Are Ethics and Core Values
Necessarily Related?

It may be that ethics and core values may not always be compatible.

We have to act out our core values in some context (that is, within boundaries)…and our actions have to be ethical no matter how well-meaning our values are.

A value is something we want to keep or something we want to get.

So in the keeping and getting…we have to define ethical boundaries for our actions…and stay within them.

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Fr Dave's values and ethics are compatible

Father Dave was a priest who had worked tirelessly for the poor for more than thirty years. 

He tended to have well-to-do-parishes but his core value of working for the poor needed an outlet. 

This is where defined boundaries become relevant...what outlet? 

And what ethics and core values will be operating in that outlet or context? 

He tried missionary work but the locations where he worked were not to his liking. "Too much dust!" he declared and returned to parish work stateside. 

His philosophy of life was that it was fine for him to have a comfortable well-to-do life. 

But his core value was to increase the quality of life for those less fortunate than himself. 

How he goes about this is where ethics and core values meet up. 

So...he became a contact person for foreign missionaries.  

When drugs were needed for clinics Father Dave asked his parishioners who were medical people to donate the samples given them by the drug companies. 

When people needed eyeglasses...he went to companies who made glasses and asked for those customers left behind when they got new glasses. 

If a well needed to be dug in some far corner of the earth...Father Dave got up in the pulpit of his church and took up a special collection for the well. 

His philosophy of life…based on his core values…was put into action...his caring for the poor was defined by his actions on their behalf through known intermediaries...the missionaries. 

He kept his own lifestyle...he got what he needed to demonstrate his caring for the poor and he gave the poor what he got for them by legitimate means. 

His actions were value-laden...defined by boundaries...and carried out with sound ethics.


In example 2 we will see a good-hearted priest who has the same core value of helping the poor. Notice in the second example how the minister's ethics and core values are not congruent.

Fr Gerry's values and ethics are incompatible

Father Gerry was a highly educated man who held a Doctor of Ministry degree from a major catholic university. Prior to ordination he studied...as all candidates for the priesthood must...philosophy (including ethics) and theology.

Father Gerry...like Father Dave above...was pastor to a well-to-do parish whose parishioners were generous at the sunday collections.

Father Gerry had a friend who was pastor of a popular but poor rural parish in a less affluent county than his own.

When Father Gerry and his friend got together once in a while they swapped stories about their parish life. During these discussions Father Gerry became aware of very needy families in his friend's parish.

After these excursions...Father Gerry would typically write a generous check from parish funds and send it to his friend ear marked for the families they discussed when they met.


Here is where ethics and core values part company...

There is no doubt that Father Gerry is a kind man who cares about those less fortunate than he is.

However...he was implementing his core value to help the poor with no sense of boundaries…(he was assigned to take care of his own parish)…and faulty ethics…because he took what didn’t belong to him which violates the stealing prohibition of the seventh Commandment.

What he got from his parishioners was to be kept in his trust for his parish. What he gave away was not his to give.

His ethics and core values were independent of each other.

Had Father Gerry used his personal funds all would be well. He may give those to whom he likes.

But his dispensing of funds that were controlled by the boundaries of the parish ...and controlled by the rules and procedures for processing and safeguarding parish funds...violated the ethics of how core values get expressed.

Father Gerry's behavior was not ethical...he took what did not belong to him...with the best intentions. But action and intention must be congruent.

Evaluate yourself on your own core values and ethics to protect yourself and your ministry.

From this ethics and core values page you can go to what are values.

Or you can...



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