Pope Francis recently installed 19 new cardinals in a ceremony at the Vatican, the first that he has chosen in his pontificate. Most of the new Cardinals hail from outside Europe and North America, and the group includes the first Cardinal from the long-impoverished nation of Haiti. Kishore Jayabalan, Director of Istituto Acton in Rome, spoke with the BBC about what this new group of Cardinals means for the Roman Catholic Church, and how they reflect the changing face of the church in the 21st century. This interview originally aired on February 22, 2013.
James Madison called religious liberty the “lustre of our country” and a guaranteed right that is free from political authority. But some politicians are trying to redefine religious freedom in America, preferring instead to call it “freedom of worship.” The implication is that you are free to say and believe what you want as long as it is confined inside the walls of the houses of worship. But how faithful is this to the First Amendment?
Only a decade ago there was strong bipartisan cooperation on the rights to secure religious freedom. What has happened and how dangerous is the current threat to religious liberty today? What does it mean for our future and for other rights in America?
On February 4, 2012, Ray Nothstine, the managing editor of Religion & Liberty at the Acton Institute, discussed the ideas and tradition that promoted a robust religious freedom in America as well as how to handle the current threat today.
Would you be surprised to hear that the mainstream media hasn’t been telling you the whole story? Probably not. The failings of the media has been a perennial story since 131 BC when the first newspaper, Acta Diurna, was published in Rome.
But sometimes the media’s biases lead them to make claims that are especially egregious and harmful to the common good. Such is the case on the reporting of an amendment relating to the free exercise of religion in Arizona. Critics of the bill described it as an anti-gay bill and claimed it would be used to deny access to public accommodations for homosexuals. As the Christian Post noted, almost every media organization in the country, including the more conservative Fox News, have taken the side of the critics by describing S.B. 1062 as a “gay discrimination” bill.
Because of this biased (bordering on fraudulent) reporting, the media was able to sway public opinion on the issue, which pressured Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the amendment.
Fortunately, we live in an age when the mainstream media is losing its stranglehold on the public’s attention. Several outlets have explained the true substance of the amendment and exposed the mendacity of the media. If you want to learn the truth, here are a few places to start:
“It doesn’t matter what I believe…as long as I’m a good person.”
How many times have you heard that? As our society trends more and more to the secular, this type of thing becomes more common. We’ve gone from a society that, at the very least, paid lip-service to communal worship and having moral standards set by a higher authority, to “I can worship God on my own; I don’t need a church to do that” to “It doesn’t matter what I believe, as long as I’m a good person.”
Is that right? Can a person believe “whatever” and still be good. Fr. Robert Barron disagrees.
I would imagine that, if pressed, most people in our society would characterize “being a good person” as treating others with love, honoring the dignity, freedom, and inherent worth of their fellow human beings. And most would agree that ethical violations—stealing, lying, sexual misbehavior, infidelity, cheating, doing physical harm, etc.—are correctly seen as negations of love. But what is love? Love is not primarily a feeling or an instinct; rather, it is the act of willing the good of the other as other. It is radical self-gift, living for the sake of the other. To be kind to someone else so that he might be kind to you, or to treat a fellow human being justly so that he, in turn, might treat you with justice is not to love, for such moves are tantamount to indirect self-interest. Truly to love is to move outside of the black hole of one’s egotism, to resist the centripetal force that compels one to assume the attitude of self-protection. But this means that love is rightly described as a “theological virtue,” for it represents a participation in the love that God is. Since God has no need, only God can utterly exist for the sake of the other. All of the great masters of the Christian spiritual tradition saw that we are able to love only inasmuch as we have received, as a grace, a share in the very life, energy, and nature of God.
Over at Real Clear Religion, Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg discusses Pope Francis’s recent appointment of Cardinal George Pell to “Secretariat of the Economy.” The secretariat has authority over the economic activities of the Vatican City State and the Holy See.
Gregg explains his take on Cardinal Pell and this appointment:
It may well turn out to be the greatest challenge of his priestly life.
You don’t need to watch the Godfather Part III to know that the Catholic Church has struggled for several decades to address some real problems in the management of the Holy See’s finances. Just looking at an organizational chart of the various units involved in some way in administering the Holy See’s resources is enough to make even devout Catholics think that maybe Dan Brown’s novels are onto something.
What’s often called “the Vatican Bank” — it’s more formal title is the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) — is just one of several institutions that the Holy See has created over the years to manage various resources. In many ways, a far more important structure is the lesser-known “Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See” (APSA), which, as it stated under its governing document, serves “to administer the properties owned by the Holy See in order to provide the funds necessary for the Roman Curia to function.” (more…)
At The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter (Senior Editor for the Acton Institute) does some speculating on whether or not “gay is the new black.” That is, can we equate sexual behavior and race when we are discussing questions about equality, marriage, adoption, and discrimination?
By now, most of us are familiar with the issues surrounding Christian business owners (such as bakers and photographers) who have declined to do business for a homosexual wedding. Our nation is currently struggling with whether or not a person with religious beliefs can be forced to violate those beliefs in the name of equality. If I (a Christian) own a hall that I rent out for parties, receptions, etc., can I refuse to rent to a Hispanic or black family? The law says no, and rightly so. Can I refuse to rent that same hall out to a gay couple celebrating their wedding? Carter dissects the issues:
The argument to make this comparison takes the following form:
Major Premise: A sexual orientation is analogous to the category of race.
Minor Premise: Race is a category protected by anti-discrimination laws.
Conclusion: Therefore, sexual orientation should have the same civil-rights protections as those afforded to race.
The question we will examine is whether the major premise is true. Is sexual orientation and its behavior analogous to race? Before we can answer that question, we we must consider what constitutes a justification for anti-discrimination laws.
Liberalism, historically, is a broad intellectual tradition including a large and disparate group of thinkers. The epistemological differences between John Locke, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant do not stop them all from being liberals. In economics the range extends from Friedrich Hayek to John Maynard Keynes. In political philosophy, from John Rawls to Robert Nozick. For that matter, both the American and French Revolutions have liberal foundations, though often (and rightly) contrasted.
I conclude by encouraging a more nuanced engagement with the West than is sometimes the case in the East:
[F]or a responsible, “liberal engagement” with the West from an Orthodox Christian perspective, it will not do to dismiss anything we don’t like as Western and liberal and, therefore, wrong. As Solzhenitsyn put [it], “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” And if that is true, then both East and West, including Western liberalism, have plenty of good and evil to go around.
How might Orthodox Christians better evaluate one of the many liberalisms that make up the water in which we swim in the West today?
Allen asked the bishop what role the Orthodox and Greek-Catholic churches should play in this crisis going forward.
The Churches have an “enormous” role and indeed a “primary” role, Metropolitan Antony said. He continued:
We have all along, and so have all the churches in Ukraine have called upon those involved to remember the dignity of the human being, to remember the sanctity of life throughout this whole conflict. The Church and the clergy will be required to refrain from participation in any kind of political maneuvering or machinations, and to simply preach the word of God, and preach the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to overcome the difficulties first and then to begin the process of forgiveness, because this is a process that I believe will go on for some time to come. (more…)
In an episode on Subway, Don Fertman, the restaurant chain’s Chief Development Officer, goes undercover at several locations across the United States. Most of the episode includes your typical Undercover Boss fare — a bumbling executive, dedicated workers, teer-jerker employee recognitions — but I was struck by a particular branch that Fertman visits along the way.
Located in the heart of Buffalo, New York, the restaurant is located in the same building as True Bethel Baptist Church, and further, is owned and operated as a franchise by the church itself. The reason? To provide employment and job training to the surrounding neighborhood. (more…)
While acknowledging that the Bible is not a book of political theory, a recent panel hosted by The Institute for Faith, Work and Economics asked whether or not Christianity and libertarianism were compatible. The panel, moderated by former Acton Institute intern Elise Amyx, was made up of young evangelicals eager to tackle the question. They came up with 5 reasons that Christianity and libertarianism were indeed compatible.
1. Christianity Celebrates Voluntary Action, Value Creation
Jacqueline Otto Isaacs, a blogger at Values & Capitalism, explained that the Christian worldview also supports libertarianism. ‘The message of the Gospel, the good news, is that salvation from our sins is offered through Christ — this salvation is voluntary and individual, and this is the core message of Christianity, Isaacs declared.