Corruption

(2014/5) Editor(s): Regina Ammicht Quinn (c), Luiz Carlos Susin, Lisa Cahill
Cover Page

Articles of the issue

Sin Can be Forgiven, But Not Corruption

Jorge Mario Bergoglio / Pope Francis

In 1991 the extent of corruption in society was revealed by certain events in Argentina said to include outrageous attempts by authorities to whitewash a murder because of associations with local politicians. This led the then Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires to write first an article, then a short book (Jorge Mario Bergoglio [Pope Francis], Corrupcion y pecado: Aldunas reflexiones em torno al tema de la corrupcion [Corruption and Sin: Reflections on the Theme of Corruption] Buenos Aires, 2005), in which he described the nature of corruption and corrupt people. He stressed the fact that corruption was worse than any sin because it hardened people’s hearts against a sense of guilt and prevented them from asking for forgiveness. He related the social and individual aspects of corruption to examples and parables from the gospels and to Jesus’ reported words on the subject, defined corruption not only in general but in religious circles, and suggested means of eradicating it. He decided to reissue the article as a book because corruption had become so widespread that people tended to accept it as normal, even though it leads in the end to personal and social collapse.

Confronting Ubiquitous Corruption

Daniel K. Finn

Corruption is the abuse of power for private gain, and its moral essence is the serving of a relationship of trust. It occurs in both government and business, with annual global costs of more that US$2.6 trillion, appearing more frequently in government, typically with the active cooperation of businesses in bribery or extortion. Governmental efforts to reduce corruption (a UN convention and national laws making the library of a foreign government official illegal) have made progress. Recent efforts by the Catholic Church also hold out promise. Nonetheless, the scourge of corruption remains real in every nation of the world. In this article I briefly describe the forms and moral character of ubiquitous corruption, distinguish bribery from morally appropriate gifts in reciprocity, identify the need for economic agents to take responsibility for the Morality of organizations to which they do not belong, provide an overview of the costs of corruption, and outline some current efforts to reduce corruption.

Corruption in the Political Tradition

Frei Betto OP

In this article I offer a Latin-American view of colonial attitudes and hierarchical relationships. The setting is Latin America, and more specifically Brazil. From that standpoint I outline a prolife and sketch a phenomenology of corruption, especially its relation to public assets. I refer to a text from Baroque literature, a sermon of Fr. Antonio Vieira, and bring the story up to date with statistics of absurd inequalities in today’s world. Finally, I focus on measures to fight corruption, again with specific reference to Brazil. Overall I take as my watch word a quotation from Giannina Segnini, a Costa-Rican journalist: ‘The greatest criminals write laws to make their crimes legal.

The Saga of Sexual Violence in India

Kochurani Abraham

Corruption in law enforcement is a matter of grave concern as the very defenders of law become its violators, leaving the marginalized sections totally vulnerable to exploitation. This is very much applicable to the alarming state of sexual violence and law enforcement in the Indian context. I describe undercurrents beneath the persistence of sexual violence in spite of the tightening of the laws and greater vigilance on the part of the civil society. Then impunity emerges as a major problem where the law and the legal institutions are socially embedded in a culture informed by patriarchy, which in turn is coloured by the class and caste inscriptions of gender. Religion is a major mediator of this culture, and I also look critically at the role played by the Church and its theology that legitimizes gender violence, and propose a radical rethinking of the theology of gender using a feminist lens.

African Natural Resources and Corruption

Aquiline Tarimo, S.J.

The continent of Africa has abundant natural resources, yet most of its inhabitants lack a decent standard of living.  A primary cause of this injustice is corruption in the public institutions granting mining contracts and allocation of land to foreign investors.  The revenues are easily embezzled by public officials because of the over-centralization of government, lack of bureaucratic transparency, impunity for the violation of anti-corruption laws, and a public that is both apathetic and hopeless.  The Catholic Church is called to exercise leadership through a ministry of social justice and the spiritual and moral formation of responsible citizens.

The International Corruption of Healthcare Bodies

Hille Haker

Everyone, no matter where in the world, has a right to healthcare and medical treatment. The achievement of worldwide healthcare depends on certain basic requirements: research to develop and analyze medicines and medical products, and their further development and distribution. If institutional corruption seriously affects the manufacture and sale of drugs, then healthcare and corporate market positioning are reversed as priorities, and drugs become no more than one class of commodities among others. This article is concerned with the implications of the institutional corruption of healthcare bodies and their specific mode of operation. Examples are adduced to show how the influence of the commercial research and development of drugs has increased steadily since the 1980s, as pharmaceutical companies have used and continue to use universities, hospitals and medical practices, scientific journals and regulatory authorities to market medicines, although those facilities have no influence on corporate priorities.

Corruption in the Church: An Age of Constantine?

Paolo Prodi

In this article I question the assertion that evil in the Church comes simply from outside, from an external ‘Constantinian’ influence, from which it merely needs to free itself in order to return to gospel purity. Before and after Constantine there was a progressive internal osmosis (particularly in terms of law) between Christianity and the Empire. There was also the tension created by the growing institutional dualism that has marked Christianity up to our own day. Even though secularization and the Church’s consequent loss of power today have ended the traditional dualism, a new tension has arisen between Church as prophetic, transcendent eschatological witness to the world and Church understood as an institutional presence in the world, which is therefore subject to corruption and reform.

Where are the Victims?

Gianluca Montaldi

Justice for Justice! We can know as long as we want what is deceptive: in this unequal battle appearance always has the last word. ‘In this article I briefly address two levels of discourse about corruption. I ask if this discourse changes when the victims’ viewpoint is introduced, and I try to raise the problem of the relationship between corruption and Church life. Certainly, when the Church is the victim of a corrupting system, it has the resources to be a witness to truth and justice. But when the Church itself operates according to a logic of corruption, the victims act as a critical presence and prophetic memory of the ethical vocation inherent in its existence. This is the sense in which the article refers to corruption in the case of sexual abuses and of some cases of behaviour by ecclesiastics. Finally, following Giorgio Agamben, I discuss the crisis of legality and legitimacy denounced by Agamben.

The Corruption of the Best is the Worst

Luiz Carlos Susin

This article is an attempt at an exposition of the maxim corruption optima pessima (‘The corruption of the best is the worst’ or ‘The fallen saint is the worst kind of sinner’, or even ‘Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.’ [Shakespeare]. My analysis starts with ‘spiritual worldliness’ as I examine the relationship between the mystery of evil, the figure of the Antichrist and the history of Christianity. My conclusion is that since wheat and tares inevitably grow together under the regime of the incarnate Word, constant vigilance and the witness of the Christian sources are essential forms of defence against the baleful effects of corruption on the history of Christianity, in the Church or in the world.

Corruption in the Prophetic and Wisdom Traditions

Elsa Tamez

In this article I try to define the force of the prophetic and wisdom discourses, and take the prophet Micah and the sage Ecclesiastes (Qohelet) as examples of denouncing corruption. Both refer to a situation in which rulers, leaders and the powerful abuse their position by ‘twisting the law’ for their own benefit, with deplorable consequences for the poor. However, their proposals for fighting corruption differ not only because of their literary form but because of the socio-economic context. Their force depends on the context in which these texts are read. Finally, I examine the categories of structural sin and law in the Letter to the Romans as useful terms to explain the recurrence and self-justification of corruption.

Is God Subornable? An Investigation

Norbert Reck

Is God subornable? Will our gifts and services induce ‘him’ to do something for us? Is the archaic practice of sacrifice an example of relating to God in accordance with the ‘Do ut des principle’ (I give to induce you to give too)? I have based this article on a number of key texts from the Bible that show how the sacrificial theology of Israel developed entirely in contradiction to any such ideas, and abandoned the logic of exchange and service at an early date. These insights did not become so deep-rooted in Christian tradition, but would prove highly significant for a more mature and open spirituality.

A Poorer Life and Work Without Mandela

Intersecting Freedoms: Mandela’s Legacy

In Memoriam Joao Batista Libanio SJ

In Memoriam David Noel Power OMI