Category: Environmental Stewardship

Conference Panel for "In Dialogue With Laudato Si'", December 3, 2015

Conference Panel for “In Dialogue With Laudato Si'”, December 3, 2015

Today at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, the Acton Institute has organized a half-day conference called “In Dialogue With Laudato Si’: Can Free Markets Help Us Care For Our Common Home?” in response to Pope Francis’ appeal in Laudato Si’ for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” In advance of the conference, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico was a guest on Vatican Radio’s “Vatican Viewpoint” to discuss the nature of free markets, how they can effectively protect the natural environment when allowed to function properly, and how to avoid some of the consumerist pitfalls that have been associated with the market economy in the West.

You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.

Climate-Change-Report-23For the past few years Pope Francis has made it clear he considers climate change to be an essential issue of concern. In his recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, he wrote that climate change is one of the “principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” Has Francis been able to convince American Catholics to share his concern?

Maybe so. A new Pew Research survey shows that Catholics, along with people who are unaffiliated with major religions, are more likely to agree with the pope’s position than are Protestants in the U.S.
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pollution“The rules don’t apply to me,” is a favorite maxim of toddlers, narcissists, and government officials. This is especially true of the legislative branch, which frequently exempts itself—and its 30,000 employees—from federal laws that apply to the rest of us.

But just as often government at all levels simply ignores laws it finds too burdensome to comply with. A recent study published last month in the American Journal of Political Science titled “When Governments Regulate Governments” found that “compared with private firms, governments violate [the U.S. Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act] significantly more frequently and are less likely to be penalized for violations.”

Researchers David Konisky and Manny Teodoro viewed records of more than 3,000 power plants, 1,000 hospitals and 4,200 water utilities. Some of their findings include:
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Ahhhh, the Left! So often passionate, so obstinately assured of the rightness of their secular crusades mounted under the variety of flags and anthems espousing “social justice” and “environmental sustainability.” And, unfortunately, so often just plain wrong.

Such is the case with As You Sow, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and other shareholder activist groups that each year apply their supposed religious authority to the proxy resolutions they submit to major companies. Certainly, AYS and ICCR investors believe from the sanctuary of their respective progressive bubbles that they’re working for the benefit of humankind when it comes to such topics as climate-change mitigation and genetically modified organisms. Yet, nothing could be further from reality viewed through the lenses of science, religion, economics and common sense.

For the purpose of this post, let’s take a look at the work AYS and ICCR apply against GMOs. Both shareholder activist groups are affiliated with Inside GMO coalition – AYS as an acknowledged member and ICCR listing Inside GMO as a featured resource. The Inside GMO website portentously lists the organization’s purpose:

Large agribusiness and chemical companies oppose our right to know when foods have GMOs. These are the same companies that put GMOs out on the market without adequate testing – turning us all into lab rats in a giant science experiment.

GMO Inside is a campaign dedicated to helping all Americans know which foods have GMOs inside, and the non-GMO verified and organic certified alternatives to genetically engineered foods. We believe that everyone has a right to know what’s in their food and to choose foods that are proven safe for themselves, their families, and the environment.

GMO Inside gives people information and tools, and provides a place for a growing community of people from all walks of life, to share information and actions around genetically engineered foods.

Sigh. It gets worse. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, October 15, 2015
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664975_084I saw The Martian this week and was struck by the number of resonant themes on a variety of is issues, including creation, creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, exploration, work, suffering, risk, and civilization.

I won’t be exploring all of these in the brief reflections below, but will simply be highlighting some salient features. The film communicates something seriously important about the threefold relations of human beings: to God, to one another, and to the creation.

There will be some potential spoilers in the discussion below the jump after this line.
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Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
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While it has been pointed out repeatedly by your writer and others in this space that Pope Francis’ Laudato Si contains much to recommend it for the beauty, compassion and depth of spirituality contained within, there remains much that is problematic. For example, there’s this:

At the same time we can note the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness. As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.

All this is consistent with Pope Francis’ warning that fossil fuels are contributing to climate change, but what he should be advocating for is energy abundance rather than this:

There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gasses can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.

Yet, how does the Pope reconcile his call for reduction of fossil-fuel use with his call for cleaner water and increased green space in the following quotes?

Here’s Pope Francis on water:
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RS cover from 2014

RS cover from 2014

On Sept. 10, Rolling Stone magazine published a long article titled “Pope Francis’ American Crusade — The pope takes on climate change, poverty and conservative U.S. clerics.” From the title alone you could tell where this was headed. Predictably, the magazine asserted that “deeply alarmed by the power of Francis’ message, an entire network of -right-wing Catholic organizations has been increasingly willing to push back against the Vatican.” In ticking off members of this “network” it said this about the Acton Institute and yours truly:

Then there’s the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which is run by a Catholic priest named Robert Sirico — he’s the brother of actor Tony Sirico, best known for his portrayal of Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos — and hosts forums with titles like “Government: Less Is More.” Sirico recently wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal attacking “Laudato Si'” for its “decided bias against the free market and suggestions that poverty is the result of a globalized economy,” though he failed to disclose the hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations Acton has received from extraction-industry giants such as Exxon Mobil and the Koch family.

I wrote a response to this article and sent it to Rolling Stone editors but they, not surprisingly, declined to publish it. Here it is in full:

To the Editor:

News Flash! Admitted pro-market think tank accepts donations from pro-market supporters. (“Pope Francis’ American Crusade — The pope takes on climate change, poverty and conservative U.S. clerics,” Sept. 10).

Of course this revelation is presented in Mr. Mark Benelli’s – what was it, op-ed, news analysis, hit piece? – as something far more sinister, implying, but not saying, that somehow The Acton Institute is controlled by the dark financial interests of evil capitalists, instead of the reality that (1) we hold to a position and (2) we invite others who hold to the same or similar positions to support us.

The deeper journalistic problem with this piece is its sheer superficiality in understanding Catholicism or what the Acton Institute (which, incidentally, is an ecumenical organization that works with people ranging from like-minded Evangelicals to observant Jews) does. This is understandable given that Mr. Benelli relies to a great extent for his research on the hyperbole from the fainting couch of one M.S. Winters who writes a breathless blog for the Rolling Stone of Catholic journalism, the National Catholic Reporter. (more…)