“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” -Isaiah 61:11

Jean Marie owns a restaurant and farm in southern Rwanda. After his first year in business, he worked with Urwego, a local micro-finance partner with HOPE International, to secure a loan to purchase more animals and improve his land’s fertility.

Today, he employs 8 people, supports 11 orphans, and has 5 children:

His story is another great example of how something as simple as access to capital can be a key to achieving success and stability in the developing world. And yet Jean Marie’s story points to something even more crucial: a love for Jesus, faithful obedience, and the fruit of both across family, community, and enterprise. (more…)

Met. John of Pergamon

Met. John of Pergamon

At the Vatican press conference on Thursday for the launch of Pope Francis’ enviromental encyclical, a high ranking Greek Orthodox bishop, Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, said the document, titled Laudato Si in Latin or Praise be to You in English, comes at a “critical moment in human history” and will “undoubtedly have a worldwide effect on people’s consciousness.” He thanked the pope for “for raising his authoritative voice to draw the attention of the world to the urgent need to protect God’s creation from the damage we humans inflict on it with our behavior towards nature.”

Zizioulas, an advocate of what he calls “Radical Ecology” (more on that below), was in Rome as the representative of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew whose church for more than three decades  has taken to the bully pulpit of this ancient and oppressed see to advance Christian stewardship of the environment. This is why Bartholomew, who just concluded another environmental conference in Istanbul, is known as the Green Patriarch.

You can read the full text of Zizioulas’ remarks on the Vatican Radio site. How to understand the Orthodox role here? Five things, for starters.

1. Persuasion, not jurisdiction.

Bartholomew’s pronouncements on the environment have been applauded widely by environmental and media elites. Yet his numerous statements and declarations are met with little interest in the self-governed Orthodox churches outside the Greek Orthodox world. Certainly, his statements and endorsements of various United Nations climate treaties are not binding on other churches in any way. In the Orthodox Church, major theological controversies are settled by a council or synod. Debatable environmental stewardship policies and prescriptions don’t rise to this level. When you hear Bartholomew described by his own church or the media as the “spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians” that is true if he were to sit in synod with other Orthodox hierarchs where he is the “first among equals.” An Orthodox Council is in the works for 2016, but there are no momentous theological disputes on the agenda. Bartholomew, while widely revered, would not typically be considered by a Russian or Egyptian or Romanian or Serb or Bulgarian or Syrian as their pastor. They have their own patriarchs and popes. Nor does Bartholomew wield jurisdiction over the self-governed churches in Greece and Cyprus — although closely linked by language and culture and theological tradition to these lands. (more…)

William McGurn claims that Laudato Si’ adopts the environmentalists’ logic, if not their full conclusions, in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. He critiques the encyclical’s “bleak” tone and economic pronouncements:

Put it this way. If you were a parent whose family was languishing in soul-crushing poverty in some desperate part of Africa, you’d hear two messages today:

The economist and entrepreneur will tell you that there is no nation so poor that its people cannot lift up themselves if they have the freedom to take advantage of modern technology and participate in the global marketplace. In the process, their neighbors will also be enriched and the environment improved.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis suggests that the impoverished in the developing world can never have better lives or a cleaner environment until the West imposes a much-reduced standard of living on itself.

Which offers the more hopeful and human way forward?

Read the full text of his article here.

george horrifiedIn today’s Public Discourse, Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, discusses the enormous debt crisis the U.S. and many nations currently face. While debt crises are hardly new, Gregg states, America’s current debt situation is frightening.

America’s public debt amounts to approximately 105 percent of GDP. Since 20 January 2009, America’s total outstanding public debt has grown from $10.626 trillion to $18.152 trillion as of May 8 this year. Such an increase reflects a consistent disparity between government revenues and expenditures that has long plagued America’s public finances.

What’s driving this debt? Gregg’s response: the welfare state. (more…)

In the Washington Times, Nicholas Hahn critiques the scientific and economic arguments of Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical and the policies the pontiff proposed.

Despite the pontiff’s best intentions to steer clear of politics, his encyclical too often engages in sophisticated science and partisan policymaking. Francis blames markets and advances in technology without at least admitting that the Industrial Revolution lifted more people out of poverty than ever before.

However, Pope Francis’s “most welcome contribution” is the affirmation that human beings belong in the center of creation, he writes.

Read the full text of Hahn’s “Pope Francis preaches the gospel of global warming” here.

Doug Bandow, member of the Advisory Board at the Acton Institute and Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, penned an exclusive article for the Acton Institute on the economic effect of the encyclical:

In Calling on Government, Laudato Si Underestimates Power of the the Market

by Doug Bandow

Pope Francis’ new encyclical, Laudato Si, offers a challenging read. That’s why he addresses his message to “every person living on this planet.” In his view “the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.” He advocates not only a practical political response, but more importantly calls mankind to a new “ecological spirituality.”

Indeed, his role, the Pontiff explains, is to help the rest of us apply the “rich heritage of Christian spirituality, the fruit of twenty centuries of personal and communal experience,” to the world around us. The Gospel should affect how we think, feel, and live. We should relate through it not only to people around us, but the entire environment.

(more…)

Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
By

Economist Nicole Gelinas, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, explains the recent financial crisis in this brief video. Did banks fail us? No, she says. The problem is that the U.S. government has become too closely tied to banks, enabling their bad financial practices.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
By

Pope Francis asks pardon from Waldensian Protestants for past persecution
Philip Pullella, Reuters

Pope Francis asked forgiveness on Monday for the Roman Catholic Church’s “non-Christian and inhumane” treatment in the past of the Waldensians, a tiny Protestant movement the Vatican tried to exterminate in the 15th century.

Pope Francis is actually bringing America’s environmentalism movement to its religious and moral roots
Mark Stoll, Washington Post

In early colonial days, Puritans following Calvinist principles established communities across New England. Calvinism put special emphasis on God’s presence in the works of nature, and Puritans often went alone into the fields, woods, and hills to pray and meditate.

The Case for Religious Liberty
A. Barton Hinkle , Reason.com

The case of Iknoor Singh highlights the importance of protecting religious freedom.

How the Declaration of Independence Differs From the Magna Carta
Michael Sabo, The Daily Signal

This month we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, which secured rights for free Englishmen, and, more importantly, established what would later become the principle of the rule of law.

postudo-108Francis X. Rocca’s Wall Street Journal article about Laudato Si’ has been translated into Spanish. Featured in Tuesday’s EcoLinks, this piece addresses many topics surrounding the new ecological encyclical, including the pope’s seeming condemnation of capitalism. Rocca quotes Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg who argues that the system the pope condemns is not actually free market capitalism:

El pontífice argentino, el primero en la historia en provenir del hemisferio Sur, escribe sobre la “deuda ecológica” del Norte global con el Sur, aduciendo que “los pueblos en vías de desarrollo, donde se encuentran las más importantes reservas de la biosfera, siguen alimentando el desarrollo de los países más ricos a costa de su presente y de su futuro”.

Las duras palabras de la encíclica desataron una inmediata polémica, anticipando el peso que la postura del Papa puede llegar a tener en el debate sobre cómo responder al cambio climático. Samuel Gregg, un católico que se desempeña como director de investigación del Acton Institute, un centro de estudios ecuménico conservador que promueve el libre mercado, objetó las premisas económicas del Papa, al decir que Francisco tiene “puntos ciegos significativos” sobre la economía de mercado. También dijo que la encíclica “en muchos aspectos es una caricatura de la economía de mercado”.

(more…)

Doug Bandow, advisory board member of the Acton Institute, praises the new encyclical for its understanding of man and religion, but criticizes it for its lack of knowledge of economics and politics in an article for The American Spectator.

Despite his commitment to ecological values, the Holy Father acknowledges that “a return to nature cannot be at the expense of freedom and the responsibility of the human being, that is the part of the world tasked with cultivating its ability to protect and develop their potential.” He also rejects “deification of the earth, which would deprive us of the call to collaborate with it and protect its fragility.”

Nevertheless, humanity’s responsibility for the environment is complex and the Pope discusses ecological values in the context of economic development and care for the poor. How to creatively transform but at the same time gently preserve the natural world is not easy. Unfortunately, in its policy prescriptions Laudato Si sounds like it was written by an advocate, largely ignoring countervailing arguments. The resulting factual and philosophical shortcomings undercut the larger and more profound theological discussion.

Read the full article “Praise ‘Be Praised’ for Its Intent, not Execution” at The American Spectator.