Category: News and Events

Angel of Mercy and Lady JusticeIn a new essay for the Catholic World Report, Samuel Gregg discusses why it’s dangerous to to overemphasize any one facet of Christian teaching at the expense of a different teaching. No matter what is overemphasized, this will distort the Gospel. The focus of this essay is “mercy” and how mercy leads “to the ultimate source of justice–the God who is love–and thus prevents justice from collapsing into something quite anti-human.”

Gregg describes the three ways mercy can be distorted: as sentimentalism, as injustice, and as mediocrity. When describing mercy as injustice, Gregg warns that “it quickly undermines any coherent conception of justice.”

Back in 1980, John Paul warned in Dives in Misericordia that “In no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence towards evil, towards scandals, towards injury or insult. In any case, reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness” (DM 14). If that sounds tough-minded, that’s because it is. Remember, however, that the Jesus Christ who embodies mercy isn’t the equivalent of a divine stuffed animal. Whenever the Scriptures portray Christ offering mercy to sinners, his forgiveness is always laced with a gentle but clear reminder of the moral law and the expectation that the sinful acts will be discontinued.



Obama addressing students at his town hall meeting in London. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

There’s not a lot of agreement when it comes to the Great Recession and the 2008 financial crisis; either about what caused it or what ended it. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama blamed the “reckless behavior of a lot of financial institutions around the globe” and “the folks on Wall Street” for causing this economic slump. Who or what finally ended this recession? According to President Obama: President Obama. While reflecting on what his presidency will be remembered for, he said, “I don’t think I’ll have a good sense of my legacy until 10 years from now when I can look back with some perspective and get a sense of what worked and what didn’t. There are things I’m proud of … Saving the world economy from a Great Depression, that was pretty good.” Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, was “startled” by the president’s claim.

In a new piece for The Stream, Gregg argues that far from saving the planet, the president and government “probably mucked things up.” While he agrees that banks’ recklessness were partially to blame for the financial crisis, government agencies and their poor policies had a bigger effect:

Back in December 2007, the Nobel economist Vernon Smith warned that the activities of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were buttressed by the assumption that, as government-sponsored enterprises with lower capital-requirements than private institutions, they could always look to the Federal government for assistance if unusually high numbers of their clients defaulted. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Smith underscored, had always been understood as “implicitly taxpayer-backed agencies.” Hence they continued what are now recognized as their politically driven and fiscally irresponsible lending policies until both were consigned to Federal conservatorship in September 2008.


Video source: The Harry Read Me File. More clips from the hearing here.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, testified at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works. The hearing aimed “to examine the role of environmental policies on access to energy and economic opportunity … ” A report at the Energy & Environment news service said the hearing was “full of fireworks.” It was convened by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a sharp critic of the Obama administration’s climate policies.

“The true purpose of the president’s climate polices have nothing to do with protecting the interests of the America people,” Inhofe said. “Instead, they are meant to line the pocketbooks of his political patrons while promoting his self-proclaimed climate legacy.”

Democrats on the committee pushed back against those arguments. But it was majority witness Alex Epstein, the author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” who caused much of the contention at the hearing.

Epstein testified that rising carbon dioxide levels benefit plants and Americans. He defended fossil fuels as a driver of stability and prosperity in an ever-changing climate.

“The president’s anti-fossil-fuel policies would ruin billions of lives economically and environmentally,” he said, “depriving people of energy and therefore making them more vulnerable to nature’s ever-present climate danger.”

In a follow up report, the news service highlighted testy exchanges between Democrat members of the committee and Sirico: (more…)

 Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

They faced potential starvation, imprisonment, torture, and made a dangerous journey to freedom only to discover new struggles that they never could have comprehended in their former lives.

Stories and reports of North Koreans fleeing their country aren’t particularly unusual. There are dozens of books written by or about North Korean defectors. Last week, thirteen North Koreans who worked for a restaurant fled to South Korea. It’s also been recently reported that a high-ranking colonel from North Korean military’s General Reconnaissance Bureau defected to the south sometime last year.

Writing for the Associated Press, Tim Sullivan profiles a man who, though relatively prosperous in North Korea, fled to South Korea seeking a life of ease and higher wealth. What he found was back-breaking labor and, he believes, discrimination by South Koreans. He was a policeman back in the north and he enjoyed the respect (as well as the handsome bribes) of the people around him. While he was fairly well-fed and even owned a TV, there was starvation and poverty all around him and he wanted to get away from it. A little over a year ago, he met with a smuggler and decided to try his fate in the South. He sneaked across a river into China and began a new life outside of the DPRK. (more…)

Just because everyone is doing it doesn't make it a good idea.

Along with “democratic socialism,” “protectionism,” and “Berning,” the word “populism” has become part of 2016 America’s vernacular thanks to the circus that is the presidential election. Like it sounds, “populism” deals with popularity, in this case among American voters. In a new op/ed for the Detroit News, Samuel Gregg explains why populism will absolutely not make America great again.

This isn’t the first time populism has appeared in American or world history. “It often manifests itself,” Gregg argues, “whenever enough people conclude — sometimes correctly — that the political system is rigged in favor of insider-elites who pursue their own interests rather than the common good.” An individual capitilizes on disgust with “insider-elites” and the “establishment” for his or her own benefits.  This person sees the opportunity to utilize “frustration with the status quo” and he or she then promises the people real and serious change. Voters are lulled into trusting that once this charismatic leader is elected, he or she will fix everything and make the world a better place for the voters who felt overlooked by previous leaders.

Gregg explains some characteristics of the “populist leader:”

Over time, the actual content of the populist leader’s words starts to matter less and less. [Voters] ignore obvious contradictions in the leader’s statements and policy positions. These are never especially clear and regularly “evolve,” depending on the need or audience.


As news of the Panama Papers scandal continues to break, Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg has been making the media rounds to help people understand what appears to have happened and why. Sam made two appearances on radio yesterday, first on Relevant Radio’s The Drew Mariani Show, speaking with guest host Ed Morrissey of; later in the afternoon he spoke with Al Kresta on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon. The audio of both interviews is posted below.

Blog author: sstanley
Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

A lack of reason may lead to violence and an inability to respond to crises, but that didn’t stop the West from abandoning it. In a new article for the Catholic World Report, Acton’s Samuel Gregg reflects on Pope Benedict XVI and his 2006 address near Regensburg, Germany. “Ten years later,” Gregg laments, the West is “still in denial.”

On September 12, 2006 Benedict made global news with his lecture–his words enraged, gained support, and were analyzed countless times. The speech was concerned with the “deep problems of faith and reason that characterize the West and Christianity today,” particularly in relation to Islam. Despite causing great controversy, this speech is considered to be one of the most important papal addresses on world affairs. Benedict argued that our understanding of the divine ultimately creates the foundation for how we view and “can judge particular human choices and actions to be unreasonable.” Gregg continues:

Most commentators on the Regensburg Address did not, however, observe that the Pope declined to proceed to engage in a detailed analysis of why and how such a conception of God may have affected Islamic theology and Islamic practice. Nor did he explore the mindset of those Muslims who invoke Allah to justify jihadist violence. Instead, Benedict immediately pivoted to discussing the place of reason in Christianity and Western culture more generally. In fact, in the speech’s very last paragraph, Benedict called upon his audience “to rediscover” the “great logos”: “this breadth of reason” which, he maintained, orthodox Christianity has always regarded as a prominent feature of God’s nature. The pope’s use of the word “rediscover” indicated that something had been lost and that much of the West and the Christian world had themselves fallen into the grip of other forms of un-reason. Irrationality can, after all, manifest itself in expressions other than mindless violence.