Blog author: dpahman
Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A recent story from Catholic News Service highlights an interesting encounter between markets and monasticism, a subject that I have commented on before, this time centered around the Monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia:

The monks in Norcia initially were known for their liturgical ministry, particularly sharing their chanted prayers in Latin online – – with people around the world.

But following the Rule of St. Benedict means both prayer and manual labor, with a strong emphasis on the monks earning their own keep.

After just a year of brewing and selling their beer in the monastery gift shop and through restaurants in Norcia, financial self-sufficiency seems within reach, and the monks are talking expansion.

“We didn’t expect it to be so enormously successful,” said Fr. Cassian Folsom, the U.S. Benedictine who founded the community in 1998 and serves as its prior. “There’s been a huge response, and our production can’t keep up with the demand and the demand continues to grow.”

Beer brewing has been a traditional ministry of the Church for ages, going back to a time when water was unsafe to drink without first boiling it. The brewing process, as well as the alcohol, happens to purify the water from any harmful bacteria. This led St. Arnold of Metz (d. 640) to proclaim, “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world!” I’ll drink to that.

While prayer and liturgy still come first at St. Benedict’s, the brothers have also found that the division labor — once referred to as “economic cooperation” — can also be a spiritual good:

Fr. Basil Nixen, the novice [brew]master, said the beer enterprise has raised the morale of the monks and reinforces their sense of community because all the monks are called on to help with some aspect of producing, bottling, distributing and selling the beer.

In addition to financial sustainability and koinonia, the brewing also has the goal of introducing more people to the life of faith:

“Here in Norcia, we’re at a very important place for evangelization” because so many tourists and pilgrims come through the town, he said. “We’re continually sharing with others our life, above all the liturgy.

“People come to the monastery for the beer,” he said, but they leave realizing God brought them to Norcia to meet him.

Read more . . . .

becomingeuropeBecoming Europe, the latest book from Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg, has been reviewed by Books & Culture: A Christian Review. Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, a research professor at Yale University’s Center for Faith & Culture, begins his review with a series of question, including, “Will entrepreneurship vanish in America, as it has, more or less, in Europe? And what will be the moral and political costs of what Gregg describes as ‘reduced freedoms’?”

Malloch notes how Gregg walks the reader through most of Europe’s long-standing desire to provide full employment and “to preserve the market from its own inherent instabilities“: (more…)

syrian christians church bannerAs the civil war in Syrian continues to escalate, Christians are increasingly becoming the target of violent attacks. Catholic and Orthodox groups in Syria say the anti-government rebels have committed “awful acts” against Christians, including beheadings, rapes and murders of pregnant women.

Today, the conflict has morphed into a full-fledged civil war in which more than 100,000 people have perished. The most capable units on the rebel side — those spearheading the fight against the secular government — are composed of Islamist militants, many of whom fought U.S. forces in Iraq. The militants now accuse Christians of being supporters of Assad’s regime.

“They have threatened to cut our throats,” said Bahri, a Roman Catholic. “I love my country, but if it means having the terrorists slaughter me, my wife and our two boys, I’d rather escape to Lebanon.”

These ancient Christian communities, some of the oldest in the world, have generally been protected by successive Syrian governments, including Assad’s. But that security was lost when rebel factions began mounting increasingly ferocious attacks on them throughout the country.

On Aug. 17, rebel gunmen shot dead 11 Christians and wounded three more in central Syria, eyewitnesses and human rights activists said. In April, two bishops were abducted in rebel-held areas and an Italian Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, went missing last month while on a trip to the rebel-held northeastern city of Raqqa.

Read more . . .

Golden RiceA piece of news analysis over the weekend by Amy Harmon, a national correspondent for the New York Times, captures well the dynamics of the current debates about the merits of genetically-modified organisms (GMO’s).

Harmon writes specifically about the case of Golden Rice, which has some attributes that should inoculate it against common concerns about GMO’s. Golden Rice is not monopolized by a corporate entity, and has been developed specifically to address urgent health concerns in the developing world:

Not owned by any company, Golden Rice is being developed by a nonprofit group called the International Rice Research Institute with the aim of providing a new source of vitamin A to people both in the Philippines, where most households get most of their calories from rice, and eventually in many other places in a world where rice is eaten every day by half the population. Lack of the vital nutrient causes blindness in a quarter-million to a half-million children each year. It affects millions of people in Asia and Africa and so weakens the immune system that some two million die each year of diseases they would otherwise survive.

Harmon also observes that “beyond the fear of corporate control of agriculture, perhaps the most cited objection to G.M.O.’s is that they may hold risks that may not be understood. The decision to grow or eat them relies, like many other decisions, on a cost-benefit analysis.”

Get_Your_Hands_DirtyAs I argue in my latest book, Get Your Hands Dirty, there is a theological basis for the development of genetically-modified foods. The cost-benefit sorts of reasoning has its place, but as I argue, “The limits of all these arguments about GM food are essentially the same: they argue primarily, if not solely on the basis of pragmatic concerns. While these arguments are attractive, especially to American common sense, they are neither comprehensive nor adequate in and of themselves.”

A Christian examination of GMO’s cannot be limited simply to arguments about expediency. It is necessary to first establish that a moral basis exists for this type of human activity. As I examine the case of GM foods through the lens of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, I conclude that such a “biblical-theological framework provides some important general affirmations of the genetic engineering movement with regard to food. This reality is in some respect directly related to the truth of human exceptionalism, the priority of human life over and against that of animals and particularly plants.”

So while expediency cannot be the sole arbiter validating GMO’s, the human cost associated with either acceptance or rejection of such foods are relevant. There are some legitimate concerns about GM foods, at both the level of principle and practice. There are no perfect solutions. But even so, as I put it, our “default position should be in favor of innovations which have a realistic possibility of substantively increasing the fruitfulness of the earth.”

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Court Is ‘One of Most Activist,’ Ginsburg Says, Vowing to Stay
Adam Liptak, New York Times

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80, vowed in an interview to stay on the Supreme Court as long as her health and intellect remained strong, saying she was fully engaged in her work as the leader of the liberal opposition on what she called “one of the most activist courts in history.”

Catholic Organizations Receive ‘Navigator’ Grants To Promote Pro-Abortion Obamacare
Susan Berry, Breitbart

In addition to Planned Parenthood, Ascension Health, the largest Catholic and nonprofit health system, and Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama, have received federal “navigator” grants to enroll Americans in ObamaCare.

The Ascent of Wealth in the Western Roman Empire
Thomas R. Martin, Liberty Law Blog

No scholar is more skilled than Peter Brown at analyzing the copious evidence for the intellectual and religious changes in the western Roman Empire and suggesting, though not prescribing, ways to think about the answers to these questions.

Former Church Council Chief Urges Christianity to Abandon “Exclusivity”
Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism

Former National Council of Churches chief Joan Brown Campbell, in her sermon at Chautauqua today, urged that Christians reject the “exclusivity” of their own faith.

omondi-68453ad8f598b8de7a754315a0074f83d4cf5f01-s40-c85Why do people live in poverty?

Sometimes the problem is structural, and the cause can be attributed to a corrupt government or economic injustice. Sometimes the problem is individual, and the cause can be attributed to poor work ethic or a dependency on drugs. Sometimes, perhaps even most of the time, the problem is a combination of structural and individual reasons.

Just as there is no one cause of poverty there can be no one solution to poverty. Forgetting this obvious point can lead us to embrace a doomed one-size-fits-all approach or to dismiss workable initiatives because they can’t be applied in all cases. Consider, for example, the idea that since the poor lack resources, the best way to help them get out out of poverty is to give them money directly.

The New York Times recently highlighted a charity, GiveDirectly, that does just what it’s name implies: gives money directly to the needy. The organization gave $1,000 in two lump payments to the various poor villagers living in rural Kenya. The results:


The New Mexico Supreme Court, in a ruling regarding a Christian photographer who declined to photograph the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple, stated that this violated the state’s Human Rights Act.

gay-marriage-cake-toppers-485x320In 2006, Elane Huguenin, a professional photographer, was asked to photograph the ceremony of a lesbian couple. Huguenin declined, citing her religious beliefs, and subsequently had a complaint filed against her with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. She was found guilty of discrimination and fined. Justice Richard Bosson, in the court’s unanimous decision wrote:

The Huguenins today can no more turn away customers on the basis of their sexual orientation – photographing a same-sex marriage ceremony – than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims…

At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others,” he wrote.

He said the Constitution protects the rights of the Christian photographers to pray to the God of their choice and following religious teachings, but offered a sobering warning.

“But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life,” the justice wrote. “The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”