Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

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

Where do some of our economic ideas come from?

There are times while reading newspapers’ opinion columns, and watching 24/7 newscasts, that I become somewhat confused about the best and most moral way to interject politics into the economy, especially during this continued Great Recession. I too wonder what our tax policy should espouse.  I try to imagine the proper role of the government in regulations of markets. Then I realize that there is the rub to all this:  Can we even talk about morals and the economy in the same sentence?  No where do I read or hear on radio or TV any call for a moral review of our economic policies and perspectives.  Add to that, there are few if any commentaries in the current public discourse about how the tenets of our faith traditions, especially Roman Catholicism, can shed light on economic fundamentals and consequences.

Angus Sibley’s “The ‘Poisoned Spring’ of Economic Libertarianism; Menger, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard: A Critique from Catholic Social Teaching of the ‘Austrian School’ of Economics” (Pax Romana/CMICA-USA, 2011) provides such a critique and analysis of our global political economy that led to the Great Recession of 2008/9, and its current aftermath.  Sibley argues that the philosophical-theological perspective of Catholic social theory can and does bring much to the debate about the role of the state and the economy.  His most important contribution, in this reader’s estimation, is his critical review and analysis of the hyper-competitive, outrageous anti-statism and supra-individualistic ideology of the libertarian movement based in the Austrian School of Economics.  Sibley methodologically articulates and deconstructs the philosophical underpinnings of notable economists from the Austrian School, namely, Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich von Hayek.  The author then directly criticizes the failed and disingenuous attempt, he calls it ‘heresy,’ by some Catholic thinkers, like Michael Novak and Robert Sirico, of justifying Austrian libertarianism within Roman Catholic social thought.

This book provides an excellent review of how philosophical assumptions can parade as immutable laws of nature, rejecting any interference from governmental regulations and moralists.   Sibley sheds light on the fundamental assumptions of our current debates in political economy that are rooted in a specific school of economics which “believes” in immutable laws detached from human life.  He offers reflections from the Catholic moral tradition to provide a counter-weight to the assumption that economics is a non-moral activity.  This book is ideal for business ethics, history of ideas, and/or political economy classes.

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Economic Policy, Market Place, morals, Personal Reflections, Politics, Social Doctrine, Social Justice

Easter and new ways of living….

Lent has been a time to question our priorities and our worldview.  As a Christian, I am challenged to review the way I see the world.  Do I see the world as Jesus would have seen it?  Do I show compassion, love and mercy to those who disagree with me or irritate me?  Do I use my money for just causes or do I even think about it?

As we end this season of Lent, our work of prayer, almsgiving and fasting are not over, but transformed.

As we approach the Easter season, consider your spending habits.  Where do you purchase your teas, coffees and chocolates?  Where do you purchase your on-line gifts?

I encourage you to consider as part of your Easter reflection to visit Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade section.

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Fair Trade, Personal Reflections, Spirituality, Uncategorized

What does Caritas in Veritate have to do with Labor and unions?

I was invited by the Youngstown State University Center for Working Class Studies to write a blog on the relationship between Caritas in Veritate, the new papal encyclical, and labor, unions, work and Catholic social teaching.

Please visit the blog at

Filed under: consumerism, Economic Policy, Market Place, morals, Personal Reflections



Among his greetings at the end of the general audience, celebrated this morning in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope addressed representatives of the Italian National Anti-Usury Council, whom he thanked for the “important and much appreciated work you carry our with victims of this social blight.

 “My hope”, he added, “is that there be a renewed commitment on everyone’s part effectively to combat the devastating phenomenon of usury and extortion, which constitutes a humiliating form of slavery. On the part of the State may there be no lack of appropriate aid and support for families in difficulties who find the courage to denounce those who take advantage of their often tragic situation”.

AG/USURY HOLIDAYS/… VIS 090701 (210)

Filed under: consumerism, Economic Policy, Market Place, Papal Teachings, Uncategorized


Newsletter n. 222 Verona, 05 June, 2009


Rt. Rev. Giampaolo Crepaldi Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and President of the Observatory

 In his homily at Mass on Pentecost Benedict XVI expressed some very interesting thoughts also from the viewpoint of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

As we know, the Magisterium has always situated environmental ecology within human ecology. The main text in this regard is the paragraph in Centesimus Annus where John Paul II affirms that man needs not only a healthy natural environment, but has an even greater need for a sound human environment where he can grow in the virtues and in openness to God.

He went on to indicate the family as the principal reality at the service of a true human ecology. Ever since then it has become customary in the Church’s social doctrine to link environmental degradation to moral degradation in a systematic manner, since the defiling of nature is always a consequence of lacerations in the human fabric of society.

This is a very important hermeneutic criterion, since proposed quite often on the contrary are technical measures applied to nature in order to avoid ecological disasters, while at the same time acting on life itself or the family. This is the schizophrenia of ecologism, which devotes its efforts to saving seals and not children in their mother’s womb.

Nature is not to be looked upon only as a theatre of our technical endeavors – technology alone will not save us from ecological degradation – but as an instrument of humanization, and when men deface the natural foundations of their togetherness they end up inflicting wounds on the environment as well. Man too has a nature, and the human community has natural bonds, beginning with the ones linked to matrimony and the generation of life.

The worsening of the natural environment is always consequential to the worsening of the human envronment (cf. the book by G. Crepaldi e P. Togni, Ecologia ambientale ed ecologia umana. Politiche dell’ambiente e Dottrina sociale della Chiesa [Environmental ecology and human ecology. Environmental policies and the Social Doctrine of the Church], Cantagalli, Siena 2007).

Now, in the homily delivered during the Mass of Pentecost in 31 May 2009 Benedict XVI raised this subject once again, linking environmental ecology with spiritual ecology. He was talking about tempest and wind as symbols of the Holy Spirit. What air is for biological life – he said – the Holy Spirit is for the spiritual life, and “just as there is atmospheric pollution that poisons the environment and living beings, there is also a pollution of the heart and the spirit, which mortifies and poisons spiritual existence”.

This too is liberty people say, but everything that intoxicates and pollutes the soul also ends up by limiting liberty.

Behold the connection linking spiritual ecology, human ecology and environmental ecology. Without the “powerful wind” of the Spirit human souls become intoxicated and thus the liberty of man is weakened also in attending to nature. Governing nature is a spiritual and moral task before being a technical and material one, and how will man be able to govern nature if he knows not how to govern himself?

 “The metaphor of the powerful wind”, continued the pope. “makes us think just how precious it is to breathe clean air, physical air with our lungs, and with our hearts spiritual air, the healthy air of the spirit which is love”. With this statement about the Holy Spirit it can be said that Benedict XVI closed the circle of the ecology: environmental ecology depends on human ecology, but human ecology depends on spiritual ecology.

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Social Doctrine, Spirituality