit of wanting to learn more
and launch themselves toward a better life. You can see
the Chinese spirit of perfectionism at work,” he observed, noting
that a participant in his talk at the bioethics conference
in Xi’an asked for advice on how to build a
“perfect ethics system for China.”
Fr Tham also noted the signs
of a greater openness to the Western world and its
lifestyle in the television commercials and advertisements, products and clothing
in the stores, and even on the street. People were
dressed up in costumes on Halloween, and Kentucky Fried Chicken
and McDonald’s fast food chains are sprinkled around the cities—surprising
signs in a country that only decades ago was carefully
guarded against the West.
China, says Fr Tham, is swinging
from one end of the spectrum to the other, from
dialectical materialism to capitalist materialism. This fast-paced transition is not
without complexities and ambiguities, especially in the sphere of religious
and ethical values.
For the two Legionaries who touched the
new China on their recent visit, participating in these ethics
conferences was a moment to see possibilities for a future
that still remains to be written.