conscience-angel-devilA new Pew Research survey finds that the majority of American Catholics  (73 percent) say they rely “a great deal” on their own conscience when facing difficult moral problems. Conscience was turned to more often than the three other sources — Catholic Church’s teachings (21 percent), the Bible (15 percent) or the pope (11 percent) — combined.

While it never really went away, conscience is making a comeback among Christians.

Over the past few years, the term conscience has been increasingly referenced in debates occurring both in our churches (e.g., appeals to conscience on moral issues) and the public square (e.g., defending the right of conscience). This is a welcome resurgence, since formation and promotion of Christian conscience is particular important to our primary mission at Acton of articulating a “vision of society that is both free and virtuous, the end of which is human flourishing.

We hear a lot about conscience, but what exactly does it mean? The general concept of conscience can be found in almost every human culture, but it has a unique and distinctive meaning for Christians. The Greek term for conscience (suneidesis) occurs more than two dozen times in the Bible, and serves an important concept, particularly in the Pauline epistles. If we examine the way Scripture talks about conscience we uncover five general themes:
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Kris Mauren, executive director of the Acton Institute, kicks off the second season of the Free Market Series, a television program for American and Canadian audiences produced by The World Show in partnership with the Montreal Economic Institute and broadcast on PBS affiliates. In Episode 1, Mauren takes apart the “fatally flawed poverty industry” and talks about Acton’s Poverty Inc. documentary. Interview notes:

Many people imagine that free markets are synonymous with self-interest and greed, but for Kris Mauren, freedom is a necessary condition of a good society. As he describes in this illuminating interview, when he co-founded the Acton Institute, the errors of rejecting markets were becoming undeniable. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and of real communism, he says, “we could see the results of generations of socialist experimentation, and the results were not good. And people of good will have to be concerned with results, not just philosophy.” (more…)

exxon_-_pat_daly
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, shareholder activists of the corporate God-fly variety, are gearing up for the May 25 ExxonMobil Corporation annual general meeting. The ICCR agenda isn’t about maximizing shareholder value, but seems far more intent on reducing it.

For the record, your writer possesses no financial stake in ExxonMobil, but if he did it’s certain he’d be upset mightily at ICCR’s efforts to hobble the industry giant and send stock prices plummeting even further. The religious-left activists of ICCR have submitted seven proxy resolutions aimed at ExxonMobil this season. Aiming to protect the interests of all its investors, the company challenged the resolutions, but was overruled by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the ICCR website:

Included in this group of resolutions are calls for greater disclosure of lobbying activities that may be tied to the types of climate change denial campaigns currently under investigation, as well as a call for board expertise on environmental issues and a resolution asking that the company acknowledge the “moral imperative of limiting global warming to 2 celsius”, the threshold participants at the COP21 climate talks agreed could not be exceeded if we are to safeguard our planet’s future. Another resolution asks that the company assess the risks of their carbon assets within the context of this carbon-constrained future.

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Recently we considered a simple tool and metric for measuring economic well-being: real GDP per capita.

Yet such metrics feel can seem materialistic. What about the things that money can’t buy, we wonder, like health and happiness?

As economist Alex Tabarrok explains, while real GDP is an imperfect measure, it tends to be correlated with many of the non-monetary improvements that contribute to human flourishing.

Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg is in Rome this week for Acton’s conference on the 125th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s ground-breaking encyclical Rerum NovarumThe conference – titled Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time – takes place on April 20th from 2-7:30 pm at the Roma-Trevi-Conference Center in Rome, Italy.

Sam sat down for an in-depth interview with Vatican Radio about the encyclical and the conference, noting that “there are many things about Rerum novarum that are timeless, partly because the encyclical draws very specifically on natural law [and] Thomistic thought, when it discusses things like, for example, its defense – its very rigorous defense – of private property, but also its very strong critique of socialism.”

For more information on the conference, visit acton.org/rome2016; you can follow the conference as it happens on twitter using #125onFreedom.

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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
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The Surprising Link between James Madison, Baptists, and True Religious Liberty
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Madison understood that religious liberty means more than having the freedom to worship.

Trauma, torture for sex-trafficked Syrians in Lebanon
Rana Moussaoui, AFP

More and more Syrians made vulnerable by war are becoming victims of sexual exploitation, including in Lebanon and Jordan, police and international organisations say.

Where America’s Poor Pay the Most for Electricity
Julian Spector, The Atlantic

Poor families face persistent obstacles to cutting their power bill.

LA City Council Halts Discussion of Minimum Wage Exemption Pushed by Labor Unions
Melissa Quinn, The Daily Signal

The Los Angeles City Council isn’t currently planning to further discuss a proposal exempting union members from the southern California city’s new minimum wage, despite the proposal having the backing of labor unions.

sandersgrinAt The Stream, Acton Institute Research Director Samuel Gregg does a crime scene investigation of Bernie Sanders’ take on Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus encyclical. You might never guess, by listening to the Democrat presidential candidate, that John Paul actually had some positive things to say about the market economy. Gregg says that Sanders’ recent appearance at a Vatican conference “will be seen for what it is: grandstanding by a left-wing populist candidate for the American presidency.” Aside from that, there are Sanders’ “contestable” economic assertions:

In the first place, Sanders didn’t acknowledge just how much the encyclical being discussed by the conference, Saint John Paul II’s 1991 Centesimus Annus, underscored the positive role of free markets as well as limits on what the government can and should do in the economy. To be sure, Centesimus Annus is not a Catholic version of Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose. But as I observed prior to the speech, Centesimus Annus contains some of the papacy’s strongest endorsements of the market economy and some of Catholicism’s most powerful critiques of not just socialism but also welfare states. None of these commendations or criticisms were referenced in Sanders’ address.

More generally, some of the claims made by Sanders about inequality are very contestable. His address referred, for instance, to “the widening gaps between the rich and poor.” This, however, doesn’t reflect the evidence of what’s happening to global economic inequality. In terms of global income, for instance, the most widely utilized assessment of income distribution, the Gini coefficient, went from 0.69 in 1988 to 0.63 in 2011. That matters, because a lower Gini coefficient indicates falling inequality.

Nor does Sanders seem aware of the sheer numbers of people who have escaped absolute poverty in Asia, especially India and China, over the past forty years. In 2010, for example, the Asian Development Bank stated that per capita GDP increased 6 percent each year in developing Asian nations between 1990 and 2009. According to the same report, about 850 million people escaped absolute poverty between 1990 and 2005.

Read “Bernie Visits the Vatican, and Misrepresents Pope John Paul II” by Samuel Gregg at The Stream.