Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan sat down with NPR to discuss, among other things, poverty. As the highest ranking member of the House, Ryan has a crucial opportunity to change the way the government addresses poverty. In his plans to confront this issue, Ryan keeps community efforts and local solutions central.
During the last four years, Ryan made visits to several poverty-stricken areas with community organizer Bob Woodson in order to better understand the challenges these struggling communities face. Through these visits, Ryan recognized the influence of community groups and the importance of supporting the efforts of those who have found and are implementing effective local programs. (more…)
Pope Francis visits the European Parliament in Strasbourg in November 2014 (AP)
Gregg shrewdly justifies his call for the Catholic Church to reform its treatment of political organizations. Gregg points out that many Catholics are increasingly suspicious about the Europeans Union’s growth of power and recognize that some United Nation agencies “directly violate Catholic teaching on human life”- and while this is true, he organizes additional points which strengthen his case.
Some of the most important factors which the Catholic Church should consider is first the lack of prioritizing decentralization among EU officials, and secondly the tendency of supranational institutions “not only to dilute national sovereignty but even national identity” through Kantian institutional internationalism. Lastly, Gregg explains that even if the Kantian liberalism were taken out of supranational bodies, the EU has only shown signs to approach change by implementing ‘top-down’ centralization. (more…)
In a new essay for the Catholic World Report, Samuel Gregg discusses why it’s dangerous to to overemphasize any one facet of Christian teaching at the expense of a different teaching. No matter what is overemphasized, this will distort the Gospel. The focus of this essay is “mercy” and how mercy leads “to the ultimate source of justice–the God who is love–and thus prevents justice from collapsing into something quite anti-human.”
Gregg describes the three ways mercy can be distorted: as sentimentalism, as injustice, and as mediocrity. When describing mercy as injustice, Gregg warns that “it quickly undermines any coherent conception of justice.”
Back in 1980, John Paul warned in Dives in Misericordia that “In no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence towards evil, towards scandals, towards injury or insult. In any case, reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness” (DM 14). If that sounds tough-minded, that’s because it is. Remember, however, that the Jesus Christ who embodies mercy isn’t the equivalent of a divine stuffed animal. Whenever the Scriptures portray Christ offering mercy to sinners, his forgiveness is always laced with a gentle but clear reminder of the moral law and the expectation that the sinful acts will be discontinued.
Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg reviews a new book at the Library of Law and Liberty that demolishes the canard that religious figure were “somehow opposed holus bolus to Enlightenment ideas is one that has been steadily discredited over the last 50 years.” In his review of The Catholic Enlightenment: The Forgotten History of a Global Movement by by Ulrich L. Lehner, Gregg points out that the new book shows how “the Enlightenment argument for freedom was embraced by many Catholic Enlighteners.”
One of Lehner’s central themes is that the roots of Catholic Enlightenment thought are to be found in that most reforming of Church councils: the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Trent’s impact in terms of clarifying church dogmas and doctrines, curbing laxity among the clergy, implementing an extensive seminary and university reform program, and propelling the rise of dynamic religious orders (to name just a few changes) is hard to underestimate. Trent facilitated the development of a thoroughly orthodox, intellectually rigorous, and disciplined clergy; a renewed emphasis upon addressing social and economic problems; a repudiation of superstitious customs; and, perhaps most significantly, an emphasis that lay people were also called to holiness. This idea pervades, for instance, Saint Francis de Sales’ immensely influential Introduction to the Devout Life (1609).
Trent was therefore about improvement. And comprehensive efforts to better the human condition was a central leitmotif of the various Enlightenments and one to which, Lehner shows, many Catholics were naturally well-disposed. In some areas, such as enhancing women’s legal status and education, it turns out that Catholic reformers were well ahead of their Protestant and more secular-minded counterparts. (more…)
The Little Sisters of the Poor, an international congregation of Catholic women religious who serve the elderly poor in over 30 countries around the world, have been given a difficult choice: violate your conscience or pay $70 million a year in fines.
For the past few years the Obama administration has been attempting to force the Little Sisters — and other nonprofit religious organizations — to help provide their employees with free access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives. But on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to determine whether the nuns will be given the right to continue with their ministry caring for the elderly poor and providing health benefits to their employees without having to violate their consciences.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Constance Veit, director of vocations for the Little Sisters of the Poor, explains why the requirement is a violation of their conscience:
Fifty years ago today, on December 7, 1965, Pope Paul VI promulgated the Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis humanae). This document produced by the Second Vatican Council clarified the Catholic Church’s views on religious liberty, changed the way the Church interacted with states, and helped foster ecumenical relations with other faith traditions.
Since the release of Dignitatis humanae, the importance of defending religious freedom has become even more necessary. As Archbiship Charles J. Chaput has said, “In some ways, the [Declaration on Religious Freedom] is the Vatican II document that speaks most urgently to our own time. The reason is obvious. We see it right now in the suffering of Christians and other religious believers in many places around the world.”
Here are six key quotes from the document: (more…)
In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis appeals for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” (n. 14) The encyclical also calls for “broader proposals” (n. 15), “a variety of proposals” (n.60), greater engagement between religion and science (n. 62) and among the sciences (n. 201), and bringing together scientific-technological language with that of the people (n. 143).
In this spirit of dialogue and engagement, the Acton Institute is organizing a half-day conference around the question, “Can free markets help us care for our common home?” The first session will examine the theological and philosophical foundations of Laudato Si’ while the second will look at specific economic, social and environmental issues from various perspectives, such as finance, agriculture and natural resource management. The conference will attempt to carry out the encyclical’s call for open and honest discussion of these and related areas, taking into account the principles of Catholic social teaching, Christian anthropology and stewardship, and the insights of natural and social sciences.
Below, Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico offers his personal invitation to the conference, which takes place in Rome at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross on December 3, 2015.