Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg, writing for The American Spectator, looks at the telltale signs of a great civilization in decline.

Many of us think of civilizational failure in terms of a society’s inability to withstand sudden external encounters. The sun-worshiping human-sacrificing slave-owning Aztec world, for instance, quickly crumbled before Hernán Cortés, a handful of Spanish conquistadors, and his native allies, and, perhaps above all, European-borne diseases. Given enough violence, superior technology, and the will to use it, an entire culture can be seriously destabilized, if not swept aside. Yet ever since Edward Gibbon’s multi-volume Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, it’s been impossible to downplay the role of internal vicissitudes in facilitating civilizational degeneration.

More than one person, I suspect, has been wondering lately about this issue of civilizational decline with regard to the West. Whether it’s Planned Parenthood’s diabolical activities, America’s de facto capitulation to Iran, Western governments’ failure to eradicate the cancer that is ISIS, or the same governments’ general unwillingness to overhaul their dysfunctional welfare systems, it’s harder and harder to deny that something deeper is seriously awry.

Read “Fear and Loathing Stalk the West” in The American Spectator by Samuel Gregg.

Blog author: bwalker
Friday, October 2, 2015

At Boston College, Turkson maps ‘Laudato Si’’ path to Paris climate agreement
Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter

If Laudato Si’ offered a light on the path to a Paris climate agreement, the U.S. ought to be the one carrying the lantern, said the pope’s chief encyclical envoy Monday at Boston College.

Why a Popular Pope Is Willing to Be Unpopular
John Izzo, Huffington Post Canada

What most Americans and Canadians really should do is read the Pope’s encyclical. Rather than a political tirade, what they would discover is a thoughtful, measured and powerful homily on the dysfunctional and unsustainable relationship human beings have with the very planet that gave us life. From loss of biodiversity to the dire state of the oceans, the gross inequality that permeates the planet and yes, climate change, he calls us to consider the place we play in the creation whether or not we believe it be God created or a cosmic shot of good luck.

Levin: Pope Francis and Obama ‘Speak Down To Us’
Dispatch Times

“Despite Pope Francis’ progressive stance on climate change and economic equity, he has taken a back seat when it comes to reproductive health and women’s rights”, said Alexander Sanger, board member of the worldwide Planned Parenthood Federation for the Western Hemisphere Region, in a statement Friday. Timing, as they say, is everything.


UnemploymentSeries Note: Jobs are one of the most important aspects of a morally functioning economy. They help us serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and for communities. Conversely, not having a job can adversely affect spiritual and psychological well-being of individuals and families. Because unemployment is a spiritual problem, Christians in America need to understand and be aware of the monthly data on employment. Each month highlight the latest numbers we need to know (see also: What Christians Should Know About Unemployment).

Positive news is marked with the plus sign (+) while negative employment data is marked with a minus sign (-). No significant change is marked by (NC).

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, October 2, 2015

It’s sleazy, it’s totally illegal, and yet it could become the future of retirement
Jeff Guo, Washington Post

Over 100 years ago in America — before Social Security, before IRAs, corporate pensions and 401(k)s — there was a ludicrously popular (and somewhat sleazy) retirement scheme called the tontine.

World Bank rethinks poverty measure
Noel King, Marketplace

The United Nations General Assembly meets in New York City this week, and poverty is high on the agenda. Eradicating extreme poverty by the year 2030 is No. 1 on the U.N. list of sustainable development goals. The World Bank, which sets the benchmark for the global extreme poverty line, is expected to shift the line soon from $1.25 a day to $1.90 a day.

Evangelicals Going to the Dogs — and Cats — With Major Statement on Animal Welfare
David Briggs, Huffington Post

First, Pope Francis issued a major encyclical in June stating any act of cruelty toward any creature “is contrary to human dignity.” Now, evangelicals are turning their attention to all creatures great and small.

How important is inequality to voters?
Karlyn Bowman and Heather Sims, AEI Ideas

What are Americans saying about the issue that Mayor de Blasio and the candidates should know? Do people think the deck is stacked against them? Do they believe inequality is getting worse? How important will the issue be in 2016?

bigcompanyIn their latest report, the World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. economy as the world’s third most competitive, behind only Switzerland and Singapore. But as James Pethokoukis notes, what this really means is that the “US is the most competitive large economy.”

Too often we forget just how “large” the U.S. economy really is—and why it matters. We prefer to compare things that are semantically similar, so we lump the U.S., Switzerland, and Singapore under the category of “countries.”

But the U.S. economy is so big we could, for economic comparisons, consider it a collection of city-states. That makes more sense since the GDP of Switzerland (85 billion) is comparable to the GDP of the Hartford, Connecticut metropolitan area (also 85 billion), and the GDP of Singapore ($308 billion) is comparable to the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington area ($301 billion).

Indeed, as this chart produced by AEI shows, the GDP of U.S. metro areas is comparable to entire countries.

Blog author: bwalker
Thursday, October 1, 2015

“God, or Nothing!”: Exclusive Interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah
Diane Montagna, Aleteia

If the Pope speaks about the economy or politics, it is not his field of expertise. He can offer his vision or opinion, but it’s not dogma. He can err. But what he says about Christ, about the Sacraments, about the faith must be considered as sure. If he speaks about the environment, the climate, the economy, immigrants, etc., he is working from information that may be correct, or mistaken, but [in these cases] he is speaking as Obama speaks, or another president. It doesn’t mean that what he says on the economy is dogma, something we need to follow. It’s an opinion.

Catholic school’s dilemma: Pope Francis vs oil dollars
Hailey Lee, CNBC

As Pope Francis advances his call to action against climate change and dependence on fossil fuels, some in the flock are faced with a dilemma. Many U.S. Catholic churches and institutions lease land out to oil and gas companies—and make good money doing it. County documents reveal that dioceses in Texas and Oklahoma have signed 235 leases in oil and gas since 2010, according to Reuters. The pope made a formal call to action in June, saying, “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”

For Heaven’s Sake
Roseann Hernandez, GoodTimes

The transformative power of the pope’s words has begun sinking in around Santa Cruz County, with the announcement that the Progressive Christian Forum will hold an event on Thursday, Oct. 1 to discuss the pope’s words and the message behind them.


creation of adam smallWhile the 2015 papal visit to the United States has wrapped up, the Acton Institute continues to add fresh content to our webpage dedicated to the pope, the environment, the global economy and other issues of note.

Currently, the page features a Fox News video with Acton co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico, discussing the pope’s first U.S. trip, and his speeches and remarks during that visit. In addition, the page highlights Acton expert news analysis, including recent remarks by Samuel Gregg, Acton’s director of research, in the National Catholic Register, and Rev. Sirico’s commentary during the papal visit to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Further, the webpage includes an “Environmental Stewardship In-depth” section. This section currently contains more than three dozen scholarly resources, including material from Jewish, Catholic and Orthodox scholars and a section-by-section guide to the papal encyclical, Laudato Si’.

As we continue to cover these issues, this webpage will be updated; we hope it will be a rich resource of reasoned thought and informative material.


Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, October 1, 2015

The public value of religious faith
Mark DeForrest, The New Reform Club

In the midst of the “new atheist” attack on the value of religion as a public good, British philosopher Roger Scruton took part in a discussion regarding that topic over at the UK Independent online: Scruton defended religion as a force for good in society.

Cards Against Humanitarians
Ilya Lozovsky, Foreign Policy

How a satirical card game is skewering the international development industry — and raising uncomfortable critiques of the global development agenda.

Victims of China’s Religious Liberty ‘Crackdown’ Appeal to Obama. But Will He Help?
Madaline Donnelly, The Daily Signal

Earlier this week, as devout American Catholics took to the streets of Washington to celebrate the arrival of Pope Francis, four Chinese human rights activists sat in a small, plain congressional office room on Capitol Hill.

A Place for the Stateless: Can a Startup City Solve the Refugee Crisis?
Mark Lutter, Foundation for Economic Education

Can refugees (and billionaire investors) build their own state?

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

acton-commentary-blogimageIt may be too early to tell, says Kishore Jayabalan in this week’s Acton Commentary, but has Francis has learned something about economics from his American critics?

Can we dare to say that Francis has learned something about economics from his American critics? Maybe so. Compare what he said in Latin America about the “idolatry of money” and the “dung of the devil” to his speech in Congress about the “creation and distribution of wealth” and the “spirit of enterprise.” On his return flight from Paraguay, the pope had said he needed to study the American criticisms of his economic statements and admitted he was “allergic to economics.” He knows that we live in an individualistic age but shouldn’t be nostalgic or romantic about the past. Whatever happened in the pope’s thinking about economics, it was a step in the right direction.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here. , but has Francis has learned something about economics from his American critics?

Blog author: bwalker
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Energy Election
Joel Kotkin, Real Clear Politics

Blessed by Pope Francis, the drive to wipe out fossil fuels, notes activist Bill McKibben, now has “the wind in its sails.” Setting aside the bizarre alliance of the Roman Catholic Church with secularists such as McKibben, who favor severe limits of family size as an environmental imperative, this is a potentially transformational moment.

Vatican newspaper: analysis of recent Muslim statement on climate change
Catholic World News

Father Damian Howard, an English Jesuit, compares the declaration with Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ and writes that the declaration’s statement that “our planet has existed for billions of years” is noteworthy because this view is not universally accepted among Muslims.

On Climate Change, Listen to Pope Francis, Not Jeb Bush
John Nichols, The Nation

Before he chose to pursue the priesthood, the future pope trained as a chemical technician. Writers for the National Catholic Reporter reference “his training as a scientist” and point out that the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio “worked as a chemist prior to entering the seminary.”