Category: Pope Francis

Alessandro Manzoni

Alessandro Manzoni

Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist, is best known for his book The Betrothed.  Rev. Robert Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, recently wrote an article for Crisis Magazine praising Manzoni and discussing some of the economic themes found in The Betrothed.  Pope Francis is also a fan of the Italian writer.  In his article, Rev. Sirico draws a connection between a sensible tradition of Catholic thought on economics and a work of literature that Pope Francis deems credible.

Sirico starts out by offering an introduction to The Betrothed:

The Betrothed is, as its title implies, an epic love story that traces the circumlocutions of the engagement of Lorenzo Tramaglino to Lucia Mondella across the magnificently described countryside of Italian Lake District and Milan. Though written in the early nineteenth century, the action of the novel takes place in the midst of the seventeenth century and depicts historical events and personages. It is no spoiler to say, and you will be relieved to know, that the boy gets the girl in the end and eventually marry. But it is what happens along that way that makes The Betrothed so engaging and instructive.

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Blog author: KHanby
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
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Pope Francis visits congressSince 2013 when the Argentine prelate Jorge Bergoglio officially became the head of the Catholic Church, he has emerged as a key figure in the progressive movement.  Even though Pope Francis does not claim to be a part of any political movement, it is clear that he is representative of the views that many leftists hold.  With his emergence has come much criticism from Catholics who hold opposing views on issues such as environmentalism and the market economy. Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg has penned op-eds and blog posts for a number of publications that take Francis to task on his economic pronouncements and even the way he presents the Catholic faith.

This past week in the Wall Street Journal Francis X. Rocca described how Pope Francis became so popular among progressives in a piece titled “How Pope Francis Became the Leader of the Global Left.”  He describes Francis’ influence on different grass root activists and even the time when Sen. Bernie Sanders — a self-described socialist — left the campaign trail to visit the Vatican for a meeting with Francis. Toward the end of his article Rocca quotes Gregg:

Critics warn that, by aligning himself too closely with one end of the political spectrum, the pope could alienate more conservative Catholics. In the recent U.S. presidential election, according to exit polls, more than half of Catholic voters chose Mr. Trump. “The global left clearly see an opportunity to appropriate the prestige of the papacy for their causes,” said Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, a Michigan-based think tank with a religious, free-market approach. “That introduces polarization in the church about issues that Catholics are free to disagree about.”

You can read the full article where Gregg is quoted here in the Wall Street Journal.

Pope Francis celebrates his 80th birthday

Pope Francis celebrates his 80th birthday

This past Saturday, Pope Francis celebrated his 80th birthday and in an opinion piece for The Detroit News on the same day Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg expressed his primary criticism of the Holy Father.   Gregg thinks that “rather than presenting the Catholic faith in all its fullness as the source of truth and true happiness, he focuses almost exclusively on the theme of mercy.”  Gregg explains himself:

Mercy is certainly central to the Christian Gospel. As a priest once said to me, “When I die and go before Christ to be judged, I’ll be pleading for his mercy — not justice.” The same goes for me. We’re all, without exception, sinners.

Nonetheless, the word truth — which appears countless times in the Scriptures — doesn’t feature heavily in Francis’ lexicon. Sometimes he even seems to present truth and mercy as opposites. Mercy, it appears, trumps everything else. Conversely, if you express a concern for truth, you’re basically labeled a modern-day Pharisee.

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Sandro Magister, Vatican correspondent for L’Espresso, notes in his Italian blog a recent TV program that “fact checks” the pope’s economics.

Here’s a translation of the blog post:

In his speeches Pope Francis often puts forth original theories of dubious foundations but that, for him, are of unshakable certainty and explain everything.

Take, for example, this from an interview a few days ago with the Belgian Catholic weekly “Tertio”:

“There is an economic theory that I have not verified, but I read in several books: that in human history, when a State could see that its accounts were not in good shape, waged war to balance its budget. That is to say, [war] is one of the easiest ways to create wealth.”

Or another theory in which the pope explains that the growth of poverty and inequality along with the advance of progress, made yet again in his November 13 homily in the Mass for the Jubilee of the socially excluded:

“This is the origin of the tragic contradiction of our age: as progress and new possibilities increase, which is a good thing, fewer and fewer people are able to benefit from them.”

Curiously, though, a few days ago, on December 8, during the first episode of a new RAI 2 program, this mantra of Pope Francis was gently but surely demolished. (more…)

Yesterday, Pope Francis hosted a private audience in his Apostolic Palace for a few hundred international entrepreneurs and business leaders. The members of the International Christian Union of Business Executives (UNIAPAC) had gathered inside the Vatican’s walls for two days of meetings for the “noble purpose of reflecting on the role of business persons as agents of economic and social inclusion.”

Pope Francis, not always an affirming supporter of free market capitalism, focused on some of his usual challenging caveats to business persons. While business is certainly noble and its success is a vital part of the promoting economic growth for the common good, fallen man should nevertheless be constantly wary of his weaknesses for material idolatry (especially money), selfishness (not showing solidarity), and unguarded concern for acts of corruption (intentional deceit), the latter of which Francis said was “the worst of social plagues.”

This holds true for “all human activity”, the pope reassured those present, and not just business activity. It is an anthropological-spiritual discipline that we must keep on the forefront of our daily decision making. In this way, we sharpen our prudence and hone our focus when treading uphill individual paths to holiness and salvation. By way of constant prayer and deep spiritual discernment, man can more likely make the best moral choices, even in the most cut-throat and difficult business situations.

But sometimes this is risky for the seeker and promoter of virtue.

papa-uniapac

Pope Francis addresses UNIAPAC Christian entrepreneurs and business executives at a private audience on November 17, 2016.

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“Supporting markets as the economic arrangements most likely to help promote human flourishing doesn’t necessarily mean you accept libertarian philosophical premises” says Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg in an essay published today at Public Discourse.  This comes in response to “Koch Brothers Latest Target: Pope Francis,” an Oct. 14  article written by John Gehring at the American Prospect that claims the Acton Institute is part of a larger network of organizations behind “a decidedly different message than Pope Francis does when it comes to the economy and climate change.”  Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, labels various free-market organizations as “libertarian” and asserts that “libertarian thought … is the exact opposite of Catholic teaching.”

Gregg begins his response by noting some of the contributions that great libertarian thinkers such as Hayek and Mises have made to economics:

Libertarianism’s great strength lies in economics. Prominent twentieth-century libertarian economists, such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek, made major contributions to the critique of socialist economics. While ridiculed by some at the time, their criticisms turned out to be spot-on.

In Socialism (1922), for example, Mises illustrated that socialist economies can’t replicate the market price system’s ability to signal the supply and demand status for countless goods and services to consumers and producers at any one point in time. However intelligent and statistically equipped the top-down planners might be (whether they take the form of a Communist politburo, a Fascist dictator, or a 1970s British government), they simply cannot know the optimal price for any good or service at any point in time. Any attempt to dictate prices from the top-down will lead, paradoxically, to economic disorder and dysfunction.

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But was anyone listening?

That’s my question after attending the 2015 Nobel-prize-winning economist‘s talk last night in Rome at the Vatican-sponsored Cortile dei gentili (Court of Gentiles).

Like the other speakers, Deaton voiced his concerns about income inequality. Unlike the others, however, he said much of it is caused by crony capitalism, a term whose meaning seems to have been lost on the Italian interpreter and hence the audience. She described it as “a type of capitalism” and “negative capitalism” but never really made the connection to politics, which is unfortunate given the high number of Italian politicians in attendance.

Deaton added that countries become rich by escaping poverty, not by impoverishing others, that technological progress has undoubtedly made us richer, and that the world has greatly benefited from globalization even though too many people are still left behind. Government interference through taxes, regulation and corruption does more harm than good. The major problems with globalization are therefore political, not economic.

There were also a number of Italian cardinals and bishops in attendance. Here’s hoping that some of them relay Deaton’s clear-as-day message to Pope Francis, who really ought to be saying, “Crony capitalism kills!” instead of blaming the market economy in general. It is an obvious distinction to economists. In Italy, no one seems to know the difference.