Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

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

Catholic health/Charities position on health care debate

Recently, there has been an attempt by some bloggers and others to distort the position of Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Health Association and the St. Vincent de Paul Society on their and the Church’s position on the current health care debate.

The Catholic Bishops have been calling for reform in health care since they published a Pastoral Letter on health care.

For a clarification and articulation of the Church’s position see comments by Sr. Carol, the President of Catholic Health Association of the US in a CNS article.

Filed under: Catholic Charities USA, Church-State, Economic Policy, healthcare, Medical Ethics, morals, Social Doctrine


Newsletter n. 222 Verona, 05 June, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Social Doctrine, Spirituality

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

Vatican newspaper: No radical changes in Obama’s first 100 days

LOSSERVATORE-OBAMA Apr-29-2009 (280 words) xxxi

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican newspaper said President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office have not confirmed the Catholic Church’s worst fears about radical policy changes in ethical areas.

The comments came in a front-page article April 29 in L’Osservatore Romano, under the headline, “The 100 days that did not shake the world.” It said the new president has operated with more caution than predicted in most areas, including economics and international relations.

“On ethical questions, too — which from the time of the electoral campaign have been the subject of strong worries by the Catholic bishops — Obama does not seem to have confirmed the radical innovations that he had discussed,” it said.

It said the new draft guidelines for stem-cell research, for example, did not constitute the major change in policy that was foreseen a few months ago.

“(The guidelines) do not allow the creation of new embryos for research or therapeutic purposes, for cloning or for reproductive ends, and federal funds may be used only for experimentation with excess embryos,” it said.

It added that the new guidelines “do not remove the reasons for criticism in the face of unacceptable forms of bioengineering” but are “less permissive” than expected.

The article saw a positive sign in the recent introduction of the Pregnant Women Support Act, which would help women overcome problems that often cause them to have abortions. It was sponsored by a group of pro-life Democrats.

“It is not a negation of the doctrine expressed up to now by Obama in the matter of interruption of pregnancy, but the legislative project could represent a rebalancing in support of maternity,” the newspaper said.

Filed under: Politics, Social Doctrine

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