Category: Vatican

laudato_siSamuel Gregg, Acton’s director of research, writes in The American Spectator today about Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical which addresses environmental issues. Gregg says that part of the encyclical’s intent is to add to the global discussion regarding the environment and to the climate change debate. However, Gregg believes that the encyclical, rather than enlightening, is muddying the waters.

To be sure, there is much about today’s global economy that merits criticism. The encyclical rightly underscores the problem of bailing out banks at everyone else’s expense (189). Does anyone doubt that, if the world faces another series of major bank failures, governments will behave in exactly the same way, thereby reinforcing the moral hazard problem that’s at the root of so much of the financial sector’s on-going dysfunctionality? The encyclical also suggests, correctly, that despite the events of 2008, there has been a major failure to reform the world’s financial systems (189). Likewise the pope’s tough words for those who regard population growth as somehow damaging the environment and impeding economic development are spot-on (50).

Nonetheless, many conceptual problems and questionable empirical claims characterize the encyclical’s vision of contemporary economic life. In terms of environmental degradation, Laudato Si’ appears oblivious to the fact that the twentieth century’s worst economically driven pollution occurred as a result of centrally-planned state-industrialization schemes in former Communist nations. Anyone who’s visited Eastern Europe or the former USSR and witnessed the often-devastated landscape will quickly attest to the validity of that insight.

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Laudato si coverPope Francis has released his eagerly anticipated encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’. While the document deserves a close reading, it’s extreme length (80 pages/45,000 words) will make it difficult for many people to process. To help highlight some of the key points I’ve produced a section-by-section summary of the entire encyclical.

As with any summary, much of the meaning and context will be lost. But I hope this will provide you with a starting point for greater engagement with the latest edition to the social teachings of the Catholic Church.

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chesterton-pope-francis-enclycialPope Francis’ new encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, is generating discussion across the web. For a round-up of responses and reactions from Acton, see Acton Speaks on the Environment.

There’s plenty left to explore, respond, and reflect on, but in the meantime, it’s worth noting an interesting parallel with another great Catholic thinker (as passed along by a friend of mine).

The beginning of the environmental encyclical leads off with the following statement about Earth being our “sister”:

LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.  This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.

These references to “sister earth” are sprinkled throughout the encyclical, and it’s metaphor that’s been used before by G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy: (more…)

Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, spoke with Business Spectator about the economic message of the new encyclical:

When you read through the text, you find the free market, and finance in particular, is identified more or less as responsible for many environmental problems, Dr Gregg said.  It’s almost a subterranean theme of the encyclical …In many respects it’s a caricature of market economies.

Read more at “Pope Delivers Strong Message on Climate Change.” from Business Spectator.

Alejandro Chafuen, member of the Board of Directors of the Acton Institute, discusses the theology, science, and political impact of Pope Francis’ environmental statements:

Although the Pope writes and speaks as he is not an expert on bio-technology—allowing for differences of opinion—when he speaks about political economic topics he does it with conviction and certainty. Like other Church documents, this one again cautions that “on many concrete issues the Church has no reason to propose a final word” and that it promotes and respects honest debate among scientists respecting the diversity of opinion. But on economic topics, “Laudato Si” seems one sided. A major guiding document of the Catholic Church, “Gaudium et Spes” (36:7), deplores “certain habits of mind, which are sometimes found among Christians, which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful independence of science and which, from the arguments and controversies they spark, lead many minds to conclude that faith and science are mutually opposed.”

If the Social Doctrine of the Church is seen as teaching one sided views on solar panels, carbon credits, or climate change, it might put into question the credibility of its other teachings as well.

Read “Pope Francis and the Environment:  Sound Theology, Politicized Science?” at Forbes.com.

Speaking to the New York Times, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Acton Institute president and co-founder, addresses the potential political fallout from the Pope’s encyclical statements on climate change:

From the moment he steps into that chamber and talks about climate change, it’s going to be taken as a political statement,” said the Rev. Robert Sirico, executive director of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, a policy group that endorses free-market economics. “For the conservatives, it’s going to be very uncomfortable. Republicans are going to have a hard time on the environment.

Read “Pope’s Views on Climate Change Add Pressure to Catholic Candidates” in the New York Times.

declaration-facts-wideToday in The Federalist, Acton director of research Samuel Gregg looks ahead to Pope Francis’ American visit. Gregg, of course, cannot predict the future, but he can respond to others’ speculation; in particular, he takes issue with Jeffrey Sachs. Sachs, in America magazine

argued that another old-style Jesuit—Pope Francis—will be coming to an America uninterested in virtue, mired in consumerism, and fast becoming a hyper-individualistic society obsessed with rights.

Turning on the television soon confirms there’s some truth in Sachs’ analysis. Witness the relentless advertising that tells you that you’re not fully human unless you have the very latest whatever. Yet materialism and consumerism are just as widespread in, for instance, social-democratic Western Europe, klepocratic Russia, Communist China, and crony corporatist Latin America. Hence, it can hardly be described as a particularly American problem.

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Acton University 2015 is about to get underway at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and our friend Al Kresta has already taken up residence on the gallery overlook level for his week of Kresta in the Afternoon remote broadcasts. His first guest from Acton University was our own Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, who sat down for a twenty minute discussion of Pope Francis, Laudeto Si, and the compatibility of capitalism with Christianity. The full interview is available via the audio player below.

pope-francis-0616Since Pope Francis will be addressing climate change later this week the Pew Research Center has released a survey showing what American Catholics think about both the pontiff and global warming.

Not surprisingly, the survey found that global warming is a “highly politicized issue that sharply divides American Catholics, like the U.S. public as a whole, mainly along political party lines.”

About seven-in-ten U.S. Catholics (71 percent) believe the planet is getting warmer, and nearly half (47 percent) attribute it to human causes. A similar share (48 percent) consider global warming to be a very serious problem.

Catholic Democrats are much more likely (85 percent) to say there is solid evidence that Earth is warming, compared with just half of Catholic Republicans (51 percent). And while six-in-ten Catholic Democrats say global warming is a man-made phenomenon and that it poses a very serious problem, only about a quarter of Catholic Republicans agree.
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Michael Matheson Miller, Research Fellow and Director of Acton Media at the Acton Institute:

“Pope Francis has spoken consistently about the need to end exclusion for the world’s poor.  Since the environmental movement often neglects the challenges of the poor, it will be interesting to see how the encyclical addresses the call to environmental stewardship in the context of poverty and economic development. “