Responding to Tragedy

Words Have Consequences...a letter from FASPE

Words Have Consequences
A Failure of Ethical Leadership

Friends of FASPE:

How does an organization whose mission focuses on professional ethics and ethical leadership respond to the events of the past week? How does an organization that studies the perpetrators in the professions in Nazi Germany respond to the events of the past week?

The murders that took place in Pittsburgh and in Louisville, and the delivery of bombs to individuals and institutions, are not random, inexplicable, unpredictable acts of depraved individuals. We must now acknowledge that these unspeakable acts are part of a progression that began with a conscious rejection of the pluralistic and democratic norms that govern our daily lives and that define the way that we interact with each other.

Hate speech is unacceptable. And speech that promotes hate is dangerous. Yes, perhaps only depraved people actually convert that hate into murderous acts. But, we cannot ignore the reality that promoting hate has the consequence (intended or not) of hateful acts. One leads inexorably to the other.

We expect, we demand, that our leaders practice ethical leadership. They set the tone for our great country. They are our voice, our conscience and our clarion. Words and actions that promote hate reflect the absence of ethical leadership. This is not a partisan statement. We are permitted, even encouraged, to disagree (and argue) about the regulation of weapons, about abortion, about capital punishment, about immigration policy – that is the beauty of a democratic society. If the majority wants tax relief, we have tax relief. If a majority wants weapons regulations, we have weapons regulations.

However, we do not vilify the opposition. We do not criminalize the opposition. We do not intentionally make up facts, i.e. lie, in order to promote our political positions. We do not encourage violence against the opposition. That is unethical leadership.

Back to professional ethics and ethical leadership. Back to the professionals in Nazi Germany. FASPE does not seek analogies to Nazi Germany. To analogize or even to suggest a path of analogies can be destructive and unacceptable. It risks engaging in the demagoguery and hate that has become too much part of the discourse in America.

Instead, FASPE studies the perpetrators in Nazi Germany in order to display the role that our leaders, the professionals, must play in a civil society. The professional class in Nazi Germany did not object, they did not stand in the way. They enabled even by their silence. Staying quiet in the face of unethical behavior, large or small, is unacceptable.

FASPE asks that as a responsibility of professional ethics and ethical leadership, we, as leaders in our respective communities, speak out against the hatred that is clearly being condoned and encouraged. There is a direct line between speech that promotes hate and hateful actions. We must be clear and unequivocal in our non-partisan objection to this behavior. That is the lesson of history: the absolute requirement that the leaders and influencers in our communities, our clergy, doctors, teachers, journalists, lawyers, business executives – those and more – speak out against hatred. We must demand ethical behavior with our own voices and from our own pulpits, bully or otherwise.

We do not have to ask why anyone feels compelled to spew such hate. However, we can ask that we learn from history and demand a return to civility, to the rule of law, to the norms that we expect from our leaders.

David Goldman
Founder and Chairman, FASPE

F.A.S.P.E.'s Seminary

Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) provides a unique historical lens to study contemporary ethics in the professions.

FASPE Seminary examines the role played by German and international clergy during the period of 1933-1945, underscoring the reality that moral codes governing clergy of all religions can break down or be distorted with devastating consequences. Having demonstrated the power held by religious leaders, FASPE addresses ethical issues now facing individual members of the clergy and religious institutions at large. With the historical background in mind, the FASPE Seminary Fellows are more committed and better positioned to confront contemporary issues.

Each year, FASPE chooses 12 to 18 Seminary Fellows from divinity schools and seminaries, as well as early-career religious leaders, to spend two weeks in Berlin and Poland where they visit key historical sites and participate in daily seminars led by specialized faculty. The Seminary Fellows travel with the Medical Fellows, having the opportunity to exchange views over shared meals and in several interdisciplinary seminars. For more information, click here:

"A Call To Action" in light of the Parkland Shootings - Dr. Paul Kraus

Dear Members of the IACC,

I am deeply troubled by the horrific massacre that occurred in Florida on Wednesday, February 14th. This was supposed to be a day to honor our humble call to proclaim love in action. Rather we watched this day turn into horror for an entire community of Parkland, Florida, USA. Let us join our hearts together in sending our prayers and condolences to the families who lost their loved ones to yet another school shooting in the USA.

For those chaplains who are near the scene, I encourage you to be part of a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team to assist in the debriefing process through CISM.  Likewise, let us all be aware of the need that so many around each and every one of us might need in order to process this horrific event.

For those who live and serve in the United States of America, I pose this question to you. In light of this repeated history of gun violence, how can we/you stand-up and take action to end this in the US?  I think we can start by educating people within a process whereby people become thinkers rather than reactors. I believe our pastoral care training can contribute a lot to ending these serious and deadly violent acts. For all of you who regularly counsel those to improve mental health as an LPC, Pastoral Counselor, Psycho-Therapist, or as a person supporting these professionals, thank you for your work! Your commitment to long hours of counseling is extremely valuable to our society as a whole. Keep doing what you’re doing. I know you are making a difference! For others who are professional chaplains and pastors of congregations and healthcare organizations, I believe in addition to acute and long-term care, our task is education.

In every educational process it is necessary to start with certain philosophies that respects core beliefs and ethics. These ethical principles, which becomes our reference line is how we determine the philosophy that becomes the foundation to any type of strategy or methodology. As Christian Chaplains, we draw on Christian Ethics, or Ethics developed by Jesus Christ. Interesting enough, as you know, our country was built upon these core ethics of Christ as the center of what our inspired Word of God instructs us in how to live. As you may agree, our country has fallen away from these core values. There has been too much smoothing over our core ethics that has sadly taken our children’s lives, it has eroded the future of their lives and will erode their children’s lives if we don’t take action.

Pastoral Care is a discipline that helps us to think theologically by reflecting ethically in our contexts. We as pastoral care givers are charged to be advocates for what is right according to our core ethics. That may mean to lobby (appropriately) within legislation. That may mean that we take a stand even if it makes the politicians uncomfortable. It means that we lead discussions in small groups, or participate in conferences. Due to the fact that we serve all people, not just Christians, we can make a greater impact. We don’t have a selfish/self-centered agenda. Our agenda is to enhance the greater good of people of all races, religions, cultures, genders, and abilities, who live in the USA and other countries around the world.

Given all what I have discussed in this post, I recognize that I’m only one voice. In response to the shooting in Florida there are ways that I am personally responding in accordance with my own convictions.  I encourage you to do the same of asking, “How can I act for the greater of peace and justice?” 

Peace my sisters and brothers,

Dr. Paul D. Kraus