Category: Vatican

It’s been a busy week for the Acton Institute, with Pope Francis’ Laudeto Si’ arriving in the middle of our biggest conference event of the year, Acton University. As a result, there is a bounty of media for Acton supporters to enjoy this week. Here’s a review, in case you missed anything.

Let’s start off with Acton University: All four evening keynote speeches are available for your viewing pleasure on our YouTube channel. I’ve embedded the address delivered last Wednesday by Gregory Thornbury, president of The King’s College in New York City, in this post; be sure to check out keynotes from Samuel Gregg, Joel Salatin, and Rev. Robert A. Sirico as well. You might also check out this fine piece put together by Experience GR that looks at the Acton University experience.

We’re busy uploading almost 100 lectures from AU 2015 to our digital download store; mp3 versions of all four evening keynote addresses are available for free.

While Acton University was in full swing, Pope Francis released his encyclical letter Laudato Si’, which has created a wave of commentary not only on the state of the global environment, but also on the proper response of Christians and Roman Catholics in particular to the Pope’s assertions in the encyclical.

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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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armsFor such a humble and unassuming man, Pope Francis certainly has a gift for fabricating unnecessary controversy. Last week he released an encyclical that condemns free markets and man-made global warming. But that was rather tame compared to an even more controversial statement this week.

As reported by Reuters, Francis said,

It makes me think of … people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit of distrust, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time he’s made such statements about people who manufacture weapons. In May Francis is reported as having said,
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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…)

Doug Bandow, member of the Advisory Board at the Acton Institute and Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, penned an exclusive article for the Acton Institute on the economic effect of the encyclical:

In Calling on Government, Laudato Si Underestimates Power of the the Market

by Doug Bandow

Pope Francis’ new encyclical, Laudato Si, offers a challenging read. That’s why he addresses his message to “every person living on this planet.” In his view “the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.” He advocates not only a practical political response, but more importantly calls mankind to a new “ecological spirituality.”

Indeed, his role, the Pontiff explains, is to help the rest of us apply the “rich heritage of Christian spirituality, the fruit of twenty centuries of personal and communal experience,” to the world around us. The Gospel should affect how we think, feel, and live. We should relate through it not only to people around us, but the entire environment.

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Doug Bandow, advisory board member of the Acton Institute, praises the new encyclical for its understanding of man and religion, but criticizes it for its lack of knowledge of economics and politics in an article for The American Spectator.

Despite his commitment to ecological values, the Holy Father acknowledges that “a return to nature cannot be at the expense of freedom and the responsibility of the human being, that is the part of the world tasked with cultivating its ability to protect and develop their potential.” He also rejects “deification of the earth, which would deprive us of the call to collaborate with it and protect its fragility.”

Nevertheless, humanity’s responsibility for the environment is complex and the Pope discusses ecological values in the context of economic development and care for the poor. How to creatively transform but at the same time gently preserve the natural world is not easy. Unfortunately, in its policy prescriptions Laudato Si sounds like it was written by an advocate, largely ignoring countervailing arguments. The resulting factual and philosophical shortcomings undercut the larger and more profound theological discussion.

Read the full article “Praise ‘Be Praised’ for Its Intent, not Execution” at The American Spectator.

 

Peter Johnson, external relations officer for the Acton Institute, discusses the muddled economic message in the recent encyclical for The Federalist:

While I don’t doubt for a moment that Pope Francis sincerely wants to help the poor, I think it would be difficult for even the most erudite Catholic scholars to find a coherent message in a passage like this.

For example, he praises business as a “noble vocation” while summarily disparaging “economies of scale.” While he recognizes that poor people need to be connected to the larger economy to rise out of poverty, he also encourages “civil authorities” to constrain those in the larger economy who actually have the capital to invest in new enterprises.

This vacillation between upholding the merits of enterprise and disparaging profits runs throughout the encyclical. If I could sum up his view on commerce in one sentence it would be this: Business is okay, as long as you don’t make too much money.

Read the entire post “Pope Francis’ Incoherent Economics” here at The Federalist.