Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

Living Your Faith as Citizens and Leaders in Politics, Culture, Society and Business

World AIDS Day: December 1

HIV/AIDS is a critical health and social policy issue.  Each year, the world remembers those who are living with and/or have passed into new life from complications from HIV/AIDS.  December 1 is also a time to give thanks to all those who have worked to care for persons and families living with HIV/AIDS.

I want to give special thanks to several leaders in the Catholic Church that have worked to care for persons with HIV/AIDS, worked for prevention, and for just social policies.  Such institutions and persons include:

Catholic Relief Services

Caritas Internationalis

and locally in Youngstown, the Ursuline Sisters AIDS Ministry.

Tell me what you think?

Filed under: healthcare

Use your consumer power for justice/development…FAIR TRADE GOODS make great Christmas gifts

With the holiday season underway and many of us feeling the effects of the current economy, now’s the time to think about giving meaningful gifts. Catholic Relief Services offers an easy way for holiday shoppers to buy fair trade gift items, like coffee, chocolate, or handcrafts. An alternative to conventional shopping, fair trade ensures that artisans and farmers receive a fair price for their products.

Through CRS’ Work of Human Hands catalog, you can buy affordable fair trade handcrafts and gourmet food items that were produced by 90 small producer groups in more than 36 countries throughout the world. The catalog is now available online and includes items like olive oil from Galileecoffee from Nicaragua, or nativity sets for kids from Sri Lanka. Order your gift now and you’ll be sure to give twice this season.

Filed under: consumerism, Market Place, Social Justice

Faith and Works? St. Paul “versus” or “and” St. James? Pope Benedict’s Wednesday reflections on Faith and Works. What do you think?



VATICAN CITY, 26 NOV 2008 (VIS) – Continuing his series of catecheses on St. Paul, in this morning’s general audience, held in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope spoke of the consequences deriving from justification by the faith and by the action of the Spirit in Christian life.


  In his Letter to the Galatians, the Apostle of the Gentiles “gives radical emphasis to the gratuitousness of justification” and “highlights the relationship between faith and works”, said the Pope.


  In the same Letter, St, Paul says that “by bearing one another’s burdens, believers fulfil the commandment of love. Justified by the gift of faith in Christ, we are called to live in Christ’s love for others, because it is on this criterion that we will be judged at the end of our lives”.


  “Christ’s love for us … claims us, welcomes us, embraces us, sustains us; it even torments us because it forces us not to live for ourselves alone, closed in our own selfishness, by for ‘Him Who died and has risen for us’. The love of Christ makes us become, in Him, the ‘new creation’ that is part of his mystical Body which is the Church.


  “Seen in this light”, the Holy Father added, “the central importance of justification without works, the main object of Paul’s preaching, presents no contradiction to faith working through love, on the contrary it requires that our own faith be expressed in a life in accordance with the Spirit”.


  Going on then to refer to “the unfounded conflict” some people have seen “between the theology of St. Paul and that of St. James”, the Pope pointed out that while the former “is primarily concerned with showing that faith in Christ is necessary and sufficient, James stresses the consequent relationship between faith and works. Hence, for both Paul and James, faith working through love bears witness to the free gift of justification in Christ”.


  The Pope noted how “we often fall into the same misunderstandings that characterised the community of Corinth . Those Christians thought that having been gratuitously justified in Christ by faith, ‘all things are lawful for them’. Often, we too think it is lawful to create divisions within the Church, Body of Christ, celebrating the Eucharist without caring for our brethren in need, or aspiring to the most exalted charisms unaware that we are limbs of one another, etc. The consequences of a faith not incarnated in love are disastrous because it is reduced to the arbitrariness of subjectivism, harmful to us and to our fellow men and women”.


  “What we must do”, he went on, “is gain a renewed awareness that, precisely because we have been justified in Christ, we are no longer our own but have become temples of the Spirit and hence are called to glorify God in our bodies. We would undervalue the priceless value of justification if, bought at a high price by the blood of Christ, we did not glorify it with our body, with all our lives”.


  “If the ethics which St. Paul proposes to believers do not deteriorate into forms of moralism but retain their importance for us today, this is because … they are rooted in the individual and community relationship with Christ, to then take concrete form in a life lived according to the Spirit. The essential point is that Christian ethics do not arise from a system of commandments”, the Pope concluded, “they are a consequence of our friendship with Christ. This friendship influences our lives, if it is real it is incarnated and fulfilled in love for others. That is why any form of ethical decline is not limited to the individual sphere but is, at the same time, a devaluation of individual and community faith, from which it derives and upon which it has an incisive effect”.


AG/ST. PAUL JUSTIFICATION/…                                                VIS 081126 (710) 

Filed under: Papal Teachings

What do you think? Towards Doha/International Trade/Development …upcoming meeting…Faith in the marketplace?


TOWARDS DOHA: WHAT DEVELOPMENT IN TIMES OF CRISIS? Statement by the Observatory in view of the upcoming UN Conference on Development Financing.



Towards Doha:

what development in times of crisis?

Statement by the  Cardinal Van Thuân Observatory

on the Social Doctrine of the Church

in view of the upcoming UN Conference on Development Financing,

Doha, Qatar

 (27 November – 2 December 2008)



The upcoming UN conference to be held in Doha will take place at a very particular moment in the international economy, which is dominated by a crisis whose confines have yet to become entirely clear. Do what extent will the crisis reopen discussion on the development goals? Will the already slow progress towards those goals slow down ever more?

The crisis now underway is bringing to the surface some deeply rooted problems that more than a few observers have been decrying for some time, but which have been systematically ignored in the processes regulating the international economy.

People refer to the progressive disjunction between finance and real economy, which is now being “dragged downwards” by the financial crisis. In fact, created as accessories to the markets of goods and services on which companies could find resources to invest in physical, technical and human capital, the financial markets have been uplifted to the level of autonomous creators of wealth, albeit entirely virtual in nature. The crisis on said markets runs the risk of turning into a collapse of the international financial system, withdrawing monetary resources for real investments by companies and consumer purchases by families.

Secondly, the crisis manifests how governments – in some cases as powerless observers, and in other cases, mostly in developing countries, as complacent observers – witness phenomena of planetary tax evasion, that drive enormous amounts of capital towards tax havens, thereby reducing the resources available to national governments for public investments.

Lastly, coming to the surface is the lack of world governance regulators: supranational organizations are weak, far from neutral, not representative, and in any case incapable of giving shape and form to resolute and courageous measures to resolve the problems of the world economy. Moreover, there can be a blatant conflict of interest among diverse organizations, as illustrated by the contemporary nature of the UN conference in Doha and the meeting of the so-called G20. Such conflicts are rendered all the more evident by the inability of the major industrial countries to reach agreement on sensitive issues such as the environment. And even less apparent on the horizon are clear policies regarding the issue of development!

The crisis, therefore, most certainly represents a risk not to be disregarded with respect to development financing, but may also represent an excellent opportunity for people on all levels – transnational organizations, governments, financial institutions, corporations, scholars and public opinion – to become aware of the limits of the idea of development that has assumed pride of place in international economic policies over the last few decades, and the need to surmount those limits in a courageous and coherent manner.

The Social Doctrine of the Church makes its voice heard on this in world debate, and particularly so on the following points:

1)      The recovery of the anthropological dimension of the economy: it just isn’t possible to think about a reform of the world financial system without keeping in mind that the system in question is nothing more than a “servant” to a productive economy centered on man. In other words, economic circuits have to be restructured on the requirements of man, the needs of peoples, so there may be a shift from a rationale of booming wealth to a development of widespread wellness. This recentering of the paradigms used to interpret the economy must take place on various levels: on the institutional level by having governments once again consider the common good as the primary goal; on the entrepreneurial level by once again taking into consideration the rational and harmonious use of resources; and on the level of individual responsibility through the redemption of gratuitousness as an integral value of labor.


2)     The reintroduction of ethically grounded systems of regulation and governance: the justice of global governance processes – provided there is peaceful coexistence among peoples and nations – must be based on representative, transparent and impartial international institutions guided by an ethical vision and endowed with effective powers to provide guidance for the actions undertaken by individual governments.


3)     The rationale of subsidiarity as the principle inspiring future local and world development policies: globalization manipulated from on high means that local economic structures – especially the weakest ones – are not able at present to discover within themselves the forces or the values for their own renewal.


If the system of world decision-makers  is able to tackle these challenges, take on these instances, and once again lend an ear to its own critical voices, it will be possible to overcome the crisis and the processes of real human development will get back on track. Otherwise that system will have to resign itself to its own state of atrophy and isolation within the four walls of its own problems.

Filed under: Economic Policy, Social Doctrine

Ethics and CEO Pay: What do you think? Christian Living?

ZE08112303 – 2008-11-23


Economic Crisis Forces a Re-Think

By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, NOV. 23, 2008 ( The deepening economic crisis is forcing financial institutions and companies to look again at the issue of executive salaries. In recent years concern over ever-higher levels of remuneration had led to widespread debate over the issue, but achieving a change in pay levels or how salaries and bonuses are determined proved to be an elusive goal.

The last few months has seen this situation change dramatically. One leading Wall Street firm, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., announced that their top executives will forgo their bonuses for this year, reported the Wall Street Journal, Nov. 17.

The most senior seven executives will only receive their base salaries, set at $600,000. For chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein, this compares to the $68.5 million in cash and stock he took home last year.

Goldman hasn’t suffered as much as other financial organizations, the Wall Street Journal noted, but even so, its stock is down more than 60% this year. A decision is still pending on bonuses for the remaining — approximately 30,000 — employees, and the article warned that if they receive low amounts they may look for work at other better-paying companies.

Putting the issue in context, the article reported that since the start of 2002, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns have paid a total of $312 billion in compensation and benefits to its employees. 

Swiss bank UBS also recently announced changes to its pay levels, reported the British newspaper the Guardian, Nov. 18. The bank’s chairman, Peter Kurer, said a new system will do away with a culture of paying out multimillion bonuses and stock options on short-term results.

UBS explained that the payout pool for its bankers and traders would be slashed this year, following a write down of almost $50 billion worth of assets gone bad, and a subsequent 6 billion Swiss franc ($4.9 billion) rescue from the Swiss authorities.

The announcement came shortly after former UBS chief executive, Peter Wuffli, renounced 12 million Swiss francs ($10.2 million) in payments he was eligible for under his contract, reported the Associated Press, Nov. 9.

”I have voluntarily renounced a total of 12 million francs that was due me under my contract,” Wuffli told the Associated Press. ”High payments cannot be justified for top people who leave an enterprise suffering difficult circumstances.”


Government bailouts are one of the main factors in putting pressure on financial institutions to reduce executive salaries. Earlier this year the U.S. Congress authorized a $700 billion bailout, including stock purchases of $125 billion to shore up nine large financial companies.

”Taxpayers have lost their life savings, and now they are being asked to bail out corporations,” New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo commented in an Oct. 24 report by the Associated Press. Cuomo has been a strong critic of high executive pay levels.

One company that received federal government support, the American International Group (AIG), agreed to freeze compensation and bonuses for its executives, reported the Associated Press, Oct. 22.

AIG chairman, Edward Liddy, wrote to Cuomo saying that no payments will be made from the $600 million compensation and bonus pool of its financial products subsidiary. The subsidiary was the main cause of AIG’s woes and its former head was eligible for a payment of $69 million.

According to a roundup of news on executive pay, published Oct. 21 by the Wall Street Journal, limits on salaries have been adopted in a number of countries. In France business leaders have adopted a code of conduct preventing excessive payments for executives resigning from ailing companies.

In Germany the government has asked top executives at banks that have received federal funds to limit their pay to no more than half a million euro. Similar limits also apply in Sweden.

In Britain prime minister Gordon Brown said that banks seeking government help had agreed to conditions that meant avoiding rewards for failed executives, according to an article published by the Guardian, Oct. 14.

As well, the Financial Services Authority, an independent regulatory body, wrote to the chief executives of the 30 largest banks and building societies saying it shared concerns that “inappropriate” remuneration schemes may have contributed to the market crisis.

Banks aren’t the only ones to find themselves under challenge for high pay. A review published June 15 by the Associated Press of remuneration for the heads of companies in the Standard and Poor 500 index showed that in 2007 the median pay package totaled nearly $8.4 million.

What drew attention was the collective pay of the 10 best-paid CEOs, who made more than half a billion dollars last year. At the same time half the members of this group were leading companies whose profits shrank dramatically.

For example, Rick Wagoner, chief executive of troubled General Motors Corp., had a pay rise of 64% in 2007, up to $15.7 million.


Opinions over what to do with executive salaries vary widely. Writing in the Nov. 12 issue of the Financial Times, Peter Montagnon, director of investment affairs at the Association of British Insurers, and chairman of the Inter-national Corporate Governance Network, warned against hasty actions.

Remuneration rules for banks and for public companies should be different, said Montagnon. Regarding the former he said that regulators may need to examine if pay systems are encouraging employees to take excessive risks for short-term gain.

When it comes to other public companies Montagnon advocated greater involvement by shareholders in order to set limits. In order to carry out this role, however, they need to have more rights and companies need to disclose more information, he recommended.

“Companies are naive to assume that they can go on indefinitely increasing executives’ remuneration at rates far faster than the rest of the workforce without provoking a political reaction,” Montagnon warned. They also have to be careful that the limits imposed do not have undesirable side effects, he added.

From Australia the former head of Woolworths argued for firm limits on executive pay, according a to a report in the Australian newspaper, Oct. 17. Paul Simons, executive chairman for two decades until 1994, said that in his day there was a strict rule that no executive, even with full bonus entitlements, could earn more than 30 times the wage of the company’s lowest-paid employee. 

“If the lowest-paid adult male in a large company gets $50,000 to $60,000 a year now, then you’re talking around $1.5 million to $2 million for the chief executive,” said Simons. “That’s still a lot of money,” he noted.


Financial markets have played a valuable role in developing the modern economy, according to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. At the same time, however, there are risks involved and the globalization of markets has increased the possibility of crises.

Therefore, the text recommends: “One of the fundamental tasks of those actively involved in international economic matters is to achieve for mankind an integral development in solidarity” (No. 373).

This solidarity means promoting the good of every person and achieving a vision that takes into account the need for an equitable distribution of resources, the Compendium explains.

What the level of executive salaries should be is just one facet of the wider task of how to reconcile the forces of economic initiative and the free market with the requirements of solidarity and the common good. No ready-made answers exist on how to achieve this harmony, but the current crisis amply demonstrates the perils of disregarding this duty.

Filed under: Economic Policy, Social Doctrine