The Ethics and Culture Department is an aspect of Frassati Catholic High School’s response to the call for the New Evangelization:
that is, the Church’s call to find new ways to transmit the faith in the midst of cultures that are steeped in secularism and relativism. Fundamentally flawed ideas about the human person are embodied in modern culture, and this has fostered a kind of spiritual blindness and deafness. So simply shouting the message louder will not help people hear the truth and find the path of true happiness. The New Evangelization calls for us to consider new ways to open up minds and hearts so as to receive the true freedom and happiness for which they were created. The Ethics and Culture curriculum is one of these new ways to contribute to the New Evangelization. In order to understand how, it is necessary first to define the terms
Ethics and Culture:
is the science that studies human acts in order to determine whether they are good or evil. “The science of ethics starts with this self-evident truth that we should do what we are designed to do: pursue happiness. From this first principle, the science of ethics proceeds to draw conclusions about what specific acts we should and should not do if we are going to achieve the happiness we so naturally desire.”
is a broad term that refers to the values, beliefs, and ideals of a particular people that manifest themselves in such things as social customs, art, music, and film. “Culture is like an ocean, surrounding us as water a fish; an environment that seems natural, especially if it is the only one we know; a lens, something we see through without realizing that it is not the only way of seeing.”
Our ideas about the human person take shape in our culture, and then over time, our culture shapes the way we think about the human person. Uniting the study of ethics and culture into one department gives students the tools to apply right reason to each academic discipline as well as to all aspects of the culture that surround them. Concepts taught in Ethics and Culture courses are integrated and reinforced in other areas of study, enabling students to see that truth is not compartmentalized. This philosophical approach imparts a deep sense of the inter-relatedness and meaningfulness of all reality. Students learn to recognize the messages that are embodied around them in culture so as not to be passive receptors of whatever is placed before their minds and hearts, but rather to be active agents who analyze their culture with discerning eyes.
The mission of the Ethics and Culture Department is to enable students to:
- see the inherent dignity bestowed on each human person;
- acquire logical habits of thinking in accord with right reason so as to discern what will bring true fulfillment to our human nature;
- understand the complementary relationship between faith and reason;
- understand the role of culture in forming and shaping the way we see ourselves, others, the world, and God.
Freshmen begin this coursework with an in-depth philosophical study of the human person and then are introduced in their sophomore year to the principles of ethics. This study imparts an understanding that judgments about good and evil acts are not arbitrary, that is, not based merely on a personal view; rather, they are based on an objective standard that all reasonable people should be able to acknowledge. Once this foundation has been laid, the students are ready in their junior year to delve into the current issues themselves, first in bioethics and then in other areas according to their interest, such as science or technology or the arts. Throughout each course, the students consider aspects of culture, discerning the underlying beliefs about God, man, and the cosmos.
The Ethics and Culture Department is timely for our modern culture and is fitting for a high school with Pier Giorgio Frassati as its patron. While still a student, Pier Giorgio Frassati was passionately involved in the political, ethical, and cultural issues of his time, serving as an exemplar of the intelligent integration of faith and reason in daily life. Pier Giorgio was a master of what Pope Benedict XVI calls “the art of living,”
and even in the midst of trials and suffering, achieved the happiness and fulfillment that all desire.
Reading the signs of the times, Blessed Pope John Paul II called for a “New Evangelization,” and in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI continued this call by establishing the
Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization
Ubicumque et Semper
, the apostolic letter establishing the
Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.
From Sr. Terese Auer, O.P.’s textbook
Called to Happiness: Guiding Ethical Principles
From Michael Paul Gallagher’s
Clashing of Symbols: An Introduction to Faith and Culture,
From the “Address to Catechists and Religion Teachers on the Jubilee of Catechists,” given by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on 12 December 2000.