Kishore Jayablan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, joined host Monsignor Kieran Harrington on WOR Radio in New York on Sunday morning to discuss his personal history with Pope John Paul II and to give his thoughts on Pope Francis, with particular focus on Francis’ desire to see the Catholic Church become more directly focused on the needs of the poor. You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.
Robert M. Edsel’s The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History is a terrific book regarding a part of World War II history that few are aware of. One of Hitler’s goals was to amass great art for his personal collection, and to built a museum and a cathedral in Linz, Austria. What Edsel calls a “backwater of factories and smoke” would become, in Hitler’s vision, a cultural center to rival anything Europe had ever seen, and in no small part, to vindicate Hitler’s rejection from the Academy of Fine Art Vienna.
In addition, Herman Göring, Nazi Reichsmarschall, also wanted to create a personal collection of fine art, silver, and household items.
And thus, they plundered Europe.
While destroying “degenerate” art (such as Picasso’s and that of Jewish artists), the Nazis took hold of whatever they wished…and they wished for a lot. Göring literally stole train loads of art and furnishings. Michaelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges, the only sculpture of his to reside outside of Italy at the time, was unceremoniously dumped onto mattresses to be secreted away. The Bayeux Tapestry, a 224-foot long medieval work, dating from the 1070s, not only an art piece but a historical document, was hunted by Göring. After being moved to the Louvre for safe-keeping by the French, it was (as were thousands of other art pieces) crated up and hidden by the Nazis. (more…)
Writing in The Detroit News, Rev. Robert A. Sirico looks at Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, the “much talked about, but little-read” document titled “The Joy of the Gospel” with a special emphasis on how the pontiff understands the problem of poverty. The president and co-founder of the Acton Institute notes how Francis “speaks boldly through effective and moving gestures.” Excerpt:
It is no surprise that the man who took as his model and name the model of il poverello of Assisi would place the poor as a central concern of his pontificate: their dignity, their rights and their sustenance. Yet, the spontaneous gestures and the impromptu manner in which they are displayed ought not to beguile us into thinking this pope is offering a superficial dichotomy between left and right; between capitalism and socialism. To think that any pope, but especially this pope, is animated in his concern for the poor and vulnerable by a particular political ideology is to miss him completely.
While renouncing the notion that the market alone is sufficient to meet all human needs, Francis is also prepared to denounce a “welfare mentality” that creates a dependency on the part of the poor and reduces the Church to the role of being just another bureaucratic NGO. The complexity of his thought surprises some, on both the Right (some of whom worry, needlessly, that he is a liberation theologian) and the Left (who are already using his words to foment a political “Francis Revolution” in his name). Such tendencies reveal a rather anemic understanding of this man but also of Catholicism, which has historically been comfortable balancing the tensions of apparent paradoxes (Divine/human; Virgin/Mother; etc.). It is too facile a temptation to collapse 2,000 years of tradition, commentary and lived experience into four or five politically-correct hot button sound bites that are the priority, not of the Church, but of propagandists with an agenda.
Read “Pope Francis, without the politics” by Rev. Robert A. Sirico in The Detroit News.
Ender’s Game, the recent film based on the best-selling science fiction novel, offers compelling insight into the idea of human capital, among many other compelling insights (e.g. this one and this one).
In Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II wrote, “besides the earth, man’s principal resource is man himself.” He goes on to emphasize the importance of human knowledge, intelligence, and virtue for human flourishing. In economic terms this idea is known as human capital. While affirming this truth, Ender’s Game challenges viewers to consider precisely what they might mean, demonstrating in the characters of Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Ender Wiggen (Asa Butterfield) that the specifics of one’s definition makes all the difference. (more…)
Rev. Robert Sirico was recently featured in El Salvador’s newspaper El Diaro de Hoy. Consuelo Interiano interviewed him about the free market, and social mortgage.
Sirico begins by saying that private property isn’t just important for businesses to thrive, it’s absolutely necessary for their existence. He goes on to say that businesses and private companies are the best way to help individuals escape poverty. Companies, large or small, create opportunities for work and offer individuals a means to elevate themselves out of poverty.
John Paul II said the Church “has consistently taught that there is a ‘social mortgage’ on all private property.” For those not familiar with the term ‘social mortgage,’ it refers to the conditions under which people may use God’s creation. In other words, if you have private poverty you have a duty to be productive with it. Sirico responds to this by saying that the free market is a means to productivity and therefore social mortgage. He explains that one should not assume that the Catholic Church promotes socialism or communism.The duty of social mortgage falls on the shoulder of private property (which does not exist in these economic systems). He goes on:
My defense of the free market is not a defense of crony capitalism, not a defense of mercantilism, not a defense of banks or entrepreneurs who buy the courts, who buy the states, because these people act exactly against the free market.
Rev. Sirico bases his explanations of the free market and the role of businesses on the book of Genesis. It says that human beings were created in order to exercise creativity and rule over all of creation.
To read the full article in Spanish, please visit ElSalvador.com.
Here’s a curious tidbit regarding the fumata, the white or black smoke that will rise from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney signaling whether a pope has been elected or not.
It is sometimes hard to distinguish the actual color of the smoke, such as in 2005. Back then, I knew for sure there was a successful vote for pope when I saw the fumata in the middle of the afternoon session, even though it was difficult to tell if it was white or black.
Here’s why. Cardinals cast two ballots in the morning and another two ballots in the afternoon. However, if a pope is successfully elected after the first of the two ballots, then their votes are burned and white chemicals are added to report a positive outcome. Otherwise, they wait to burn both ballots all in one fumata.
At the very end of the morning or afternoon the smoke can be white or black. But if we see the fumata mid-morning or mid-afternoon, then it has to be white for a successful election.
ROME — For all the ‘Vaticanisti’ (journalists specializing in the Vatican) sitting around Rome and interviewing one another for the last several weeks, the wholesale consumption of high blood pressure medication took a precipitous drop on the announcement Friday afternoon that the Conclave to elect the new pope would occur on Tuesday, March 12, one day later than I had predicted several weeks ago. Now is the lull before the storm. A Mass praying for the election of the pope will be followed by the first voting session of the Conclave in the early evening.
With many media outlets waiting for that date to be announced, the remaining hotel rooms left in Rome will be gobbled up, and by Monday evening we can expect an influx of the rest of the 5000 journalists accredited to the Holy See to cover the event.
It is difficult not to compare the lead up to this Conclave to the last one I had the opportunity to witness eight years ago. Then, of course, one of the monumental figures of the twentieth century had passed from the scene after a long and highly visible bout with Parkinson’s disease. By the time I had arrived to provide commentary at the BBC location above St. Peter’s Square, the body of John Paul II was being translated (an elegant way of saying the body was ‘moved’) from the Apostolic Palace where the pope lived and died, to beneath the Bernini colonnades in the center of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was a slow, mournful and moving sight. By the time the body of the Polish pope was laid in state at the foot of the papal altar lines, long line, began forming down boulevard leading to the basilica. The crowds would grow in the following days to estimates ranging from three to four million pilgrims to pay the last respects the John Paul II. (more…)
Digging into the Acton video vault, we’ve reposted on YouTube some of the analysis that Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, handled as the on-air expert for BBC News in 2005 and, when not on call from the BBC, Fox News, EWTN and others. The fourth video here is from last week’s appearance on Fox, discussing the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Check this resource page for updates on Acton’s ongoing coverage of Pope Benedict’s resignation.
On the 2005 Papal Conclave (BBC America – April 18, 2005)
Today at Ethika Politika, I explore the prospects for a renewed embrace of the Christian spiritual and ascetic tradition for ecumenical cooperation and the common good in my article “With Love as Our Byword.” As Roman Catholics anticipate the selection of a new pope, as an Orthodox Christian I hope that the great progress that has been made in ecumenical relations under Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI will continue with the next Roman Pontiff.
In addition, I note the liturgical season: “The calling of Lent, for Christians of all traditions, reminds us of the ascetic heart of the Gospel way of life.” I continue to say,
Indeed, how many of our social problems today—poverty, violence, abortion, etc.—would benefit from such personal and relational love? We cannot view such problems with regard to statistics and policies alone (though we ought not to ignore them). On a much deeper level, they show us the suffering of persons in crisis who need the love of those who live a life of repentance from past sin and striving toward the likeness of God, the “way toward deification.”
I have commented in the past on the PowerBlog with regards to asceticism and the free society, but here I would like to explore the other side of the coin. We ought to embrace the radical way of love of the Christian tradition when it comes to the social problems of our day, but as I note above, we ought not, therefore, to ignore statistics and policies.
In his 1985 article, “Market Economy and Ethics,” then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger writes, “A morality that believes itself able to dispense with the technical knowledge of economic laws is not morality but moralism. As such it is the antithesis of morality.” Heeding this warning means uniting good intentions and sound economics.
Failure to do so, despite having the right intentions and even the right morals, can lead to great error and unintended, harmful consequences. It reminds me of two passages from the readings for the past weekend’s Acton/Liberty Fund Liberty and Markets conference that I had the opportunity to attend. (more…)
Étienne Cabet, a French philosopher and founder of a utopian socialist movement, once said: “Communism is Christianity.” The concept of property has existed longer than Western Civilization; trying to understand what property is and who can claim it has been an important issue for centuries. But, what is the Christian view of private property and ownership?
Cabet, and others who believe that Christianity supports the concept of communism or socialism, base their opinion on one particular passage of Scripture. In Acts: 32-37, Luke tells us that no believer:
Claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. NIV
One interpretation of this passage says that the Church does not support private property, but the Christian perspective on the institution of property is not so simple. Wolfgang Grassl, professor of business administration at St. Norbert College (De Pere, Wis.), addresses this complicated and controversial issue in Property, the latest in the Christian Social Thought series from the Acton Institute.
Grassl points out that the issue of property is absolutely central to Western civilization and Christian social thought. He goes as far to say that understanding property is essential in order to understand the human person. Grassl quotes Pope John Paul II, who addressed the complexity of this issue in Centesimus Annus. He said: (more…)