vatican-bankLate last year Pope Francis ordered the first ever external audit of Vatican accounts. After a series of embarrassing leaks and scandals, the pontiff promised to make the Vatican’s finances more transparent. But recently it was announced that audit was “suspended immediately.”

In the Detroit News, the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, considers what this portends for the Vatican’s financial reform:

I arrived in Rome to participate in a conference on Catholic social thought one day after Sen. Bernie Sanders departed after a similar engagement. The Democratic presidential candidate’s finger-wagging at Wall Street and his proposed financial industry reforms came to mind as the news broke that the much-touted audit of Vatican finances had been “suspended.”

The news created some buzz at the conference in no small part because Cardinal Pell was in attendance. Speculation ensued that the announcement from the Secretary of State’s office indicated an internal power struggle and that Pell was on his way out.

But the rumors of Pell’s demise were, as they say, highly exaggerated.

Read more . . .

LessiusCover-01In his famous work, History of Economic Analysis, economist Joseph A. Schumpeter gives a favorable nod to the works of Leonardus Lessius (1554–1623), sparking a fair amount of interest in the 16th-century Jesuit moral theologian.

CLP Academic has now published On Sale, Securities, and Insurance, a selection from Lessius’ most influential contribution to early modern economics, ethics, and law. The book offers the first full English translation of key sections of the second book (On Justice) of Lessius’ treatise On Justice and Right (De iustitia et iure), specifically chapters 21 (On Sale-purchase) and 28 (On Suretyship, Insurance, Pledge, and Mortgage).

Based at the Jesuit College in Louvain, Lessius earned the reputation as “Oracle of the Netherlands” for the advice and analysis he offered to local merchants, jurists, and political rulers regarding matters of conscience, duty, and justice.

As translator Wim Decock writes in the introduction: “Though dwelling on the virtues of prudence, fortitude, and temperance too, the better part of the treatise includes a systematic treatment of the virtue of justice and, particularly, of property, torts, and contract law.” (more…)

In an era where socialism is (inexplicably) once again in vogue, we should ask, “What would life be like in a world without capitalism?”

The Fund for American Studies has produced a superb It’s a Wonderful Life-style video that not only shows what life would be like if we banned free enterprise (i.e., a lot like Soviet Russia) but also makes the point that when you lose economic freedom you lose other freedoms too. As the angel says, “When you take away the carrot, all you’re left with is the stick.

My favorite part of the video:

Anti-capitalist activist: “I just wanted to get rid of the greed. I didn’t want to get rid of my microwave, my air-conditioner. . . ”

Angel: “Your Xbox.”

Activist: “My Xbox is gone?”

Angel: “Yeah, well, in this world that greedy Bill Gates work in a bowling ball factory in Akron. Lose-win, right?”

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
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Supreme Court rejects challenge to Seattle minimum wage law
Daniel Wiessner, Reuters

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge by business groups to a trendsetting Seattle law that will raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, leaving in place a lower court’s decision to uphold the statute.

Is religious liberty an American foreign policy priority?
Travis Wussow, ERLC

While the designation of countries of particular concern this year was an important step, the United States can be doing more. Promoting and protecting international religious freedom must be a key priority within American foreign policy.

Illinois school settles separation of church and state case
Alan Scher Zagier , Associated Press

An Illinois public school that requires students who ride the bus to arrive early for optional religious instruction at a Roman Catholic parish has agreed to discontinue the practice in response to a legal challenge.

The Road To Serfdom, In Cartoons
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge

For everyone (and on this site we hope this is everyone) who has read Hayek’s Road to Serfdom before, feel free to “reread” it for the cartoons. For everyone else: read it now.

Angel of Mercy and Lady JusticeIn a new essay for the Catholic World Report, Samuel Gregg discusses why it’s dangerous to to overemphasize any one facet of Christian teaching at the expense of a different teaching. No matter what is overemphasized, this will distort the Gospel. The focus of this essay is “mercy” and how mercy leads “to the ultimate source of justice–the God who is love–and thus prevents justice from collapsing into something quite anti-human.”

Gregg describes the three ways mercy can be distorted: as sentimentalism, as injustice, and as mediocrity. When describing mercy as injustice, Gregg warns that “it quickly undermines any coherent conception of justice.”

Back in 1980, John Paul warned in Dives in Misericordia that “In no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence towards evil, towards scandals, towards injury or insult. In any case, reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness” (DM 14). If that sounds tough-minded, that’s because it is. Remember, however, that the Jesus Christ who embodies mercy isn’t the equivalent of a divine stuffed animal. Whenever the Scriptures portray Christ offering mercy to sinners, his forgiveness is always laced with a gentle but clear reminder of the moral law and the expectation that the sinful acts will be discontinued.

(more…)

USCIRF-2016“By any measure, religious freedom abroad has been under serious and sustained assault since the release of our commission’s last Annual Report in 2015,” says the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). “From the plight of new and longstanding prisoners of conscience, to the dramatic rise in the numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, to the continued acts of bigotry against Jews and Muslims in Europe, and to the other abuses detailed in this report, there was no shortage of attendant suffering worldwide.”

In the USIRF’s 2016 report, which the State Department released earlier today, the commission notes that the incarceration of prisoners of conscience “remains astonishingly widespread, occurring in country after country, and underscores the impact of the laws and policies that led to their imprisonment.”

The report highlights numerous examples of state-sponsored persecution of Christians, such as that occurring in the East African country of Eritrea:
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, May 2, 2016
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You Are $13,000 Poorer Because of Federal Regulations
Ronald Bailey, Reason.com

New study quantifies the damage to economic growth that the accumulation of regulations causes.

Frugality is Hard to Afford
A. Yesim Orhun and Mike Palazzolo, Social Science Research Network

We find that the financial losses low income households incur due to underutilization of these strategies can be as large as half of the savings they accrue by purchasing cheaper brands.

US Commission on Civil Rights Fails to Understand Religious Liberty Laws
Jane Clark Scharl, The Daily Signal

A nine-page dissent released by two members of the eight-member commission defended both the commonsense nature of the religious freedom legislation attacked by the majority and the motives of those advocating for such laws.

Are We Going in Circles Concerning Freedom and Economic Growth?
James Clark, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Economic freedom and flourishing may be correlated, but this does not tell us whether there is a direct causal relationship between them.