Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

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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

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

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

Bishops: World Cup Cloaks Human Trafficking

Prelates Call for Global Attention to Problem
ROME, MAY 27, 2010 ( ).- Bishops of southern African nations are trying to bring global attention to the problem of human trafficking in their region.

The prelates, collaborating with the group Planet Waves, organized a meeting last week on the phenomenon, which affects an unknown number of people. Four episcopal conferences were represented at the meeting: Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

It’s estimated 300 people a week enter South Africa illegally from Mozambique alone.

Trafficking in the region is “complex and is fueled by a wide range of factors and these include poverty, dysfunctional economies, conflicts and demands for cheap labor,” the bishops noted in a communiqué, Fides reported. “The exact number of people who are lured into trafficking in the [area] remains unknown because of the non-availability of official statistics on this scourge.”

The Interregional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa is formed by the bishops’ conferences of Angola and Sao Tome, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland, Losotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The prelates lamented that their governments give too little attention to the problem, though they are aware of it. They acknowledged that the nations lack both human and financial resources to deal with the issue.

However they affirmed, “Religious groups can play a significant role in raising awareness and acting on this issue with the support of their governments to curb this problem.”


The prelates also noted how the World Cup to be held in South Africa from June 11 to July 11 has become a way to send people to traffickers.

“All those people who would like to make some money during the World Cup have become vulnerable to trafficking, especially girls who are told that they will be waitresses or tour guides for the visitors,” they said.

The participants at the meeting organized a series of workshops to be held through November, focusing on the definition of trafficking, how traffickers operate, how to identify and help victims, the Church’s position on the issue, and the way forward.

Host country

Earlier this month in South Africa about 1,000 people gathered in Pretoria to pray for an end to human trafficking.

It is estimated that as many as 40,000 sex workers and prostitutes will be imported to the nation during the World Cup.

Sister Melanie O’Connor, coordinator of the Counter Trafficking in Persons Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, is warning parents of the dangers of leaving their children unattended. She has noted how research increasingly shows that women recruiters are becoming more prominent in the trafficking process.

“South Africa is recognized internationally as a ‘hot spot’ for human trafficking — being a country of origin, transition and destination for trafficking,” the bishops’ conference noted on their Web site, “and there is the fear that trafficking of women and children will increase significantly during the World Cup.”

Filed under: Market Place, Social Justice, Uncategorized