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  • 109. Bribery and Corruption

Bribery and Corruption

  • Category(s): Moral Essays
  • Created on : 14 January 2014
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  • Author: Richard Michael Lamb


The true meaning of corruption seen through the eyes of a Roman Catholic layman and former lawyer of 38 years to exemplify the religious aspect.

1. Meanings

Bribe - “To give something to a person to receive services or gain influence”.

Corrupt - “Bribery or dishonest practice – corrupting morally or sexually – process of rotting or decaying – unintentional alteration in text”.

In the criminal sense a bribe is the giving of an inducement for a favour – a very wide meaning under the Bribery Act. I am concerned with the general moral meanings of these two words: and the legal definitions.

2. Morality

Bribe – Clearly society cannot function without the exchange of gifts and the process of giving and receiving. This process is exemplified in the three wise men and their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh to the Christ Child. They asked for nothing in return and simply basked in the knowledge of having seen Christ the Child with their own eyes. Thus the pure gift is acceptable whilst the attempt to steal a march or gain an advantage by a gift is not.

What turns the gift into bribery? Simply the gaining of services or influence thereby. This is difficult as we may wish to reward persons for past services and service to come: a common position with gallantry and honour. The implicit meaning is “keep it up”. No one lives “on bread alone” and we all appreciate appreciation. Those persons we reward properly work with us and thus the culture of the “gift” and honour and bonus fits in well with the ambience of our enterprises. It is very difficult to draw the line between the purity of the gift, reward and the honour on one hand and the inducement to gain an advantage on the other. Only God knows our hearts and minds.

3. The Public Realm

This is where the problem arises. “A little knowledge” is your own worst enemy and makes a bad lawyer i.e. a barrack room lawyer. Because the process of reward I have described is often private and confidential persons can get the wrong idea. There will be those who blatantly offer bribes e.g. Poulson regarding local Government officers and that bribery was on a large scale. Of course we cannot enter in to the minds of each person as Donor and the Donee. Thus misinterpretation may slip in and the innocent process may be corrupted in the minds of those who are told of the procedure enacted.

“Corrupt” means “bribery or dishonest practice” and thus the hearer or reader essentially may become “bribed and corrupted” by what they hear and read as they permit this knowledge to become “corrupt” within their hearts and minds. This takes us back to the Garden of Eden when Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and offered it to Adam. Thus they were both “corrupted”. Symbolic but an accurate portrayal of the process whereby we “corrupt” our hearts by believing the worst of people. In the modern age corruption is widely attributed to the transactions that cannot be scrutinised or examined and should not be so tested as not within our reach. Thus certain persons usually in leadership abroad and often deceased are lampooned to bring them down with the consequence the public have a low opinion of them quite wrongly.

4. The proof of Corruption

This is always a difficult thing to prove unless on the scale of Poulson and Dan Smith in the North East of England. The trouble is the opinion formers claim to “know” better than anyone else. This is mistaken as proof according to the criminal standard or civil standard may be unattainable particularly abroad. The defamation law is a heavy sledgehammer that many cannot wield or resist. England and Wales is not a corrupt country, even though “corruption” may exist in the hearts and minds of individuals within that Jurisdiction.

5. Corruption – Wider Meaning

This has many meanings and the final outcome is the corruption of our own bodies on death. We all go to dust make no doubt and we will achieve nothing without dust. This bodily corruption on death is a sign of our fallibility in life. In other words we judge others yet do not truly know them or understand them. However we may have insights into their thinking. Our corruption is to condemn them. Our weakness is to shrink from the mantle of leadership and true sincerity which shows up all sinfulness and backsliding. This shrinking is also corruption in our souls: Iron which enters the soul.

6. Conclusion

The concept of incorruptibility is at the heart of Christianity. Christ ascended to Heaven and His Mother was assumed into Heaven. Neither body suffered corruption on earth not even the Virgin Mary. Thus Mother and Son entered this world for our sake and left it unstained by Sin. Simply not possible for us. By our sin of thinking evil of others and failing to pick up the gauntlet of the Cross we compound our bodily corruption. What is the message of the Glorious Assumption of the Virgin Mary? She did lie in her grave for a few days but then was taken up to Heaven uncorrupted. There is no legal or evidential proof of this doctrine but the Roman Catholic Church has believed it since time immemorial.

The classic reverse of our modern society where people think the worst of others i.e. they are morally corrupt. The Virgin Mary and God Almighty quashed all rumours about Mary being bodily subject to corruption. Pope Pius XII in pronouncing the dogma of the Glorious Assumption in the 1950’s essentially upheld the power of humility and meekness in Mary and thereby in each of us. Pius XII also distilled Mary’s charism of charity whereby she supports everyone be they overtly corrupt or covertly so. She also stands with those who are misunderstood and suffer “condemnation pour le Christ”. Ave Maria! Ave Maria!