President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held their last joint press conference as heads of state on Thursday, pressing national leaders – in President Obama’s words – “not to take for granted the importance of the transatlantic alliance.” And they grounded that longstanding partnership on their conception of the bedrock principles that they believe unite North America and the EU.

“The commitment of the United States to Europe is enduring and it’s rooted in the values we share,” Obama said, “our commitment to democracy, our commitment to the rule or law, our commitment to the dignity of all people, in our own countries and around the world.” Merkel agreed that the transatlantic alliance is “based on our shared values.” The tone and content of their press conference echoed Merkel’s statement following Donald Trump’s election as president, as well as their joint New York Times op-ed, also published Thursday, in which Obama and Merkel call on transatlantic nations to “seize the opportunity to shape globalization based on our values and our ideas.”

The notion of shared U.S.-European values has undergone a resurgence since America’s presidential election. French socialist president François Hollande urged President-elect Trump to “respect” such “principles” as “democracy, freedoms, and the respect of every individual.” Other EU leaders have made similar statements. (more…)

Yesterday, Pope Francis hosted a private audience in his Apostolic Palace for a few hundred international entrepreneurs and business leaders. The members of the International Christian Union of Business Executives (UNIAPAC) had gathered inside the Vatican’s walls for two days of meetings for the “noble purpose of reflecting on the role of business persons as agents of economic and social inclusion.”

Pope Francis, not always an affirming supporter of free market capitalism, focused on some of his usual challenging caveats to business persons. While business is certainly noble and its success is a vital part of the promoting economic growth for the common good, fallen man should nevertheless be constantly wary of his weaknesses for material idolatry (especially money), selfishness (not showing solidarity), and unguarded concern for acts of corruption (intentional deceit), the latter of which Francis said was “the worst of social plagues.”

This holds true for “all human activity”, the pope reassured those present, and not just business activity. It is an anthropological-spiritual discipline that we must keep on the forefront of our daily decision making. In this way, we sharpen our prudence and hone our focus when treading uphill individual paths to holiness and salvation. By way of constant prayer and deep spiritual discernment, man can more likely make the best moral choices, even in the most cut-throat and difficult business situations.

But sometimes this is risky for the seeker and promoter of virtue.

papa-uniapac

Pope Francis addresses UNIAPAC Christian entrepreneurs and business executives at a private audience on November 17, 2016.

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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 18, 2016
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Why Catholics Built Secret Astronomical Features Into Churches to Help Save Souls
Geoff Manaugh, Atlas Obscura

In the process of researching the phenomenon, Heilbron uncovered a surprising story of cooperation not only between religion and science, but between precision astronomical observation and Catholic liturgy, between architectural design and the Christian calendar. Direct, even enthusiastic collaboration, uniting esoteric science with canonical religious belief, lay at the core of this hidden story.

How Regulation of Private Schools Hurts the Poor
Corey DeAngelis, FEE

The most successful private schools have the most to lose from regulations.

Study says more than half of young U.S. Catholics are Hispanic/Latino
Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service

The Catholic Church is one of the most culturally diverse institutions in the United States and Catholic institutions and ministries need to adapt and prepare for growing diversity, said a report presented to the country’s bishops Nov. 15.

“God and Money”: A Review of a Groundbreaking Book in Christian Stewardship
Daniel Huizinga,, Values & Capitalism

There have been countless books written about Christian stewardship of financial resources. Though most offer valuable insights, they often struggle at finding the right words to make lasting change in their readers’ financial lives.

In a recent article for The Telegraph, Sir Roger Scruton discusses the importance of national borders in Europe and the threat that the EU poses to them.  He explains how religion once united Europe but since religion began to fade in the 17th century, territory took over as the principle that Europeans turn to in order to find unity.  Scruton says this:

European civilisation has been steadily replacing religion with territory as the source of political unity. The process began in the 17th century, as the call for popular sovereignty and national unity began to be heard above the noise of religious conflict.  Following the French Revolution and Napoleon’s failed attempt at a pan-European Empire, Europe emerged as a collection of nation states.

Scruton goes on to talk about how national identity contributed to the outcome of the Second World War: (more…)

republican-powerBecause of the recent election, Republicans now control the White House, the U.S. Senate (51 percent), the House of Representatives (54 percent), 31 of the 50 state governorships (62 percent), and a record 67 of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers in the nation (68 percent).

What will they do with all that power and influence?

To predict what policies the GOP will champion over the next two to four years we can turn to the most recent party platform. Although the document is not binding on the presidential nominee or any other politicians, political scientists have found that over the past 30 years lawmakers in Congress tend to vote in line with their party’s platform: 89 percent of the time for Republicans.

Here are the agenda items that are related to issues covered by the Acton Institute. (Note: This level of government that would handle each item is not designated, so some issues may be handled at the state level and others by the U.S. Congress.)

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bannon-capitalismSoon after winning the election, President-elect Donald Trump created waves of controversy by naming Steve Bannon, his former campaign CEO, as chief strategist and Senior Counselor in the new administration.

Yet while Bannon’s harsh and opportunistic brand of political combat and questionable role as a catalyst for the alt-right are well-documented and rightly critiqued, his personal worldview is a bit more blurry. Much has been written of Bannon’s self-described “Leninist” political sensibilities and his quest to tear down the GOP establishment, but at the level of more detailed political philosophy (or theology), what does the man actually believe?

Offering a robust answer to that question, BuzzFeed recently unearthed a transcript from an extensive Skype interview Bannon gave to a conference held inside the Vatican in 2014. Though the topics range from ISIL to Russia to the racial tensions within the conservative movement, Bannon spends the bulk of his initial remarks on the intersection of economics and Christianity, offering what’s perhaps the most detailed insight to Bannon’s own thinking that I’ve found.

Given the growing mystery of the man and his newfound position of influence in the next administration, it’s well worth reviewing his views on the matter. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, November 17, 2016
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No, the Majority of American Evangelicals Did Not Vote for Trump
Joe Carter, TGC

How did American evangelicals vote in the 2016 election? Based on polling data and news sources, you might be under the impression that an overwhelming number of evangelicals—more than 80 percent—voted for Donald Trump. But this isn’t quite accurate.

Harlem Gives President Trump a Chance
Jason L. Riley , Wall Street Journal

Bishop Gibson said Mr. Trump’s “law and order” message resonated with Harlemites but that ultimately “the president can’t do much about crime.” It has to start with the communities—churches, families and fathers in particular, he said.

New film tells story of the ‘resilience’ of persecuted Christians
Crux

“What is remarkable about persecuted Christians is their resilience. They are not just victims. Understanding this is the key to being in solidarity with them,” said Daniel Philpott, a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame and the co-director of a new film.

Artificial Intelligence Joins the Battle to End Online Sex Trafficking
Robby Berman, Big Think

Thorn, a non-profit dedicated to fighting child sexual exploitation, is fighting back using the latest technology to assist law enforcement in putting a stop to it.