Category: News and Events

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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Screen-Shot-2014-12-16-at-4.09.38-PMIt could be argued that Exxon is actually an energy company, but it’s still an energy company that knows where its bread is buttered. Oil and gas is the winning game for this company, not solar.

Thus wrote Jeff Siegel this week on the Energy & Capital website. Siegel was referring to Exxon Mobil Corporation’s thumping of shareholder resolutions by As You Sow, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility and other religious groups intended to push ExxonMobil into naming an environmental scientist to the board and issue a report on the environmental impact of the company’s hyraulic-fracturing operations. Another study to be pitched on the growing pile of fracking reports issued regularly by industry and regulators?

Siegel is as clearheaded a liberal writer as I’ve come across on these matters. He writes:

Again, I don’t see the benefit here for shareholders.

Those who oppose fracking have plenty of this data, anyway. So to mandate such a report seems like a waste of time, particularly if the report indicates no negative side effects. You think anyone who opposes fracking would believe anything included in that report?

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Photo credit: Western Catholic Reporter

Fr. Michael Crosby | Photo credit: Western Catholic Reporter

Shareholder resolutions intended to force Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. to adopt greenhouse gas reduction goals and name environmental experts (i.e. any scientist who believes human activity causes climate change) to their respective board of directors were defeated last week. Not only were they defeated, they were crushed. Chevron shareholders mustered only 9 percent support for GHG reductions and 20 percent for the environmentalist board member. Eighty percent of ExxonMobil shareholders rejected the additional board member, and only 10 percent voted for reducing GHG emissions.

Naturally, such progressive outlets as The Guardian sympathetically reported the proposals by touting the highly anticipated climate-change encyclical of Pope Francis, which is epected later this month. Of course, few outside the Vatican know exactly what the Pope will say in the document, but the Guardian goes so far as to draw a connection between the ExxonMobil and Chevron resolutions and the Pope. Readers are led to conclude that shareholders (As You Sow, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, among others) introducing the shareholder resolutions represent all Catholics. (more…)