Category: Vatican

In the May 20 issue of the London-based Catholic Herald, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg has a new piece that draws on his book For God and Profit: How Banking and Finance Can Serve the Common Good. “Rather than simply engaging in blanket condemnations that occasionally verge on moralism and which reflect little actual knowledge of the financial sector, we should follow our forebears’ example by first seeking to understand modern financial practices,” Gregg writes.

The article is not currently available online. The Catholic Herald has kindly shared it with PowerBlog readers as a PDF. Click on the following link to download a copy of the article: “Think twice before you condemn bankers”

Bishop Dominique Rey speaking at Acton's April 20 conference in Rome.

Bishop Dominique Rey speaking at Acton’s April 20 conference in Rome.

Yesterday in the French section of the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, an exclusive interview finally appeared with the outspoken Bishop Dominique Rey of Toulon-Fréjus. Bishop Rey provided the interview when in Rome last month to speak about the current challenges to religious and economic freedom in Europe at the Acton Institute’s conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time“.

The May 19 headline “Sortir du prêt-à-penser” (Thinking Outside the Box) was based on the bishop’s appeal for a deeper study of Leo’s XIII’s  landmark 1891 social encyclical Rerum Novarum and Catholic social doctrine in general, but also his discontent with the way secular Western culture superficially appraises human nature and commonly proposes solutions to social injustice, while leaving God, natural law and human dignity out of the larger picture. Quoting him from the April 20 conference, we read:

Any analysis Rerum Novarum is based on the certainty that the answer to the evils of our time will come not so much as a particular technical solution, but more so out of respect for the natural law, that is, for man himself as God created him, and by recognizing God’s place in the society. Only opening up to such transcendence helps resist absolute [forms of] materialism and consumerism.

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At Catholic Vote, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg joins the web site’s political director Josh Mercer to look into the reasons why socialist and Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders “was invited by ‘the Vatican’ (actually: Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences) to speak on income inequality.” Gregg and Mercer also discuss whether socialism is on the rise here in the United States. Tune in here.

vatican-bankLate last year Pope Francis ordered the first ever external audit of Vatican accounts. After a series of embarrassing leaks and scandals, the pontiff promised to make the Vatican’s finances more transparent. But recently it was announced that audit was “suspended immediately.”

In the Detroit News, the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, considers what this portends for the Vatican’s financial reform:

I arrived in Rome to participate in a conference on Catholic social thought one day after Sen. Bernie Sanders departed after a similar engagement. The Democratic presidential candidate’s finger-wagging at Wall Street and his proposed financial industry reforms came to mind as the news broke that the much-touted audit of Vatican finances had been “suspended.”

The news created some buzz at the conference in no small part because Cardinal Pell was in attendance. Speculation ensued that the announcement from the Secretary of State’s office indicated an internal power struggle and that Pell was on his way out.

But the rumors of Pell’s demise were, as they say, highly exaggerated.

Read more . . .

sandersgrinAt The Stream, Acton Institute Research Director Samuel Gregg does a crime scene investigation of Bernie Sanders’ take on Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus encyclical. You might never guess, by listening to the Democrat presidential candidate, that John Paul actually had some positive things to say about the market economy. Gregg says that Sanders’ recent appearance at a Vatican conference “will be seen for what it is: grandstanding by a left-wing populist candidate for the American presidency.” Aside from that, there are Sanders’ “contestable” economic assertions:

In the first place, Sanders didn’t acknowledge just how much the encyclical being discussed by the conference, Saint John Paul II’s 1991 Centesimus Annus, underscored the positive role of free markets as well as limits on what the government can and should do in the economy. To be sure, Centesimus Annus is not a Catholic version of Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose. But as I observed prior to the speech, Centesimus Annus contains some of the papacy’s strongest endorsements of the market economy and some of Catholicism’s most powerful critiques of not just socialism but also welfare states. None of these commendations or criticisms were referenced in Sanders’ address.

More generally, some of the claims made by Sanders about inequality are very contestable. His address referred, for instance, to “the widening gaps between the rich and poor.” This, however, doesn’t reflect the evidence of what’s happening to global economic inequality. In terms of global income, for instance, the most widely utilized assessment of income distribution, the Gini coefficient, went from 0.69 in 1988 to 0.63 in 2011. That matters, because a lower Gini coefficient indicates falling inequality.

Nor does Sanders seem aware of the sheer numbers of people who have escaped absolute poverty in Asia, especially India and China, over the past forty years. In 2010, for example, the Asian Development Bank stated that per capita GDP increased 6 percent each year in developing Asian nations between 1990 and 2009. According to the same report, about 850 million people escaped absolute poverty between 1990 and 2005.

Read “Bernie Visits the Vatican, and Misrepresents Pope John Paul II” by Samuel Gregg at The Stream.

The Acton Institute issued a video statement to the international press today from its Rome office, introducing the main topics that to be addressed at its April 20th Rome conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time” at the Roma-Trevi Conference Center.

Among the “new things” to be discussed for the 125th anniversary of Leo’s landmark social encyclical will be the Church and poverty, Europe’s faltering welfare states, globalization’s winners and losers, youth unemployment, our malfunctioning financial systems, the rise of economic populism, new forms of socialism, and, of course, Pope Francis’s economic thinking.

Lively discussion will take place at the conference as well as on social media via the hash tag #125onFreedom. More information can be found at acton.org/Rome2016.

Online viewing will be available on livestream from which viewers may propose questions for the conference speakers.

Pope Francis’ words to journalists on board the charted flight yesterday to the Greek island of Lesbos struck an emotional chord: “It is a sad journey,” he said. “We are going to see the greatest humanitarian  tragedy after World War II.”

As Francis deplaned he was greeted by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The pope expressed his gratitude for Greece’s generosity to Middle Eastern refugees, many of whom come to Europe fleeing from desperate situations.

Francis spent only 5 hours on the small Greek island near the cost of Turkey, while meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Ieronymos II, the archbishop of Athens and Greece. He took time to speak to refugees from regions of economic depravity, religious persecution and military strife. He then held a service to bless those who have died trying to reach Europe.

According to RomeReports’ coverage of the one-day papal visit, Francis traveled to the Moria refugee camp, “a place where the migrants arrive and can not leave freely.” (more…)