Category: Christian Social Thought

blase cupichA week ago, we reported here the puzzling remarks made by Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich regarding Catholic membership in labor unions. Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, has plenty more to say regarding Cupich, the formation of one’s conscience and membership to unions. In Crisis Magazine, Gregg first tells readers what Cupich recently said when questioned about someone being in the state of sin and receiving Communion:

While recently discussing the question of whether those who have (1) not repented of sin and/or (2) not resolved to go and sin no more may receive communion, Archbishop Cupich stated: “If people come to a decision in good conscience then our job is to help them move forward and to respect that. The conscience is inviolable and we have to respect that when they make decisions, and I’ve always done that.” Referring specifically to people with same-sex attraction, he noted that “my role as a pastor is to help them to discern what the will of God is by looking at the objective moral teaching of the Church and yet, at the same time, helping them through a period of discernment to understand what God is calling them to at that point.”

Gregg refers to this sort of thinking as “subjectivity of truth:” it’s hedging with a smidgen of truth in an attempt to please everyone. Cupich did much the same when speaking about labor unions:

Alongside a defense of religious liberty, most of the Archbishop’s address simply reiterated Catholic social teaching about unions. Perhaps it wasn’t the occasion to say such things, but absent from Archbishop Cupich’s remarks was any reference to the numerous caveats stated by popes—such as those detailed by Blessed Paul VI (who no-one would describe as a gung-ho anti-union capitalist) in his 1971 apostolic letter Octogesima Adveniens (no.14) and Saint John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens (no.20)—concerning the very real limits upon what unions may do. Unfortunately, modern America is awash with examples of what happens when unions (in collusion with business executives who go along to get along) ignore those limits, as broken cities such as Detroit know all too well.


-SPA-SPAGLOBELOGOCalling a political candidate a “socialist” used to be a political slur. In almost every U.S. election over the past hundred years there have been conservatives who have claimed a major political party candidate running for president was—whether they admitted it or not—a socialist. But our latest presidential race includes someone who calls himself a socialist, Bernie Sanders.

Faced with the prospect, albeit unlikely, that an avowed socialist may actually become the Democrat’s nominee for president, many apolitical Christians are asking what they should think of socialism. Is it compatible with Christianity?

For Catholics the answer has been rather straightforward. Since the mid-1800s every pontiff—from Pius IX to Benedict XVI—has forthrightly condemned socialism. But Protestants don’t have a single leader to make that judgment call. Instead, we have to turn to Scripture to determine whether socialism is compatible with biblical principles.

Theologian John Piper attempts to answer the question by considering what the Bible has to say about property and coercion:

and112812blogSince its inception in the 1990s, the payday lending industry has grown at an astonishing pace. Currently, there are about 22,000 payday lending locations—more than two for every Starbucks—that originate an estimated $27 billion in annual loan volume.

Christians and others worried about the poor tend to be very uncomfortable with this industry. While there may be forms of payday lending that are ethical, the concern is that most such lending is predatory, and that the industry takes advantage of the poor and others in financial distress.

So what makes a payday loan a predatory loan? The obvious answer would seem to be “high interest rates.” But interest rates are often tied to credit risk, and so charging high interest rates is not always wrong. Another answer may be that the loans appear to be targeted toward minorities. But research shows that the industry appeals to those with financial problems regardless of race or ethnicity.

What then tips a loan into the predatory column? At a blog hosted by the New York Federal Reserve, Robert DeYoung, Ronald J. Mann, Donald P. Morgan, and Michael R. Strain attempt to answer that question:

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
Monday, September 28, 2015

Spicy-Chicken-Sandwich-Vibrant-1024x768In 1958, Leonard Read published his brilliant essay, “I, Pencil.” Read’s original essay was written from the point of view of the pencil and the humble writing implement explains why it is as much a creation of God as a tree.

Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.

For Christians the idea that God creates trees is uncontroversial since that claim is made directly in Genesis 1:12. But where do we get the idea that God creates pencils? I believe it comes from a few verses later, in Genesis 1:28, when God blesses mankind . . . and then puts us to work.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (ESV)

In the Reformed tradition, this command is often referred to as the “cultural mandate.” As Nancy Pearcey explains in her book Total Truth:

Blog author: dpahman
Thursday, September 24, 2015

Today at the Library of Law and Liberty, I take a cue from probablist Nassim Nicholas Taleb and call for the commemoration of a National Entrepreneurs Day:

One has been proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives, and probabilist Nassim Taleb has given us a fully developed argument as to why we should have one. I second the motion. In Antifragile, his 2012 book, Taleb confesses that he is “an ingrate toward the man whose overconfidence caused him to open a restaurant and fail, enjoying my nice meal while he is probably eating canned tuna.”

This lack of gratitude is a moral failing of all of us in modern society, says Taleb. Hence his idea:

In order to progress, modern society should be treating ruined entrepreneurs in the same way we honor dead soldiers, perhaps not with as much honor, but using the exact same logic. . . . For there is no such thing as a failed soldier, dead or alive (unless he acted in a cowardly manner)—likewise, there is no such thing as a failed entrepreneur or failed scientific researcher.


Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 1, 2015

sky-psalm192The mission of the Acton Institute is to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles. We seek to articulate a vision of society that is both free and virtuous, the end of which is human flourishing.

That phrase—“human flourishing”—has become such a buzzword, though, that it’s in danger of losing any real meaning. As Scott Swain says, “Due to its widespread usage across our culture, its susceptibility to multiple meanings, and its role in theological revision, some Christians have begun to disparage the language of human flourishing. I think this is the wrong tactic to take.”

The church has a stake in human flourishing, says Swain. Rather than discard the term, we should rescue and restore the concept:

The challenge for the church is therefore to define and promote human flourishing (which we might otherwise describe as human well-being, human happiness) in accordance with biblical teaching, to present and commend its alternative approach to human flourishing in the face of competing cultural visions, and to embody human flourishing in the presence of God amid a culture of death and destruction. Christian theology has a role to play in assisting the church to meet this challenge.

Christian theology has a lot to say about human flourishing. Following the instruction of Holy Scripture, Christian theology instructs us about human flourishing by instructing us about human nature and about human nature’s relationship to law and gospel.

Swain argues that “we may appreciate the true character of human flourishing by looking at Psalm 19.”