Category: News and Events

Blog author: bwalker
Friday, July 3, 2015
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Naomi Klein

In my lifetime I’ve witnessed some odd pairings – Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga being among the most recent – but none so bizarre as Pope Francis and Naomi Klein. The Pope needs no explanation, but Ms. Klein may leave some readers scratching their heads. The telegenic Canadian activist actually was invited to participate in a stacked-deck of climate-change true-believers at the Vatican.

Organizers of the event, “Planet First: The Imperative to Change Course” – held July 1 and July 2 at Rome’s Augustinianum University – also invited Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Bernd Nilles, secretary general of CISDE – “an international alliance of Catholic development agencies working together for global justice;” Flaminia Giovannelli from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; and Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office. Where was Bill McKibben and Al Gore? (more…)

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Sirico appearing on InfoBae TV in March.

While at Acton University not too long ago, Buenos Aires journalist Adrián Bono sat down with Rev. Robert Sirico to discuss Laudato Si’. Bono recently wrote about his interview with Acton’s president and co-founder at Infobae. “Muchos no saben que la encíclica depende de la hermenéutica,” Sirico argued, “que significa cómo puede interpretada. No es un documento infalible.” Simply put, Laudato Si’ is not a binding document for Catholics, but many don’t understand that. He continues on that thought:

Merece respeto, pero no necesariamente significa que los creyentes deben seguirla. En lo que respecta a sus enseñanzas de la doctrina, los católicos tienen la obligación fiel de seguirla, pero en lo que hace a sus declaraciones empíricas, esas se le dejan a la comunidad científica para que sean debatidas. La ciencia es un proceso abierto de debate y descubrimiento…A veces el Papa es imprudente al hablar de conjeturas científicas y análisis económico.”

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It’s been a busy week for the Acton Institute, with Pope Francis’ Laudeto Si’ arriving in the middle of our biggest conference event of the year, Acton University. As a result, there is a bounty of media for Acton supporters to enjoy this week. Here’s a review, in case you missed anything.

Let’s start off with Acton University: All four evening keynote speeches are available for your viewing pleasure on our YouTube channel. I’ve embedded the address delivered last Wednesday by Gregory Thornbury, president of The King’s College in New York City, in this post; be sure to check out keynotes from Samuel Gregg, Joel Salatin, and Rev. Robert A. Sirico as well. You might also check out this fine piece put together by Experience GR that looks at the Acton University experience.

We’re busy uploading almost 100 lectures from AU 2015 to our digital download store; mp3 versions of all four evening keynote addresses are available for free.

While Acton University was in full swing, Pope Francis released his encyclical letter Laudato Si’, which has created a wave of commentary not only on the state of the global environment, but also on the proper response of Christians and Roman Catholics in particular to the Pope’s assertions in the encyclical.

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The release last week of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si unleashed a heaven-rending chorus of hallelujahs from the religious left. The activist shareholder investors in the choir loft, those affiliated with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, were no exception. No sooner had the ink dried on the paper on which the encyclical’s printed than ICCR members hauled out the hyperbole. For example:

Nora M Nash, OSF: Laudato Sii (Be Praised) will rise up and the cry of Mother Earth will be heard once again from the Amazon Rainforest to the Tiadaghton Forest; from Navidad Bianco Shanty Town in Mexico to Rana Plaza in Bangladesh; from the Great Mississippi to the Three Gorges Dam; from the oil fields of Alaska to mines of the Central African Republic. A new “Canticle of the Sun” will promote dynamic engagement across our fragile global community.

And this hubristic howler:

Zevin Asset Management: Zevin Asset Management is proud to be joined by Pope Francis in our focus on the urgency of climate change. The Papal Encyclical is evidence of the universal nature of the problem and we are hopeful it will inspire universal solutions. We anticipate that it will direct more investors to take up the issue of climate change solutions in their investment decisions.

To which this writer can only respond (sarcastically, of course): “Wow, the Pope is climbing aboard the Zevin bandwagon? Well, it’s about time!” (more…)

postudo-108Francis X. Rocca’s Wall Street Journal article about Laudato Si’ has been translated into Spanish. Featured in Tuesday’s EcoLinks, this piece addresses many topics surrounding the new ecological encyclical, including the pope’s seeming condemnation of capitalism. Rocca quotes Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg who argues that the system the pope condemns is not actually free market capitalism:

El pontífice argentino, el primero en la historia en provenir del hemisferio Sur, escribe sobre la “deuda ecológica” del Norte global con el Sur, aduciendo que “los pueblos en vías de desarrollo, donde se encuentran las más importantes reservas de la biosfera, siguen alimentando el desarrollo de los países más ricos a costa de su presente y de su futuro”.

Las duras palabras de la encíclica desataron una inmediata polémica, anticipando el peso que la postura del Papa puede llegar a tener en el debate sobre cómo responder al cambio climático. Samuel Gregg, un católico que se desempeña como director de investigación del Acton Institute, un centro de estudios ecuménico conservador que promueve el libre mercado, objetó las premisas económicas del Papa, al decir que Francisco tiene “puntos ciegos significativos” sobre la economía de mercado. También dijo que la encíclica “en muchos aspectos es una caricatura de la economía de mercado”.

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pope plantThe most common question surrounding the new encyclical from Pope Francis is some variation of: Why is a Church leader talking about politics, economics, and science? Many argue that this encyclical is merely trying to encourage conversation on how best to be stewards of creation. In the past, papal encyclicals have created controversy, but have helped to further debate and discussion and have informed consciences.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, of the National Review, argues that this encyclical on ecology, “presents a fuller vision of creation and our responsibilities toward it than we’re reliable to see on any given Vanity Fair Caitlyn Jenner cover-story reading day.”Lopez assures that the pope, in this encyclical, is “not concerned with settling some scientific dispute, not does he claim competence to do so.” She reiterates this point but actually quoting the encyclical: “The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.”

However, she does raise issues with some specifics of the encyclical, citing Acton’s Samuel Gregg:
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Acton University 2015 is about to get underway at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and our friend Al Kresta has already taken up residence on the gallery overlook level for his week of Kresta in the Afternoon remote broadcasts. His first guest from Acton University was our own Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, who sat down for a twenty minute discussion of Pope Francis, Laudeto Si, and the compatibility of capitalism with Christianity. The full interview is available via the audio player below.

A draft of Laudato Sii is circulating and causing an uproar. This document seems to align with climate scientists, arguing that “the bulk of global warming is caused by human activity.” However, this draft may not be the final encyclical, Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said that it is merely a “intermediate version” and not the final encyclical.

Whether or not this is the final language and content that will be in the upcoming encyclical on the environment, much of the dialogue starting on Thursday (when the encyclical is officially released) will be on if anything in the draft has been changed and if it has, why. The Washington Post asked Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg to comment:

“If this is indeed not the final text, as the Holy See’s press office is stating, then much of the attention will be on differences between the draft text and the actual encyclical. That will fuel ultimately unprovable speculation on why the things that were changed were altered, thereby potentially distracting from the messages of the final text,” he said.

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Diet Eman_King & Queen of the Netherlands

Diet Eman with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands on June 2nd

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands visited Frederik Meijer Gardens and the Medical Mile in Grand Rapids on June 2, marking the third time in history that Dutch royalty stepped foot in Michigan.

The occasion, which served as an opportunity for Michigan and the Netherlands to express gratitude for their strong economic ties and trade relations, and to continue this cooperation, also proved special in another way.

As part of the day’s festivities, the King and Queen were introduced to Diet Eman, a 95-year old resident of Grand Rapids, and a leading member of the Dutch Resistance in WWII. I had the great honor of accompanying Diet during the day’s events, which included a presentation of a ballet about her life, “It Is Well,” performed by Turning Pointe School of Dance.

At age 95, Diet possesses a unique amount of energy and grace, which is coupled with an equally unique history of courage and sacrifice. As a 20-year old bank teller living in the Netherlands during WWII, she and a group of ordinary Dutch citizens sought to protect Jews during the Nazi’s occupation of the country.

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The Manhattan Institute’s latest Proxy Monitor hit laptops this week, revealing the nature and source of the 2015 proxy resolutions. It seems the corporate “God-flies” at religious shareholder organizations such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility account for 29 percent of all shareholder resolutions submitted to the nation’s top 250 publically traded companies. This percentage is second only to the corporate gadflies – identified by the report’s author, James R. Copland, as “individuals and their family members who repeatedly file common shareholder proposals at multiple companies” – and two percentage points ahead of labor-affiliated investors.

Copland reports the number of shareholder proposals aimed at requiring disclosure of companies’ political spending has decreased, and those proposals that were submitted in 2015 met the same fate as in previous years – defeated by wide majorities:

Whatever the reason for the drop in the number of shareholder proposals related to political spending, support for these proposals remains tepid. No such proposal has received majority shareholder support over board opposition in the ten years covered in the ProxyMonitor.org database.

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