Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

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

2011 Edition/Introductory Note: US Catholic Bishops’ Forming Conscience for Political Responsibility

The Catholic Bishops of the United States are pleased to re-propose to 
our people Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, our teaching 
document on the political responsibility of Catholics. This statement, 
overwhelmingly adopted by the body of bishops in 2007, represents the 
continuing teaching of our Bishops’ Conference and our guidance for Catholics 
in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy. We 
urge our Catholic pastors and people to continue to use this important statement 
to help them form their consciences, to contribute to civil and respectful public 
dialogue, and to shape their choices in the coming election in the light of 
Catholic teaching.

The statement lifts up our dual heritage as both faithful Catholics and 
American citizens. We are members of a community of faith with a long tradition 
of teaching and action on human life, and dignity, marriage and family, justice 
and peace, care for creation, and the common good. As Americans, we are also 
blessed with religious liberty which safeguards our right to bring our principles 
and moral convictions into the public arena. These Constitutional freedoms need 
to be both exercised and protected, as some seek to mute the voices or limit the 
freedoms of religious believers and religious institutions. Catholics have the same 
rights and duties as others to participate fully in public life. The Church through its 
institutions must be free to carry out its mission and contribute to the common good 
without being pressured to sacrifice fundamental teachings and moral principles.
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship is widely used to share Catholic 
teaching on the role of faith and conscience in political life. Although it has at
times been misused to present an incomplete or distorted view of the demands 
of faith in politics, this statement remains a faithful and challenging call to 
discipleship in the world of politics. It does not offer a voters guide, scorecard of 
issues, or direction on how to vote. It applies Catholic moral principles to a range 
of important issues and warns against misguided appeals to “conscience” to ignore 
fundamental moral claims, to reduce Catholic moral concerns to one or two 
matters, or to justify choices simply to advance partisan, ideological, or personal 
interests. It does not offer a quantitative listing of issues for equal consideration, 
but outlines and makes important distinctions among moral issues acknowledging vi
faithful citizenship that some involve the clear obligation to oppose intrinsic evils which can never 
be justified and that others require action to pursue justice and promote the 
common good. In short, it calls Catholics to form their consciences in the light of 
their Catholic faith and to bring our moral principles to the debate and decisions 
about candidates and issues.

The moral and human challenges outlined in the second half of Forming 
Consciences for Faithful Citizenship remain pressing national issues. In particular, 
our Conference is focused on several current and fundamental problems, some 
involving opposition to intrinsic evils and others raising serious moral questions:

• Continuing destruction of unborn children through abortion and other 
threats to the lives and dignity of others who are vulnerable, sick, or 
• Renewed efforts to force Catholic ministries—in health care, education, and 
social services—to violate their consciences or stop serving those in need;
• Intensifying efforts to redefine marriage and enact measures which undermine 
marriage as the permanent, faithful, and fruitful union of one man and one 
woman and a fundamental moral and social institution essential to the 
common good;
• An economic crisis which has devastated lives and livelihoods, increasing 
national and global unemployment, poverty, and hunger; increasing deficits 
and debt and the duty to respond in ways which protect those who are poor 
and vulnerable as well as future generations;
• The failure to repair a broken immigration system with comprehensive 
measures that promote true respect for law, protect the human rights and 
dignity of immigrants and refugees, recognize their contributions to our 
nation, keep families together, and advance the common good;
• Wars, terror, and violence which raise serious moral questions on the use of 
force and its human and moral costs in a dangerous world, particularly the 
absence of justice, security, and peace in the Holy Land and throughout the 
Middle East.

In this coming election and beyond, we urge leaders and all Catholics to share 
the message of faithful citizenship and to use this document in forming their own vii
faithful citizenship consciences, so we can act together to promote and protect human life and dignity, 
marriage and family, justice and peace in service to the common good. This kind of 
political responsibility is a requirement of our faith and our duty as citizens.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo                                                                    
Chairman, Committee on  
Pro-Life Activities
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl
Chairman, Committee on Doctrine
Archbishop José H. Gomez
Chairman, Committee  
on Migration
 Bishop Thomas J. Curry
Chairman, Committee on  
Catholic Education
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades
Chairman, Committee on Laity, 
Marriage, Family Life, and Youth
Bishop Gabino Zavala
Chairman, Committee  
on Communications
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire
Chairman, Committee on Domestic 
Justice and Human Development
Bishop Howard Hubbard
Chairman, Committee on International 
Justice and Peace
Bishop Jaime Soto
Chairman, Committee on Cultu

Filed under: Official Statements, Politics, Social Doctrine

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

Legislative Priorities, US Catholic Bishops 2011

Dear Member of Congress,

As a new Congress begins, I write to congratulate you and to outline principles and priorities that guide the public policy efforts of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). As President of the Bishops’ Conference, I assure you of our prayers and hopes that this newly elected Congress will advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially vulnerable and poor persons whose needs are critical in this time of difficult economic and policy choices. We continue to seek ways to work constructively with the Administration and the new Congress and others of good will to pursue policies which respect the dignity of all human life and bring greater justice to our nation and peace to our world.

As bishops, of course we approach public policy not as politicians but as pastors and teachers. Our moral principles have always guided our everyday experience in caring for the hungry and homeless, offering health care and housing, educating children and reaching out to those in need. We lead the largest community of faith in the United States, one that serves every part of our nation and is present in almost every place on earth. From our experience and our tradition, we offer a distinctive, constructive and principled contribution to the national dialogue on how to defend human life and dignity, promote and protect marriage and family life, lift up those who experience economic turmoil and suffering, and promote peace in a world troubled by war and violence.

Most fundamentally, we will work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family, especially unborn children and those who are disabled or terminally ill. We will consistently defend the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death. Opposed to abortion as the direct killing of innocent human life, we will encourage one and all to seek common ground, reducing the number of abortions by providing compassionate and morally sound care for pregnant women and their unborn children. We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion. We will work to retain essential, widely supported policies which show respect for unborn life, protect the conscience rights of health care providers and other Americans, and prevent government funding and promotion of abortion. The Hyde amendment and other provisions which for many years have prevented federal funding of abortion have a proven record of reducing abortions, and should be codified in permanent law. Efforts to force Americans to fund abortions with their tax dollars pose a serious moral challenge, and Congress should act to ensure that health care reform does not become a vehicle for such funding.

In close connection with our defense of all human life and particularly the most vulnerable among us, we stand firm in our support for marriage which is and can only be a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of one man and one woman. There is good reason why the law has always recognized this, and why it should continue to do so. In a manner unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children. Children need, deserve and yearn for a mother and a father. All human societies in every era of history, differing greatly among themselves in many other ways, have understood this simple wisdom. No other kinds of personal relationships can be justly made equivalent or analogous to the commitment of a husband and a wife in marriage, because no other relationship can connect children to the two people who brought them into the world. For this reason, we will continue to vigorously support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and strongly oppose legislative or executive measures that seek to redefine or erode the meaning of marriage. We suggest Congressional oversight of executive actions that have the effect of undermining DOMA, such as the expansion of spousal benefits to two persons of the same sex, and the weak defense of DOMA in court against constitutional challenge. We will seek to reflect respect for the family in every policy and program, to protect the rights of children, and to uphold the rights and responsibilities of mothers and fathers to care for their children. We will also continue to monitor legislation and federal regulations that protect our children and families from the destructive repercussions of pornography, which degrades human sexuality and marital commitment.

Our nation faces continuing economic challenges with serious human consequences and significant moral dimensions. We will work with the Administration and Congress for budget, tax and entitlement policies that reflect the moral imperative to protect poor and vulnerable people. We advocate a clear priority for poor families and vulnerable workers in the development and implementation of economic recovery measures, including appropriate new investments, finding ways to offer opportunity and strengthening the national safety net. Poor families and low-income and jobless workers have been hurt most of all in the economic crisis. The difficult choices ahead on how to balance needs and resources, and how to proportionately allocate the burdens and sacrifices need to take into account the vulnerability and capacity of all, especially those most affected by poverty, joblessness and economic injustice. We urge the Administration and Congress to seek the common good of our nation and people above partisan politics and the demands of powerful or narrow interests.

With regard to the education of children, we call for a return to the equitable participation of students and teachers in private schools in programs funded through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. When students in private schools are counted in order to determine the total amount of federal education funds a public school district receives, the funds generated by these students should benefit them and their teachers, not be used for programs in which only public school students and personnel can participate. We also continue to support initiatives, such as tax credits and scholarship programs, which provide resources for all parents, especially those of modest means, to choose education which best addresses the needs of their children.

We welcome continuing commitments to empower faith-based groups as effective partners in overcoming poverty and other threats to human dignity. We will continue to work with the Administration and Congress to strengthen these partnerships in ways that do not encourage government to abandon its responsibilities, and do not require religious groups to abandon their identity or mission.

As the Internet continues to grow in its influence and prominence in Americans’ lives, we support legislation and federal regulations that ensure equal access to the Internet for all, including religious and non-profit agencies, as well as those in more sparsely populated or economically distressed areas. True net neutrality is necessary for people to flourish in a democratic society.

The Catholic Bishops of the United States have worked for nearly a century to assure health care for all,insisting that access to health care is a basic human right and a requirement of human dignity. Basic health care for all is a moral imperative, not yet completely achieved. We remain committed to our three moral criteria: 1) Ensure access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all; 2) Retain longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protect conscience rights; and 3) Protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access. We will continue to devote our efforts to improving and correcting serious moral problems in the current law, so health care reform can truly be universal and life-affirming.

We will work with the Administration and the new Congress to fix a broken immigration system which harms both immigrants and our entire nation. Comprehensive reform is needed to deal with the economic and human realities of millions of immigrants in our midst. We realize that reform must be based on respect for and implementation of the law and for the legitimate and timely question of national security. Equally, however, it must defend the rights and dignity of all peoples, recognizing that human dignity comes from God and does not depend on where people were born or how they came to our nation. Truly comprehensive immigration reform will include a path to earned citizenship, with attention to the fact that international trade and development policies influence economic opportunities in the countries from which immigrants come. It also must foster family reunification, the bedrock principle upon which our national immigration system has been based for decades. Immigration enforcement policies should honor basic human rights and uphold basic due process protections.

On international affairs, we will work with our leaders to seek responsible transitions to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and promote religious freedom for all, acting against religious repression of our fellow Christians and others. The recent attacks against Christians in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria and the assassination of a Pakistani governor who opposed blasphemy laws highlight an appalling trend of increased violence aimed at vulnerable minority communities. In all foreign policy deliberations, we urge a greater emphasis on human rights, especially religious freedom, which we view as an essential good so intricately tied to other human rights and to the promotion of peace. We especially urge continued and persistent leadership to bring a just peace to the Holy Land, to promote peaceful change in Sudan, and to rebuild Haiti. We will continue to support essential U.S. investments to overcome global poverty, hunger and disease through increased and reformed international assistance. Continued U.S. leadership in the fight against HIV-AIDS and other diseases in ways that are both effective and morally appropriate have our enthusiastic backing. Recognizing the complexity of climate change, we wish to be a voice for the poor and vulnerable in our country and around the world who will be the most adversely affected by threats to the environment.

This outline of USCCB policies and priorities is not complete. There are many other areas of concern and advocacy for the Church and the USCCB. For a more detailed description of our concerns please see Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (USCCB 2007), pages 19-30.

Nonetheless, we offer this outline as an agenda for dialogue and action. We hope to offer a constructive and principled contribution to national discussion about the values and policies that will shape our nation’s future. We seek to work together with our nation’s leaders to advance the common good of our society, while disagreeing respectfully and civilly where necessary in order to preserve that common good. I am enclosing a brochure from our Office of Government Relations, directed by Nancy Wisdo, for your future contacts with the Conference.

In closing, I thank you for responding to the noble call of public service and I renew our expression of hope and our offer of cooperation as you begin this new period of service to our nation in these challenging times. We promise our prayers for all of you, and in a special way for your colleague Gabrielle Giffords and all those killed or injured in the horrific attack in Tucson. We hope that the days ahead will be a time of renewal and progress for our nation as we defend human life and dignity, seek greater justice for all God’s children, and bring peace to a suffering world.

With prayerful best wishes, I am

Faithfully and respectfully yours,

Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, USCCB

Filed under: Church-State, Economic Policy, healthcare, Official Statements, Politics, Social Doctrine

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

What do you think the role of Catholics should be in politics?

ZE10051804 – 2010-05-18

Vatican to Study Bringing Catholics Back to Politics


VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2010 ( The Pontifical Council for the Laity will begin its 24th plenary assembly Thursday, dedicating the three-day meeting to consider “Witnesses to Christ in the Political Community.”

A communiqué from the council noted how Benedict XVI has repeatedly affirmed a “pressing need” for a renewed commitment of Catholics in political life.

Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the dicastery, will inaugurate the event.

Three lectures are scheduled: Lorenzo Ornaghi, rector of the Sacred Heart Catholic University in Milan, Italy, will speak on “politics and democracy today: ‘status quaestionis'”; Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Italian bishops’ “Cultural Project,” will examine the topic of “Church and political community: certain vital points”; finally Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, will speak on “the responsibility of the lay faithful in political life.”

Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Catholic lay Community of Sant’Egidio, will give a report on great Christian personalities in the history of politics. And the undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Guzmán Carriquiry, will speak on methods for forming the lay faithful in politics.
What do you think about the role of Catholics in the political domain?

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