One of the five nuclear reactors in Chernobyl

One of the four nuclear reactors that loom over Chernobyl

Twenty-seven years have passed since the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl endured the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. In 2005, the United Nations predicted 4,000 people could eventually die from the radiation exposure, although different estimates exist. In a recent presentation at Aquinas College, Father Oleh Kindiy, a Ukrainian Catholic priest and visiting Fulbright Scholar, and Luba Markewycz, a photographer and member of the education committee at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, shared insights on the current state of Chernobyl and what can be learned from the tragedy. All images in this post are copyright of Luba Markewycz.

Kindiy’s reflections on the situation include the following:

1)  “No matter how grave the technological disaster, human solidarity and support reveals the vulnerability, interconnectedness, and dream for the better in us.”

2)  “Since the times of the Enlightenment of the 17th century, the Western Civilization has believed that all problems can be solved by science and technology, but in fact besides them, there is faith, tradition, and moral responsibility that need always be taken into account. Without them, technology by itself is a loose cannon that can explode at any time.”


thomas-aquinasaugustine-of-hippoAs I noted previously, I’ve been involved this month in a panel discussion over at Cato Unbound on the issue of “Conservative-Libertarian Fusionism.”

My two most recent contributions to the discussion phase focus on possible resources for the question that can be gleaned from Augustine and Aquinas.

Augustine inaugurated a tradition of Christian reflection on the saeculum, the age of this world in which the wheat and the tares grow up together, and the implications of this for common life together. On the relevance of Augustine for modern considerations of political order, I recommend a recent lecture from Eric Gregory of Princeton University.

Aquinas in many respects, and as Gregory points out, should be read as a constructive interlocutor with Augustine rather than in opposition with him. Indeed, Augustine wrote in his Enchiridion that “although every crime is a sin, not every sin is a crime.” Likewise in his treatise on free choice, he observed, “The law which is framed for the government of states, allows and leaves unpunished many things that are punished by Divine providence.”

In this vein, Aquinas treats in systematic fashion the question, “Whether it belongs to human law to repress all vices?” As I contend over at Cato Unbound, Aquinas follows Augustine in answering negatively, and his discussion has some serious implications for how both conservatives and libertarians ought to think about the limits of the law: “Conservatives and libertarians ought to recognize that positive law is not meant to repress all vices or to promote all virtues.”

Facing a corrupt and repressive government, about 36,000 Eritreans fled last year into the eastern Sudan where they faced harsh weather and the threat of kidnapping. Human trafficking has become a serious threat for these Eritrean refugees. Bedouin people-trafficking gangs find weary travelers then kidnap, torture, and often kill them. The gangs do this hoping to extract ransom from their victims’ families.

Despite the dangers that Eritreans face, many still choose to cross into Sudan, looking for freedom. According to the BBC, Eritrea has one of the most corrupt governments; it “has been accused of repression and of hindering the development of democracy.”

The BBC recently published a piece about Philemon Semere, an Eritrean refugee and a victim of human trafficking. He crossed into Eastern Sudan and was immediately captured by one of these human trafficking gangs. He was thrown with several others into the back of a truck and transported North almost 2,000 miles to a house in the Sinai peninsula. He said this about his ordeal: “Words are not enough to say how good I’m doing right now. I’m so relieved after everything I went through. Death was very near to me and at one point all hope was gone.” Philemon was frequently forced to call his family members and beg for the ransom of $33,000.  While they were tortured often, it was always significantly worse when the victims were on the phone with family members.  Philemon said that the first time he called his mother, “She heard my screams and couldn’t stop crying. I was crying too. We both just cried and cried until we had no tears left.” He explained that relatives were more likely to pay the ransoms if they could hear the victims “screaming and crying in pain.”

mapPhilemon was held captive with 19 other Eritreans, but more than half died in captivity. Philemon was released after his poverty-stricken family scraped together $13,200, and two other captives paid $10,000 on his behalf. Philemon made it to Cairo along with hundreds of others who underwent to the same horrors as he did. When he thinking of his ordeal and what he plans to do in the future, Philemon said, “God brought me out of the deepest darkness and only he knows what lies ahead for me now.”

For more information, please see Joel Millman’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, Ruthless Kidnapping Rings Reach From Desert Sands to U.S. Cities.



When we consider poverty alleviation, what areas should be focused on to yield effective and sustainable results? In the blog article, “The fruits, the roots, and the soil,” PovertyCure’s Mark Weber asserts that it is oftentimes the neglected aspects that are most necessary for long-term prosperity. We can often be lured by attractive, short-term assistance approaches, rather than recognizing and building the strong foundations that allow individuals and communities to thrive. We need to focus on the soil.

He says,

We poverty junkies spend a lot of time examining the fruits and the roots. But what of the soil? Humanitarians generally focus on the former, i.e. physical needs such as food, water, clothes, and medicine. Development types generally focus on the latter, i.e. infrastructure, agriculture, education, and various government or multilateral programs. Send out an agronomist to analyze a section of land for agricultural fertility, and his primary focus will be on the nature and fertility of the soil. We can have all the fancy technology in the world, we can genetically engineer seeds for pesticide resistance and higher yields, we can till the land with the powerful machines, but if the soil is sterile, nothing will grow.

Microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus touches on the soil issue in his poignant metaphor of the bonsai tree:

View the entire article on the PovertyCure Blog.

catholic-university-bschoolEarlier this year, the Catholic University of America announced the creation of a School of Business and Economics that will be “distinctively Catholic.” The new school offers a model based on Catholic social doctrine and the natural law that is unlike theories prevalent at most leading business schools. “Business schools focus on teaching commercial skills and rules of ethics, but they neglect the importance of character,” says Andrew Abela, the school’s dean and Acton’s 2009 Novak Award Recipient. “Our distinctive idea is to bring the rich resources of the Catholic intellectual tradition and the natural law to bear upon business and economics.

I recently spoke with Dr. Abela about the new program, what makes a Catholic approach different, and what it means for business and economics to be “people-centered”:

Why is it so rare for Catholic colleges and universities to take a “distinctively Catholic” approach on subjects like business and economics?

I think there are several possible reasons for this. First, the business and economics education at many Catholic universities tends to mirror that of non-religious universities in that it focuses on knowledge, not on will. But this is not enough. We have to cultivate our students in virtue, which needs the formation of both the intellect and the will. It’s not enough for students to know the good, they have to do the good, and even to love the good. Second, as you know much of higher education suffers from political correctness, and faculty are thus reluctant to commit to any one approach to ethics. Students end up being taught several (frequently conflicting) theories of ethics, with the result that they graduate as sophisticated relativists. Finally, faculty are committed to existing business and economics theories, and it is hard to reconcile these theories, which claim to be morally neutral, with the Catholic intellectual tradition, which holds that all human action has a moral dimension.

Why are you creating a new School of Business & Economics now – does the world really need another business school? And why a School of Business and Economics?

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, May 30, 2013

Does the Book of Acts Command Socialism?
Art Lindsley, The Gospel Coalition

Does Acts 2-5 really command socialism? A quick reading of these chapters might make it seem so.

Pope Francis’ affinity for liberation theology — wait, what?
Mollie Hemingway, Get Religion

Pope Francis’ “affinity” for liberation theology”? He sure has a curious way of showing that affinity, no?

Christian schools seen for cultural impact
Erin Roach, Baptist Press

When you think about it, a kid is in school 2,100 minutes a week and he’s in church maybe 120 minutes a week. If he’s getting any discipling at home, it isn’t much and it certainly doesn’t compare to the discipling he’s getting in a secular school. And 90 percent of our children attend a secular school,” he said.

Political common goods are of a fixed size
James Chastek, Just Thomism

One factor that continually gets overlooked in these debates is that the size and degree of complexity of the thing you call “government” has an essential role to play in the question, since governments – at least those that are political common goods – are of a fixed size.

At Aletetia, John Zmirak gives an interesting treatment of “solidarity”, a word we don’t talk about too much, either in government, philosophy or theology. However, as Zmirak points out, without solidarity, “tyranny creeps in.”

The central principle of solidarity in practice is simple and timeless – the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This ethical maxim, which Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, exists in some form in every culture on earth – as C. S. Lewis documented in The Abolition of Man, where he called it the Tao. It is so ubiquitous that it’s easy for us to assume that it’s universally accepted – at least in theory – while far too rarely practiced.

But in fact, things are darker than that. We have another maxim, which crept into Western souls via “worldly philosophers” such as Machiavelli and Hobbes – the principle of the “consenting adult.” Any time someone uses this phrase, he is saying (under his breath) that none of us is the least bit responsible for each other. If folks make stupid choices, that’s not our problem. Even if we are the ones who tempted them to make such a choice – if we have exploited them personally, economically, or sexually – we are still scot-free: “She was a consenting adult;” “That schmuck should have known better,” we tell ourselves, and smirk.

Instead of an ethic that rests on reciprocity, on admitting the unique value of every person because he’s a fellow human, we treasure a heartless, pragmatic ethos that shrugs at suffering and confusion, a Darwinian willingness to pounce on our neighbor’s mistakes. So “consenting adults” work in sweatshops overseas making our iPads, or sweat before cameras enacting our porn, or wake up alone in the bed where we’ve left them when we were finished with our desires. No individual rights were violated, no crime was committed or contract broken – so the modern secular conscience has nothing meaningful to say.

Solidarity is not a power relationship, but one based on justice and love, Zmirak says. It is certainly not socialism, either; it is, rather, a term borrowed from Catholic Social Teaching that allows a community of people to bond, to live together with concern for each other’s needs, regardless of what the government is up to.

Read “The Deadly Myth of the ‘Consenting Adult’ ” at