Category: News and Events

That’s one of the questions that comes to mind when reading Bill McGurn’s op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal. Many free-market advocates, including yours truly, have already expressed concern over what may appear in the papal encyclical due this summer. McGurn concurs but, like a good entrepreneur, also sees an opportunity:

The fears are not without cause. There are many signs that do not augur well, from the muddled section on economics in the pope’s first encyclical [Actually, it was an apostolic exhortation. — K.J.] to his posing for a photo while holding up an anti-fracking T-shirt, to press coverage anticipating he will be to the fight against greenhouse gases what Pope John Paul II was to the fight against Soviet communism.

Even so, the topic is ripe for precisely the kind of corrective a pope has to offer: a reminder that God’s creation is meant to serve man—not man the environment. And its corollary: It is the have-nots who pay the highest price for the statist interventions so beloved of the Church of St. Green.

The term “human ecology” was used by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI (see my lecture on the topic), not only to speak about trendy environmental issues such as climate change but ones less popular among Western celebrities, especially the importance of marriage and family and the evils of population control. In doing so, the popes showed themselves to be pro-social-justice and pro-life/pro-family at the same time.

It’s possible, however, that the opponents of capitalism will use the occasion to attack economic freedom once again, even if it ultimately hurts the poor. Nothing very human about that kind of ecology.

1Armenian_Orphans_Merzifon_1918

Armenian Orphans, 1918.

At the end of this week, on April 24, many will recall the Armenian Genocide by observing the “The Armenian Day of Remembrance.” This day remembers the more than one million Armenians who were slaughtered by the Ottoman government during and after World War I. Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, describes the genocide:

Centuries of honest accomplishments and creativity were swiftly plundered…Thousands of monasteries and churches were desecrated and destroyed. National institutions and schools were razed and ruined. Our spiritual and cultural treasures were uprooted and obliterated. Western Armenia, where for millennia — from the time of Noah – our people lived, created and built their history and culture, had been wrested from its native population.

Acton’s director of communications, John Couretas, goes into detail about some of the horrors of this event at The Stream:

In 1993, construction crews working at the college of St. Joseph Antoura in Lebanon made a macabre discovery. Buried in mass graves behind the school were human bones — the small bones of children.

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1333630489130_3671856Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, those of us of a particular bent loved the word “freedom.” The word was featured in the lyrics of many popular songs of the era, and the case could be made that hippies were called freaks as a pun on their oft-chanted “free” mantra. Heck, there was even a band named Free, which captivated the zeitgeist with a classic song about a man angling for a little “free” love with a woman too savvy to succumb so easily.

Free speech also once was all the rage. Lenny Bruce and George Carlin’s infamous seven words and all that, am I right? So, what happened? When did the hippies, yippies, liberals and progressives transition from fetishizing all things related to freedom to checking under their beds every night for a missing Koch brother? (more…)

Raphael Lemkin

Raphael Lemkin

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide – a systematic, murderous campaign carried out by the Ottoman Empire against its Armenian population, killing 1.5 million and leaving millions more displaced.

Though these atrocities have been verified through survivor accounts and historical records, to this day, not all countries have recognized the atrocities as “genocide” – the foremost being Turkey, along with others, including the United States.

In a Huffington Post article, “The United States Should Remember Raphael Lemkin’s Words and Formally Recognize the Armenian Genocide,” H.A. Goodman draws particular focus to Turkey’s animosity toward the genocide label, even threatening other countries that recognize the tragedy as genocide.

Most recently, Turkey’s resistance was displayed when Pope Francis referred to the slaughter as the “first genocide of the 20th century.” The Turkish government responded by recalling its ambassador to the Holy See.

But perhaps an even more shocking reality surrounding the Armenian Genocide is this: at the time the Ottoman Empire began exterminating the Armenians in 1915, its actions were not considered illegal. It would be another 33 years before genocide was named a crime under international law, through the United Nations’ adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, after which the word “genocide” was created and used for the first time, only 4 years prior. For these two significant actions we have one man to thank, a largely unknown Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin.

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International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the humanitarian relief agency for Orthodox Churches in the United States, is working with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East to provide emergency medical assistance, hygiene kits, and personal care items to displaced Idlib families who have fled to the Syrian port city of Lattakia. Idlib, in northwestern Syria, was captured by Al-Qaida’s local branch of Islamist fighters in late March. Now there are reports of the Syrian government using chemical weapons on the Islamist rebels. The situation is grim for those fleeing the fighting.

According to [IOCC] staff on the ground, approximately 300 of the nearly 5,000 displaced people fleeing Idlib arrived in Lattakia with injuries, many related to flying shrapnel. Some of them arrived alone knowing nothing about the rest of their families, while others managed to get out with their families intact. “I escaped with all of my 14 family members,” said Fadi, a displaced Idlib resident. “We barely fit in the small car which was our only transportation. Many cars around us crashed as they tried to flee, because they were shot by a sniper while trying to escape the city.”

Rami, who also fled Idlib, said he and his 9-year-old daughter made it out through the city’s sewage channels to avoid snipers. They walked all night to reach safety, but he now faces new fears for his family. “My daughter is in complete shock from what she witnessed, and I can’t stop thinking about my parents who are still trapped in Idlib.” IOCC/GOPA is helping traumatized parents like Rami through counseling that will equip them and their children with the coping skills they need to deal with such difficult experiences. (more…)

CARDINAL SARAH GIVES HOMILY DURING ANNIVERSARY MASS IN HAITI

Cardinal Robert Sarah (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Writing at Crisis Magazine, Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg, recently discussed the significance of the Catholic church in Africa and Cardinal Sarah’s new book. At the 2014 Synod on the family, German theologian Cardinal Walter Kasper, argued that Africans “should not tell us too much what we have to do” regarding challenges facing the modern family. Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Robert Sarah, recently wrote “Dieu ou Rien” (“God or Nothing”) with French journalist Nicolas Diat on why the opposite is true. Gregg describes the book:

the universal Church should be listening more to Catholics who come from cultures where the faith is flourishing, and much less to those preoccupied with the concerns of particular Western European churches: churches that are fabulously wealthy in material terms but spiritually-moribund by any standard.

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Should corporate donations to political causes remain private or shouldn’t they? Your writer would argue for the former as he holds the U.S. Supreme Court nailed it with its Citizens United decision. Progressive shareholder activists, naturally, disagree.

Except, that is, when incredible secrecy suits progressive social and political ends. The Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, for example, asserts Citizens United is the worst kind of travesty against all things they desire made transparent – as does ICCR member Walden Asset Management.

While “dark money” corporate donations give ICCR and WAM the Screaming Mimi’s, both groups are quiet as church mice when it comes to secretive funding of such progressive agendas as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. For example, ICCR and WAM haven’t uttered a peep concerning software magnate Tim Gill’s advocacy group OutGiving, a highly secretive group of millionaires who funnel money into campaigns supportive of LGBT causes and candidates likely to support them. (more…)

Jesus Christ the Apple TreeToday is the 70th anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the Flossenbürg concentration camp. I’m privileged to offer a brief reflection on Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy over at Public Discourse.

I’ve been working on Bonhoeffer’s thought for over a decade now, and I’m often struck by the depth of his conviction and insight in such troubled times. One of the things about him that I try to highlight in the Public Discourse piece is how Bonhoeffer’s courageous action for the world today was rooted in hopefulness for the world to come. As so many others have often pointed out, and rightly so, Bonhoeffer’s theology and biography are intimately related.

For example, in principle Bonhoeffer affirmed God’s institution of marriage: “Through marriage human beings are procreated for the glory and service of Jesus Christ and the enlarging of Christ’s kingdom.” But even when faced with the dangers of resistance to Hitler and the travails of war and social discord, he took the step of proposing to Maria von Wedemeyer. Planning to marry her was an act of courage, a concrete form of affirming and accepting God’s will for this world.

There is an apocryphal saying attributed to the sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther, that “if I knew the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.” As Scott Hendrix writes, this saying (although it has precedent in a story attributed to Francis of Assisi) actually arises from the Nazi era in Germany: “Scholars believe it originated in the German Confessing Church, which used it to inspire hope and perseverance during its opposition to the Nazi dictatorship.”

Bonhoeffer lived out his own form of that insight through his engagement to Maria in 1943, shortly before his arrest and eventual execution. May Bonhoeffer’s life and work continue to inspire hope and perseverance even in the midst of our suffering and confusion.

gvsu_logo_blueNo sooner had your writer reported on the metastasis of the sustainability movement from universities to the religious community than it came to his attention that activists were doubling down on efforts to bankrupt the economy and sentence capitalism to the dustbin of history. Because: Social Justice.

This latest head scratcher is scheduled to take place in the Acton Institute’s own Grand Rapids’ backyard, and will feature a sustainability event in a Grand Valley State University facility named after an Acton Board Member. The Rapidian – a Grand Rapids web site for “citizen journalism” – reports:

An activist panel, breakout sessions, lunch, skill building sessions and a general activist assembly will be held at the John C. Kennedy Hall of Engineering in Grand Rapids on Saturday, April 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the local community as well as students and staff.

Two of the key points that will be discussed at the event is that “green” capitalism is not a solution to climate change and that collective climate justice must be achieved through the development of strategies and the use of tactics that rely on direct action.

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51httEIaoPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The fossil-fuel sustainability and divestment movements began with colleges and universities. Over the past two years, the movements have gained momentum from faith-based activists intent on stranding oil, coal and natural gas in the ground. At the same time, they’re pressing their religious communities to endorse impossible fossil fuel reduction goals.

Progressives in the sustainability and divestment movements must assume that if Big Oil is brought to heel, then Big Renewable will immediately fill the void. Never mind that there exists nothing today to replace the growing need for oil, coal and natural gas. Will we one day have an efficient and affordable replacement? Not if we bankrupt advanced, technologically rich economies with sustainability policies.

Additionally, mounting evidence suggests that sustainability efforts in the academic industry, which includes fossil-fuel divestment, have inflicted economic harm on colleges and universities (and taxpayers) without providing a scintilla of benefit for the environment.

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