Samuel Gregg, Director of Research at the Acton Institute, joins host Al Kresta on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon to discuss the level of discomfort that some conservative Catholics have felt in recent months with the pontificate of Pope Francis. Is the pope a liberal, as he is sometimes portrayed by the media? Does he hold to longstanding teachings of the Catholic Church? Gregg and Kresta address these and other issues, and take calls from listeners in this half-hour long interview.
January 1, for Catholics, is celebrated as the World Day of Peace. For January 1, 2015, Pope Francis’ message is a reflection on the horror of human trafficking.
Entitled No Longer Slaves But Brothers And Sisters, the pope’s message calls trafficking an “abominable phenomenon” which cheapens human life and denies basic human rights to those enslaved. Taking his theme from St. Paul’s letter to Philemon, Pope Francis reflects on human dignity and true fraternity among all peoples.
Pope Francis prayerfully mentions migrants who have been lied to regarding jobs in foreign lands, adults and children held captive in labor trafficking and debt bondage, those caught in the snares of sex trafficking, and those who have suffered (and often died from) organ trafficking. The pope knows that human trafficking is not simply another money-making venture. (more…)
At RealClearReligion, Rev. Robert A. Sirico offers an analysis of President Obama’s move to thaw relations with Cuba, a diplomatic opening that was supported by the Vatican. Citing Pope Francis’ appeals for “an economy of inclusion,” Rev. Sirico asks: “What, indeed, could be more inclusive than trade and travel?” More:
Free trade is not the solution to all economic, social and political problems. Nor does anyone expect it to be. That said, on my visits to Cuba and China, I have yet to meet anyone who thought restricting trade or travel helped, all of which will have to be negotiated once relations are normalized. Mutatis mutandis, those unfortunate to have to live under oppressive regimes are among the first to long for U.S. companies to setting up shop in their countries, gain new markets for their own products and will increase contact and opportunity for themselves. To have more exchanges with Americans at every level, whether it is through tourism, educational, trade or technological exchange, is what many Cubans want.
The open question is to see whether the Castro regime — which, after all, remains ideologically Marxist and viciously persecutes anyone who steps out of line — will use this thawing as a way of moving Cuba away from 50 years of one party rule and a top-down approach to the economy, and towards wider freedoms. Their track-record, to date, would not inspire confidence.
Read “The End of Cuba’s Double Despotism” by Rev. Robert A. Sirico at RealClearReligion.
Today, Pope Francis met with Orthodox, Anglican, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu representatives to sign a Declaration of Religious Leaders against Slavery. Pope Francis thanked those in attendance for making the public commitment to end modern slavery in all its forms. He spoke of the spirit of fraternity among believers, along with the knowledge that humans, created in God’s image and likeness, deserve dignity, regardless of their circumstances. (more…)
Pope Francis spoke to members of the European Parliament on November 25. The focus of his speech was “dignity:” specifically the transcendent dignity of the human person.
He reminded his audience that the protection of dignity was key to rebuilding Europe following World War II, but now, the pope says, ” there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age.”
Pope Francis then declared that dignity is intimately intertwined with faith, and the governments of Europe must protect the right to practice one’s faith. (more…)
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Rev. Robert A. Sirico clears away the media hype surrounding the Vatican Synod on the Family and offers an analysis of its early work. He observes that nothing about the synod “challenges the dogma of the church related to the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, the use of artificial contraception, cohabitation and homosexual acts. What it did was soften the tone of these teachings.” But things got interesting.
An early report led critics to say that it “reflected the opinion of Archbishop Bruno Forte, a special secretary to the synod and a progressive, who prepared the final document and presented it to the media.” But Rev. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, notes that one of the more powerful, conservative cardinals, George Pell, called the report “tendentious and incomplete.”
What is really happening at this synod is an earnest effort by pastors of the church to determine how best to encourage people to live the Catholic faith. This is no easy task. A move too far in the direction of merely repeating old formularies will not work. A move away from what constitutes the very definition of what it means to be Catholic will not only erode the church’s self-identity and betray her founder’s mandate, it will also insult and alienate many Catholics who strive to live by the church’s teachings. This is what we pastors call the art of pastoral practice.
The practice is best modeled by Jesus’ encounter with the woman “caught in the very act of adultery” (John 8: 1-11). His interlocutors somehow thought that they could drive a wedge between his allegiance to biblical law and mercy. So they cast the woman before him and demanded that he say whether she should be stoned, as the law stipulated. The tension built as Jesus doodled in the sand. Finally he replied, “Let you who is without sin cast the first stone.”
The story does not end there. Jesus turned to the woman at his feet and delivered gentle, memorable words—a message that makes the whole story an encounter of faithful mercy: “Go and sin no more.” If this model—finding the balance between justice and mercy, which are often in tension—weighs heavily on the minds of bishops gathered in Rome, that will be an achievement for the church and its pastoral model.
Read “Beyond the Hype About a Vatican Upheaval” in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).
Last Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about his Apostolic Journey to Albania on September 21. He stated first why he wished to visit this country, highlighting the Albanians ability to peacefully co-exist in a nation with two strong religious factions.
This visit was born of my desire to go to a country which, after long being oppressed by an atheist and inhuman regime, is living the experience of peaceful coexistence among the country’s different religious components. I felt it was important to encourage it on this path, that it may continue with tenacity to evaluate all the implications for the benefit of the common good. For this reason the Journey had at its centre an interreligious meeting where I was able to observe, with great satisfaction, that the peaceful and fruitful coexistence between persons and communities of believers of different religions is not only desirable, but possible and realistic. They are putting it into practice! This entails an authentic and fruitful dialogue which spurns relativism and takes the identity of each one into account. What the various religious expressions have in common is, indeed, life’s journey, the good will to do good to one’s neighbour, without denying or diminishing their respective identity.
In a lengthy World Affairs piece, journalist Roland Flamini takes the position that Pope Francis is a “major player” on the stage of global foreign policy. Flamini examines the pope’s travels in the Holy Land and the Ukraine, noting “that the non-European pope is shaping his own foreign policy course.”
The article also discusses the pope’s meeting with President Obama, noting that while the pope is firmly “anti-consumerist,” Obama is the political leader of a country where shopping is a “sacrament.” Kishore Jayabalan, who heads the Rome-based Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, was asked to summarize the difference between the two men.
They have very different starting points,” he says. “The pope can use his office to raise moral concern about the unborn and inequality but there’s not a whole lot he can directly do about it.” It’s the president who has the means and the power to take action but hasn’t, in the view of the Vatican. Also, the pope has been quite outspoken about the global economy and global capitalism not helping the poor, while Obama “presides over a free-market economy” and “recognizes that the global economy has helped the poor: people in Asia, Africa, and parts of Latin America have benefitted from free trade.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia spoke recently at the Napa Institute on Pope Francis’ view of economics. Archbishop Chaput reminded the audience that the pope was not an economist, but spoke rather as a pastor and theologian. He went on to say that some of what the pope has to say about economics is “hard for some of us to hear” but told his listeners to read the pope’s writings for themselves, without the filter of the media.
Archbishop Chaput also stated that Pope Francis’ message is not so different from that of his predecessors.
In matters of economic justice, Francis’ concerns are the same as Benedict’s and John Paul II’s, and Pius XI’s and Leo XIII’s. He understands economic matters through the lens of Church teaching in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Like his predecessors, he defends human dignity in a world that consistently threatens it. But Francis stresses more directly than they did that human solidarity is a necessary dimension of human dignity. We need both. Human dignity requires not just the protection of individuals, as in our prolife work, but an on-going commitment to the common good. (more…)
This morning, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico took some time away from his preparations for Acton University to speak with Jim Engster, host of The Jim Engster Show on WRKF radio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, discussing how to address the issue of poverty in society, and the approach taken by Pope Francis and the church in general to that and other issues. They also discussed the problems with the ObamaCare model of health-care reform, among other issues. You can listen to the interview using the audio player below.