The Ethics of Encounter

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“Faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others.”—Pope Francis

"Mescher’s book creates conscience to practice virtuous actions to build a culture of encounter that truly re-flects who God is in the world. This is a book that should be read by anyone who teaches or studies ethics and/or Catholic Social Teaching."--Nélida Naveros Córdova CDP, Journal of Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity

"Pope Francis' focus on a "culture of encounter" has been so central to his ministry that it is remarkable it has taken until 2020 for a book on the ethics of encounter, from the perspective of Catholic moral theology, to come out.  Happily the book has found the right author in Marcus Mescher.  He effortlessly weaves first-rate scholarship into accessible prose that, true to his training, is poised to help make a serious difference, both in the field of Christian ethics and in the actual lives of people who read it." --Charlie Camosy, Horizons

"Mescher seeks a vision of solidarity that dwells in the “virtuous middle ground” between Gutiér-rez’s emphasis on the need for a fundamental break to seek out the suffering masses and Aquinas’s emphasis on honoring proximate obligations. Mescher is not seeking to split the difference but to fill in the gaps. Aquinas provides a foundation for solidarity in our preexist-ing roles and relationships. Gutiérrez pushes us to expand those relations to those in need outside our natural circle of concern. The intimacies of family life can then be viewed as a training ground and foundation for broadening intimacy and vulnerability to those in need anywhere."--Vincent Miller, Journal of Moral Theology 

"Though it was clearly written prior to the defining events of 2020 the COVID pandemic, the movement for Black lives, and a controversial election season—The Ethics of Encounter nonetheless speaks to them, and its timeless message will continue to speak well beyond the year of its publication."--Jessica Wrobleski, Journal of Moral Theology 

"This volume makes clear what the most pressing contemporary social injustices are, ranging from immigration to domestic violence, from “social sorting” to homophobia, from racism to poverty. Mescher presents the reader with impeccable and impressive research (both theological and interdisciplinary) to remind us of what ails our world."--Dan Cosacchi, America

"By linking solidarity with other virtues that are developed in daily life and through our encounters with others, Mescher does not close the door on radical forms of discipleship.  Instead, he recognizes that intention, practice, time, reflection, and support is necessary for conversion towards solidarity.  Without ignoring the ambiguity and risk of encounter, this book encourages the church to develop its moral imagination and to meet our neighbors with both courage and hope."--Amanda Osheim, Catholic Books Review

"The Ethics of Encounter is everything writing on Catholic social teaching should be. It is grounded in the gospel, the Magisterium, and the lived experience of the kind of mercy that can truly transform lives. This book provides a method that can, and should be, replicated in other contexts, such as the United Kingdom. Many people mistake the encyclicals for guidebooks or roadmaps. This is not the case. Each encyclical has to be contextualised for a particular situation. Unfortunately, much of the current literature on Catholic social teaching fails to do this. However, The Ethics of Encounter takes one of the most important church teachings of the 21st century and demonstrates how people of good will should integrate it into their lives. In doing so, Mescher has provided us with what I’m sure will become a classic in the field of Catholic social teaching."--Maria Power, William Temple Foundation

Presented here is an ethical framework for the “culture of encounter” that Pope Francis calls us to build. The book serves as a creative and constructive proposal for what it would take to build such a culture in an American context marked by rising individualism, racial tensions, class segregation, hyperpartisanship, and online echo chambers. In particular the work of well-known Jesuit Father Greg Boyle (Tattoos on the Heart) and his work with gangs in Southern California provides a case study for overcoming fear, hatred, and trauma in order to practice Christian neighbor love that seeks solidarity.

Marcus Mescher is assistant professor of Christian ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH. He has authored multiple articles and book chapters on family life and the common good, liturgy and moral formation, and environmental ethics in publications including the Journal of Catholic Social Thought and Journal of Moral Theology.

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Book Details

The Ethics of Encounter
Christian Neighbor Love as a Practice of Solidarity
Marcus Mescher

Introduction (Mescher_Ethics_of_Encounter_Intro.pdf, 245 Kb) [Download]

Table of Contents (978-1-62698-376-2_toc.pdf, 151 Kb) [Download]