contraceptive-mandateAs 2013 was coming to a close, federal courts issued rulings on three injunctions sought by religious non-profits challenging the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate rules:

• Preliminary injunctions had been awarded in 18 of the 20 similar cases, but the 10th Circuit denied relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns from Colorado. However, late in the evening on December 31, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction blocking enforcement, and ordered a response by the federal government by 10:00 am on Friday. Justice Sotomayor’s order applies to the nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and other Catholic nonprofit groups that use the same health plan, known as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust.

• Earlier in December an Indiana federal district court rejected Notre Dame’s claim in University of Notre Dame v. Sebelius that its rights under Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the 1st Amendment are infringed by applying the accommodation in the final rules to its self-insured employee plan and its health insurance policies offered to students. On December 31, the 7th Circuit denied Notre Dame’s emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal, but ordered expedited briefing and oral argument.

• In Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services, the D.C. federal district ruled on December 19th that no substantial burden was placed on a pro-life group’s free exercise by requiring it to complete the self-certification form to opt into the accommodation for religious non-profits. But on December 31 the D.C. Circuit granted emergency motions for injunctions pending appeal filed by Priests for Life and by the various plaintiffs in the Catholic Archbishop of Washington case. The court also ordered the two cases consolidated for appeal.

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.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, January 2, 2014

Subsidiarity: Why is It Praised More than It is Practiced?
James Kalb, Crisis Magazine

Subsidiarity is a basic principle of Catholic social teaching. Like other such principles, it is praised more than practiced, because it is at cross purposes with the outlook that now governs our public life.

Attacks on religion, liberty
Robert P. George and Katrina Lantos Swett, Philadelphia Inquirer

What can we do to save Christian and other religious minorities?

New Egyptian constitution gives greater freedom to Christians
Carey Lodge, Christian Today

Barnabas Fund has given thanks in its prayer update for a new draft of the Egyptian constitution that grants additional rights to Christians and marks a significant move away from the fundamental Islamic laws that have dominated in the past

Limited Government Solves Constitutional Violations
Walter E. Williams, Investor’s Business Daily

The problem our nation faces is very much like a marriage in which one partner has an established pattern of ignoring and breaking the marital vows.

Blog author: jsunde
Tuesday, December 31, 2013

????????????????????????????????????In a recent piece for the Wall Street Journal, Emory economics professor Paul H. Rubin makes an interesting argument about the way economists tend to over-elevate and/or misconstrue the role of competition in the flourishing of markets.

“Competition plays a supporting role,” he argues, but “cooperation makes markets thrive”:

The way we use the term competition instead of cooperation fosters anti-market bias. “Competition” carries a negative connotation because it implies winners and losers, and our minds naturally feel sympathy for the losers. But cooperation evokes a positive response: It’s a win-win situation with no losers. And in fact the word competition doesn’t depict market activity as aptly as the word cooperation. The “competitive economy” would be better described as the “cooperative economy.”

Consider the most basic economic unit, the transaction. A transaction is cooperative because both parties gain from a voluntary exchange. There is competition in markets, but it’s actually competition for the right to cooperate. Firms must compete for the privilege of selling to consumers—for the right to cooperate with consumers. Workers compete for the right to cooperate with employers. Competition matters because it ensures that the most efficient players will gain the right to cooperate on the best terms available. But competition plays a supporting role, while cooperation makes markets thrive. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Predictions for 2014At the beginning of 2013, I compiled a list that included 1,034 predictions for the coming year. I later went through and narrowed it down to the top 500 that I was absolutely certain would happen. Even after cutting the list down, though, I only managed to achieve a 67% accuracy rate. (Unfortunately, I forgot to post that list in public so it is difficult to verify. You’ll just have to take my word for it.)

This year, in an attempt to get 100% correct, I’ve cut my list of predictions to the ones that I’m absolutely sure will come true. Here are 14 can’t-miss predictions for 2014:

• Agricultural subsidies will come under increased scrutiny after the discovery that soylent green, one of the America’s most heavily subsidized crops, is people.

• The mainstream media’s fascination with Pope Francis will end after they discover that the Pope is indeed still Catholic.

• An existential crisis brought on by constant criticism will cause the fact-checking organization Polifact to change it’s name to Pilatefact and it’s slogan to “What is truth?”

• A rogue architect will use dynamite to blow up the Cortlandt Homes housing project.

• The United Nations will be the subject of another scandal after it’s discovered that no-bid contracts were offered to Halliburton for the purchase of the UN’s fleet of Black Helicopters.

• Congress fails to pass an immigration reform bill. Hungry, job-less workers, with no discernible skills or ability to speak our language will continue to pour in from Canada.

• Buoyed by the successful launch of, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announces the launch of the Affordable Email Act (aka Obamamail). Americans will be forced to choose their email provider based on “metal plans” (Bronze – AOL, Silver – Hotmail, Gold – Compuserve).

• Iraq will officially change the country’s name back to ‘Babylon’ in a successful attempt to freak out pre-millennial dispensational Evangelicals.

• A bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans agree to filibuster a proposed bill only to discover that the Tea Party caucus was not introducing new legislation but merely reading the text of the U.S. Constitution.

• After selecting “Twerking” as their Word of the Year, the Oxford English Dictionary pronounces the official death of the English language

• Peter Jackson will announce he’s begun filming a 12-hour version of The Silmarillion in order to complete his lifelong ambition of ruining every book written by J. R. R. Tolkien.

• Acton research fellow Jordan Ballor will win the 2014 Wolfgang Musculus Award for being the only person alive who has heard of Wolfgang Musculus.

• After a close mid-term race, President Obama will narrowly win re-election.

• For the 61st year in a row, political activists will once again attempt to immanentize the eschaton.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pope Francis and his invitation to dialogue with Islam
Fr. Samir Khalil Samir,

Islam is at a crossroads: either religion is a way towards politics and towards a politically organized society, or religion is an inspiration to live and love more fully.

The 10 Worst Regulations of 2013
James Gattuso and Diane Katz, The Foundry

There are many things 2013 will be remembered for, not least the miles of red tape that were imposed on Americans

“The Struggle against Scarcity:” Arthur Lovejoy and Roepke
Ralph Ancil, The Imaginative Conservative

There is a double meaning to the conventional economist’s use of the phrase the “struggle against scarcity.”

Philanthropy’s Original Sin
William A. Schambra, The New Atlantis

Philanthropy has many wonderful qualities — and never tires of proclaiming them, for one quality it sorely lacks is humility.

persuasion-postAs an evangelical who is extremely sympathetic to natural law theorizing, I’ve struggled with a question that I’ve never found anyone address: Why aren’t natural law arguments more persuasive?

We evangelicals are nothing if not pragmatic. If we were able to recognize the utility and effectiveness of such arguments, we’d likely to be much more open to natural law theory. But conclusions based on natural law don’t seem to be all that useful in compelling those who are unconvinced. Indeed, not only do they not seem to change the minds of non-believers, they often fail to sway believers. For instance, nominal Catholics, a group that should (at least theoretically) give them a fair hearing, don’t seem to take such arguments all that seriously. Why is that?

We evangelicals, of course, have our own explanation for such arguments are inefficacious. As Al Mohler said after an interview with Robert George: