Archived Posts 2007 - Page 64 of 92 | Acton PowerBlog

Applications and nominations are now being accepted for the 2007 Catholic High School Honor Roll, a program of the Acton Institute. The extended application deadline is May 31, and it is free for schools to participate. The purpose of the Honor Roll is to recognize and encourage excellence in Catholic education. The Honor Roll is an annual list of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the United States, where schools are examined on the criteria of academic excellence, Catholic identity, and civic education. It is viewed nationwide by parents, clergy, the media, donors, and educators. All applicant schools receive detailed evaluations and are eligible for a $1,500 scholarship.

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The Honor Roll is published and publicized nationally, and has come to serve as a resource for parents, schools, and donors. A school’s placement on the Honor Roll, or on one of the honorable mention lists, will distinguish it as one of the finest schools in the nation. The purpose of the Honor Roll is to recognize and encourage excellence in Catholic education. As such, no applicant school will receive negative mention.

Since the Honor Roll’s inception in 2004, schools have found that placing on the Top 50 list is powerful publicity. Whether it is with media coverage, institutional recognition, or praise from the local community, schools are seeing increased enrollment, energized staffs, proud donors, and a tremendous marketing opportunity. More than 200 media stories have helped highlight the good work Catholic high schools do.

The application extended deadline is May 31, and it is again free for schools to participate. All of the nearly 1,400 Catholic secondary schools in the United States are eligible to apply. Schools can apply by returning the three surveys that were recently sent to schools in an application packet, or schools may apply online at If a school completes each of the three surveys online, it will be entered in a drawing for $1,500 in scholarships. Last year’s winner was Marian High School in Mishawaka, IN.

A new feature in 2007 is the ability for anyone to nominate a school. If you think a certain school deserves to be recognized, nominating them will ensure they know about the Honor Roll and are given the chance to participate.

There is one additional opportunity for schools this year. Every school that completes each survey will receive a detailed, comprehensive evaluation that gives feedback, offers tips for improvement, shows where it stands amongst its peers, and details its strengths and weaknesses. This evaluation alone will be worth the time it takes to apply.

The primary goal of the Honor Roll is to encourage schools to educate students as effectively as possible, in a way that integrates Catholic faith and prepares students for active engagement with the world. By supporting this constructive competition, the Honor Roll provides insight into the character of Catholic secondary education and calls everyone to improve the academic and spiritual formation given to America’s youth. In promoting rigorous education, the Honor Roll desires to better prepare students for fruitful vocations in politics, business, and the Church.

John Stossel must have been on vacation last week.

I caught part of the 20/20 special offering for Earth Day on Friday night. Among the reports was one by Jay Schadler focusing on solar power as an alternative source of energy.

Schadler pointed out that even though the United States has only 5% of the world’s population, we consume 25% of the world’s energy. It’s a typical canard trotted out by those who want to depict us ugly Americans as “energy hogs.”

But instead of taking a deeper look at these kinds of statistics, the stats usually appear at the intro of a news piece as a hook leading into some other point about alternative energy.

But let’s take a brief look at the implications of such statistics. Let’s even accept them at face value. What such conclusions about the wastefulness per capita of American energy consumption overlook is the inherent connection between economic productivity and energy usage.

Yes, let’s say America’s share of worldwide energy usage is 25%.

But what is America’s share of the global economy? Somewhere between one-fifth and one-third of gross world product. So just maybe there is in fact a link between economic output and energy consumption.

Another aspect of this relationship appears when you run a historical series comparing per capita CO2 emissions and income growth on Google’s Gapminder software.

Every single day courageous and faithful Christians in Zimbabwe are suffering and dying through their resistance of the brutal reign of president Robert Mugabe. You would never know this is true from the lack of interest or response of conservative Christians in America. Of all the causes that are taken up by the Christian Right I have not heard a single voice lifted on behalf of the church in Zimbabwe and their struggle to resist the reign of terror led by President Mugabe.

In January, eight high-profile Christian leaders were arrested by security forces as they, and hundreds of supporters, opened a new office of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, an international agency that promotes non-violent resistance to Mugabe’s rule. But Mugabe’s government continues to crack down on this resistance as the nation faces total economic and social collapse. Zimbabweans struggle to survive with an inflationary rate of 1,700% as well as widespread unemployment and profound poverty. More than 3/4ths of the people live in poverty, unemployment is at 80%, and hordes of people are escaping to South Africa as refugees. Mugabe has led the nation since 1980 and every call for political and social reform has been met with more force and resistance. Other African leaders are complicit in allowing this to happen, including the president of neighboring South Africa.

Thankfully, the Lutheran World Federation has called on the international community to respond. And the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, with 75 million members in 216 countries, has also urged action by a pan-African Union to act to end this oppression. I support the actions of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches as a Reformed Christian.

While the Christian Right struggles to "rescue" America it almost universally ignores the plight of the poor and oppressed around the world, as well as in our own country. Evangelicals are rarely heard from when issues like Mugabe and Zimbabwe rise to international attention. Why? Could it be that what I have called our "America-centric" mindset is in fact a form of worldliness? Could it be that we simply don’t care about profoundly Christian concerns beyond our own land unless they represent efforts to win individual souls to Christ through our flawed approaches to mission?

Look, I believe the free-market is needed to help Africa lift itself up economically and to experience and practice real freedom. But the free-market will not work when the leadership is corrupt and the economy is a disaster because of oppressive governments. The problem is simple–most of the world doesn’t care enough to do anything about Zimbabwe. While we fight a war in Iraq, ostensibly to build freedom and to protect our own national interests and what we believe to be peace in the Middle East, we treat places like Zimbabwe as unimportant at the very best. To my mind, something is very wrong with this picture. Evangelicals need to join their Catholic and mainline Lutheran and Reformed brothers and sisters in resisting Mugabe and fighting for true reform in Zimbabwe. If we will not defend the helpless and the weakest then our witness will be blunted and our prophetic edge, if we still have one left, will be lost entirely.

Pray for Zimbabwean Christians. Better yet, do something about Zimbabwe if you have an opportunity. Your brothers and sisters need you to truly love them. Talking about politics is easy, doing something that saves lives and cultures is what really matters. Consider James 2:12-26. I don’t hear much serious preaching on James in our conservative churches. I fear that I know why. We are American Christians first, and kingdom Christians second, if at all. We love the message of faith, but we shun works of mercy and compassion when it costs us something. Something is very wrong with this picture.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

John Baird, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, says that following the requirements of the Kyoto protocol would lead to a deep recession in his nation’s economy. Mr. Baird claims that the 6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required by Kyoto would lead to a 25 percent increase in Canada’s unemployment rate by 2009. I haven’t researched John Baird, Canada’s economic status as influenced by global warming, or the accuracy of Mr. Baird’s numbers. I’m mostly amused by the close of the BBC article I just read on this matter.

Some opposition MPs and environmentalists countered that Mr Baird’s findings were based on assumptions chosen for their frightening conclusions.

Assumptions chosen for their frightening conclusions? Let’s not forget that we’re daily told that we’re all going to die in 25 years because of fill in the blank which is a direct result of global warming caused by human emission of greenhouse gases.

I wonder if there is a connection between terrorism and global warming. I’ve always imagined the Middle East to be a generally warm place – maybe terrorism is fueled by rising temperatures. I think if I lived in a generally warm place, I would have issues with the West for increasing temperatures too. As it stands, I live in Michigan (it snowed last week) and I don’t have that problem.

The Call of the Entrepreneur will premiere in Hawaii on May 23 and May 24, 2007. The premiere will be sponsored by the Grassroots Institute of Hawaii in cooperation with the State Policy Network and the Acton Institute. Those of you familiar with SPN may notice that this corresponds with the 2007 Pacific Rim Policy Conference – admission is free with pre-registration for that conference. The premieres will be held at 3:15pm at the Waikiki-Sheraton Hotel.

Again, please remember to visit the Acton PowerBlog, or to keep up-to-date on where the film will be premiering or to provide feedback on the trailer or the film itself.

Some time ago I posted an entry on remarks made by Fr. David Couturier that I deemed to be wrongheaded. Recently Fr. Couturier contacted me via e-mail offering a courteous and thorough clarification of his statements. By way of correction of my original post, and in light of the topic’s potential intrinsic interest to readers, I’m copying below some excerpts from that message and the ensuing e-mail dialogue.

[Fr. Couturier:] I would like to clarify that I strongly and firmly believe in the Franciscan’s direct and personal charity and love of the poor. After all, St. Francis did not kiss an institution,but a leper! One cannot get more personal than that!

My talk was not meant to suggest that Franciscans abandon charity for and among the poor by direct and personal means of self-sacrificing and theocentrically ordered love. I wanted to challenge Franciscans that we must do more, as well… While it is not our role to offer political solutions, as Pope Benedict suggests, we are to offer rational arguments and the spiritual impulse to all the faithful (including religious) to align all things to the will of Christ’s love,including those things at the social, organizational and political level.

Might I suggest that both Dr. Mirus and yourself misread me (or I was unclear)…

If today we have the means to influence the diplomats of the world when they decide the fate of the poor at the United Nations, can we not perhaps help at that level?…

You are correct in warning us that we ought not let this new level of charity dispense us from our primary obligations. I do not believe that it does and I did not mean to suggest as much…

[Schmiesing:] … Your clarification certainly satisfies me to a large extent, if not completely. I agree that there is no reason for Franciscans (or any other group) to be absent from the political process at any level, nor to refrain from offering “rational arguments and the spiritual impulse,” as you say. I do think that for Capuchins (and all other religious), the emphasis should be squarely on the direct and personal charity that you extol. Actually, the same should be true for all Christians. But the differentiation of the roles of clergy and laity outlined by the documents of Vatican II–among other sources in the Church’s tradition–does suggest that the calling to involvement in political life in general–including, I would think, UN lobbying and so forth–is more properly a lay calling…

[Fr. Couturier:] …I agree with you that religious priests do not and should not have the same role as the laity. The development of political solutions to global problems belongs properly to the laity and not to the clergy. We are not politicians or political leaders… At the same time, we do have a role in promoting peace and justice, in setting out rational arguments, in explaining the Church’s social teaching, and in advancing the opportunities whereby the laity take up their role.

That is precisely what we do at Franciscans International… We explore and explain the Church’s social teaching and reflect on the message of St. Francis and try to apply it to contemporary issues. Remember that the Franciscan Order is largely composed of lay men and women. St. Francis founded three branches of the Franciscan Order: the first Order of men, the second Order of women, and the third order of lay men and women. The majority are lay men and women. They have a right and obligation to live out their baptismal call and thus advocate for social justice and social conversion.

…Over the last number of years, we have brought hundreds of ordinary lay men and women from our poorest missions to speak to the diplomats of the world. The diplomats legislate but are often divorced from the real life situations of the poorest of the poor. We give the poor the training and the opportunity to speak face to face with diplomats. It has a profound impact on diplomats who are accustomed to their diplomatic language to hear the straight talk of the ordinary poor of this world.

I believe this is consistent with the teaching of the Church, a proper role for someone like myself, and is faithful to the roles that the Church has given us…

Blog author: jarmstrong
Friday, April 20, 2007

The feature film "Freedom Writers" appeared on DVD this week. It stars two-time Oscar winner Hillary Swank as a very young Long Beach (CA) high school teacher assigned to a freshman English class made up of students all destined to fail. The kids are African-American, Asian and Latino inner-city kids raised on drive-by shootings in a hard-core death-based culture. The story is true and the film is genuinely beautiful.

Erin Gruwell, the teacher in the story, gave her students a voice of their own, a sense of place and a future. She empowered her kids by getting them to read, write and think. She accomplished this by getting them to read The Diary of Anne Frank and then by having them write their responses in a personal journal. The experience slowly transformed how these kids understood life and coped with their own past. Gruwell continually battled an uncaring school system that was set up to fail, like most school systems in the cities of America. She was hated by some of her peers for rocking their boats and she lost her husband’s support, and thus her marriage, in the process. (Sadly, her husband is the epitome of a self-centered male who wants his little wife to abide by his desires and then give up her own personal dreams. I know too many Christian males who think this is godly but I will save that sermon for another day!)

The kids learn to tell their own stories and through this they find real freedom. A group of "unteachable" teens discover the power of acceptance, tolerance and love. Their lives are changed and their dreams are recovered in the process. The cast is superb, the script compelling and the end is deeply moving. The movie is rated PG-13 for violence and language, as you would expect. I recommend "Freedom Writers" to teens and adults.  Christians have a lot to learn about getting involved in real culture change. Gruwell’s transforming work provides a powerful model that tells a very moving story quite well.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."