Category: Acton Commentary

acton-commentary-blogimage“Whenever government assumes a greater role in a societal or cultural debate, expect both intended and unintended consequences,” says Zack Pruitt in this week’s Acton Commentary. “The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment will generate huge conflicts – in some cases unforeseen – with the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.”

Until this constitutional showdown is ultimately decided, the campaign on the part of some same-sex marriage advocates to vigorously go after religious people and institutions that do not actively support same-sex marriage will intensify. In their orthodox versions, none of the teachings of the three major faiths in the United States (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) condone same-sex marriage, so there will be a myriad of legal challenges in lower courts against those institutions once same-sex couples are inevitably denied marriage vows by them.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimage“With the Greek welfare state on the skids, the Church has stepped up,” says Dylan Pahman in this week’s Acton Commentary. Many Orthodox parishes have ministries to help those hit by the economic crisis, still struggling six years later.

With negotiations between Greece and its “troika” creditors dragging out like a soap opera with no ending, the economic indicators aren’t providing much cause for optimism. According to Standard & Poor, as of 2014 Greece’s GDP has shrunk to 75% what it was in 2009. The country’s current debt-to-GDP ratio, The Economist reports, “after two bail-outs stands at 180% of GDP.”

Dimosthenis Kouskoukis, a Ph.D. candidate researching the finances of the Orthodox Church in Greece, the established church in this nation, estimated that the number of people fed daily by parish soup kitchens and other ministries has increased from approximately 6,000 in 2009 to 16,000 as of 2014.

In Thessaloniki, the St. George parish has become not only a soup kitchen, but a job service and all around private aid society.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

acton-commentary-blogimageThe release of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical raises questions about who has been advising him on global warming, says Catherine Snow in this week’s Acton Commentary, especially since some of the advisers are decidedly on the wrong side of Catholic teaching.

Let’s begin with economist Jeffrey Sachs, a prominent supporter of abortion and population control, who was invited to speak at a conference on climate change at the Vatican. And does it bother anyone else, for instance, that Pope Francis – or the curial officials advising him – have chosen as his only lay advisor on the subject of climate change Hans Joachim Schellnhuber? And exactly why is the Vatican itching to tackle climate change in the first place?

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

acton-commentary-blogimage“New York Times writer David Brooks’ new book, On the Road to Character, examines what it takes to create a virtuous life,” says Elise Hilton in this week’s Acton Commentary. “The author’s central question: Does a person of character focus solely on building on one’s strengths or does he confront and improve his weaknesses?”

It is an interesting topic for a man who makes his living writing pithy, sometimes political, columns in a very secular newspaper. While Brooks is Jewish, a Christian will be comfortable with his language and motifs. And in the end, the book is not simply about character, but about sin, grace and salvation.

This is not an interpretation. Brooks himself reflects, “I wrote it to be honest, to save my own soul.” While the beginning of the book speaks to professional achievement and what it takes to make it in one’s field of endeavor, the book’s secondary themes of joy, love, and redemption make this more than a self-help book or guide to success. In fact, it reads as a decidedly religious work.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

acton-commentary-blogimage“’Sustainability’ has become big business, especially at universities,” says Kishore Jayabalan in this week’s Acton Commentary. “If there ever was an elitist/populist wedge issue, this is it, with Pope Francis and the Holy See on the wrong side of it.”

So what exactly is meant by “sustainability”? The term originates in 1987 with the World Commission on Environment and Development’s report entitled Our Common Future: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sounds reasonable enough, but the concept is so broad as to be meaningless. The 2002 UN Summit on Sustainable Development, which I attended as a delegate of the Holy See, came ten years after the Rio Earth Summit and sought to balance social, economic and environmental concerns. The concept today seems to be about fighting poverty while tackling climate change (as in a “new climate economy”). Once again, who can be against it? And what are we supposed to do about it?

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Oceans of ink have already been spilled in the media coverage of Pope Francis’ new encyclical on the environment — and it hasn’t even been released yet. In this reflection, Rev. Robert A. Sirico draws on Catholic social teaching to provide a helpful framework for understanding environmental stewardship. While we wait to find out what’s actually in the new encyclical, expected to be published in June, Acton’s president and co-founder sees a consistent thread of thinking on environmental stewardship that draws on Scripture, core Church teachings and the work of predecessors Benedict XVI and John Paul II. Rev. Sirico’s video commentary is below.

Patriarch Bartholomew

Patriarch Bartholomew

“Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his statement for the 2015 World Water Day makes a number of assertions that, while inspired by morally good ideals, are morally and practically problematic,” says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary. “Chief among them is his assertion ‘that environmental resources are God’s gift to the world’ and so ‘cannot be either considered or exploited as private property.’”

While certainly not absolute, the Orthodox Christian moral tradition doesn’t reject the notion of private property. In fact, property is valued “as a socially recognized form of people’s relation to the fruits of labour and to natural resources.” Included here are the “basic powers of an owner,” such as “the right to own and use property, the right to control and collect income, the right to dispose of, lease, modify or liquidate property” (The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, VII.1).

On a practical level, Bartholomew’s concern for “sustainability” reflects what George Will calls an idea whose “premises are more assumed than demonstrated” and which “as a doctrine of total social explanation, transforms all ills and grievances into environmental causes, cloaked in convenient science.” When embodied in public policy, sustainability empowers “government planners and rationers to fend off planetary calamity while administering equity” allowing them “to supplant markets in allocating wealth and opportunity.”

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimage“Indifference to the moral dimension distorts the study of human action in economics,” says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary, “so too does it deform the discipline that reaches behind that action to the human mind: psychology.”

Built on a sound anthropological foundation and guided by an equally sound morality that is clear on the proper goals of human life, the empirical findings and practical techniques of psychology can foster the flourishing of both persons and communities. Unfortunately, as Theodore Dalrymple argues in his most recent book Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality, contemporary psychology has long been not only hostile to traditional morality but also indifferent to and dismissive of the larger context of Western culture within which it arose. As a result contemporary psychology, according to Dalrymple, “is not a key to self-understanding but a cultural barrier to such understanding as we can achieve.”

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

acton-commentary-blogimage“For too many of the poor in today’s America, life is essentially that of a client,” says Elise Hilton in this week’s Acton Commentary. “The government cares for their needs: housing, food, education. Spending one’s life as client creates an entitlement mentality: ‘I am here to receive. I am owed something. I depend on others for my needs and desires.’”

A place is where people are invested. They create homes, send their kids to school and dance lessons, own businesses, shop locally, plant gardens and cooperate in community enrichment. When one belongs in a place, one becomes a citizen.

With the ruins of Baltimore fresh in our minds, one is left to wonder how people of that place could torch businesses and destroy their home. The answer, I believe, lies in the difference between being a citizen, and being a client.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimage“Three recent events have made me reflect on a certain theme that should be of interest to religious-minded advocates of the free society,” says Kishore Jayabalan in this week’s Acton Commentary.

The three events were: 1) an interview I gave to an Italian online publication in response to a French professor who claims that capitalism is the root cause of gender theory and other cultural and social revolutions associated with liberalism; 2) a talk given by a German professor on “liberalism as an attitude” at the European Students for Liberty conference in Berlin last month; and 3) the controversy caused by the upcoming papal encyclical on human ecology.

Now, I realize that the term “liberal” can mean many things, but let’s assume that it describes those who, when considering political, social and economic questions, give greater priority to individual freedom than to other goods such as equality, tradition or order. Liberty need not be the only consideration, but it tends to be the dominant one. There are right-wing, moderate and left-wing liberals who disagree on different issues and may prefer another good in a particular instance but none of them question the good of liberty as such.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.