Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg joins hosts John Hall and Kathy Emmons on It’s The Ride Home on Pittsburgh’s 101.5 FM WORD to discuss President Obama’s scheduled visit this week in Rome with Pope Francis. Gregg notes the differences in worldview between Francis and Obama, and contrasts the likely relationship between the current pope and president with the more well-known relationship between an earlier pope and president, John Paul II and Reagan. You can listen to the interview using the audio player below.
I’ve just returned from Bangalore, where I attended a conference on “Bounds of Ethics in a Globalized World” at Christ University, which is run by the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, the first Catholic religious order started in India. The headline attraction on the opening day was the appearance of the Dalai Lama and his remarks promoting “secular ethics.” This may seem surprising coming from one of the world’s most famous religious leaders (and a monk, at that), but like his counterpart in Rome, the Dalai Lama has a talent for speaking to the irreligious in a way that challenges and flatters democratic prejudices at the same time.
Being completely ignorant in Buddhism, I will refrain from evaluating the orthodoxy of his adoption of secular rather than religious ethics. The Dalai Lama knows how to poke fun at seemingly pious people by highlighting their hypocrisy. He preaches using liberal concepts like compassion and equality that are pleasing to the ears of the audience; in fact, he makes living with compassion by renouncing oneself the key to happiness. He goes even further by stressing that the world would be better off with perfect equality and no leaders to pose as authorities. And he does it all so easily, with a smile and joking asides that make him seem like your not-completely-all-there grandfather, which is all this one would be if he wasn’t the 14th incarnation of a great Tibetian leader, feared and exiled as a boy by communist China. The Chinese would prefer to see him renounce his leadership as well.
In spite of his treatment by the Chinese government, the Dalai Lama called himself a “social and economic Marxist” during his talk, saying that capitalism is only about “money, money, money.” He said this while also speaking well of George W. Bush, the United States, and even suggested that NATO headquarters should be moved to Moscow in order to spiritually disarm the Russians. Listening to him makes you think that human pride could simply be shamed out of existence. It would be too easy to call his ideas contradictory and utopian. (more…)
Kishore Jayabalan, Director of Istituto Acton in Rome, has issued his October letter. In it, he discusses the idea of Pope Francis as a “liberal,” especially in light of the pope’s recent interview in America magazine:
Much of the controversy over the Pope’s interview reminds me of several Gospel passages, where Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees for healing people on the Sabbath, dining with sinners, not condemning the adulteress, and so on, and especially of the parable of the prodigal son and the elder brother who’s upset that his father never threw a feast for him. In all these cases, Jesus emphasizes mercy over justice in order to draw us closer to Him instead of remaining attached to our prideful selves. God’s justice would rightly condemn us all, while His mercy offers us a chance at salvation if we’re humble enough to seek it. But in no way does Jesus say that justice is useless or unnecessary.
Read more here.
Challenging the Modern World: Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II and the Development of Catholic Social Teaching
Kishore Jayabalan, Rome director of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, clarified remarks made by Pope Francis at a May 16 reception of new Vatican ambassadors. The pope, calling for an examination of the world’s relationship with money, said we are facing “dire consequences” due to the power we give money.
Jayabalan had this to say:
If we look at money as wealth itself, we can very easily place it above everything else. But if we look at money as a representation of wealth, as a measure by which we can judge whether we are using our resources well, it need not be an idol, but a useful instrument. The same goes for finance and the allocation of capital needed for new ventures and progress.
While the Acton Institute has a network of international affiliations around the globe (in places like Brazil, Austria, and Zambia), we only have two offices: our primary headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Istituto Acton, our office located in Rome, Italy.
Having an office in Rome provides a base camp for Acton’s work around Europe. But it also gives Acton, as co-founder and executive director Kris Alan Mauren once explained, a vantage point from which to keep close watch on the international happenings of the Catholic Church. Although located in Italy, it’s just a short stroll from our Rome office to one of the most peculiar countries on the globe: Vatican City.
If like me you’re a curious Protestant (or just an underinformed Catholic) you’ve probably wondered what exactly is Vatican City: Is it a city, a state, a religious nation? The video below provides an entertaining explanation to that questions and others you may have about the world’s smallest state. (For example, if Michael Severance was arrested for jaywalking in that country, I now know who’d arrest him. Answer: The VC police, who work for the King of Vatican City and could throw him in the VC jail.).
Michael Severance, operations manager of the Istituto Acton in Rome, recently wrote an article for the World Catholic Report explaining why Pope Francis was a historic choice and examining what we can expect from his papacy.
He points out that “this past week proved a historic week of firsts:”
We now have the first Jesuit pope. And the first pope named Francis. He is the first non-European pope since Gregory III, an eighth-century Syrian. And we now have the very first pope from the Americas.
We have also witnessed a pope who is shunning what some critics perceive as Vatican tinsel and niceties during these economic hard times.
Francis has refused to ride in the pope’s private car (preferring the shuttle bus) or to wear red shoes and a fur-lined cape, or mozzetta, opting for ordinary black shoes and a white cassock.
This is the first time in a very long while that we have listened to a pope who readily quips in public and frequently includes off-script interjections to prepared remarks—at his first Mass with his brother cardinals, then a second time during his first press conference with journalists on Saturday, then a third time during his Sunday sermon at the Vatican parish of St. Anne, and again only a few hours later at his noontime Angelus, when he preached from his apartment above St. Peter’s Square. Not even John Paul II was at such ease with humor and his own words so early on in his pontificate.
Since Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was somewhat unknown before he was elected Pope, Severance has compiled a brief profile of Pope Francis, focusing the pope as a pastor, thinker, and advocate for the poor. (more…)
Kishore Jayabalan, Director of Instituto Acton in Rome, joined host Michael Patrick Shiels on Michigan’s Big Show to discuss the mood in Rome on the day of Pope Francis’ Installation Mass. The theme of the day, according to Jayabalan, was one of “quiet, faithful, obedient service.” The Vatican estimates that between 150,000 and 200,000 people turned out for the event.
Listen to the full interview here: