Category: Public Policy

The U.S. Supreme Court decided today that it is unconstitutional for a state to declare that marriage is only between one man and one woman. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires states to redefine marriage, but the Court decided that the Due Process Clause prohibits defining marriage as it has been defined for millennia just as it found a right to an abortion in the same Due Process Clause over 40 years ago.

The role of the Court is to rule on the merits of a case based on prior case law and the Constitution. The Court is not to legislate or find ways to make something legal that they personally believe is better for society. When the Court removes an issue from the realm of democracy and imposes its will based on what it perceives as the best public policy, there is a natural resentment that occurs from the people and states opposed to the ruling, particularly when such a ruling has no real basis in constitutional law.

“Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law,” writes Chief Justice John Roberts in his dissent. “Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”

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The following quotes come from Dominique Rey’s book Catholicism, Ecology and the Environment: A Bishop’s Reflection, published in 2013 in the Acton Institute Christian Social Thought Series.

1. The current ecological crisis is first of all metaphysical. A confused understanding of the depth of being of things and a lack of respect for reason stands in the way of a correct understanding of the relationship between God and the world.

2. A distinctly Christian ecology must be theological and based on a vision of the world as creation that came out of the hands of God. This supernatural vision allows the recognition in creation of the Creator’s face and makes possible the definition of the ontological status of the universe. The world is not God.

3. This world, this universe, had a beginning and it is distinct from the Creator.

4. In the final analysis, the ecological crisis that we are going through comes from the fact that man has lost the just place that was his in nature that, originally, was made good by God. Ultimately it will be possible to seek to restore this lost harmony only through profoundly changing man’s heart.

5. In its breadth and in the omniscient logic of its laws, God’s wisdom permits us to glimpse something of his Creator Spirit. The earth and everything it contains reflects the beauty and glory of God. “It is a wondrous work of the Creator containing a grammar which sets forth ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation.” [Benedict XVI]
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As an economic leader brought up in Argentina, Alejandro Chafuen, president of Atlas Network, gave his perspective on Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical at Acton University last week:

 

Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College, wrote an article published on Crisis Magazine‘s website today demonstrating that although the secular left has championed Laudato Si’, the text goes beyond environmental issues to show the pope’s deep commitment to family and marriage.

The secular left, of course, loves this encyclical. As I write, the farthest reaches of the left, People’s World, house organ of Communist Party USA, has two articles singing atheistic hosannas to the bishop of Rome. This has become common at People’s World. The successor to the Soviet-directed Daily Worker is a vigorous champion of this pope. There truly has never been a pope that communists have embraced like Pope Francis. Believe me, I research this, I know. …

That brings me to the reason I’m writing today. I write with encouragement to faithful Catholics who understand that the elephant in the global living room right now—especially in the West—is not carbon emissions or fossil fuels but family and marriage. And in that area, here’s the crucial point: this pope has been superb and seems to be growing steadily stronger. It is the main issue, the issue of our time, and it’s the main issue for this pope.

Read the full text of Kengor’s article here.

Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, recently wrote for The Federalist that the overreach by the Pope into a wide range of environmental issues plagues the text of the encyclical:

Neither the pope nor the teaching authority he exercises is required to comment on every imaginable subject discussed in the public square, whether it is air-conditioning’s environmental impact, contemporary threats to plankton, the effect of synthetic agrotoxins on birds, or how dams affect animal migration (and, yes, all four are discussed in “Laudato Si”). The same goes for Catholic bishops. They’re under no obligation as bishops to articulate an opinion—let alone formal teachings—on every conceivable public policy issue.

One reason for this is that the Catholic Church itself teaches there is considerable room for legitimate disagreement among Catholics about the vast majority of political and economic questions (the legal treatment of matters like abortion and euthanasia being two of the better-known notable exceptions). But a second reason is that the primary responsibility for addressing most social, economic, and political matters belongs, as affirmed by Vatican II in its decree on the laity “Apostolicam Actuositatem,” to lay Catholics: not popes, bishops, priests, or members of religious orders.

Read the full post “A Roundtable on Laudato Si” at The Federalist.

Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, appeared on EWTN News Nightly last week to talk about the environmental encyclical and the pope’s emphasis on personal virtue and Christian stewardship.

On Thursday, Jayabalan commented that the poor will actually be hurt if people consume less, highlighting the need to connect sound economics to poverty alleviation plans:

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Fr. Michael Butler offers insight on the recent encyclical from an Orthodox Christian perspective at Acton University 2015:

Doug Bandow, member of the Advisory Board of the Acton Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, discusses the problem of politics with regard to Pope Francis’ recent encyclical.

In Calling on Government, Laudato Si Misses the Problem of Politics

by Doug Bandow

In his new encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis challenges “every person living on this planet” to adopt a new “ecological spirituality.” But his economic and policy prescriptions are more controversial than his theological convictions. Indeed, his ideas already are being deployed by political advocates. For instance, with the UN pushing a new climate agreement, Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, proclaimed that the encyclical “is going to have a major impact.”

The Pope’s commitment to the poor and our shared world is obvious and appropriate. Yet there is much in his practical arguments to criticize. When he speaks of spiritual matters his vision is clear. When he addresses policy his grasp is less sure. In practice, markets and property rights have much to offer humanity as it seeks to build a better, cleaner world.

Perhaps of even more consequence, the Pontiff ignores the flawed nature of government. He is disappointed with its present failings, but appears to assume that politics, unlike humanity, is perfectible. Thus, he hopes transferring environmental and other crises created by the flawed marketplace to the enlightened political realm will lead to the better world which we all desire.

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In The American Spectator today, Ross Kaminsky critiques the economics behind Laudato Si’ and suggests that the pontiff’s ideas may do more harm than good.

Let’s be clear: The pope is no fan of capitalism, of the rich countries of the northern hemisphere, or of economic rationality. His desire to help the poor of the world is undoubtedly sincere but his policy inclinations are so poorly informed — both in terms of science and economics — that if implemented they would harm the very people he cares most about. Beyond economics, however, even the morality of Francis’s siren calls for particular international actions is questionable.

Kaminsky also cites Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg to explain why Pope Francis’s idea of an “ecological debt” has been discredited.
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Met. John of Pergamon

Met. John of Pergamon

At the Vatican press conference on Thursday for the launch of Pope Francis’ enviromental encyclical, a high ranking Greek Orthodox bishop, Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, said the document, titled Laudato Si in Latin or Praise be to You in English, comes at a “critical moment in human history” and will “undoubtedly have a worldwide effect on people’s consciousness.” He thanked the pope for “for raising his authoritative voice to draw the attention of the world to the urgent need to protect God’s creation from the damage we humans inflict on it with our behavior towards nature.”

Zizioulas, an advocate of what he calls “Radical Ecology” (more on that below), was in Rome as the representative of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew whose church for more than three decades  has taken to the bully pulpit of this ancient and oppressed see to advance Christian stewardship of the environment. This is why Bartholomew, who just concluded another environmental conference in Istanbul, is known as the Green Patriarch.

You can read the full text of Zizioulas’ remarks on the Vatican Radio site. How to understand the Orthodox role here? Five things, for starters.

1. Persuasion, not jurisdiction.

Bartholomew’s pronouncements on the environment have been applauded widely by environmental and media elites. Yet his numerous statements and declarations are met with little interest in the self-governed Orthodox churches outside the Greek Orthodox world. Certainly, his statements and endorsements of various United Nations climate treaties are not binding on other churches in any way. In the Orthodox Church, major theological controversies are settled by a council or synod. Debatable environmental stewardship policies and prescriptions don’t rise to this level. When you hear Bartholomew described by his own church or the media as the “spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians” that is true if he were to sit in synod with other Orthodox hierarchs where he is the “first among equals.” An Orthodox Council is in the works for 2016, but there are no momentous theological disputes on the agenda. Bartholomew, while widely revered, would not typically be considered by a Russian or Egyptian or Romanian or Serb or Bulgarian or Syrian as their pastor. They have their own patriarchs and popes. Nor does Bartholomew wield jurisdiction over the self-governed churches in Greece and Cyprus — although closely linked by language and culture and theological tradition to these lands. (more…)