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 
unwanted; 
• 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
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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

US Conference of Catholic Bishops call for Ban on Landmines

Summary: Years after landmines have been laid, they continue to kill and
maim innocent civilians. Urge President Obama and your Senators to support a
comprehensive review of landmine policy, so the U.S. joins the Mine Ban Treaty.
Background: A landmine is a weapon designed to explode when it comes into
contact with a person. From 1969 to 1992, the U.S. exported over 4 million
landmines to countries like Afghanistan, Angola, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Somalia and Vietnam. While many of these conflicts have long ended, landmines still remain in more than 70 nations and kill or maim thousands each year, the vast majority of them civilians. Over a quarter of the victims of landmines are children under 15 years.
Why is the Mine Ban Treaty Important? Given the indiscriminate destructive capability of these weapons, non-governmental organizations around the world lobbied for a treaty to ban landmines. The Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction, otherwise known as the Mine Ban Treaty, came into force in 1999. The 156 countries, including NATO allies, that have signed agreed to:
Never use anti-personnel mines, and never develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer landmines. Although the U.S. has yet to sign this Convention, it is heartening that the U.S. has not used landmines since 1991, has not exported landmines since 1992, nor has it produced landmines since 1997.
Destroy existing stockpiles of landmines. 86 countries have completely destroyed their stockpiles of landmines, a total of about 44 million landmines.
The U.S. has about 10 million landmines stockpiled, the third largest mine arsenal in the world, after China and Russia.
Offer assistance in clearing mines and in assisting survivors. Between 1993 and 2008, the U.S. was the largest contributor (about $1.5 billion) toward mine clearance, mine risk education, survivor assistance, and training of foreign demining personnel. But more is needed to clear the millions of mines still buried, potential hazards to farmers, children or anyone walking over this land.
Neither President Clinton nor President Bush signed the Mine Ban Treaty, yielding to concerns raised by U.S. military. But in late 2009, the State Department was pressured into announcing that it would conduct a review of U.S. policy on landmines. In May 2010, 68 Senators sent a letter to President Obama calling for a comprehensive review of landmine policy, with the aim of removing any obstacles toward U.S. accession to and eventual ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty. To satisfy military concerns, they suggested that the U.S. consult with NATO allies who are signatories to the Treaty.
Landmines and Catholic Social Teaching

Landmines are “inhumanly insidious because they continue to cause harm
even long after the cessation of hostilities.”*  The U.S. bishops have long
supported elimination of landmines as they are indiscriminate, morally
unacceptable weapons that do not distinguish between soldier and civilian, or
between times of war and times of peace.
In a November 30, 2009 message, Pope Benedict XVI asked all states “to
recognize the deplorable humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mines.”
He called on the international community to keep on funding mine clearance
and assisting victims.
Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Chair, USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, signed joint letters to President Obama calling for a comprehensive review of U.S. policy on landmines and for the U.S. to join the Mine Ban Treaty.
Take Action Now!
Contact President Obama and your Senators today and urge them to
support a comprehensive review of U.S. landmine policy, in order that
the U.S. join the Mine Ban Treaty. (For contact information, visit
number to leave a comment is 202-456-1111.

Filed under: Official Statements, Social Doctrine, Social Justice

Articles on Catholic Social Teaching and Immigration

The March 2010 issue of the Woodstock Report (from the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University) is dedicated to Immigration Reform. Articles by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Donald Kerwin, Thomas Reese, and several others include:
“Honoring Human Dignity and the Common Good: A Catholic Approach to Immigration Reform”
‘We Must Serve and Defend Them in the Public Square”
“No Person is Illegal”
“Were My Parents Criminals?”
“Love the alien as yourself”
“We Are All Sojourners Here”
“The Other”
and
“Crossing the Borders and Redefining Identity: Gener, Body and Space”

Filed under: Migration, morals, Social Doctrine, Social Justice