Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

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

Reflections of a New Year: Msgr. Lew Gaetano

Doing the World the Way it was meant to be done.As we begin this New Year 2012 – the month of January named for the Roman god Janus, provides an image of looking toward the future, yet aware of the past.   Janus has been called the god of new beginnings and transitions, being also the god of “middle ground.”

As we enter 2012, our local, national and global scene seems to be one of polarization.  The divisions are found in politics, economics and in religion – just to name a few.  Many representing each area seem to move to the extreme left or the extreme right – with little room for a center or middle ground.   Economically, the growing gap between the rich and the poor continues to reduce in size the middle class; politically, conservative and liberal labels allow little room for developing  partnerships of conciliation for the common good; religiously, the  fundamentalist and relativist disregard a center meeting point.   Economic crisis after crisis, political gridlock, and religious intolerance continue to create an environment of instability, suspicion, and incredulity within our world community.   For those with religious sensibilities the issues are multiple, particularly those affecting the Roman Catholic Community.   

I have always prided myself in being a centrist – a little left of center – but never seeing myself as either far left or right.  Even that position is rather arbitrary depending on who defines the center point.    I remember many years ago an African bishop commenting on the liturgical changes that were occurring in the western world – namely within our first world countries.  The lines were being drawn concerning communion in the hand, kneeling or not kneeling, ministers of the altar, etc.  His comment was that while these issues are major concerns for us – his concerns in his own country were issues of drought, famine, AIDS, lack of medicine and medical personnel, etc.   It seemed to make our issues – or my issues – rather inconsequential.  From my own experience it is easy to lose the focus and the center of our lives as a community of faith.  What is that center and focus?  Jesus Christ.

I referred a few weeks ago a statement from a theologian commenting that our job as Church is to “do the world the way it was meant to be done.”  From the time I first read that statement it has been playing in my mind and heart.   “Doing the world the way it was meant to be done”, certainly reminds me that the focus on the least and the lost of our world could enable our world to center itself.  Finding our center in Jesus Christ does not negate our need for self-realization, self-fulfillment, and self-actualization; however it does require an emerging self-transcendence – being able to rise above the polarization.  In that transcendence we can discover our reference to God, and even the forgotten Christ – in the voiceless poor, the nameless homeless, the hungry dying.    Encountering Christ – can bring us to a center in 2012, in “doing the world that way it was meant to be done. “  
Msgr. Lew Gaetano

Filed under: Culture, Personal Reflections, Spirituality, Uncategorized

How can Religion be a force for Peace…Assisi 2011



VATICAN CITY, 27 OCT 2011 (VIS) – Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the historic meeting for peace in the Italian town of Assisi, called by Blessed John Paul II. For the occasion, Benedict XVI has made a pilgrimage to the city of St. Francis, accompanied by representatives of other religions and by non-believers, for a Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world under the theme: “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace”.


  The Pontiff and the members of the various delegations left the Vatican by train at8 a.m. today, reaching Assisi at 9.45 a.m. where they were greeted by the civil and religious authorities in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. As the ceremony unfolded inside the basilica, the large numbers of faithful present were able to follow events on giant screens set up in the square outside.


  Following a greeting from Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, a video was screened in commemoration of the 1986 meeting. Then, one after the other, the representatives of the various religions rose to speak: His Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople; Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, Primate of the Anglican Communion; Archbishop Norvan Zakarian, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of France; Rev. Olav Fyske Tveit, secretary general of the World Council of Churches; Rabbi David Rosen, representative of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel; Wande Abimbola, spokesperson for the Yoruba faith; Acharya Shri Shrivatsa Goswami, representative for Hinduism; Ja-Seung, president of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism; Kyai Haji Hasyom Muzadi, secretary general of the International Conference of Islamic Schools, and Julia Kristeva, representing non-believers.


  The Holy Father then rose to make his address, extracts of which are given below:


  “Twenty-five years have passed since Blessed Pope John Paul II first invited representatives of the world’s religions to Assisi to pray for peace. What has happened in the meantime? What is the state of play with regard to peace today?


  “At that time the great threat to world peace came from the division of the earth into two mutually opposed blocs. A conspicuous symbol of this division was the Berlin Wall. … In 1989, three years after Assisi, the wall came down, without bloodshed. … In addition to economic and political factors, the deepest reason for the event is a spiritual one: behind material might there were no longer any spiritual convictions. … For this victory of freedom, which was also, above all, a victory of peace, we give thanks. What is more, this was not merely, nor even primarily, about the freedom to believe, although it did include this. To that extent we may in some way link all this to our prayer for peace.


  “But what happened next? Unfortunately, we cannot say that freedom and peace have characterised the situation ever since. … Violence as such is potentially ever present and it is a characteristic feature of our world. Freedom is a great good. But the world of freedom has proved to be largely directionless, and not a few have misinterpreted freedom as somehow including freedom for violence. Discord has taken on new and frightening guises, and the struggle for freedom must engage us all in a new way”.


  “In broad strokes, we may distinguish two types of the new forms of violence, which are the very antithesis of each other in terms of their motivation and manifest a number of differences in detail. Firstly there is terrorism, for which in place of a great war there are targeted attacks intended to strike the opponent destructively at key points, with no regard for the lives of innocent human beings, who are cruelly killed or wounded in the process. In the eyes of the perpetrators, the overriding goal of damage to the enemy justifies any form of cruelty. Everything that had been commonly recognised and sanctioned in international law as the limit of violence is overruled. We know that terrorism is often religiously motivated and that the specifically religious character of the attacks is proposed as a justification for the reckless cruelty. … In this case, religion does not serve peace, but is used as justification for violence”.


  “The fact that, in the case we are considering here, religion really does motivate violence should be profoundly disturbing to us as religious persons. In a way that is more subtle but no less cruel, we also see religion as the cause of violence when force is used by the defenders of one religion against others. The religious delegates who were assembled in Assisi in 1986 wanted to say, and we now repeat it emphatically and firmly: this is not the true nature of religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction”.


  “As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature. The God in whom we Christians believe is the Creator and Father of all, and from Him all people are brothers and sisters and form one single family. For us the Cross of Christ is the sign of the God Who put ‘suffering-with’ (compassion) and ‘loving-with’ in place of force. … It is the task of all who bear responsibility for the Christian faith to purify the religion of Christians again and again from its very heart, so that it truly serves as an instrument of God’s peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans.


  “If one basic type of violence today is religiously motivated and thus confronts religions with the question as to their true nature and obliges all of us to undergo purification, a second complex type of violence is motivated in precisely the opposite way: as a result of God’s absence, His denial and the loss of humanity which goes hand in hand with it. The enemies of religion – as we said earlier – see in religion one of the principal sources of violence in the history of humanity and thus they demand that it disappear. But the denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of violence that knows no bounds, which only becomes possible when man no longer recognises any criterion or any judge above himself, now having only himself to take as a criterion. The horrors of the concentration camps reveal with utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence.


  “Yet I do not intend to speak further here about State-imposed atheism, but rather about the decline of man, which is accompanied by a change in the spiritual climate that occurs imperceptibly and hence is all the more dangerous. The worship of mammon, possessions and power is proving to be a counter-religion, in which it is no longer man who counts but only personal advantage. The desire for happiness degenerates, for example, into an unbridled, inhuman craving, such as appears in the different forms of drug dependency. … Force comes to be taken for granted and in parts of the world it threatens to destroy our young people. Because force is taken for granted, peace is destroyed and man destroys himself in this peace vacuum”.


  “In addition to the two phenomena of religion and anti-religion, a further basic orientation is found in the growing world of agnosticism: people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God. Such people do not simply assert: ‘There is no God’. They suffer from His absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards Him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness. They are ‘pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace’. They ask questions of both sides. They take away from militant atheists the false certainty. … But they also challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if He belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others.


  “These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, Whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practised. Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God. So all their struggling and questioning is in part an appeal to believers to purify their faith, so that God, the true God, becomes accessible. Therefore I have consciously invited delegates of this third group to our meeting in Assisi, which does not simply bring together representatives of religious institutions. Rather it is a case of being together on a journey towards truth, a case of taking a decisive stand for human dignity and a case of common engagement for peace against every form of destructive force. Finally I would like to assure you that the Catholic Church will not let up in her fight against violence, in her commitment for peace in the world. We are animated by the common desire to be ‘pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace'”.


  Following the meeting in the basilica, Benedict XVI and the delegations made their way to the convent of Porziuncola. A frugal lunch was followed by a period of silence for individual refection and prayer before the participants moved on to the Basilica of St. Francis for the concluding ceremonies of the Day.

PV-ITALY/                                                                                        VIS 20111027 (1610)

Filed under: Culture, morals, Social Justice, Spirituality

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

Faith and Politics

Not a Problem, Part of a Solution
By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, OCT. 24, 2010 ( ).- With the American midterm elections looming close, issues such as Church-State relations and the religious beliefs of candidates are surfacing again.

Pundits have speculated about the way religious affiliations will affect voters, especially with controversies such as health care reform and changes to immigration laws still fresh.

Earlier this month the seven Catholic bishops of New York State published a statement offering guidelines to help people evaluate which candidates it would be suitable to vote for. Catholics, they said, should judge political matters through the lens of faith and not be guided by self interest or party loyalty alone.

The bishops mentioned a number of issues, ranging from life matters to war and peace and education. It’s rare, they admitted, to find a candidate who agrees with the Church on every matter, but not all have the same weight.

Following the recommendation of the 2008 document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” issued by the U.S. bishops the New York prelates stated: “The inalienable right to life of every innocent human person outweighs other concerns where Catholics may use prudential judgment, such as how best to meet the needs of the poor or to increase access to health care for all.”

They urged Catholics to take time and care in studying the positions of candidates and concluded with a list of questions people should ask before deciding who to vote for.

The question of faith’s impact on politics has been a topic raised a number of times recently by Benedict XVI. In a message dated Oct. 12 to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian episcopal conference, the Pope affirmed that politics and society needs to be guided by considerations of the common good.

Christian values are not just useful in determining this what comprises this common good, they make an indispensable contribution, he stated.

New generation

In the message, sent to mark the 46th Italian Catholic Social Week, Benedict XVI called for a new generation of Catholics to come forward and be active in politics. This participation should be grounded in a solid intellectual and moral formation that will enable the formation of ethical principles based on fundamental truths so that decisions will not be based on egoism, avarice or personal ambition.

At a time when politicians are often held in contempt or ridicule the Pontiff stated that: “The socio-political endeavor, with the spiritual resources and the attitudes it requires, remains a lofty vocation, to which the Church invites to respond with humility and determination.”

As to the role of the Church, the Pope affirmed that: “the Catholic Church has a legacy of values that are not things of the past, but constitute a very living and timely reality, capable of offering a creative guideline for the future of a nation.”

His message came shortly after a major speech on Church-State relations during his recent visit to Scotland and England. Addressing politicians and leaders in London’s Westminister Hall the Pope maintained that religion is not a problem legislators need to solve, but rather it has a vital contribution to make to politics.

The Holy Father pointed out the inadequacy of basing a nation’s future on short-term considerations of a merely political nature and urged his listeners to consider the importance of an ethical dimension to policy-making.

This ethical dimension does not have to depend on a particular faith, but can be based on reason’s formulation of objective moral principles. So it is not as though religion is imposing its beliefs, but rather it helps lead reason to the discovery of ethical principles. Then, the Pope noted, religion is in need of reason’s assistance in order to guard against distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism.

Religion has a legitimate role in the public square, the Pontiff stated, and should not be marginalized.

“This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization,” he concluded.

Only a few days before, Benedict XVI had expressed similar views to the newly accredited German ambassador. In his Sept. 13 speech the Pope observed that if faith in a personal God is abandoned then the difference between good and evil becomes obscured. This then leads to actions being directed by considerations of personal interest or power politics.


Convinced Christians give testimony to society that an order of values is something legitimate. In this sense Christianity has a fundamental role, “in laying the foundations and forming the structures of our culture,” the Pope explained.

He lamented the growing tendency to eliminate Christian concepts of marriage and the family from society’s conscience. The Church cannot, the Pope stated, approve legislative initiatives that propose alternative models to married and family life.

Referring to the area of biotechnology and medicine he affirmed that what is needed is a culture of the person founded on natural law that will protect humans and guard against violations of human dignity.

Such a solid foundation provides a defense against the tendency to relativism, a danger that Pope Benedict has frequently warned against. He spoke again about this in an address given Sept. 8 to members of the bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

It is imperative, he declared, to defend the universal validity of the right to religious freedom. If values, rights, and duties do not have an objective rational foundation then they cannot offer guidance for international institutions.

The Christian faith is a positive force in searching for the foundation of these rights in the natural dignity of the person, helping human reason to seek a basis for this dignity, the Pope commented.


In these recent statements on religion’s role in politics the Pope often refers back to his 2009 encyclical “Charity in Truth.” In that document he rejected the claim that the Church is interfering in politics: “She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation” (No. 9).

Referring to the development of nations Benedict XVI decried the promotion of religious indifference or atheism as something that obstructs our true development, as it precludes countries benefitting from vital spiritual and human resources. Economically developed countries sometimes export this reductive vision of the human person to poor countries, he noted.

If society prescinds itself of religion’s contribution it can fall into the error of giving too much attention to the “how” questions, and not enough to the many “why” questions underlying human activity, the Pope adverted. “When technology is allowed to take over, the result is confusion between ends and means, such that the sole criterion for action in business is thought to be the maximization of profit, in politics the consolidation of power, and in science the findings of research” (No. 71).

To avoid this Christianity needs to have a place in public affairs and reason and faith need be united, each purifying the other, the Pope explained (No. 56). If this dialogue does not take place then humanity will pay an enormous price. Something worth remembering the next time someone says that religion needs to keep out of politics.

ZE10102406 – 2010-10-24

Filed under: Church-State, Culture, morals, Politics

Holy See to UN on Gender Equality

“Women … Are Dynamic Agents of Development”
NEW YORK, JULY 2, 2010 ( ).- Here is the address Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, delivered Thursday before the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council Substantive Session for 2010.

* * *

Mr. President,

This year’s substantive session is particularly pertinent leading up to the long expected World Summit on the MDGs. All women and girls who are affected by the MDGs look forward towards an increased recognition of their value and equality as well as their dignified role in development. Any deliberation on the matter will be incomplete without ensuring the advancement of women, who are dynamic agents of development in the family, society and the world.

Ever since world leaders committed their governments to the ambitious objective of attaining the MDGs, some remarkable progress has been achieved in mainstreaming women’s perspectives in development both in multilateral and national policies. Even those countries lagging behind in many aspects of development are giving more prominence to the role of women in public life, especially in the political arena.

The empowerment of women presupposes universal human dignity and, thus, the dignity of each and every individual. The notion denotes complementarity between man and woman, which means equality in diversity: where equality and diversity are based on biological data, expressed traditionally by male and female sexuality, and on the primacy of the person. It concerns also roles to be held and functions to be performed in society. In that regard, equality is not sameness, and difference is not inequality.

Empowerment of women for development means also recognition of the gifts and talents of every woman and is affirmed through the provision of better health care, education and equal opportunities. Empowering women and respecting their dignity mean also honoring their capacity to serve and devote themselves to society and to the family through motherhood which entails a self-giving love and care-giving. Altruism, dedication and service to others are healthy and contribute to personal dignity. If domesticity can be considered a particular gift of mothers in cultivating a genuine intrapersonal relationship in the family and society, then family-friendly working arrangements, shared family-care leave and redistribution of the burden of unpaid work will be given the attention they rightly deserve.

The Holy See notes with concern that inequalities between individuals and between countries thrive and various forms of discrimination, exploitation and oppression of women and girls persist, which must be addressed by the provision of adequate social protection measures for them, as appropriate to national contexts.

In the health sector there is a need to eliminate inequalities between men and women and increase the capacity of women to care for themselves principally by being afforded adequate health care. Scientific studies have shown remarkable improvement in the reduction of maternal and infant mortality, revealing the importance of complementary investing in other areas relevant to women and girls including nutrition, general health and education. The real advancement of women is not achieved by concentrating on a particular health issue to the neglect of others but by promoting their overall health which necessarily includes giving more attention to addressing women-specific diseases.

Women’s economic empowerment is essential for the economic development of the family and of society. Access to land and property, credit facilities and equal opportunities for financial services for women will help ensure their economic stability. In this process, the whole household and community must support their entrepreneurship. The ethical dimension of their development and economic empowerment as well as their service to the family must not be overlooked.

Tragically, violence against women, especially in the home and work place, and discrimination in the professional field, even on the pay and pension scale, are growing concerns. Through adequate legal frame-works and national policies, perpetrators of violence must be brought to justice and women must be afforded rehabilitation. Women and girls must be guaranteed their full enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights including equal access to education and health.

My delegation supports the initiatives in favour of the rights in particular of women migrants and refugees and women with disabilities. Human rights learning campaigns especially for girls and women must be promoted, even from early school days and also through non-formal education. Civil society and NGOs, women’s associations and faith-based organizations can contribute a great deal in human rights learning and in quality education.

In concluding, Mr. President, the more the dignity of women is protected and promoted, the more the family, the community and society will truly be fostered.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Filed under: Culture, Economic Policy, Official Statements, Social Justice