Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, December 6, 2012
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Now that we know what the fiscal cliff is all about, what are the plans for dealing with it? Below are the four approaches that have been proposed:

The Democrats’ Plan

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner offered the White House’s fiscal cliff proposal to Republicans in the last week of November. Although the proposal wasn’t released to the public, news reports say it was basically a reprise of Obama’s most recent budget request and contained the following items:

• End the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000. The result would be $1.6 trillion in new taxes over 10 years, $160 billion a year.
• Cuts to Medicare and other entitlements over 10 years equal to $400 million, or $40 million a year.
• Additional stimulus spending of $50 billion.
• Authority to allow President Obama to to raise the debt limit without asking Congress in order to prevent “fiscal cliff”-style triggers from being put in place in the future.
• The White House also counts “savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” in their savings tally, even though no one has proposed maintaining war spending over the next decade at the current rate.

Reception: The Republicans rejected Obama’s plan but offered to let it be voted on in the Senate. However, yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blocked a vote on the president’s proposal.
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Acton’s Director of Media, Michael Matheson Miller, discusses the current state of American thought on state, Church, family and liberty in Legatus Magazine. He focuses on the work of two Frenchmen: Alexis de Tocqueville and Jean Jacques Rousseau.

Many of the differences can be boiled down to what we mean by community. Rousseau’s vision of community is what the sociologist Robert Nisbet called the “political community.” For Rousseau, the two main elements of society are the individual and the state. All other groups — including the Church — are viewed as inhibiting individual freedom and detracting from political community that is found in the state.

Tocqueville’s vision of community, on the other hand, is not reduced to the “political community” but instead means a wide variety of associations, different levels of groups, and layers of authority. Society is not made up of autonomous individuals and an omnicompetent state, but is a diverse group of overlapping associations like families, churches, schools, and mutual-aid societies.

Read “Community, liberty and freedom” in Legatus here.

Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, talks about the need for vigilance in defending religious liberty around the world.

Groberg Films has produced “First Freedom: the Fight for Religious Liberty”, which will be airing on local PBS stations during the month of December. The film is described as portraying the “radical” break America’s Founding Fathers made from religion-by-law to a society that depended upon the morality of its citizenry. Noting that this was a “fundamental shift in human history”, the film seeks to portray the establishment of freedom of religion as a fundamental human right.

A preview of the film can be viewed here.

In a similar vein, Acton Media produced “The Birth of Freedom“, which traces the roots of our American freedoms and rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, December 6, 2012
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Christian Groups Join To Support Tech-Savvy Professionals
William Bigelow, Breitbart.com

There is a growing Christian tech-savvy population that is looking to join with like-minded Christians to promote their businesses.

Q&A: Why marriage may be the strongest antidote to child poverty
New Jersey Star-Ledger

We tell kids not to drop out of school because they’ll be trapped in a life of poverty — but say nothing about other crucial choices, such as marriage. Is that a mistake?

Supreme Court rules against government in flooding case
Richard Wolf, USA Today

The case carries potential significance for future cases involving temporary seizure of property.

Tufts Finds Compromise Over Evangelical Group
Janelle Nanos, Boston Daily

A new policy seeks balance between non-discrimination and religious diversity.

Reject Apathy, RELEVANT Magazine, Tim Hoiland, Is Justice EnoughIn the recent issue of Reject Apathy, an off-shoot publication of RELEVANT Magazine, Tim Hoiland explores what he believes to be a tension between “serving justice” and “saving souls”:

This [young] generation’s passion for justice is, without doubt, something to celebrate. It’s a breathtaking sign that the Spirit is at work, leading young men and women into lives marked by the reigning belief that all of life matters to God, not just the parts we might call “spiritual.”

But in this sincere step toward activism, have other essential aspects of the Christian calling been neglected? As Christians respond to the cries of the oppressed, have they failed to share the life-giving message that is truly good news to the poor?

… If Christians are to bridge the artificial divide between evangelism and social action, they must immerse themselves in the Bible’s story of redemption. They must learn from those who have gone before them. And they must see the strength of the diversity of the Church—a company of uniquely called individuals in God’s cosmic mission.

As Hoiland goes on to remind us, pointing to the work of sociologist Rodney Stark, the church has successfully fused evangelism and social action throughout its history, from the selling and sharing of possessions in the Book of Acts to the church’s widespread establishment of schools, orphanages, and hospitals in more recent centuries (a feature highlighted at length in Rev. Sirico’s recent book).

But in the early 20th century, Hoiland believes, something changed: (more…)

Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico appeared in a a video interview released yesterday by Catholic News Service, following a press conference in Rome last week held to introduce his new book “Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for the Free Economy” to the local media.

CNS Rome bureau chief Frank Rocca interviewed Sirico regarding his own moral defense of market economics and asked his opinion of the libertarian novelist and intellectual Ayn Rand, whose philosophy of objectivism and rational-self interest gained widespread support from laissez faire capitalists in the United States and Europe.

Rev. Sirico expressed his opinion of Rand’s  “false gospel” of laissez faire capitalism in these words:

Ayn Rand is a very interesting character … She attempts to defend capitalism by the use of Aristotelian and, even at times, Thomistic categories. But I think that Rand has a counterfeit form of Christianity. Her success … to a very great extent, is [due to] the moral passion she brings to the question of economics.

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How can we trust a government to tell us what’s best for our healthcare when it’s subsidizing a corn industry that produces a food additive researchers believe may be tied to rising levels of obesity and disease? Anthony Bradley looks at a new study that raises moral questions about the consequences of the corn subsidy. The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
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Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
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Earlier this week we noted that Patrick Brennan posted a paper, “Subsidiarity in the Tradition of Catholic Social Doctrine,” which unpacks some of the recent background and implications for the use of the principle in Catholic social thought. As Brennan observes, “Although present in germ from the first Christian century, Catholic social thought began to emerge as a unified body of doctrine in the nineteenth century….” Brennan goes on to highlight the particularly Thomistic roots of the doctrine of subsidiarity, “a new idea creatively culled from the depths of the Catholic philosophical and theological tradition that had roots in Greek philosophical speculation.”

While recognizing the innovativeness of Taparelli’s thought and the genius of 19th and 20th century revivals of neo-Thomism, it is also worth noting the basic “catholicity,” or universality, of a doctrine like subsidiarity within the broader Christian tradition. If Christian social thought has been around since the first century, then so have its constitutive elements, in more or less developed form. And pace Brennan, it is not clear to me that there is one univocal version of subsidiarity, at least as it arises out of the early modern period.

With this in mind, I have just posted two papers that explore the early modern backgrounds of subsidiarity and related concepts like natural law which focus particularly on the provenance of these ideas in the Reformed tradition.
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Currently, there are forty cases against the Obamacare HHS mandate. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires employers to provide,  as employee health care, “preventative services” such as abortion and sterilization.

John Daniel Davidson, in First Things, says that the president and his administration have grossly misjudged this entire situation. In Davidson’s view, the administration “in their conceit” seemed to think that millions of Americans would simply put aside their deeply held religious and moral convictions and play along with the government. But that’s not all.

…perhaps most shocking was the administration’s hubris in assuming that religious organizations, business owners, and individuals with deeply held beliefs about contraception and abortion would agree to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs such as the morning-after pill. Were federal officials surprised when the Catholic Church objected to mandated contraceptive coverage? Did they really think Catholic-owned hospitals and universities would accept such a rule? Did they think conservative Christian schools like Wheaton College—which forbids alcohol, tobacco, and even unsanctioned dancing on its campus—would somehow be willing to provide its employees with morning-after pills and other abortifacients?

Davidson specifically mentions the case brought by the owners of Hobby Lobby (read more here and here) as an example of a non-religious organization – a for-profit business – whose owners are not willing to simply set aside their religious beliefs for what they believe to be an unconstitutional law.

Read “Obamacare’s Crisis of Conscience” at First Things.