Category: News and Events

Blog author: dpahman
Monday, November 23, 2015

“Mockingjay — Part 2,” the last film based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling Hunger Games trilogy, opened this past weekend to high sales that, nevertheless, fell short of the other films in the series and industry expectations. In addition, with a thematically confused ending, the story itself doesn’t live up to the quality of previous installments.

Regarding sales, Brent Lang reported for Variety,

The final film in the “Hunger Games” series debuted to numbers that few pictures in history have ever enjoyed, but not everyone seems impressed.

Indeed, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” is a victim of the franchise’s success. The film’s $101 million bow ranks as the lowest of the four installments and is off 17% from the previous film in the series. Globally, the picture also struggled to attract as big crowds. The $247 million it made worldwide fell short of the roughly $300 million that many analysts expected the picture would generate.

Lang offers an interesting bit of speculation for what the “problem” may have been with this second “Mockingjay”:

Compounding issues, “Mockingjay — Part 2” ends on a relatively downbeat note. Although a series built around children fighting to the death always had dark undercurrents, the film ended with political maneuvering and betrayals that prevented it from concluding on a triumphal note. Moreover, some of the novelty of the concept had worn off by the fourth and final installment.

I’m not sure that it would have improved ticket sales, but I actually think the problem was the source material. Specifically, I don’t think the ending was downbeat enough, because Collins tried to have it both ways between tragedy and victory. Let me explain. (Spoiler alert!) (more…)

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have again brought to the forefront discussions about problems of culture faced by both Europe and the United States. The attacks have complicated western responses to the Syrian refugee crisis, with concerns about the stated intentions of groups like ISIS to smuggle operatives into western nations among the legitimate refugees in order to carry out terror operations. And of course, the questions of the compatibility of Islam with western political and economic values, as well as questions about the will of western nations to defend and uphold those values have returned as well. Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined host Al Kresta last Tuesday on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon to discuss these important issues; you can listen to the full interview via the audio player below, and be sure to check out Sam’s article “The End of Europe” at Public Discourse.

Blog author: sstanley
Monday, November 23, 2015


Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris

Despite a decline in the number of individuals attending Mass, Catholicism in France is becoming more self-confident and, surprisingly, more orthodox. Writing for the Catholic World Report, Samuel Gregg discusses the Catholic Church in France. He says that France’s néocatholiques are leading change in the European nation:

Perhaps the most evident sign of this sea-change in French Catholicism is what’s called La Manif pour tous. This movement of hundreds of thousands of French citizens emerged in 2012 to contest changes to France’s marriage laws. La Manif’s membership traverses France’s deep left-right fracture. It also includes secular-minded people, many Jews, some Muslims, and even a good number of self-described gays. Yet La Manif’s base and leadership primarily consist of lay Catholics. Though the French legislature passed la loi Taubira legalizing same-sex marriage in 2013, the Socialist government has subsequently trod somewhat more carefully in the realm of social policy. After all, when a movement can put a million-plus people on the streets to protest on a regular basis, French politicians have historical reasons to get nervous.


Blog author: jcouretas
Saturday, November 21, 2015

Syrian children, from the June 2013 issue of The Word Magazine (Antiochian Orthodox Church)

Syrian children, from the June 2013 issue of The Word Magazine (Antiochian Orthodox Church)

We’re having an intense, often heated, debate about the reception of Syrian refugees in the United States. How do Eastern Christians see it? The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, an Archdiocese of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, has issued a balanced and unflinchingly critical statement on the crisis. This is a church that traces its history to apostolic times in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Many North American Antiochians are themselves immigrants or can trace their family history back just a generation or two to the villages and parishes that are being destroyed by the Syrian war. The statement follows in full. Also see my April podcast with Mark Ohanian, director of programs for International Orthodox Christian Charities, who talked about the Syria relief effort, and the massive flow of refugees into neighboring countries such as Lebanon.

Statement from the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America on the Reception of Refugees in the United States in Light of Recent Terrorist Actions around the World

Since the tragic terrorist actions in Paris, Beirut, Mali and elsewhere in the past two weeks, there have been polarized reactions to the reception of refugees, mainly of Syrian nationality, worldwide: an understandable reaction of concern on the one hand, but a sad overreaction of fear on the other. We are all concerned first and foremost for the safety of the citizens of the United States which must be continually addressed and assessed. At the same time, the humanitarian disaster caused by the war in Syria to which the U.S. government has contributed by calling for the removal of the established Syrian leadership – as it did in Egypt, Iraq and Libya – requires a moral response from the people and government of our great country. Misguided U.S. foreign policy helped create the so-called “Arab Spring” which has been a “tornado” that has destroyed Arab countries, leaving power vacuums that have fostered the soaring, vicious activity of terrorist groups including ISIS, al-Nusra, and others in the Middle East and around the world. All of this has resulted in an unprecedented number of deaths of innocent people and lack of basic services like healthcare and sanitation, healthy food and drinking water, safe and dignified housing, and so forth.

We must us not be guided by fear or bigotry, but rather let us work to heal the wounds of the injured, clothing the naked and feeding the poor as our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ has taught us (Matthew 25:35-36).

Blog author: rsirico
Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Acton Institute lost a great friend last week.

Austin Hill

Austin Hill

I first met Austin Hill at 1997 an Acton Institute, Towards a Free and Virtuous Society conference held in Connecticut. Those conferences were designed to identify young future religious leaders with great potential. We invested well with Austin, who came to numerous of our events over the years. He would becom a radio host, author and public speaker and was most recently producing “Austin Hill’s Big World of Small Business,” a syndicated talk show about entrepreneurship and small-business ownership. The Idaho Statesman noted that Hill previously hosted “The Austin Hill Show” on KINF and was employed by, an arm of the libertarian lobbying group the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Having been a guest on Hill’s show a number of times over the years, I recall him as informed, inquisitive and professional

Austin died unexpectedly last Friday night probably from cardiac-related causes. He was a man committed to his family, the gospel of Christ and the promotion of the free society.

The Townhall website has a more extensive account of Austin’s accomplishments and you can see some of his columns here.

Austin had many things left to accomplish in life, but the Sovereign Lord whom Austin served knew he could perhaps accomplish them better in another way.

In lieu of flowers, it is requested that gifts be sent to a college fund for his son, Graham, a high school senior. To find out more about that, click here.

Requiescat in pace.

Blog author: sstanley
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

ADAMS231011_2__2034469cWriting for Public Discourse, Samuel Gregg has some rather negative predictions about the European Union in a new piece titled, “The end of Europe.” Gregg begins by quoting France’s leader during World War II, General Charles de Gaulle. In his Mémoires d’Espoir, de Gaulle saw Europe as having “a spiritual and cultural heritage.” He wrote that “the same Christian origins and the same way of life, linked to one another since time immemorial by countless ties of thought, art, science, politics and trade.” The current crisis in Europe reflects de Gaulle’s insights. European governments have abandoned their Judaeo-Christian origins and have placed their faith in bureaucracies whose authority stretches beyond country borders, but who are guaranteed to further European decline.

Gregg states that there are essentially three concepts to consider regarding Europe’s current issues: (more…)

Do Google Earth satellite images point to more grim news from inside North Korea? According to an article from United Press International (UPI), Curtis Melvin of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University noticed a substantial difference in satellite images of a North Korean prison camp from 2013 to some taken last month:

[A]erial snapshots from Oct. 15 indicated considerable changes have been made to Camp No. 16.

Melvin said the new changes included dams, hydroelectric power plants, apartments for the camp’s guards, an athletic field, a mine and fish farms. These facilities were not visible in satellite imagery taken in 2013.

The latest construction appears to indicate that North Korea is planning for an increase in the population of inmates detained at Camp No. 16 … In 2014, Amnesty International said in a statement the camp imprisons about 20,000 people and the prisoners are forced to work in very treacherous conditions. [emphasis added]

Camp No. 16, also known as Hwasong or Myonggan concentration camp or Kwan-li-so (Penal-labor colony) No. 16. Camp No. 16 is a prison-labor colony where detainees are expected to work for life with no hope of being released and it is the largest of all the penal-labor camps in North Korea. The UPI piece points out that it was one of five political prisons where up to an estimated 120,000 people are punished for various “crimes against the state.” Despite testimonies of defectors who survived these camps and later escaped North Korea, Pyongyang denies the existence of camps and has officially accused all the witnesses of lying. (more…)