Vatican justice branch sets anti-corruption goals for 2018

By Elise Harris

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St. Peter's Basilica, front view. Credit: Pramio Garson via Shutterstock.

After hosting a discussion earlier this summer, the Vatican office for justice has outlined several goals and action points in their plan to fight corruption, which will be a central focus for the upcoming year.

On June 15 the International Consultation Group for justice, corruption, organized crime and mafias, part of the Vatican dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, organized an “International Debate on Corruption.”

The event, hosted in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, drew some 50 participants from all over the world, including anti-mafia and anti-corruption magistrates, bishops, Vatican officials, representatives from the U.N. and various States, heads of movements, victims and ambassadors.

As a result of that meeting, the consultation group has issued a joint text July 31 highlighting their priorities and providing 21 goals and actions points they hope to accomplish in the coming year.

In the text, the group noted that among Pope Francis' monthly prayer intentions for 2018 is the petition “that those who have material, political or spiritual power may resist any lure of corruption,” to which the month of February will be dedicated.

“Corruption, prior to being an act, is a condition,” they said. “Hence the need for culture, education, training, institutional action, citizen participation.”

To encourage this, the group said that from September of this year on, they will place a special focus on anti-corruption efforts, and plan to formulate different definitions of “corruption,” which was mentioned in a book-length interview with Cardinal Peter Turkson titiled “Corrosione,” or “Corrosion.”

Published the same day as the June 15 debate on corruption, the book was presented during the event and features a forward by Pope Francis, who called corruption a “form of blasphemy” and a “cancer that weighs our lives.”

According to the text, the group “will not just come up with virtuous exhortations, because concrete gestures are needed.” To educate means having credible teachers, they said, “even in the Church.”

As an international network, the group and the Church itself will work “with courage, resolution, transparency, spirit of collaboration and creativity.”

The group insisted that “anyone seeking alliances to obtain privileges, exemptions, preferential or even illegal pathways, is not credible.”

“If we decide to follow this behavior, we can all run the risk of becoming unsuitable, harmful and dangerous,” they said, adding that those “taking advantage of their position to recommend people who are often not recommendable – both in terms of value and honesty – are not credible.”

“Thus, the action of the Consultation Group will be educational and informative, and will address public opinion and many institutions to create a mentality of freedom and justice, in view of the common good.”

Consequences arising as a result of corruption are not often recognized, they said, noting that “one is unaware that an act of corruption is often at the base of a crime.”

Because of this, the group aims to intervene and “fill this gap, especially wherever, in the world, corruption is the dominant social system.”

With the help of bishops' conferences and local churches, members will also dedicate themselves to investigating a global response to the “excommunication of the mafia” and other similar criminal groups, as well as “the prospect of excommunication for corruption.”

Pope Francis himself said in a June 2014 visit to Calabria, a region plagued by mafia activity, called the local criminal branch, known as the 'Ndrangheta, “adorers of evil” and said that those who have chosen this path “not in communion with God. They are 'excommunicated,'” as an invitation to conversion.

Another objective the group will pursue is to “develop the almost-lost relationship between justice and beauty,” since “our extraordinary historical, artistic and architectural heritage will be a formidable element supporting educational and social actions against all forms of corruption and organized crime.”

They will also seek to promote a political mindset which, in their words, is capable of “enlightening actions towards civil institutions, to ensure that international treaties are effectively enforced and laws are standardized to best pursue the tentacles of crime, which go well beyond state borders.”

To this end, the principals of both the Palermo and Merida Conventions against transnational organized crime and corruption will be studied.

Peace and the relationship between peace processes and various forms of corruption will be another area of study, since corruption “also causes a lack of peace.”

“A movement, an awakening of consciences, is necessary,” the group said. “This is our primary motivation, which we perceive as a moral obligation. Laws are necessary but not sufficient.”

Key areas of focus, then, will be education, culture and citizenship, they said, stressing that “we need to act with courage to stir and provoke consciences, shifting from widespread indifference to the perception of the severity of these phenomena, in order to fight them.”

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