Category: News and Events

This morning at Ethika Politika, I argue that “acting primarily for the sake of national interest in international affairs runs contrary to a nation’s highest ideals.” In particular, I draw on the thought of Vladimir Solovyov, who argued that, morally speaking, national interest alone cannot be the supreme standard of international action since the highest aspirations of each nation (e.g. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”) are claimed to be universal goods. I would here like to explore his critique with reference to the subject of international trade. (more…)

Laurel Broten, the Education Minister of Ontario, stated on Oct. 10 that the “province’s publicly funded Catholic schools may not teach students that abortion is wrong because such teaching amounts to ‘misogyny,’ which is prohibited in schools under a controversial anti-bullying law.” Ontario enacted Bill 13 in June and it casts a wide net against bullying in schools. It is under this law that Broten has declared that Catholic schools may not teach that abortion is wrong.

Broten noted,

Bill 13 has in it a clear indication of ensuring that our schools are safe, accepting places for all our students. That includes LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer] students. … Bill 13 is about tackling misogyny, taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take.

Broten is equating the Catholic Church’s pro-life stance with the hatred of women, and deems the Church’s teaching now illegal, disallowing freedom of conscience, clearly putting the state in a position of telling a church what it can and cannot teach.

Fr. Tim Boyle, a Catholic priest from Mattawa, Ontario, says this,

Minister Broten ignores … the fact that her decision also violates section 93 the Canadian Constitutional Act which enshrines the rights of Catholics in Ontario to a school system in which they can teach their children in a Catholic environment without government interference. While it may be debatable whether or not Bill 13 in its entirety might be constitutional, a matter soon to be taken up by the courts, it’s clear that prohibiting Catholic schools from teaching that abortion is wrong is a clear violation of this legal guarantee of the separation of Church and State.

Of course, one of the issues here is that Catholic schools in Canada do receive public monies. Recently, Catholic Charities of Tulsa, Okla., chose to stop all government funds, relying instead on private donations.

“What Catholic Charities of Tulsa is doing is showing the way forward for Catholics and other Christians who want to be faithful to the ancient Church’s age-old moral teachings, and who want to assist those in need without compromising the truth of the Gospel,” wrote Dr. Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty…

Fr. Robert Sirico, the president of Acton, agrees. “I think we need to separate the giving from the mechanism of the state,” he said. “There’s the threat that he who drinks the king’s wine sings the king’s song.”

It remains to be seen if the Catholics of Ontario will be satisfied with the king’s song and dance.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement regarding remarks made by Vice-President Biden during last night’s debate.

According to the debate transcript from the Washington Post, Biden stated,

With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.

The Bishops responded, in part:

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

The fact is: Joe Biden got his facts wrong.

From a purely political standpoint last night’s Vice Presidential Debate was probably a victory for both candidates. Vice President Joe Biden fired up his base with his aggressive and somewhat dismissive behavior towards Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan of course did nothing to hurt Romney and showed he is prepared to be president in an emergency.

Ultimately, the Vice Presidential Debate matters little to nothing in terms of outcome, and that’s why these two were probably in a better position to sit down together and have a candid and civil conversation about the economic and spending crisis this nation faces. It was not to be of course. And it’s probably too much to expect given the nature of the budgetary wars between the Republican Congress and the White House over the last two years. So much of the spending fight had already exhausted itself between these two behind the scenes in Washington.

Save for Ryan’s defense of a plan for cautious entitlement reform, much of the domestic argument came down to which team is better equipped to manage the bureaucracy. The federal government has now doubled in size from just over a decade ago. And it has funded that expansion all through borrowed money. We’ve spent $2 trillion on education at the federal level alone with no marked improvement, only educational decline. Greater urgency and details are needed from our leaders on how they are going to cut and limit federal spending. Everybody knows gutting subsidies to PBS won’t cut it.

Catholics can address the abortion question as it relates to Catholic Social Teaching and who is the serious thinker about their faith, but I also feel there was a real opportunity by both candidates last night to speak less politically about the debt and take moral leadership on an issue. Our spending problem is a visible sign of America’s holistic decline when it comes to our historic strong moral values, strong work ethic, and moral courage. Rev. Robert Sirico has said, “When one generation borrows what cannot be expected to be paid in the next generation, such a civilization is at a crossroads.” We need our leaders to embody those words or we need to replace them.

Blog author: jballor
Friday, October 12, 2012
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Panel: “Why Morality-Free Economic Theory Doesn’t Work”

“Why Morality-Free Economic Theory Does Not Work: A Natural Law Perspective in the Wake of the Recent Financial Crisis.” The recent worldwide financial crisis has revealed a serious flaw in current thinking about markets and morals. Contemporary legal theorists and political economists commonly assume that markets can (and even should) provide morally neutral zones for the exchange of goods among free persons, constrained by nothing other than the laws of contract and the imperatives of self-interest. Professor Bruni’s lecture will challenge this dominant assumption, and will offer an alternative, ‘natural law’ perspective on the interrelatedness of markets, morals, and human sociality.

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Ahead of tonight’s vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, Hunter Baker (a Baptist political scholar) and I (a Reformed moral theologian), offer up some thoughts as “Protestants in Praise of Catholic Social Teaching” in a special edition of Acton Commentary.

We write,

Commentators are already busy parsing the partisan divide between the co-religionists Biden and Ryan, but having Roman Catholics represented in such prominent positions in this campaign and particularly in tonight’s debate is also likely to catapult another player into the national political consciousness: Catholic Social Teaching (CST).

For people of faith, and even for people of no particular faith whatsoever, CST represents a praiseworthy model for responsible civil engagement in a diverse and plural culture.

We go on to point in particular to the objective moral order recognized by CST, the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, and the tradition’s commitment to religious liberty.

For an example of those “parsing the partisan divide” ahead of the debate, see this piece over at Religion Dispatches. There’s sure to be much more like this in the days and weeks to come.

Read our whole piece, though, for more on how CST provides some hope that we might elevate the level of our political discourse.

On Tuesday, the Acton Institute co-sponsored, along with Regent University’s College of Arts & Sciences and School of Divinity, To Fail or To Flourish: Does My Life and Work Really Matter? The purpose of the event was to initiate a conversation on campus on the topic of human flourishing involving students, faculty, staff and administration.

The day started with a session by Dr. Corné Bekker entitled, “Does the Bible Say Anything About Flourishing?” Dr. Bekker leads the Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership Ecclesial Leadership major, teaches in the doctoral programs of the School of Business and Leadership, and is actively involved in research on the use of Biblical hermeneutics and spirituality to explore leadership.
Dr. Bekker examined the question, “What does it mean to be fully alive?” He cited St. Iranaeus’ quote (“the glory of God is man fully alive”) and explained how it is often misquoted and/or misused, oftentimes in the context of flourishing. David Kelsey, in “On Human Flourishing,” says, “Christian theology has a large stake in making it clear that its affirmations about God and God’s ways of relating to human beings underwrite human beings’ flourishing.” Flourishing is not simply being happy or feeling fully alive. Human flourishing must start with Christ Himself. Kevin Cronin in his book Kenosis: Emptying Self and the Path of Christian Service describes three relationships important to flourishing: God and self, others and self, self and self. Dr. Bekker described these three relationships in the remainder of his lecture.
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