Archived Posts February 2013 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: michael.severance
Thursday, February 28, 2013
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With an elegant white papal helicopter swirling over our heads, Benedict XVI flew into Castel Gandolfo for a final word to faithful living in the diocese of Albano Laziale—my adopted Italian home—and summer residence of popes since the early 17th century.

At about 5:45 pm Rome time, I was personal witness with a few thousand others as he delivered a final public address, which lasted no more than a minute. Completely off the cuff, Benedict spoke with great personal affection and encouragement for those us who have called him “our neighbor” for the last eight summers in the bucolic and panoramic Roman countryside (see also ABC video below):

Dear friends, I’m happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of creation and your well-wishes which do me such good. Thank you for your friendship, and your affection. You know this day is different for me than the preceding ones: I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8 o’clock this evening and then no more.

I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth. But I would still … thank you … I would still with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength, like to work for the common good and the good of the church and of humanity. I feel very supported by your sympathy.

Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the church and the world. Thank you, I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing. Blessed be God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Good night! Thank you all!

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What do we mean when we talk about “liberty?”

roman-slaveWhile it may appear that we all use the word in the same way, closer examination reveals that Americans have a wide range of meanings for the term. For instance, when those of us at Acton refer to liberty we tend to have in mind the definition we use in our “core principles”: Liberty, in a positive sense, is achieved by fulfilling one’s nature as a person by freely choosing to do what one ought.

Other individuals and organizations often define the term in ways that differ, either subtly or radically, from the Acton Institute. Liberty, then, is less an easily definable term than a word used to refer to a range of loosely related concepts. Understanding how “liberty” has been used in the past can therefore help us understand how and why we have different views of it today.

A prime example is political historian Quentin Skinner’s explanation of “neo-Roman liberty.”
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Too many regulations: that’s the judgement of Fred Deluca, founder of the Subway restaurant chain. In an interview with CNBC, Deluca said he couldn’t start his business in today’s economic climate.

The Subway founder pointed to a number of government regulations that are degrading the business environment for entrepreneurs. Examples include the Affordable Care Act, an increase in the minimum wages and the end of the payroll tax holiday.

The Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” is “the biggest concern of our franchisees,” Deluca said. “They don’t know what to expect. It’s causing a lot of concern, but that too will be passed on to the consumer.”

Deluca also said payroll taxes are a burden passed on to customers, and sales then decline. He said that if he were to try and start his business in today’s tangle of regulations and burdensome costs, “…Subway would not exist.”

Read “Subway ‘Wouldn’t Exist’ If Started Today Due to Regulations: Founder Deluca” at CNBC.com.

Benedict XVI Rome 2005 © Michael Matheson Miller Yesterday in front of a crowd of about 150,000 Pope Benedict XVI gave his final general audience. He steps down this evening at 8pm Rome time and will fly to Castel Gandolfo until his new residence within the Vatican is ready. He expressed his deep gratitude to the people for their prayers and confidence that God would continue to guide the Church.

And eight years later I can say that the Lord has guided me. He has been close to me. I have felt His presence every day. It has been a stretch of the Church’s path that has had moments of joy and light, but also difficult moments. I felt like St. Peter and the Apostles in the boat on the See of Galilee. The Lord has given us many days of sunshine and light breezes, days when the fishing was plentiful, but also times when the water was rough and the winds against us, just as throughout the whole history of the Church, when the Lord seemed to be sleeping. But I always knew that the Lord is in that boat and I always knew that the boat of the Church is not mine, not ours, but is His. And the Lord will not let it sink.

One of the things that stood out to me is his plan for the future and how he will take St. Benedict, his patron, and the founder of Western Monasticism as his model. He said:

“Allow me here to return once again to 19 April, 2005. The gravity of the decision lay precisely in the fact that, from that moment on, I was always and for always engaged by the Lord. Always—whoever assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and entirely to everyone, to the whole Church. His life, so to speak, is totally deprived of its private dimension. I experienced, and I am experiencing it precisely now, that one receives life precisely when they give it. Before I said that many people who love the Lord also love St. Peter’s Successor and are fond of him; that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion; because he no longer belongs to himself but he belongs to all and all belong to him.”
“’Always’ is also ‘forever’–there is no return to private life. My decision to renounce the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I am not returning to private life, to a life of trips, meetings, receptions, conferences, etc. I am not abandoning the cross, but am remaining beside the Crucified Lord in a new way. I no longer bear the power of the office for the governance of the Church, but I remain in the service of prayer, within St. Peter’s paddock, so to speak. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example to me in this. He has shown us the way for a life that, active or passive, belongs wholly to God’s work.”

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, February 28, 2013
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Five myths about picking a pope
Thomas J. Reese, Washington Post

Let’s look at some of the misconceptions about how the cardinals will select the latest successor to Saint Peter.

Against Calling on Government to Shape Souls
Greg Sisk, Mirror of Justice

[G]overnment knows no bounds and freedom is in grave jeopardy when the power of the State is unleashed in a crusade for the “betterment of men’s hearts.”

America’s Double Jeopardy: Surging Debt and Waning Economic Freedom
Anthony B. Kim, The Foundry

A new study on public debt presented at the recent University of Chicago Booth School of Business monetary policy forum in New York has highlighted “tipping point dynamics” that can occur to countries with high debt loads.

Five Reasons Why Christians Should Care About Economic Freedom
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

Part of the disconnect between faith, work, and economics these audiences were experiencing stems from the fact that Christians don’t always view all truth as God’s truth.

I was one of the estimated 200,000 faithful who arose at the crack of dawn to join the crowds swelling St. Peter’s Square and its surrounding streets. I was also joined by millions more by way of television, radio, and the internet. We had come on this historic day to express deep personal affection and solidarity for Benedict XVI, whose February 27 audience served as his last public appearance and farewell address in Rome.

DSCN0117Benedict reassured us that he will resign his papacy tomorrow “in full consciousness of its gravity and also novelty, but with profound serenity of soul.” He therefore confirmed his full personal freedom to do so, as originally announced on February 11 and in accordance with the Church’s legal canons which protect against forced resignations.

All said, there was not an air of gloom-and-doom in St. Peter’s Square. The unexpected spring-like sunny weather broke weeks of an endless stormy winter (literally and figuratively) in Rome. This glorious day, surely, was seen a positive sign for the Church’s future. The theological virtue of hope was indeed palpable among the vivacious crowd who expressed their gratitude with brightly colored banners of affection (“You will not be alone!”, “We love and thank you Holy Father!”, “We are young and will not fear!”) and culminated in festive joy as a Bavarian folk band broke into song. There was a cheering confidence, as if the Pontiff were on a final “victory lap” in his popemobile. The normally non-emotive German pope went off script during the rhythmic, joyful chant of Italian “Be-ne-det-to!”: “I am truly moved! And I see the Church is alive!”
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During his address to German students yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry offered a defense of freedom of speech and religion by saying that in the United States “you have a right to be stupid if you want to be.”

john-kerry“As a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view,” Kerry told the students in Berlin, the second stop on his inaugural trip as secretary of state.

“People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another,” he added.

“The reason is, that’s freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be,” he said, prompting laughter. “And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be.

“And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that. Now, I think that’s a virtue. I think that’s something worth fighting for,” he added. “The important thing is to have the tolerance to say, you know, you can have a different point of view.”

No one familiar with John Kerry’s career should be surprised that he is snootily dismissive of Americans who hold views different from his own. And perhaps we should be grateful that a man who could have been president of the United States believes in “tolerating” those of us who stupidly oppose infringements on our religious liberties.

Still, as Ken Blackwell says, instead of talking of “tolerance” and how we “tolerate” ideas we think are stupid, Kerry might have told the young Germans about George Washington’s eloquent Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport.

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Adam-eve-priest-animals-riverIn today’s Acton Commentary, I explore the Christian conception of law as a necessary palliative to the anti-social effects of sin. “Since we do not always govern ourselves as we ought to, in accord with the moral order, there must be some external checks and limits on our behavior,” I write.

In a complementary post over at There is Power in the Blog (the blog of the journal Political Theology), I also explore the theme of “Proper Reverence for Political Authority.” There I draw explicitly on the example of Abraham Kuyper, who sees “the state” as a uniquely post-lapsarian institution, but who also sees social and even political life as a natural expression of human nature.

There’s a wonderful passage in Kuyper’s lecture on Calvinism and politics that gets at what political life might have looked like without sin and the resulting need for coercive restraint: “Had sin not intervened…as a disintegrating force, had not divided humanity into different sections, nothing would have marred or broken the organic unity of our race.” Only in such a case “would the organic unity of our race be realized politically,” in which “one State could embrace all the world.”

But, in fact, sin has intervened, and therefore, as I point out in today’s commentary, “law and legal constraint protect true liberty, and prevent our earthly existence from degenerating into a hellish existence, a libertinism in which our anti-social desires are given full rein.”

And for another worthwhile discussion on “what kind of corporeal or political life men would have professed in the state of innocence,” check out the latest scholia translation and introduction of a text by Francisco Suárez in the latest issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality.

Anthony Bradley looks at the inspiring life story of Thomas L. Jennings (1791–1856) who was granted a patent, the first for an African American, for developing a process that led to modern-day dry cleaning. “Do we not want new stories like this in the United States and around the world?” asks Bradley. “Do we not want people to be free to use their creativity to meet marketplace needs in their communities and freely use their wealth creation to contribute to civil society as they see fit?” The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
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I have recently accepted the honor of becoming a contributing editor at Ethika Politika, and I begin my contribution in that role today by launching a new channel (=magazine section): Via Vitae, “the way of life.” In my introductory article, “What Hath Athos to Do With New Jersey?” I summarize the goal of Via Vitae as follows:

Via Vitae seeks to explore this connection between the mystical and the mundane, liturgy and public life, the kingdom of God and the common good. While I value technical discussions of public policy and believe that the work of advocating for civil laws that reflect the law of God constitutes a true vocation, I see a lacuna in our discourse when it comes to the habits necessary to enable persons to live morally in the first place, however just or unjust the law itself may be. (more…)