Last night on CNBC’s The Kudlow Report, PovertyCure director and Acton Research Fellow Michael Matheson Miller joined host Lawrence Kudlow and Rusty Reno, Editor of First Things magazine, to discuss the position of the Roman Catholic Church on global capitalism in light of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium.’ The video is embedded below.
Many thanks to Ancient Faith Radio for graciously sharing its podcasts of the Conference on Poverty at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. The May 31-June 1 event was co-hosted by the Acton Institute. The conference was offered as a tribute to Deacon John Zarras, a 2006 alumnus of the seminary who earned his M.Div. degree over a period of several years as a late–vocations student. Deacon John, who fell asleep in the Lord last year, also served as a member of the Board of Trustees and the president of the St. Vladimir’s Seminary Foundation.
What follows are four separate audio feeds, including Q&A follow up, from the Poverty Conference. Ancient Faith is broadcasting these as part of its regular podcasts by the Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of St. Vladimir’s. But first listen to Fr. Chad’s May 24 broadcast, in which he addresses negative reaction to Acton’s participation in the conference by some associated with the seminary. He reminds listeners that Acton, on the issue of poverty, can provide a fresh and different approach that’s effective.
From Ancient Faith: (more…)
It’s a counter-intuitive tale of one of Latin America’s most significant bishops living in modest lodgings, cooking his own meals, and riding the crowded public transportation system in Buenos Aires. Even the small but telling gesture of paying his own hotel bill after the Vatican conclave drew media attention.
As a priest and archbishop he went into the poorest parts of Argentina to minister to the people. He said this in a 2008 homily: “Today the place for Christ is in the street… The Lord wants us like Him; with an open heart, roaming the streets of Buenos Aires and carrying his message!”
His vision of engagement with the poor runs deep. Pope Francis has spoken eloquently about the need to treat poor people as “subjects” and not mere “objects” of the state or the economy.
Miller goes on to say that Pope Francis understands and highlights the social aspects of the market, and rejects notions that the poor are somehow “objects” of action, rather than active participants in the economy.
Yesterday, Cardinals choose Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina to be the new pope. A The Detroit News editorial points out that “[t]hirty-nine percent of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America, making this pope a fitting choice for many Catholics.”
Countries with the largest number of Catholics include Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines and U.S. One hundred years ago, that landscape was shifted toward Europe, with France and Italy housing the greatest number.
The Detroit News asked Acton Research Fellow Michael Miller to comment on Bergoglio’s selection:
the choice of Bergoglio came as a surprise to many. But [Miller is] confident the new pope will offer continuity by preserving the strong intellectual tradition carried by Benedict XVI and John Paul II while upholding personal holiness.
Plus, Miller believes Bergoglio’s choice of the name Francis is symbolic of the kind of leader he’ll be. The name could refer to several Catholic saints, including Francis Xavier and Francis of Assisi. Between these saints, they advocated church reform, deep concern for the poor and evangelization. Bergoglio’s own background revolves around social justice and working with the marginalized.
The church needs a leader who can wear many hats, from bringing people to the faith to cleaning up problems both inside and outside the Vatican. Bergoglio has accepted the role with humility and seems ready to begin.
It hasn’t happened in some 600 years: a conclave of cardinals called together to elect a pope, while the previous pope is still living. So what will this conclave look like?
First, Benedict XVI will officially step down on February 28. The conclave will begin soon thereafter, as quickly as the cardinals across the world can gather in Rome. Benedict is allowed to attend, but not vote; no cardinal over the age of 80 is eligible to vote. Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, says it is unlikely Benedict will play any role in the conclave. John Burger, at Aleteia.com, interviewed several people regarding this historic event:
Father Lombardi said that when the abdication is effective, Pope Benedict will move to the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, but that when renovation work on a former convent of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican, Mater Ecclesia, is complete, the Holy Father will move there “for a period of prayer and reflection.” He said he will not take part in the conclave to elect his successor. Father Lombardi said it is likely that a new pope will be elected in time for Holy Week and Easter. Palm Sunday this year falls on March 24.
The fact that Benedict is still alive “will have no direct impact on the outcome of the conclave,” said Church observer and author Russell Shaw.
Michael Miller, a research fellow at the Acton Institute, says the Pope’s abdication is an act of great humility.
“We live in a world where people are very reticent to let go of anything,” Miller says. He predicts that the spirit of the conclave will be different from previous ones because the Church won’t be mourning a death, but there will be somberness, nonetheless.
As the Cardinals ponder their choice for Benedict’s successor, Miller says, the New Evangelization that was promoted by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI will be at the fore. Benedict contributed to that New Evangelization with “deep intellectual work” on the crisis of truth and the “dictatorship of relativism,” the crisis of reason (in his address at Regensburg, he spoke of the need for reason to be “rehabilitated,” purified by faith), the importance of beauty, and the importance of having a friendship with Christ.
Acton Research Fellow and Director of Media Michael Matheson Miller will be featured on Christopher Brooks‘ “Christ and the City” radio program this evening at 5:00 p.m. EST. Brooks is the pastor of a Detroit church and his program, which airs from 4 – 6 p.m., addresses matters of faith from a variety of perspectives. Miller will be joining the program to discuss PovertyCure, an Acton educational initiative, and the PovertyCure team’s recent trip to Haiti.
Follow this link to listen in at 5 p.m. EST.
Pope Benedict XVI delivered inspiring remarks at the European Year of Volunteering (EYV) summit held in Rome this past Nov. 10-11. He explained why gratuitous giving of personal talent and resources is so important in restoring a healthy vocational perspective to everyday business.
As Benedict knows all too well, a culture of Christian charitable giving is not at its height in Ol’ Europe, where the modern Welfare State and Keynesian economics have played such a dominant role the past 70 years (see why in Michael Miller’s 2008 Acton lecture The Victory of Socialism and the strong opinion of other Roman pontiffs in my blog Popes Say No to Socialism). European government dominance of charitable enterprise has reduced much of the Continent’s generosity in terms of private giving and volunteer activities.
A pervasive “every man for himself” mentality is now infecting the hearts of European workers and households struggling to stay afloat. From their perspective, who can really blame them? Many wonder: Who has the money or the time to care for others when you and your family are just barely surviving?
During the EYV summit, the Holy Father commended leaders from European charitable non-profits and volunteer organizations for keeping a culture of generosity and self-giving alive. Benedict underscored the absolutely essential role their work plays in building up a society of free giving and virtue (altruism, generosity and selflessness) and restoring confidence in man’s innately good heart, now withered and tested by the intense pressures of today’s down market. These latter socially destructive tendencies are the ones the Acton Insitute attempts to thwart in its program for effective charity, The Samaritan Award and Guide.
European charitable enterprise leaders, so to speak, help create a “market of gratuitousness”, as mentioned in Benedict’s social encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth). This same abundance philosophy is argued so convincingly in Arthur C. Brooks’s Gross National Happiness (see book with Brooks’s research on wealth and charitable giving). The president of the American Enterprise Institute writes that charitable giving of time and resources makes us psychologically happier and more humanly fulfilled, which in turn increases our chances of being more happy and productive in the workplace, which consequently influence growth trends in corporations and entire commercial sectors.
This is the positive circle of growth and happiness that charity helps inspire. It is the exact reason why volunteer activity ends up paying real dividends in commercial enterprise, as business people flourish morally and spiritually. To understand further, watch Arthur Brooks’s Fox News interview regarding economic growth factors linked to generosity and happiness in the United States and with some heavy criticism of giant Welfare States like France, a country ranked a miserable 91 out of 153 nations surveyed for the latest Index (download 2010 PDF report and index). According to the Index, some of the most enterprising European countries (like Great Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany and Holland), while battling the same destructive welfare culture and economic crises, all made the top 20 with the traditionally high-ranking United States (no. 5). By contrast, the same welfare dependent, economically troubled but far less enterprising Greece was ranked dead last in the Eurozone and in the bottom five of all 153 countries represented.
The opposite destructive vicious circle goes something like this: stinginess of heart leads to a lack of deep vocational interest in work and therefore a miserly contribution of one’s talent and resources, which directly lowers overall production and profits for enterprise, as worker pessimism and selfishness help undermine commercial potential. This is one good reason why markets stagnate, retract and eventually die when such negativity and selfishness swirl violently into a cultural vortex, sucking down an entire nation’s true economic potential.
We are not surprised to hear Pope telling EYV participants that volunteer work and charity “is not merely an expression of good will.” As he articulated this great teaching:
At the present time, marked as it is by crisis and uncertainty, your commitment is a reason for confidence, since it shows that goodness exists and that it is growing in our midst. The faith of all Catholics is surely strengthened when they see the good that is being done in the name of Christ… His grace perfects, strengthens and elevates that vocation and enables us to serve others without reward, satisfaction or any recompense. Here we see something of the grandeur of our human calling: to serve others with the same freedom and generosity which characterizes God himself.
A day later, during his Nov. 13 Sunday Angelus, the Pope reflected on giving and investment of human talent and resources in the context of Sunday’s gospel (Parable of the Talents: Matthew 25:14-30). As Acton’s President Rev. Robert Sirico argues in his monograph The Entrepreneurial Vocation, Benedict XVI invited faithful to respond thankfully and generously to their individual gifts for the advancement of God’s abundance on Earth:
In today’s Gospel…Jesus invites us to reflect with gratitude on the gifts we have received and to use them wisely for the growth of God’s Kingdom. May his words summon us to an ever deeper conversion of mind and heart, and a more effective solidarity n the service of all our brothers and sisters.
Finally, the Holy Father’s press secretary, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ explained what Benedict XVI meant in a interview released after the Pope’s EYV remarks:
We are in the midst of an economic crisis afflicting the whole of Europe, and raising tensions, worries and anxieties throughout the world. It is a crisis that challenges the intellects and abilities of politicians and economists. In the midst of this crisis, the Pope’s speech to the young people gathered in Rome for the European Year of [Volunteering] may provide a modest contribution to help rediscover a common hope. The Pope asks us to keep in mind the idea of ‘gratuitousness’, of giving freely —that is, not living solely for one’s own interests, but living in such a way that we are a gift to others.
“In short, man does not live on bread alone, but also on the relationships between men and women who are truly free, who respect one another and take care of one another and love one another, beyond selfish calculations. It is from these relationships that mutual trust is rebuilt between people and populations. It is the fulcrum that is needed to lift the world anew.
The generous and routine volunteering of one’s talent and resources instills everyday habits that market-based economies need and rely on for individual entrepreneurs and businesses to grow and succeed. It’s what makes or breaks businesses teetering on the edge of failure, when employees and professional collaborators give a little more of themselves to help enterprise lunge forward.
Apart from emboldening private initiatives to diminish the role of European Welfare States and increasing our Gross National Happiness, the real output of charity is measured in the increased hearts and souls of generous, selfless business people. It is these same business people who take the gratuitousness they learned in habitual acts of charity and apply this virtue to generous forms of service with “other-directed” collaboration, products and services.
An Italian friend of mine recently complained to me while painfully witnessing the climax of the Italian debt crisis: “Cosi Berlusconi, cosi l’Italia!” (As with Berlusconi, so too with Italy!).
My friend’s comment was an allusion to the Italian Prime Minister’s personal responsibility in dragging the entire Italian nation down with him. News broke late on Wednesday that Berlusconi had agreed to step down from office, as he effectively admitted his 17 years of political power had done nothing more to fix a broken system and as more members of his loose PDL coalition defected to centrist parties.
Even with the likely passing of the European Union fiscal reform measures designed to control Italy’s reckless public spending, it all seems too little too late.
With Berlusconi’s suprise announcement and Italy teetering on national debt default, the European stock markets tumbled late Wednesday. Logically, my friend then said, “Vedi? E cosi anche l’Europa” (See? And so too with Europe).
The domino effect is becoming a real potential. It is frightening. It is downright disturbing for anyone living and trying to survive in Europe. Still, we have to be careful of where we start pointing fingers.
My friend’s Berlusconi = Italy = Europe linear equation is not necessarily totally inaccurate.
The Italian Premier actually deserves some of the blame. For instance his center-right coalition government did recently raise capital gains taxes (from 10 to 20%!) along with corporate, personal income and VAT. This has further scared off the few serious local and foreign investors left in Italy and has sparked greater passion for the national pastime: tax evasion. This is the worst time to be raising taxes when economic growth is so wobbly at home. Berlusconi is an entrepreneur himself. He should know better. It is a total mystery why his business-friendly government is caving into Keyensian economic rebuilding.
All said, Italy and Europe is not a one-man disaster. Nor even a one-party disaster.
Italy’s national debt crisis is, above all, a crisis of national character – an Italian character that has become softened while shedding off its once great virtues of resilience, fortitude, integrity, self-reliance and innovation, just as we have seen in a paradigmatic shift in character with the rise of the modern Western European welfare states (watch Acton Media Director Michael Miller’s Acton Lecture – The Victory of Socialism, where he explains why socialism counts on citizens’ progressive external dependency on institutions and a loss of personal virtue).
France, Spain, Britain Germany Greece, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark. Take your pick: all have lost many of these same virtues of character in varying degrees. The Great Generation of post-World War II Europe is now too old to play the part of come-back hero.
No matter how great a vision or “business plan” the entrepreneurial Berlusconi had for Italy since the mid-1990s, no amount of collective cultural effort was ever possible when his country and Continent has lost its spirit of freedom and independence from big government and generous public programs.
National debt, while symptomatic of unsuccessful political regimes, is more the result of a national deficit of values and virtue.
In the Grand Rapids Press, reporter Ann Byle interviews Acton’s Michael Miller about a live, national webcast on Sept. 24 of the Colson Center’s “Doing the Right Thing: An Exploration of Ethics.” Byle notes that the webcast “features a live panel discussion with [Chuck] Colson, experts Del Tackett, Robert George, John Stone-street and host Eric Metaxas. Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute’s Michael Miller also will participate as a panelist, thanks to his work as a research fellow and expert on the intersection of business and ethics.” Miller says:
‘Doing the Right Thing’ is building the case for thinking seriously about ethics and doing the right thing. I’ll specifically address how we think seriously about ethics in the business world and how we apply our moral sense in making business decisions.
Read more about it in “Grandville Baptist Church to host national webcast on ethics” in the Grand Rapids Press.
You can purchase the “Doing the Right Thing” curriculum from the Acton Bookshoppe here.
For those in the West Michigan area, some details on the church event:
Doing the Right Thing: An Exploration of Ethics
What: Live webcast shown at 300 locations around the country
When: 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sept. 24
Where: Grandville Baptist Church, 4325 40th St. SW
Details: Local event is free, but registration is required at grandvillebaptist.org. Visit doingtherightthing.com for additional information.
On September 24, thousands of people from all over the United States will tune in to a live webcast of Doing the Right Thing, a discussion of the ethical crisis our country faces and what’s to be done about it.
Doing the Right Thing is national project intended to spark an ethical reexamination by Americans. The initiative is led by Chuck Colson and group of Christian luminaries, including Acton’s director of programs, Michael Miller. Through a six-part DVD curriculum and live webcasts, they build an ethics for modern America—one founded in a proper understanding of the human person.
The discussion transcends spirituality and politics, asking “How should we act?” based on our common human nature. It is thus meaningful in public schools and private schools, churches and businesses, government institutions and military commands all across the country.
In addition to Michael Miller’s involvement, Rev. Robert A. Sirico and Acton research fellow Glenn Sunshine are featured guests in the curriculum. The Acton Institute itself is also a partner of the project, joining Focus on the Family, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and others.
There will be a live viewing of the September 24 webcast at Grandville Baptist Church (you can register here) beginning at 9:30 in the morning, and a list of hosts around the country is available on the website. And don’t worry—if you cannot attend a hosted webcast, you can view it at home with friends and family.