Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

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Roundtable: Book topic “God and the gods”

Newsletter n. 219

Verona 21 May, 2009

18 May 2009 at 17:00, the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Gregorian University organized a round table for the presentation of the book “God and the gods” written by Rt. Rev. Giampaolo Crepaldi, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and President of our Observatory. Presented below is the full text of the author’s statement.


18 MAY 2009




Rt. Rev.   Giampaolo Crepaldi

Secretary of the Pontifical Council for justice and Peace


With this my book God and the gods published by Cantagalli of Siena as part of the Collection of the Cardinal Van Thuân Observatory I sought not only to analyze some of the classical and current themes of the Church’s social doctrine, but above all offer a perspective, a unitary visio as a basis for their consideration. This book in no way shirks the commitment to tackle even the thorniest issues facing us today – from the right to religious freedom to the human rights of the fourth generation – and at the same time strives to revive fundamental arguments for tackling them in a neither opportunistic nor politically correct manner.

From whence did I draw inspiration? Above and beyond the names mentioned in the footnotes, my considerations drew inspiration above all from my reading of the works of Joseph Ratzinger, theologian and Pontiff. I also acknowledge the substantial debts I owe to Romano Guardini on the theological level, and to Augusto Del Noce as far as philosophy is concerned.

Then again, the judgment about Christianity in modernism offered by the three aforementioned scholars reveals considerable features of convergence despite evident difference. This is especially true as far as one point is concerned: modernism will not succeed in reviving itself without Christianity. This is also the thesis presented in this book.

Modernism had the gall to claim that it invented reason, thereby separating it from a broader context of sense constituted by the faith. But without faith in the Word of God incarnate, the Logos, Primordial reason, even our reason, the reason of modernists, becomes lost as it twines around and around itself. In the book I described some of these processes, especially in the areas of democracy, laicity, human rights and technology. And each time I made an effort to show how human reason on its own does not have to force to remain fully faithful to itself.

When discussing “pure nature” with Franco Rodano, Augusta Del Noce said modernism issues forth from the negation of original sin. It is evidently necessary to speak about a “certain” modernism and not modernism as such, because otherwise the meaning of modernism would have negative connotations alone and it would be transformed from an historical and cultural process into an abstract and unchangeable philosophical category.

I am of the opinion that the final destiny of modernism has yet to be decided and that it can recover from the Pelagianism of its origins, which necessarily turns into Gnosticism. Pelagianism consists in holding that nature on its own is able to attain its own natural ends, but today we witness exactly the contrary: nature on its own can’t even be nature, and becomes transformed into culture, or science or technology.

The Pelagianism of modernism necessarily begets Gnosticism: salvation is immanent to me and I can attain it with that certain science or technique I now possess. But this too is in the throes of such a dramatic crisis since science and technology act in an agnostic context in ethical and metaphysical terms. Technology                                                        professes to determine what man is without having any sense of man. Reduced to “pure technique”, what type of salvation can technology ever deliver?

In his “Foreword” Cardinal Martini says: “At the bottommost root of problems there is always a defect of faith. Halfway through the 19 th century the anarchical socialist Proudhon wrote the following words: ‘The first duty of an intelligent and free man is to constantly eject the idea of God from his spirit and his conscience. Because God, if He does exist, is essentially a foe of our nature, and we gain nothing from His authority. Despite Him we attain science, despite Him we attain wellbeing, society, and each of our achievements is a victory in which we crush the Divinity’. Has this ‘despite Him’ proven to be realistic? Is it really true that man may attain science, wellbeing and society without God? How many presumed victories have turned out to be defeats?”

I would now like to say something about the unitary perspective proposed in the book. This could perhaps be expressed as follows: the vocation of the Logos. In fact, I made an effort to project a non positivistic vision of reality, and, especially in the chapters dealing with anthropology, to show how nothing utters itself alone; each thing or reality or person expresses a sense which transcends it. The aridity of our personal, relational and religious life depends on our mounting inability to make things, nature, persons and life speak. Stemming therefrom is a strong resistance to being grateful, to welcoming reality reading in it an appeal addressed to us, a vocation. The book’s first chapter is dedicated to “the human person between vocation and alienation” and sets the tune for the all the rest, beginning with an excerpt taken from Centesimus annus where John Paul II writes that the identity of a person depends on the response to the vocation of God. If things are naught but what I see of them, they embody no message for me and are just there at my beck and call. Even a love or a child, once upon a time looked upon as an undeserved vocation, or a gift as people say in such cases, cease to be events speaking to me, events abounding with prospects of responsibility, duties to be shouldered and ends to be attained, and turn in to cases to be kept under control by imposing my rationale upon them instead of letting myself be challenged by them. What is not accessible to our grasp thins out until it disappears. The space of what is accessible to our grasp expands to encompass each aspect of life and even life itself, which, however, precisely for this reason no longer reveals itself to us as having a sense because the sense we can give to life no longer suffices. Only the meanings we do not construct ourselves satisfy us because they represent a vocation.

Considerations of this nature also have considerable social and political relevance, and are at the heart of the selfsame social doctrine of the Church. In this book I have tried to capitalize as well on the knowledge of the Church’s social doctrine built up over many years of service to the Church in this field of endeavor. Benedict XVI said it so very well in Deus caritas est : the social doctrine is situated at the point of encounter between faith and reason, or, even better, there where the faith purifies reason. As we know, to purify means to reveal a vocation. The faith enables reason to appropriate itself anew, to fly much higher than before, to discover new lands waiting to be explored. This is the key used to analyze the themes of laicity and religious freedom, which I tackle by drawing on the Decree Dignitiatis humanae as a whole, and not just select excerpts.    

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Economic Policy, morals, Social Doctrine, Spirituality

Choose Fair Trade for Mothers Around the World!

Surprise the mothers in your life with a beautiful, ethical gift from Work of Human Hands (a partnership with SERRV) – a gift that makes a real difference in the life of an artisan and her family. Your purchase helps a mother to feed her family, send her children to school, and access basic medical care. What better way to honor our mothers?

Be sure to place your order by April 30 for ground shipping to the West Coast and May 4 for the East Coast to arrive in time for Mother’s Day. Upgraded shipping is also available.

Stock up on Divine Chocolate Before Temperatures Rise!
Whether you choose Divine Chocolate as a gift or to have some stock in your pantry, now is the time to buy. We have Dark Fruit and Nut Bars on sale for $15.00 a case, and /Divine Chocolate Coins for only $2.00.

When temperatures reach 80 degrees anywhere between our Maryland warehouse and your address, we must use special packaging that requires a shipping surcharge. We also anticipate a pricing increase in the fall due to the rising value of cocoa.

Visit to learn more


To Order
Phone: (800) 685-7572
Fax: (888) 294-6376
Mail: Work of Human Hands
500 Main Street
New Windsor, MD 21776

SERRV is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating poverty wherever it resides. Catholic Relief Services and SERRV thank you for choosing fair trade!

Filed under: consumerism, Fair Trade, Market Place

Pope creates five saints, says they hold lessons for economic crisis


By John Thavis Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI canonized five new saints and said their dedication to the Eucharist, the poor and the world of work made them models for today’s Christians in an era of economic crisis.

By orienting their lives to Christ, the five men and women showed that “it is possible to lay the foundations for construction of a society open to justice and solidarity, overcoming that economic and cultural imbalance that continues to exist in a great part of our planet,” the pope said. The pope celebrated the canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square April 26, joined by tens of thousands of pilgrims who held up photos or drawings of the saints.

Four of the new saints were Italian and one was Portuguese. Dressed in bright gold vestments, the 82-year-old pontiff listened as biographies of the five were read aloud, and then pronounced the canonization formula, drawing applause from the crowd. Afterward, relics of the new saints were brought to the altar. In his homily, the pope said the saints’ life stories hold valuable lessons for modern Christians. Each of the newly canonized had a special devotion to the Eucharist, and each transformed that spiritual power into social action, he said.

The five new saints are:

 — St. Arcangelo Tadini, a parish priest from the northern Italian area of Brescia, who preached strongly in defense of workers’ rights during the industrialization period of the late 1800s. He organized an association to help factory workers, established a spinning mill to give young girls of the area gainful employment, and eventually founded a religious order of sisters who worked alongside women in the factories. Pope Benedict said his Gospel-inspired social activity was “prophetic” and is particularly relevant in the current economic crisis. He said the saint taught people that a deep personal relationship with Christ is the key to bringing Christian values into the workplace.

 — St. Bernardo Tolomei, who, inspired by his love for prayer and for manual labor, founded a unique Benedictine monastic movement in Italy in the 14th century. Born in Siena, he was forced by an onset of blindness to give up a public career, and he decided to found a small hermitic community. He later founded the monastery of Santa Maria di Monte Oliveto Maggiore, and died in 1348 of the plague while helping victims of the disease; his burial place, in a common pit, has never been found. The pope called him “an authentic martyr of charity” and said his service to others was an inspiration to all.

 — St. Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira, a Portuguese army hero in the late 1300s, who, after the death of his wife, abandoned his military career and gave up his wealth to enter a Carmelite monastery. In particular he helped the poor, distributing food to the needy. He was totally dedicated to Marian prayer, and fasted in Mary’s honor three days of the week. The pope said he was happy to canonize a person whose faith grew while in the military, a context generally viewed as unfavorable to holiness. It demonstrates that the values and principles of the Gospel can be realized in any situation, especially when they are employed for the common good, he said.

 — St. Geltrude Comensoli, born in the mid-19th century in the Brescia area, who established a religious institute dedicated to the adoration of the Eucharist. In approving the institute in 1880, Pope Leo XIII asked her to include as part of its mission the education of young female factory workers. Pope Benedict said this connection of contemplative charity with “lived charity” was particularly important “in a society that is lost and often wounded like our own.” He said the saint’s life shows that adoration takes precedence over acts of charity, because “from love for Christ died and resurrected, and truly present in the Eucharist, comes that evangelical charity that pushes us to consider all men as brothers.”

— St. Caterina Volpicelli, who founded a community of sisters centered on Eucharistic adoration and service to the poor, especially young orphans, in the slums of Naples in the mid-1800s. The pope said she correctly saw that in order to bring the Gospel to bear on society it was necessary to “liberate God from the prisons in which man has confined him.” Banners depicting the newly canonized were hung on the faOade of St. Peter’s Basilica, and fluttered in the breeze during the two-hour liturgy.

At the end of the Mass, the pope greeted pilgrims in several languages and said he hoped the new saints would inspire people to witness the Gospel courageously in their daily lives.

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Market Place, Papal Teachings, Social Doctrine, Social Justice, Spirituality

World Fair Trade Day is May 9

Because we’re going to break the world’s record for the largest Fair Trade break on World Fair Trade Day, May 9th! We’re an ambitious bunch even when we’re relaxing.

Breaking the Record: The World’s Biggest Coffee Break

Catholic Relief Services is rallying its troops to get ready for World Fair Trade Day on May 9.

The CRS Fair Trade Fund is a proud sponsor, and we invite you to join us in celebrating the power of economic justice! Fair Trade supporters around the country will take a Fair Trade Break in an effort to break last year’s record, when 50,000 people in Finland took a Fair Trade Break. Find out how you can participate .

Filed under: Caritas, Catholic Relief Services, consumerism, Fair Trade, Social Justice, Spirituality

Operation Rice Bowl Continues: week 4 of Lent

Fourth Week of Lent: Solidarity Will Transform the World


Located in Central America, Honduras is a resource-rich country that also struggles with the devastating effects of tropical storms and political conflict. More than one-third of the workforce is in agriculture, most as subsistence farmers. Through its Natural Resource programming, Catholic Relief Services helps farmers, like Martín Reyes Granados, to develop sustainable methods of farming, increasing their yield so they can sell their surplus.


What do we see when we look at the world with the light of Christ? We see a world so beloved by God that God entered our human existence in order to dwell in it with us. We see a world that sings of the presence of the divine, in its abundance, its beauty, its creative genius. And we see a world that continues to suffer as it waits for the peace, justice and common good promised in God’s reign. As Nicodemus discovered when he visited Jesus under the cover of darkness, if you want to associate with the Son of God, you have to be willing to walk with him into the light of day and get to work. In your prayer this week, express your gratitude for the many blessings that God has placed in your world. At the same time, reflect on the work that is still to be done, the suffering and need that occur right before us in the light of day. Ask God to give you the courage to respond with the compassionate light of Christ.


People are not the only ones to suffer from injustices, from imbalances of power, from conflict and greed. The earth suffers too as it is worked in ways that are not sustainable, as it is deforested, eroded, poisoned and paved over. This week, let your fast express care of the earth. Fast from foods that are produced in wasteful or inhumane ways and instead eat foods that are produced locally using sustainable and ethical methods. Fast from modes of transportation that pollute and waste resources, and instead walk, bike, carpool or take the bus. Fast from purchasing items that are over packaged, and instead bring your own bags to the grocery store or buy used items from a local non-profit thrift store. Fast from purchasing items that are produced using unfair labor conditions, and instead purchase items that are certified as Fair Trade.


Martín Reyes Granados learned he did not have to go it alone as a small subsistence cattle farmer living in Estancias, Honduras. By attending the CRS-sponsored Country School for Small Farmers, he found himself in a network of support and learning that helped him to change his farming practices and improve his entire agricultural community. The school teaches small farmers to learn from one another and share experiences and experimentation. After joining the school, Granados went from owning a small herd of cows that barely produced milk to running a small but productive dairy farm. Today he is working to improve his community and region as the president of a local dairy co-op and a member of the Fair Trade Network in Honduras.


This week, free up some money for your Rice Bowl while implementing some cost-saving green principles in your own home. Here are several suggestions: * Instead of purchasing paper towels to clean up messes, cut up several old towels and t-shirts to make a pile of rags to keep in the kitchen and bathrooms. Drop them into a basket after you’ve used them, so you can wash and reuse them. Need a little extra scrubbing power? Wrap a rag in a plastic mesh fruit bag, the kind that oranges come in. These can be reused over and over again.

* Instead of purchasing window and counter cleaner, put a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle. You can use this everywhere, from sinks to counters to windows. For your windows and mirrors, use newspaper instead of using paper towels.

* Instead of buying powdered cleansers, pull out the baking soda and the borax for a little extra scrubbing power.

* Instead of throwing the laundry in the drier with softening sheets, hang it outside to dry and to be freshened by the sun.

Put the money that you didn’t spend into your Rice Bowl this week.

Monies collected from Operation Rice Bowl, collected in the parishes during Holy Week, are split between local (25%) and international (75%) efforts.  The local amount remains in the Diocese of Youngstown for small grants to parishes and groups working to relieve hunger.  The 75% goes to Catholic Relief Services to provide humanitarian and long term development efforts around the world.  Thanks for your generosity.

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Market Place, Personal Reflections, Social Justice, Spirituality