Acton University 2015 got underway last night with an opening plenary address by Dr. Samuel Gregg on the topic of Truth, Reason and Equality. Gregg emphasized that the pursuit of authentic equality must be rooted in a deep respect for truth, not in “sentimental humanitarianism.” We’re pleased to share his address with you via the video player below.
With the newest papal encyclical due out soon, and with its purported title to be Laudato si’ [Praised Be You] from St. Francis of Assisi’s great prayer, The Canticle of the Sun, Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg takes a closer look at this saint.
St. Francis of Assisi loved God’s created world; of that there is no doubt. However, is he the patron saint of the eco-warrior crowd? Gregg says there are far too many myths that surround this great servant of God. For instance, many people attribute the Peace Prayer (“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”) to St. Francis of Assisi. Not true.
It was written by Sebastian Temple, a twentieth century South African born composer. The prayer on which Temple based the hymn can’t be traced further back than a French magazine published in 1912.
The text to which I always turn whenever claims about Francis of Assisi are made is Augustine Thompson O.P’s meticulously researched Francis of Assisi: A New Biography (2012). The real strength of this biography is the way it rigorously analyzes the documentary record and sources and shifts out what is reliable from that which is hearsay and legend.
Today’s issue of Public Discourse offers a reflection on the life and work of Michael Novak. It would not be an exaggeration to say Novak is a towering figure in the world of free market economics. Author Nathaniel Peters says that while Novak has had his critics, the question that lies at the heart of all Novak’s work is this: “How do we get people out of poverty?”
What economic systems are most conducive to allowing people to exercise their human dignity, realize their God-given capacities, and provide for themselves and their families? When many people think of capitalism, they imagine factory owners exploiting workers. Novak sees a woman with a micro-loan who can now start a business to support her family, or a community of immigrants who have arrived in America—like Novak’s own Slovak ancestors—who through hard work in their local community can build better lives for themselves and those around them. (more…)
We are five months into 2015, and life is still unjust. People are still ignorant and hurting each other. All the things we hope and pray for – peace, love, faith, understanding – still seem unattainable.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) has spent his life thinking, theologically, about these things. In today’s Crisis Magazine, author James Day examines Ratzinger’s writings and teachings regarding “the source of mankind’s pervading unhappiness and alienation from each other and God.”
Ratzinger has seen in his lifetime a world transformed from celebrating widespread Catholic feast days in the “years of Our Lord,” Annis Domini—A.D.—to the artificial designation of the relativistic Common Era, and with it, an abandonment of things divine and a lowering of standards so much so we dare not contemplate forgiveness, reconciliation, and a new way. This transformation has been a disaster for both the possibility of real change and recognizing the impact of Benedict’s place in culture’s wake. James V. Schall’s reflection written the week of the pope’s abdication continues to hold true today: “Anyone who is not aware of the intellectual caliber of Benedict simply reveals his own incompetence or incomprehension.”
On Naharnet, a Lebanese news and information site, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg and Director of Istituto Acton Kishore Jayabalan comment on Pope Francis’s forthcoming environmental encyclical, which the news organization says is planned for release this summer. (Note: The article describes Acton as a “Catholic” think tank but it is, in fact, an ecumenical organization with broad participation from Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians and those of other faith traditions.) Naharnet notes that “a papal encyclical is meant to provide spiritual guidance to the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, but among advocates of climate action hopes are high that this one will resonate far beyond the church.”
Samuel Gregg, research director of the conservative Michigan-based Catholic think tank, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, said he doubts that the pope will weigh in on the science of climate change or on any particular political course of action.
“Individual Catholics—lay people, as well as bishops—have a variety of views on the science of climate change, and as citizens, they’re quite entitled to hold those views,” he said. “It’s not the church’s responsibility, nor does it have the authority to say that Catholics must support this treaty, that treaty, or any treaty. It doesn’t fall into the area of faith and morals. And this is often a distinction not understood outside the Catholic Church, or even by a good number of Catholics themselves.” (more…)
Writing at Crisis Magazine, Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg, recently discussed the significance of the Catholic church in Africa and Cardinal Sarah’s new book. At the 2014 Synod on the family, German theologian Cardinal Walter Kasper, argued that Africans “should not tell us too much what we have to do” regarding challenges facing the modern family. Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Robert Sarah, recently wrote “Dieu ou Rien” (“God or Nothing”) with French journalist Nicolas Diat on why the opposite is true. Gregg describes the book:
the universal Church should be listening more to Catholics who come from cultures where the faith is flourishing, and much less to those preoccupied with the concerns of particular Western European churches: churches that are fabulously wealthy in material terms but spiritually-moribund by any standard.
On Friday Afternoon, Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined host Sheila Liaugminas on Relevant Radio’s A Closer Look to discuss his recent article at the Public Discourse entitled God, Reason, and Our Civilizational Crisis. They discuss how differences between how societies view the divine will often cause tension and conflict between, and even within, cultures. The full interview is available via the audio player below.