Category: Acton Commentary

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
By

acton-commentary-blogimage“The world is not a parsimonious place, in spite of the dogmas of the ecologists,” says James V. Schall in this week’s Acton Commentary.

Our most unsettling economic problems are actually not economic but moral—moral ones that cannot be simply passed on from generation to generation. They need to be chosen and internalized by each person in each generation at the risk of deflecting material goods from their proper purposes.

Work likewise is not exclusively for its own sake. Rather work, while being an expression of human dignity and concrete accomplishment, aims at a product, aims at the material wellbeing in which something more than work can happen. The basis of culture, as Josef Pieper wrote in a famous thesis, is not only work but also leisure that lies beyond work. We work in order to have leisure, not the other way around.

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

On September 8-10 we’ll be having a free ebook giveaway of Schall’s latest book. More information on the giveaway will be coming soon, so check back here on the PowerBlog to learn more.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
By

acton-commentary-blogimage“Pope Francis is famous for his strident denunciations of a “throwaway culture” that ruthlessly discards human beings not considered useful in an economy that ‘kills’,” says Kishore Jayabalan in this week’s Acton Commentary. But has the pope accurately identified the real cause of the problem?

My concerns were only heightened by the secret videos of Planned Parenthood officials blithely discussing buying and selling the body parts of aborted babies. Part of me is nervously awaiting the pope to denounce capitalism for this social evil as well. In fact, there are U.S. federal laws prohibiting profit-making in this type of commerce and Planned Parenthood itself denies making any money from it. (Even abortionists recognize the evil of profits!) But another part of me questions whether it’s the quest for profits that drives the abortion industry to not only perform but brazenly justify its barbaric practices.

Let me restate the problem this way: Assuming Planned Parenthood is telling the truth that it makes no profit in the buying and selling of fetal body parts, would that make the “crushing” and “crunching” of babies acceptable? Would it be ok to abort babies out of “humanitarian” or “compassionate” rather than “self-interested” motives? Are government-subsidized abortions somehow less gruesome than private-sector ones?

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 Orthodox Church in Russia has proposed a banking model that corrects what it sees as the most serious of that global banking industry’s moral failings, says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary. However the system the Church purposes is unlikely to foster economic growth. It also overlooks the convergence of the free market with key elements of the Orthodox moral tradition.

Banks require varying amounts of collateral from and charge different interest rates to different customers. Yes, the bank does this to protect its own profitability.  For the Orthodox moral tradition there is nothing necessarily immoral in the pursuit of profit. More importantly for our concern here, however, profit is not the bank’s only concern.

Treating potential customers differently also reflects the bank’s moral responsibility to determine and safeguard the unique circumstances of the person and so the ability of the borrower to repay the loan. This isn’t morally wrong. While it may seem unfair, when we look at the situation more carefully we see that it reflects the very financial personalism that Surmilo says is at the heart of the Russian model.

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, August 5, 2015
By

acton-commentary-blogimageFor centuries influential thinkers have claimed that economic growth will be caused by vice and distribution by greed. “Clearly, the connection between vice and growth needs to be addressed, says James V. Schall in this week’s Acton Commentary. “Is there a case for virtue and growth?”

Long-range economic growth does not deny that wars and rumors of war will happen, though it does doubt that economics is their main cause. Nor does it doubt that many individuals, by accident or by their own choices, will fall by the wayside and need help. The need for something beyond justice always remains. The fact is, however, that the world has seen sustained growth of wealth and population for four centuries. This growth suggests that the problems of historic poverty can be and are being solved gradually as we apply the proper means to them.

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“Public money is used for a multitude of things that many Americans find objectionable,” says Zack Pruitt in this week’s Acton Commentary. “When standards for congressional spending become virtually obsolete, the financial door swings wide-open for potential abuse.”

Planned Parenthood receives over $500 million each year from American taxpayers, which comprises over 40 percent of its budget. It was recently shown on video ostensibly seeking to profit from the sale of aborted baby parts (as opposed to being reimbursed for tissue donation), perhaps in violation of federal law. Make no mistake, the big picture story here is not congressional overspending; it is the Senior Director of Medical Services at Planned Parenthood graphically describing her efforts to “not crush” vital organs when performing abortions in an effort to preserve them and recoup “between $30 and $100 per specimen.” In another video, the President of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Directors Council indicates a profit-motive for aborted parts by negotiating for higher prices and haggling over the cost of “intact tissue.” When a system allows for unfettered spending, taxpayers can wind up paying not only for unnecessary services, but ones that straddle the line between genocide and the commercialization of human body parts.

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

acton-commentary-blogimageDuring his encounter with President Morales of Bolivia last week, Pope Francis was given a “communist cross.” In this week’s Acton Commentary Jorge Velarde Rosso explains why the gift was not so harmless.

Of course Morales had an agenda with that gift. It wasn’t an innocent gesture. Designed by the same Jesuit priest who had been honored by Francis a few minutes earlier, the pope’s “that is not OK” represented a correction to Morales. The fact, however, that Morales gave Francis this cross — it is unthinkable that anyone would have given John Paul II or Benedict XVI a cross in the shape of a symbol of death and oppression for millions, including the millions of Catholics who have suffered at the hands of Marxist regimes and movements — underscores that Morales didn’t think Francis would be offended. Indeed, only a few minutes later Pope Francis expressed his support for the work of Morales’ regime.

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“Massive government and public-sector expansion combined with runaway deficit spending on increased welfare and pension programs has, in part, led to Greece’s economic downfall,” says Zack Pruitt in this week’s Acton Commentary. Could America be heading down the same path?

While America does not have the same problems collectively as Greece, similar pension debt vulnerabilities are arising across the country. Unfunded state public pension liabilities (the shortfall between promises made to retirees and workers and the funds currently available to pay for them) total an estimated $4.7 trillion nationwide. The City of Chicago alone has unfunded pension liabilities of $26.8 billion. The U.S. trend toward government reliance, despite its harm and lack of sustainability, is clear. Politicians routinely promise greater benefits without a concurrent plan to pay for them, preferring to pass the cost to the next generation. This starts a perpetual loop of politically expedient benefit increases without proper budget adjustments, creating substantial debt. Future generations will be held responsible for this immoral cycle which undermines both liberty and prosperity.

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

Would the denominational leadership of the Christian Reformed Church (CRCNA) rather talk about climate change than abortion or marriage?

The CRCNA has a website for that.

The CRCNA has a website for that.

Based on the launch of a denominational “Climate Change Witness Project,” which I explore at Acton Commentary today, I think this is a legitimate question. The Office of Social Justice, which is leading the project, has previously been criticized by synod for its lack of attention to life issues. A quick scan of the quarterly ministry reports since 2010 reveals no mention of abortion in the OSJ’s updates. (The CRC has yet to launch a “Life Issues Witness Project.”)

Likewise, the current executive director of the CRC, Dr. Steven Timmermans, issued a rather milquetoast statement regarding the recent SCOTUS marriage decision, while he could hardly wait to “celebrate” the papal enyclical Laudato si’ on behalf of the entire CRC.

Of course, the CRC has a website for the issues of abortion and marriage, so perhaps the CRC doesn’t need leadership on them like it apparently does for climate change. Which prompts a follow up question: if the CRC has a website, is there a need for a denominational headquarters?

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
By

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.