Visit the Acton Institute’s special section on Pope Benedict XVI to keep up-to-date about the new pope and the media activities of Acton staff.
An excerpt from Cardinal Ratzinger’s “Homily at the Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff,” given yesterday:
How many winds of doctrine we have known in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many fashions of thought? The small boat of thought of many Christians has often remained agitated by the waves, tossed from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, etc.
Every day new sects are born and we see realized what St. Paul says on the deception of men, on the cunning that tends to lead into error (cf. Ephesians 4:14). To have a clear faith, according to the creed of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. While relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be carried about with every wind of “doctrine,” seems to be the only attitude that is fashionable. A dictatorship of relativism is being constituted that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the “I” and its whims as the ultimate measure.
God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Ignatius Press, 2002
Comments by Dr. Samuel Gregg:
As Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has demonstrated again and again that he is one of the world’s leading theologians. In this extended interview with the renowned German journalist, Peter Seewald, we are given an insight into Ratzinger’s thought on a range of topics fundamental to Christian belief. This includes profound meditation on the theological virtues (faith, hope, and love), Creation, Revelation, the Personhood of Christ, the Cross, the Sacraments, and the Church itself. This book is especially interesting insofar as the interviewer has only recently returned to the Catholic Faith, and is thus far from obsequious in his questions. The ensuing discussion between the once-secularist journalist and a Prince of the Church thus deeply penetrates into some of the very essences of Christian belief, and confirms Ratzinger’s reputation as a Christian critically engaged with modernity and not afraid to state where it sheds both light and darkness upon the truth revealed to man by faith and reason.
Today marks the birthday of Eliot Ness, Prohibition Agent for the Department of Treasury-Chicago. Ness was made famous for bringing down Al Capone. The story was loosely portrayed in the movie The Untouchables, starring Kevin Costner as Ness.
And on a related note, this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision ruling that buying liquor does not violate the Constitution (May 26).
In his occasional paper on the sin tax, Rev. Robert Sirico writes, “The sin tax and monopolization of the provision of sin (as in the alcohol example) are the halfway house to total prohibition. For that reason, it is impossible not to notice the parallels between the recent Canadian experience and the American era of Prohibition, which lasted from 1919 to 1933. The entire country became engulfed in a crime wave, while statistics reveal little if any difference in actual alcohol consumption. The worst elements of society — those willing to take enormous risks with the law — made handsome profits, while the peaceful users of these supposedly sinful products paid high prices for their goods. The Prohibition era ended up making a mockery of the law. Even otherwise law-abiding people were dragged by their desire for the ‘sinful’ product into underground markets, lessening their overall respect for the government and authority in general.”
If looking for an exposition of the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy when applied to wealth and the size of government in the United States, you can find it in this speech, “The State Expands, and Weakens,” given by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, to a free-market businessmen’s group in Okemos, Michigan, on April 16, 2005. HT: Mises Economics Blog
Following the resignation of a number of ministers, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi “plans to resign to form a new government, bowing to an ally’s demands for change after losing 11 out of 13 regional elections two weeks ago,” according to a Bloomberg report.
One of the ministers who resigned on April 15, Rocco Buttiglione, is a member of the Acton Institute’s Board of Advisors. Mr. Buttiglione received the Faith & Freedom Award from the institute after withdrawing his nomination to the European Commission, in the face of withering criticism for his religious views from rival politicians, secularists and the media.
“There will be a second Berlusconi government that adheres to the policies indicated by our party,” Rocco Buttiglione, who is also the president of the Union of Christian Democrats.
Bloomberg further reports that the shake-up is due to conflicts over varous policies, including taxes. “The Union of Christian Democrats, the third-biggest party in the four-way coalition, and the National Alliance, the second- biggest, oppose Berlusconi’s plan to cut income taxes and boost spending on public works to help growth. Instead they are demanding business-tax reductions and aid to Italy’s depressed south.”
Update: In a surprising move, PM Berlusconi has decided not to resign, and instead his government will face a no-confidence vote later this week.
Sunday’s Independent has three pieces on the recent application of technological advances to ancient manuscripts, which are making readable previously illegible manuscripts. According to the paper, “infra-red technology has enabled hundreds of ancient Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems, composed by classical greats such as Sophocles, Euripides and Hesiod, to be deciphered for the first time in 2,000 years.”
Also thought to be contained in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri are early copies of Christian texts, possibly including gospel accounts. Examples of the classical texts discovered are the only surviving lines from Epigonoi (“The Progeny”), a tale of the siege of Thebes by by Sophocles (495-405 BC):
Speaker A: . . . gobbling the whole, sharpening the flashing iron.
Speaker B: And the helmets are shaking their purple-dyed crests, and for the wearers of breast-plates the weavers are striking up the wise shuttle’s songs, that wakes up those who are asleep.
Speaker A: And he is gluing together the chariot’s rail.
Hot on the trail of chimeras as a service to you, dear reader, I pass along this story about the offspring of a dolphin and a whale. Apparently these so-called “wholphins” have been found in the wild.
Wholphins, as whale-dolphin hybrids, are a less-famous form of chimera than more famous ligers (mules are the most famous). According to Napoleon Dynamite, a liger is “pretty much my favorite animal. It’s like a lion and a tiger mixed. Bred for its skills in magic.”
Now as alluded to in a previous post, I’ve done a theological examination of the phenomena of animal/human chimeras. I conclude that these violate the dignity of human beings created as image-bearers of God, as well as the dignity of animals which share with us the “breath of life” (see Genesis 1:30).
With respect to such animal/animal chimeras, however, my inclination is to find that such hybrids, which can naturally occur without direct human genetic intervention, are not morally objectionable. But cases in which humans must manipulate and artificially produce such animals raise greater moral questions.
The incongruence of a culture that insists on knowledge of every detail about charity donations and yet puts no value on a disabled woman’s life is frankly mind-boggling. But let’s move beyond value of human life and focus on the importance of telling the truth and being honest. Stanley Carlson-Thies, formerly of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, makes a superb point that like too much of any good thing, too much transparency just might “turn” on the good intentions of Senator Grassley and his increased charity oversight project. Good intentions are simply not enough.
Despite the stated commitment to not harm small charities, and despite the literally hundreds of experts invited by Independent Sector to advise the committee, discussion has yet to focus–or even include–the truly unique nature of neighborhood-centered, faith-informed, people-passionate charities. The discussion of severely limiting noncash deductions (“lumping” farm land, artwork, and canned goods in the same regulatory sphere) should be a huge red flag. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy (subscription, 4-14-05, pages 27-29), George Yin, Congressional chief of staff for the Joint Taxation Committee, is eyeing more than $2.5 billion if the regs were changed to suit him.
Somehow TurboTax® ItsDeductible®, which complies with current IRS guidelines, pales in comparison.
At what point does reasonable transparency become paparazzi? Like paparazzi, the charity governance as the Senate is picturing it just might cause damage that they never intended, but happened nonetheless. The reality is that the nonprofit charity world has very, very different goals, workers, donors, histories, and ties. To seriously consider a ‘one size fits all’ IRS solution is naive…and frankly, mind-boggling.
"John Paul II . . . thinks that capitalism goes way too far and results in oppression of people in the developing world. So economic redistribution would be a very radical position . . ." Lisa Sowle Cahill, professor of theology at Boston College.
Centesimus Annus Says:
"Today we are facing the so-called ‘globalization’ of the economy, a phenomenon which is not to be dismissed, since it can create unusual opportunities for greater prosperity." (CA #58)
"Even in recent years it was thought that the poorest countries would develop by isolating themselves from the world market and by depending only on their own resources. Recent experience has shown that countries which did this have suffered stagnation and recession, while the countries which experienced development were those which succeeded in taking part in the general interrelated economic activities at the international level. It seems therefore that the chief problem is that of gaining fair access to the international market, based not on the unilateral principle of the exploitation of the natural resources of these countries but on the proper use of human resources." (CA #33)