Acton University: Day 1

We are participating here in Grand Rapids, MI, at the annual meeting of the Acton University sponsored by the Acton Institute.   Some 392 people are here for the conference from, I am told, 51 countries. 

Acton Institute is a very interesting organization.  I got to know it in Rome, where there is an office.  Acton sponsored a series of conferences in Rome a couple years ago.  I attended almost all of them and each one was gem.  I’ll give you reports about this year’s Acton U.  It might be something you might be interested in participating in some year, especially if you are interested in the Church’s voice in public square about human freedom and economics.

Fr. Sirico speaking on opening night

There are two tracks for participation.  For those who have never been to one of the Acton University events, there are a series of foundational courses, really lectures with lots of Q&A, on principles useful for the rest of the workshops.  Even if people have higher degrees in philosophy or economics, everyone takes the same foundational lectures first.

Since this is the first time I have been to the Acton U, this morning I heard a foundational presentation on Christian Anthropology: Freedom and Virtue.

During a meal in the main hall.

In this we explored the nature of man himself.  Of particular importance was understanding how true freedom is actually freedom for virtue, for excellence, rather than freedom from various types of limitations.  So, we need to understand the proper relationship of reason and will, how we make choices, how we must reason and make choices in light of truth and goodness.  We also looked at an opposing view, freedom of indifference, which broke with the Christian virtuous liberty tradition.  The one who introduced this is principally William of Ockham (+1354).  the consequences freedom simply being seen as a neutral faculty of choice were very destructive: in the final analysis this approach leaves everyone in a conflict, clash of wills.  So, in the lecture we made a case for a Christian understanding of virtuous liberty in opposition, or as a remedy these days, to the nominalist view of Ockham, et. al.  We must restore right reason to its proper place in anthropology and put reason in the correct relationship with will and also faith.

Folks talking during a break

Then there was a presentation on Christianity and the Idea of Limited Government.  In this presentation we looked at the Christian influence on the concept of limited government, namely, that the state derives its authority from God and is subject to God.  Because human beings need other people in order to flourish and live virtuously there must be some sort of government.  But we are fallen, so there must also be the possibility of coercion… but in a limited sense and in certain spheres only to the extent that the common good requires it.  We must correctly understand what "common good" means.   Natural Law helps us place the proper limits on government and helps us resolve conflicts at the right level.  The principle of subsidiarity, properly understood, helps us understand to what level and to what extent government should and must get involved with various spheres of society.

Samuel Gregg speaks

After each section, the audience could ask questions.  You can tell there are highly educated people in this group.  Some of the questions were pretty hard, but the presenters handled them well and gave answers that the general participant could grasp.

So far so good!  Lunch is over.  I am on a break.  The next session is starting in a little while.

CONTINUATION:

In the afternoon, Jennifer Roback Morse gave a stupendous presentation on economics, address the question of how economists approach things.

Part of the campus

A working premise is that economics and Christian anthropology share the conviction that there is a truth which we can discover.  Human nature is stable enough that we can study it and can make some determinations or predictions about how people with behave, or respond to incentives.

She then exposed two ways of working.  First she talked economy as the science of scarcity, the allocation of resources among competing groups.  Because we are grounded in a material world, resources are limited.  A problem rests in the fact that not everything humans are involved with is subject to this.  Also, humans did not fall into sin because of material scarcity.

Another way of looking at economics, not as prevalent, is to study exchange and trades. Each free, voluntary party in a trade winds up better off by the trade.  Everyone benefits. People work out what is agreeable and each party has gained something useful.

So, we can consider what offers people incentives in exchanges.  The most obvious is money, but there are also time and other kinds of satisfaction.

Out with some of the guys in the evening

After these basics we then talked about what kind of information prices convey to us, how human creativity, when not unduly hindered, steps in to make substitutes for things when prices are unreasonable, how competition holds the markets to account.

We discussed Catholic social teaching regarding the right to own property and being voluntary parties in exchanges, the need for a consistent rule of law.

This just scratched the surface.

Also, I don’t have time about the last presentation of the day, which exploded some popular myths.

In the evening, there was a screening of a new film called The Birth of Freedom.

Watching the film The Birth of Freedom

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99 Responses to Acton University: Day 1

  1. revbiz says:

    I’m surprised by your attending the Acton Institute. If my memory serves me isn’t it funded by Calvinists who are pro business and do not necessarily support Catholic Social Teaching. Just wondering

  2. Manuel says:

    I’ve always wanted to attend a conference so I really appreciate these updates Father.

  3. Michael J says:

    revbiz,
    I followed the link Father provided in his post from the 10th but couldn’t find any information about an affiliation with any religious group. There was nothing particularly objectionable in their statements of principles, but you may want to check for yourself.

  4. Mike says:

    I’ve been on one of these conferences before and they’re great. Acton is also awesomely generous. I learned much, though at times they did seem to be preaching the Gospel of the Free Market more than that of Jesus Christ. More contrary views would have made the debate more balanced – perhaps they’re doing that this year. Their heart is in the right place, though, I’m sure of that.

  5. revbiz says:

    I got my information from an article in National Catholic Reporter from few years back. They sent some priests to a city in Peru and talked how the local mining company was helping people through providing jobs however the local pollution the mining company caused was detrimental to the local populus. I think the priests name who wrote the article is Rev. Ernie Ranly CPPS. When I went to school the Acton Institute was primarily a ” think tank” to support supply side econmics through a Catholic lense. I knew one of my college professors said it was against union organizing, and other Catholic Social tenants.

  6. John Hudson says:

    The principle of subsidiarity, properly understood, should also help us understand to what level and to what extent corporations should and must get involved with various spheres of society. I don’t see that big business is any more desirable than big government.

    I live on an island where virtually all business is small business, and the pressure on those businesses, especially agricultural and husbandry, takes the form of collusion between the government and big corporations. Regulations regarding e.g. the sale of farm fresh eggs or locally slaughtered animals massively favour large agribusiness against local family farms.

    Ideology aside, the pragmatic definition of the appropriate size of government for capitalism is ‘fits in pocket’.

  7. Matt says:

    Here is a Wikipedia article on Lord Acton. An interesting bit of history of the Catholic Church. Apparently he through his influence Rome’s way to prevent the Dogma of Infallibility of the Pope. Yet he remained in communion with the Holy See.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dalberg-Acton,_1st_Baron_Acton

  8. Father E says:

    While I am not at all a fan of Lord Acton (I’m more of a Burke/Kirk conservative) I do think the Acton Institute does somewhat of a service to Catholic social teachings. On the other hand, I remember an Acton Institute speaker was invited to my Social Theology class to speak about the Church’s teachings on economics. I do remember making him mad but I don’t remember my question. I wonder if he still works for them.

  9. B Knotts says:

    But we are fallen, so there must also be the possibility of coercion… but in a limited sense

    Indeed, therein lies the reason why government coercion must be limited…because it is overseen by fallen human beings.

  10. tertullian says:

    Michael Novak is on the Board of Advisors at Acton and has written about Christianity and capitalism…

    http://www.michaelnovak.net/Module/Article/ArticleView.aspx?id=16

  11. Father,

    I never really thought of freedom being oriented toward virtue. I always believed that it was oriented toward doing whatever we want and then worrying about the consequences later.

    As for Limited Government, it does make a lot of sense to me. BTW, have you or anyone else ever heard of Dr. Thomas Droleskey (www.christorchaos.com). Although he is a sedevacantist now, I do know that he espouses ideas that are by no means even close to Limited Government. The type of government that he would like to see is one in which Christ is at the center of everything.

    Unfortunately, I do not think that Droleskey’s idea is possible in the United States or any other country where separation of Church and State exists.

    Anyway, just throwing it out there.

  12. Todd says:

    I would suggest reading some Thomas Woods http://www.amazon.com/Church-Market-Catholic-Defense-Economics/dp/0739110365

    I can provide articles in relation to this as well.

  13. Geoffrey says:

    This sounds VERY interesting, Father! Thank you! I will be checking back often for updates!

  14. Widukind says:

    Sometime in the past year or so, Michael Jones, in his Cultural Wars, had an article
    about Sirico and Acton. It was none too flattering, if I recall correctly.

  15. Angelo says:

    LIBERTAS PRAESTANTISSIMUM
    ON THE NATURE OF HUMAN LIBERTY
    ENCYCLICAL Letter oF POPE LEO XIII
    JUNE 20, 1888

    I suggest that a study group be formed around the study of this great encyclical. No need to look outside the Church for answers. She has
    them all. Why go elsewhere?
    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13liber.htm

  16. Larry says:

    Christianity and the concept of limited government fit into a neat package. Unfortuneately our society is being educated out of any notion of God and His relationship to government. The result is that many times those who espouse limited government do so primarily to give themselves more leverage in the market place for what can only be discribed as laissez-faire capitalism. Greed is “undefineable” in these circles and their only admoniton is caveat emptor. ( Which of course is another good reason to study Latin!) Of course those on the other side recognize that having driven God from the marketplace and the government and the schools and society in general it is now their duty to legislate morality and regulate every aspect of our lives. We have a very long way to go before we get back to any semblence of a just society and we have moved so far done the line from where we were that it is by no means certain we can find our way back. I dare say our only hope is to work hard and pray harder.

  17. michigancatholic says:

    I’m often put off by the number of assumptions that the Acton Institute materials seem to make. There are philosophy-like claims made–lots of them–and they’re often full of assumptions and evocative words.

    However, precision is *the* major tool of philosophy, not evocation or assumption. In fact, alongside one’s brain (and a book on occasion) precision is the only tool of philosophy. Thus, it’s necessary to define and watch the logical structures of what’s said…..

    Unless, that is, what one is doing is really not philosophy at all, but rather some variety of politics. Politics, complete with high talk, but with no serious pretensions at philosophy happens all the time.

    I’m still deciding which of the two I’m looking at–lousy philosophy or interesting politics. Right now, I’m thinking it’s politics.

    And I’m wondering what’s fueling this little outburst of politics and why Exxon (et al) would be so interested in it? Whose little globalism scenario is this one and why is the Church involved in some unexplained second-hand way? (There are competing globalism scenarios, you know, and they’re in conflict. Welcome to the 21st century.)

  18. Will says:

    michigancatholic,

    I tend to agree with you about Acton. It’s funded by big oil and global warming deniers. Basically, it exists to aid the Republican Party.

    I am quite surprised that clerics are involved in any way. Troubling, to say the least.

  19. michigancatholic says:

    Will, the Democratic party is every bit as nuts as the Republican party, probably even more so, in fact. That’s not it.

    What bothers me is these emotion-driven movements and dislocations that we are undergoing. Many people have been punished for thinking so hard and for so long that they simply don’t anymore. And when that happens, anything can happen.

  20. michigancatholic says:

    Angelo, RE the encyclical on human liberty, we agree. The Church has revelation, grace and the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thus, of course, she can work with other organizations making “common cause” so to say, but she is never beholden to them. This is important to remember. How the Church, a global entity, weathers the years ahead no one knows, but weather she will, and we’ll get through it more or less intact re what counts, with or without other organizations.

    No, I think this is something else. Acton is a little think tank, and little think tanks are begotten by bigger think tanks. And the biggest think tanks have a goal in sight or a job to do–or they wouldn’t be able to exist for long. Something fuels the big ones even if it’s not readily discernable from the outside.

    Acton is an interesting thing. Who’s using who is what I want to know. I wonder who does know.

  21. Doug says:

    Wow Will,

    I suppose that, since I am a republican, I can’t possibly be a good catholic.

    In any event, I tend to completely dismiss all comments which include mindless, media buzz-terms like “big oil” and “global warming deniers”. However, I am somewhat put off by the suggestion that clerics should not stoop to mingle with people like me.

  22. John says:

    For more on the Acton Institute from some folks who hold a thoroughly consistent ethic of life:
    http://www.cjd.org/paper/solution.html

    JPII and Mournier advocate a true Catholic personalism!

  23. Steve says:

    Doug, the potential problem with the Acton Institute–as I see it–is not that priests are “condescending” to take an interest in the lives of ordinary people. The danger rather is that members of the Acton Institute might subordinate the Church’s understanding of politics, economics, and society to a school of economic thought (i.e. the Austrian school of economics) that is not specifically Catholic, and which in many instances might hold teachings that are contrary to the Church’s. (I have no time for specifics right now.)

    To make my position a little clearer, I would add that just because I am not a capitalist of the Austrian does not mean that I am a socialist. I think the Church’s teaching is something quite distinct from both those ideologies.

  24. Larry says:

    The problem it seems to me is that both sides in these debates on political issues are trying to drag in a semblence of Church authority. That is the real danger that the Social Doctrine of the Church will simply be divided up like Christ’s garments with each camp taking a part so as to destroy the reality. The clergy if they are not careful can be drawn in by these individuals and sadly be misled. I can think of two who have made quite a name for themselves in the past few weeks. I know nothing of the Acton group; but, if it is as some of you have discribed it I suspect that it is attempting to use a sort of intellectual elitism to draw more conservative members of the clergy into their camp. The Church must be very careful to steer a clear course and not become pawns in the hands of any poitical or industrial group. “To lead astray if possible even the elect.” I hope that Fr. Z is very careful here.

  25. Larry says:

    Doug,
    It is not that a cleric should not “stoop to mingle with people like” you. Of course a cleric should stay informed; but, he should remain aloof from political entanglements, and should at the very least be advising those with whom he is in contact on the true meaning of the Church’s teaching on specific issues. Of course there are issues on which the Church and Her clergy can and indeed must speak. But in speaking She remains outside of a political party expressing the Truth She is bound to proclaim. That is a far cry from being the quotable “preacher” on the evening news. Some issues are black and white like abortion, and gay marriage. Most however require a great deal of study and in some cases compromise in order to attain the common good. Lining up clerics on each side does not determine right. Then Cardinal Ratzinger had it right when he said something like “Truth is not determined by a popular vote.”

  26. Irenaeus says:

    (1) I’m a global warming “denier” because I believe in the human race. Most solutions to “global warming” involve contraception and abortion, since humans have such large “carbon footprints.” And calling us “deniers” to associate us with holocaust deniers is nefarious. Certainly not the sort of charity Christ expects from his followers.

    (2) Everywhere I turn lately it sees William of Occam is described as the source of all evil — protestantism, social contract theory, Nietzsche. Makes sense to me on one level, but I wonder if that’s the whole story.

  27. I am not Spartacus says:

    I find the attacks against The Acton Institute, and its co-founder, Fr, Sirico to be beyond the pale. It is quite clear Fr. Sirico is completely orthodox and the knowledge he has about economics and, especially, Catholic Social Doctrine, far surpasses the knowledge evinced by those who are unjustly criticising him and the Acton Institute.

    Here is a link to a site that justly discusses Fr. Sirico and Catholic Social Doctrine.

    http://www.ratzingerfanclub.com/blog/2006/05/fr-sirico-zwicks-and-compendium-of.html

  28. I am not Spartacus says:

    …Acton. It’s funded by big oil …

    Will. Please post for us the complete facts about who funds The Acton Institute.

    Just because a legal corporation, an oil company, contributes to their funding, does not mean The Acton Institute is evil. In fact, isn’t it the case an oil company, in this instance, is funding the work of an orthodox Catholic Priest?

    That seems to me to be a good thing.

  29. I am not Spartacus says:

    Unable to sleep this morning, I decided to do some research on Fr. Sirico and The Acton Institute. What I found made me a bit embarrassed about my public defense of both.

    Among many other things, I discovered Fr. Sirico is in favor of legalising drugs:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1571/is_n23_v9/ai_13873998

    Catholic Catechism : 2291 The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense…

    and the Acton Institute is opposed to a gov’t ban on porn:

    http://www.acton.org/commentary/commentary_279.php

    Catholic Catechism : 2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

    You know all that stuff I was writing trying to defend Fr. Sirico and The Acton Institute?

    I apologise. Please forgive me.

  30. I am not Spartacus says:

    The market has already provided solutions. Internet users can subscribe to growing numbers of “parental control” programs. These filter out offensive materials by screening key words or simply limiting kids to a “white list” of approved sites. It’s as easy as downloading a file and nearly impossible to outwit. (Sirico 48)

    Sirico, Robert A. “Don’t Censor the Internet.” Forbes 29 July 1996: 48.

  31. Ron says:

    Wow, I’m glad to see so many of you wary of the Acton Institute. I am as well. I have to say I am in agreement with Fanfani, that the basic principles of capitalism are in fact opposed to our Catholic Faith. The competition of the free market is opposed to true charity, pitting each business against each other for an increase of profit and market share. It also espouses free reign on greed so long as the enormous profits you seek are not obtained by illegal means – but if you use legal means there is no restraint, no need only seek that which you need for your state in life.

    Mr. Michael Novak, sad to say, is largely going against the Faith in his views on capitalism. At one conference I was told of by a professor, he was asked about a living wage (as opposed to a minimum wage), to which he scoffed, saying the idea of a living wage was ridiculous.

    Do you all know the ChesterBelloc Mandate? It’s a great blog (not mine, mind you) with traditional Catholic social teaching on economics: http://distributist.blogspot.com/ . They are for distributism, the third way trying to avoid the errors of capitalism as well as socialism.

    Pax Christi tecum.

  32. lmgilbert says:

    What ever happened to “Save the liturgy, save the world”?

  33. I am not Spartacus says:

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/flood2.html

    …The reign of Pope Pius IX was the most unfortunate feature of Acton’s world, and not just because the specter of absolutism that increasingly haunted his Church diverted his energies from the writing of books. This pontiff had once been the hope of liberals, Catholic and non-Catholic, until Europe’s ascendant nationalist movements boxed the Vatican in, psychologically and, eventually, territorially and an illiberal, bunker mentality set in. As the de facto leader of the Church’s ultimately victorious “ultramontanist” party, Pius not only dashed any hope that he would reconcile himself with liberalism, but also went so far as to identify his very person with Tradition. (Hill 500 n. 56)

    Two issues surfaced for reflective Catholics: freedom for the Church and freedom within the Church. For Acton they were not incompatible goals. He doubted, not that the Church has implacable enemies, but that authoritarian governance helps Her fight them If anything, he feared, it throws dry wood on the flames of anti-Catholic prejudice. Liberal self-governance will fortify the Church, not weaken Her, as She conducts Her spiritual battles. For Her “own everlasting foundation,” he wrote, is

    “the words of Christ, not . . . the gifts of Constantine. More than once since then . . . she has been stripped of that terrestrial splendor which had proved such a fatal possession; but she has stood her ground in the wreck of those political institutions on which she no longer relied, and alone has saved society. The old position of things has been reversed; and it has been found that it is the State which stands in need of the Church, and that the strength of the Church is her independence. “(Acton, Essays on Church and State, Douglas Woodruff ed. [London, Hollis & Carter] 1952, 472.)

    Acton made this fight his own, going so far as to wage journalistic guerrilla warfare in Rome against the foreordained course of the First Vatican Council. While the Council sat, he would meet with every delegate he could by day and write up his notes in his rented apartment on the Via Della Croce by night, the next day availing himself of a diplomatic pouch to dispatch his reports to Father Döllinger in Munich. From these reports Acton’s scholarly colleague would, under the pseudonym “Quirinus,” cobble together an article for the Allgemeine Zeitung. That paper’s Roman subscribers would eagerly consume it within days – to the sound of pounding fists from inside the papal apartments. For the Pope’s aim in convening the Council was to satisfy his burning desire to define papal infallibility as a dogma to be believed by all Christians on pain of damnation. But he didn’t need the definition to feel, and assert, infallibility.

    (Gertrude Himmelfarb’s description of the Council’s all-too-human dimension makes for lively reading. See her Lord Acton: A Study in Conscience and Politics [The University of Chicago Press, 1952] 95–128. That chapter, “The Vatican Council,” is available online. Hereafter, this pioneering study will be cited as “Himmelfarb, Lord Acton.”)

    Unlike John Henry Cardinal Newman, the Catholic convert from the Church of England with whom Acton is sometimes too casually linked, Acton opposed this proposal, because he thought doing so was not so much inexpedient as wrong. Infallibility meant that a solemn papal pronouncement on faith or morals was to be received by Catholics as true because it enjoyed (in the words of the Council) “the same infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer thought fit to endow his Church” and “not in consequence of the consent of the Church.”

    (For a perspective favorable to Newman and critical of Acton, who regarded the former with “deep aversion” as a “sophist” and “manipulator of the truth” [SWLA III xviii], see Richard John Neuhaus, “Lord Acton, Cardinal Newman, and How To Be Ahead of Your Time,” First Things, 105, Aug–Sep 2000.)

    Acton’s conscience, extraordinarily well formed as it was historically and theologically, did not allow him to ratify that affirmation; and just because he was a Catholic, he could not ignore that conscience’s directives. His opposition was not a symptom of doubt regarding any doctrine that had “always been believed, everywhere, by everyone.” Rather, he feared that the ascription to a sinner of a divine attribute, however circumscribed, would tend to discredit the Faith and fortify harmful absolutist tendencies within the Church.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++ end quotes +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    It appears to me the choice of the his name for the Acton Institute is based upon his status as a Libertarian hero; and the highest value in Libertarianism is Liberty; not truth, not justice, not the common good.

    Liberty, before whose altar we must bow.

    OK, i won’t post any more on this thread. I apologise for

  34. Will says:

    Best not to worry too much about Acton. It’s a small little organization. I doubt it has much influence.

    Acton seems to be funded primarily by private foundations in Michigan. ExxonMobil was the only corporate donor I could find, contributing just over $200,000 over a decade.

  35. p sarsfield says:

    For an illustration of the kind of people the Acton Institute singles out for high praise, please read “Should Catholics Canonize Ebeneezer Scrooge?” at http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=0796-manion

  36. Steve says:

    Larry, you put the problem very well–a lot better than I could late last night.

  37. Woody Jones says:

    Good work, “IANS” see you back over at Taki’s.

  38. Michael says:

    “The competition of the free market is opposed to true charity, pitting each business against each other for an increase of profit and market share. It also espouses free reign on greed so long as the enormous profits you seek are not obtained by illegal means – but if you use legal means there is no restraint, no need only seek that which you need for your state in life.”

    This is such a mischaracterization of the principles of capitalism that it could only have been the result of an expensive education. In the free market, individuals have the right to establish contracts with others, put their own property to productive use, and trade without fear of outside coercion or theft. The church has been consistent in its support of the principles of private property and its opposition to extortion and theft.

    It seems unlikely that the Acton Institute is an advocate of greed unbridled by Christian charity and morality but people should realize that even in socialistic systems in which that horrible profit motive has been eliminated there are still people who are motivated by greed who now can lay claim to anyone’s property and labor by simple virtue of being party apparatchiks in a system that opposes profit.

  39. Larry says:

    Michael,

    Your arguments are valid but they need qualification. A free market as you discribe it is nearly as utopian as the socialist program. The point is that not all things are equal and therefore the concept of free market is diminished by any and all inequalities. The fact that Christian values let alone doctrine are not to be found in public school economics studies nor for the most part in higer education leave the concept of unbridled capitalism as an ideal. In no way am I condoning the liberal view either. Because of the lack of Christian formation in education the people who follow the liberal track see themselves as “messiahs” and promote a wide variety of social engineering efforts including abortion, contraception, tolerance of all behaviors, etc. etc. The issue of global warming is a good example and the Holy Father has spoken on the issue; but, he says we need careful study to discover what is really going on and not jump on an emotional bandwagon doing tremendous harm.

    “Whatever happened to ‘Save the liturgy, save the world?'” At some point we leave the liturgy, in fact that is what Mass means “sent” . What are we sent to do? To bring all that the Lord has revealed to the marketplace, the office, the union hall, the boardroom, the executive suite, the home, the nursery. In short to enter the world and explode the Love of God in a world that is filled with hate and distrust. All forms of economic activity need the influence of Jesus Christ if they are not to disolve in greed or a lack of incentive. Economics is not perfection; it is mammon and therfore it is not to be served; but, rather must be made to serve the needs of huumanity, all humanity.

  40. Phil says:

    The discussion is getting quite muddled here.

    First of all, The Acton Institute is attacked on who funds it (immaterial, it is what you do with the cash that matters, not who gave it to you), the guy after whom it was named (gives some insight into who’s admired by the institute’s leadership, but again far less important than what it does) and positions of one of it’s founding members.
    That last part is in fact relevant as it reflects on what it actually does, but it fails to make the crucial distinction that (civil) government is not here to keep us free from sin and guide us to Heaven – that’s the Church job. Not everything that’s sinful should also necessarily be illegal in the civil sense. Government doesn’t have confessionals, it has jails – the remedial action is of a decidedly different nature. One can, within limits, maintain that an activity is sinful yet not within the realm of what the civil government should forbid. Add to that the observation that civil power can and will fall in the hands of people with vastly different ideas and implementations of what’s sinful, and trying to enforce all moral teachings with the coercive powers of civil government will end very ugly.

    Secondly, and I wouldnt be surprised if Fr. Z. got to hear some interesting points on this today, there’s the philosofical problem that someone who isn’t free – either due to law or lack of a free market for his economic activity – really doesn’t have the choice to do good. What moral benefit is there for someone who’s forced to give for charity? None – it’s not his choice, and he isn’t practicing charity, but simply avoiding worse consequences. There’s a lot more on this in numerous places, but to say there’s a contradiction between economic (and legal) freedom and moral behavior is quite misguided. The relation is not 1 to 1 nor solely symbiotic, but there are many cases where they reinforce eachother.
    Ever looked up the voluntary giving in a communist state? For many years even a charity was illegal in the Soviet Union…. Not to mention you can’t give away what you don’t own.

    As a final note I’m a bit surprised by the (seemingly) recent influx of comments here who are rather hostile to anything that even vaguely smells of being politically right-of-center. Moreover, the quality of that part of the debate is rather low. In my humble opinion it’s not an improvement for this blog.

  41. Doug says:

    I’m not sure I understand how capitalism is antithetical to Catholicism as has been suggested at times in this conversation. Certainly, people can take advantage of a capitalist system to behave in a decidedly non-Catholic fashion; but, I don’t think capitalist tenets or a government which espouses them are inherently at odds with Catholic social teaching.

    To my way of thinking, man’s relationship with God and the Church are just that…”man’s” relationship. Governments do not attend mass. Economic systems do not receive communion. Neither has a soul, nor can either participate in any of the sacraments or be hopeful of heaven or in danger of hell. They are not, as entities, subject to God’s law. People, however, are. The onus is on each of us to be charitable, live as God would have us and follow the teachings of the Church. A capitalist system contributes to our personal responsibility to adhere to those virtues. A socialist system does not. It attempts to reserve those virtues to itself. Personally, I prefer to work hard, succeed as I can and use that success to care for my family and those in need rather than leave it to my government to do it for me. I rather think that there is something more to be said for choosing to give to the poor and volunteer one’s services whenever and wherever possible and encourage others to do the same than to sit back and be peripherally aware that some government agency is taking care of it instead.

    I prefer a system that allows me the opportunity to rise and fall on my own merits, one that encourages me (intentionally or not) to be personally responsible for myself and my actions. I know that I am always responsible for myself no matter what system I find myself in, socialist, capitalist or otherwise. I just find it annoying when my government makes my decisions for me. I’d rather say “I chose not to do drugs” than “Thank God my government stopped me from doing drugs”.

    I have to throw in a great big “however” here. While I prefer the government stay out of my business, I am, of course, firmly in favor of making abortion illegal. I know it’s a contradiction; but, I guess no system is ever going to be without its contradictions. I’ll just say I advocate a conservative/libertarian (read that as true conservatism…not the current neo-conservatism), small government capitalist system that has some contradictory elements (like no abortions) instead of a liberal, socialist system with its contradictions.

    Sorry to ramble…just my thoughts. Certainly nothing profound. :-) Thanks everyone for giving me some things to think about.

  42. Angelo says:

    Here, I believe, it would be worth pondering the words of Pope St Pius X:
    “When we consider the forces, knowledge & supernatural virtues which were necessary to establish the Catholic City & the sufferings of millions of martyrs & the light given by the Fathers & Doctors of the Church and the self-sacrifice of all the heroes of charity & powerful hierarchy ordained in Heaven and the streams of Divine Grace . . . the whole having been built up, bound together & impregnated by the life & spirit of Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God, the Word made Man . . . when we think, I say, of all this, it is frightening to behold new apostles eagerly attempting to do better by a common interchange of vague idealism & civic virtues. What are they going to produce? What is to come out of this collaboration? A mere verbal & chimerical construction in which we see, glowing in a jumble & in seductive confusion, the words of liberty & justice.

    The Pontiff asks us what are we to think of a Catholic who, on entering his study group, (or think tank), leaves his Catholicism outside the door so as not to alarm his comraes who, “dreaming of disinterested social action, are not inclined to make it serve the triumph of interests, coteries & even convictions whatever they may be.”?

    He goes on to provide the answer: “No, Venerable Brethren, We must repeat with the utmost energy in these times of social and intellectual anarchy when everyone takes it upon himself to teach as a teacher and lawmaker – the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be setup unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants. OMNIA INSTAURARE IN CHRISTO.”

  43. I am not Spartacus says:

    …the guy after whom it was named (gives some insight into who’s admired by the institute’s leadership, but again far less important than what it does) and positions of one of it’s founding members.

    Phil. With all due respect, Lord Acton went to Rome to engage in agitprop against an Ecumenical Council while it was in session. He was not just your average Joe Ecclesia.

    While he did not make a formal break with the Church (as did Dollinger and the Old Catholics)the idea his name ought be honored by a Priest is, to me, bizarre in the extreme and the actions of Acton vis a vis The Magisterium (actions Acton never repented of as far as I can tell) suggest, to me at least, the judgment of Fr. Sirico ought be called into question.

    Fr. Sirico wants drugs legalised and his institute is opposed to a ban on pornography. I find that an example of doctrinaire libertarianism incompatible with Catholic Social Doctrine.

    One can, within limits, maintain that an activity is sinful yet not within the realm of what the civil government should forbid.

    Phil. It used to be illegal to publish pornography. The First Amendment recognises no right to either produce it or publish it yet we are drowning in it.

    Are you suggesting civil govt was wrong to forbid it in the past?

    Fr. Sirico, writing in Forbes in opposition to a ban on pornography, suggests individual families ought download software to protect against pornography’s malign influence.

    Imagine the govt officially allowed companies to pollute our water. Would you think it a good idea if a Priest, in Forbes, wrote a piece opposing a ban on pollution of our water and suggesting we get some good filters for our faucets?

    Come on. What goes into our minds is every bit as consequential as what goes in to our mouths.

  44. Michael says:

    “A free market as you discribe it is nearly as utopian as the socialist program.”

    Larry,
    Congratulations as that is the first time in my entire life that someone has called me a utopian. It is as much surprising for that as it is for being branded such for thinking that people should be allowed basic control over their own economies. Apparently allowing people to make their own way by their own work and character is utopian while the promises of paradise made by socialistic and mixed economies are realistic. All this time I thought it was the gnostic strain in modern political thought that was attempting to “Immanetize the Eschaton”. Nope. It is the guy who works hard.

  45. Ron says:

    Michael,

    First, I’d recommend you read Fanfani’s study “Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism” to see his critiques. I’ve not finish it yet but I am working through it.

    Regardless, the problem in capitalism is that everyone is ought to gain more market share than everyone else. What is the point? They ultimately want to put them out of business so they can maximize their profits. Hence Walmart forces their distributors to sell very low to them so they can sell low. In the process employees are not cared for, being paid enough to support a family, but rather their pay is seen as an expense which can be cut in our to maximize profits. These are not extreme practices of capitalism. They are normal operating procedures.

    In the Middle Ages, advertising was illegal and the guilds made sure that there was equality between business owners. That was based more on the idea of charity and that each man needed enough to support his state in life, but not to store up masses of wealth for himself.

    How a system that thrives off of competition, which cannot be separated from the fact that one entity wants to “win” over all others, can be considered charitable is beyond me.

    Traditionally Pope Pius XII called for a “third way” that avoids the errors of socialism as well as capitalism. It’s only in our modern age that people think the Church accepts capitalism with a stamp of approval.

    Novak et al have said that no entity or social organization, which includes the Church, should be allowed to interfere in the capitalistic economic system. The very idea that the Church has no say in it or cannot touch it is troubling.

    Pax Christi tecum.

  46. Ron says:

    Doug,

    You said “I’d rather say “I chose not to do drugs” than “Thank God my government stopped me from doing drugs.'” The traditional teaching of the Church is that the State ought to enact laws that assist man in his last end, namely eternal life with God. That is true freedom in the catholic sense – not freedom to do what you want but freedom to do what is right. I think that comes from Leo XIII:

    “10. From this it is manifest that the eternal law of God is the sole standard and rule of human liberty, not only in each individual man, but also in the community and civil society which men constitute when united. Therefore, the true liberty of human society does not consist in every man doing what he pleases, for this would simply end in turmoil and confusion, and bring on the overthrow of the State; but rather in this, that through the injunctions of the civil law all may more easily conform to the prescriptions of the eternal law.” (Encyclical, Libertas)

    Pax Christi tecum.

  47. Michael J says:

    There has so far been a lot of speculation about the Acton Institute. Quite honestly, I am embarrassed to say, I had only vaguely heard of this organization before reading about it here.

    Since Father has helpfully provided a link to the institutes policy page, what would be wrong about comparing these policies to what the Church teaches? It seems to me that this should be the very first step taken when determining if an institution is worthy of support from Catholics.

  48. Michael says:

    “Regardless, the problem in capitalism is that everyone is ought to gain more market share than everyone else. What is the point?”

    Ron,
    I had trouble reading past this first sentence in your post. I must have missed it during my years in the productive economy because that was never the point of any economic endeavor I have ever been in involved in. Not ever. The point is to form mutually beneficial relationships with customers and suppliers so that everyone can be successful together. The point is to make enough money to pay your employees so that they can support their families. The point is to provide a superior service or product so that you build a loyal base of clientèle.

    I am sorry you never experienced that kind of enterprise.

  49. Doug says:

    Ron,

    I certainly agree. Freedom in any sense (not just Catholic) is not freedom to do anything you wish. That isn’t freedom. It’s anarchy. However, the opposite end of the spectrum is equally unappealing. Ultimate oppression.

    I’m not implying of course that either you or Pope Leo XIII advocate an oppressive society/economy. Instead, I think what His Holiness was addressing was the trend of modernism that pervaded Europe during his time. Things were swinging from more structured forms of thought, politics, religion, philosophy and even art towards a more anarchistic aesthetic. He was warning people against ultimate freedom.

    I don’t see Pope Leo XIII as suggesting a move to theocracy; but, rather one attempting to impose some sanity. Just think of the philosophers and thinkers of the time who were gaining in popularity and how that might have moved the Pope to speak.

    We need laws; but, until the Kingdom of God reigns in the hearts of all mankind, allowing the state to direct our hearts as well as the speed limit is a bad idea.

  50. Ron says:

    Michael,

    Why do companies “purchase” other companies? Why do some companies go out of business? Why do they lower prices if not to gain more of a market share which in turn means taking market share away from the other businesses in that sector?

    You said: “The point is to make enough money to pay your employees so that they can support their families.” I’d like to know where such companies exist. For many Fortune 500 companies employees are an expense. If profits get bad and they need to maximize profits, employees get terminated. They are now “resources.” Also, how many employees get paid a living wage, i.e. a wage that pays them enough to support a family? Many do not. Our minimum wage – i.e. the least you have to pay someone – is not enough to live and support a family.

    Doug,

    “We need laws; but, until the Kingdom of God reigns in the hearts of all mankind, allowing the state to direct our hearts as well as the speed limit is a bad idea.”

    Obviously for Leo XIII the ideal is a State that recognizes the true Faith so they are guided and formed by it; that State enacts laws in accord with the truth. Then those laws, that State, can help assist man toward his ultimate end with Our Lord. But obviously, I agree with you, the State cannot change or form hearts. It is up to individuals to respond to God’s grace to have true inner transformation. But the State should help, not hinder, in that regard. I agree with what you’re saying.

    Pax Christi tecum.

  51. fatherrob says:

    Michael Hunt:

    In the material you linked, the claim is made that Fr. Sirico and the Acton Institute promote the idea that “free market laissez faire capitalism was completely compatible with what the popes had to say in encyclicals like Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno.”

    I am very familiar with Acton and it’s positions, having attended a number of its conferences and programs, as well as having written for Acton. I am also personally very well acquainted with Fr. Sirico and his views.

    On that basis, I will state categorically that the above characterization of Fr. Sirico’s and Acton’s view about “laissez-faire capitalism” and papal teaching is so inaccurate as to be a caricature, which could only be explained as the result of ignorance or distortion.

    Acton does not promote “laissez-faire capitalism”. It promotes the idea that human freedom, including economic freedom, coupled with a people formed in virtue, and in a civic order that promotes and rewards virtue, is the best foundation for a well-ordered and prosperous society. It promotes “Catholic” ideas such as subsidiarity, the family as the fundamental social and economic unit of society, and defense of institutions such as the family and church against the usurpation of the State.

    If you want to know more about Acton and the ideas it promotes, why don’t you read their own materials rather than what someone says about them second or third hand? You can get quite a bit from their website for free. You could also attend one of the many “Towards a Free and Virtuous Society” conferences they sponsor all over the country. You could even quite likely go to such a conference for free, as they offer scholarships for students, clergy, and others who may have need.

  52. Ubi Petrus Ibi Ecclesia says:

    I admit I know only a little about the Acton Institute and its teachings, but what I have read makes me hesitate to support them. The Catholic Social Teachings regarding economics that are presented in such papal encyclicals as “Rerum Novarum”, “Quadragesimo Anno,” “Centesimus Annus” and many others seem to be at odds with the economic system of Capitalism (definitely as it is in fact, and possibly as it is ideally), especially in its ‘dog eat dog’ nature. Let us remember what Chesterton said: “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.”

    Thank you Ron for referring to Fanfani, Chesterton, and Belloc. Distributism was developed in England in response to the papal encyclicals, as a third way opposed to both Capitalism and Socialism, and as the only economic system which truly “lives out” what the encyclicals taught. Referring to the work of a noted English Distributist, Pope Pius XII once remarked: “This man has understood our encyclicals.” It is unfortunate that many fairly devout and pious Catholics have never even heard of the likes of these men and their economic system. Any Roman Catholic who seeks to defend Capitalism should at least hear these men and their criticisms thereof out, as they merely took Catholic economic teaching to its logical conclusion.

  53. Michael J says:

    The current federally mandated minimum wage is $5.85/hr. At the end of July this year, it will go up to $6.55. If this is insufficient to live and support a family (I know I would have difficulty), what is the minimum? On the other hand, is it truly insufficient, or just insufficient to support an expected minimum lifestyle?

  54. Phil says:

    Phil. With all due respect, Lord Acton went to Rome to engage in agitprop against an Ecumenical Council while it was in session. He was not just your average Joe Ecclesia.

    While he did not make a formal break with the Church (as did Dollinger and the Old Catholics)the idea his name ought be honored by a Priest is, to me, bizarre in the extreme and the actions of Acton vis a vis The Magisterium (actions Acton never repented of as far as I can tell) suggest, to me at least, the judgment of Fr. Sirico ought be called into question.

    Fr. Sirico wants drugs legalised and his institute is opposed to a ban on pornography. I find that an example of doctrinaire libertarianism incompatible with Catholic Social Doctrine.

    Regarding Acton: I havent made a study of the man, but let him meddle all he wants – it’s not as he’ll win from the Holy Spirit anyway, is he? Disagreement with what a council proposes to say is not necessarily a disqualification – and if he kept his peace afterwards i don’t consider that to be a big point.
    Regarding Fr. Sirico: if his position is that the government has no business banning something while he still considers it sinful, I don’t see the incompatibility. There might be an incompatibility with earlier writings assuming or desiring a religious or religiously inspired state, but that brings us back to the whole VII discussion.

    Phil. It used to be illegal to publish pornography. The First Amendment recognises no right to either produce it or publish it yet we are drowning in it.

    Are you suggesting civil govt was wrong to forbid it in the past?

    One: yawn for the constitutional argument. See above, nor do I see a reason to argue from a US perspective – even though one can debate whether the first amendment covers it, I’ll grant you that.
    Two: actually, yes. It’s a prime example of legislation that is based on the desire to keep people from sin. That’s not the government business. I’m not blind to the many negative sides of the smut industry, but it is possible that people engage willingly in such activities without harming others (at least theoretically). That reduces the case for banning porn to one of practical considerations (namely that in pratice it often is harmful to others than the consenting adults), and on that score the measures needed to enforce such a ban are not proportional to the benefits. Ofcourse one may hold a different opinion, but in sum I don’t see why one should hold it as an article of faith that porn should be banned by the civil government.

    Imagine the govt officially allowed companies to pollute our water.

    The government does just that, btw. It may set limits to the quantity and type, but it does allow pollution.

    Would you think it a good idea if a Priest, in Forbes, wrote a piece opposing a ban on pollution of our water and suggesting we get some good filters for our faucets?

    Again, this is exactly what’s done, save for the fact that the filters are a bit more upstream in the system – it’s not as if water from a random river or well is safe to drink without treatment.

    Rather than bashing an unfortunate analogy, I think Fr. Sirico’s point, at least as I understand it, stands, given the assumption we’re not to have a religously inspired government – which means that if you want to shield yourself from certain sinful aspects, the faithful actually have to make some effort to do so, as the planet/country is shared with those who hold other opinions and beliefs.

    Come on. What goes into our minds is every bit as consequential as what goes in to our mouths.

    On that we agree, or I’d even say what enters the mind is far more consequential. The difference is: anything that goes into our mouth is automatically digested. Things that go into the mind can be accepted or rejected. And the basic difference of opinion seems to be that I rather risk having to reject quite a bit of what I encounter, than risk that someone in the government makes that decision for me. I for one don’t trust Washington – or any government – with that kind of power.

  55. Romulus says:

    Interesting to see Gertrude Himmelfarb and Michael Novak mentioned. I had forgotten about Prof. Himmelfarb’s interest in Lord Acton. Mr. Novak of course is remembered for his trip to Rome in 2003 where he unsuccessfully lobbied the Holy See for support of our adventure in Iraq. That war of course — and even its extension into Iran — continues to be supported by leading neoconservatives including Prof. Himmelfarb’s husband Irving Kristol and their son William.

    I hope attendees at the Acton Institute will devote due thought to the question of just how economic activity ought to proceed so that all parties to transactions are truly voluntary and free. And that free markets, while very good at generating price information, are no good at all about giving weight to charity, beauty, and life-as-communion.

  56. Mark says:

    I didn’t see a link to this:

    Is the Acton Institute a Genuine Expression of Catholic Social Thought? by Thomas Storck

    Social Justice Review (founded under Leo XIII), has been critical of the Acton Institute.

    In the noise of the economic sphere where champions want to fix everything, it’s hard to find much advertance to Jesus Christ, who told us to set our sights on heaven, not earth; Yeah. “Save the Liturgy, save the world!”

  57. Le Renard says:

    What you’ve mentioned above is kinda ironic given the fact that: 16th-century Catholic theologians in Spain — and not Adam Smith two centuries later — were the real founders of modern economics. It was they who set forth accurate theories of value, price, government intervention, monopoly, entrepreneurship, and money and banking — while avoiding Smith’s errors, such as his mistaken labor theory of value.

    Refer to the book “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” by Thomas Woods, Jr.

    Also, you might want to refer to this article:
    Three Catholic Cheers for Capitalism

  58. Le Renard says:

    The above was directed to the comments previously made by Ron:

    Regardless, the problem in capitalism is that everyone is ought to gain more market share than everyone else. What is the point? They ultimately want to put them out of business so they can maximize their profits. Hence Walmart forces their distributors to sell very low to them so they can sell low. In the process employees are not cared for, being paid enough to support a family, but rather their pay is seen as an expense which can be cut in our to maximize profits. These are not extreme practices of capitalism. They are normal operating procedures.

  59. I am not Spartacus says:

    I think Fr. Sirico’s point, at least as I understand it, stands, given the assumption we’re not to have a religously inspired government – which means that if you want to shield yourself from certain sinful aspects, the faithful actually have to make some effort to do so, as the planet/country is shared with those who hold other opinions and beliefs.

    And those few whose idea it is that pornography is protected speech triumphs over the many who think it a legally prohibited evil.

    As to the subtext of the comment – ” which means that if you want to shield yourself from certain sinful aspects, the faithful actually have to make some effort to do so..” does that mean that, prior to the Epoch of Judicial Tyranny, Americans were lax in opposing previous attempts to legalise pornography?

    Such rulings nuke any principle of subsidiarity because it was the Judicial Branch which acted in tyrannical fashion against the Common man and the Common Good and now the Common man and his family are left unprotected against the malign influences of pornographers and libertarians appear not to care one whit.

    “See to it yourselves”

    Worse, they defend the actions in principle as a thing necessary and a past wrong (pornography prohibited) is now righted (pornography legalised).

    Tell me, when did we as Americans, through our elected representatives, legislate in favor of legalising pornography?

    So much for the people and our Constitution as the rule of law. Everything must be sacrificed on the altar of Libertarianism

    Liberty trumps the common good. But, we all know that is just one of the fatal flaws of Libertarianism.

  60. I am not Spartacus says:

    What you’ve mentioned above is kinda ironic given the fact that: 16th-century Catholic theologians in Spain—and not Adam Smith two centuries later—were the real founders of modern economics. It was they who set forth accurate theories of value, price, government intervention, monopoly, entrepreneurship, and money and banking—while avoiding Smith’s errors, such as his mistaken labor theory of value.

    What Papal Encyclical on Social Doctrine references them?

    I do know the great German Jesuit Economist, Heinrich Pesch,… (Quad Anno was based upon his work and Pope John, routinely, referenced him)

    http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?did=0205-storck

    http://credo.stormloader.com/Morals/summaeco.htm

    had no mention of those 16th century churchmen, as I recall, in his indispensable, Ethics and The National Economy

    Try reading it and then consider the mistake of trying to bring to life Libertarianism by implanting within it the the soul of Catholic Social Doctrine.

    You will have, at best, a chimera.

  61. Le Renard says:

    I am not Spartacus:

    Did you even read the Essay by Dr. Woods?

    Clearly, I could tell by your response that you didn’t — a clue: it’s not a paper promoting Libertarianism.

  62. I am not Spartacus says:

    Did you even read the Essay by Dr. Woods?

    Yes. When it was first posted years ago.

    Now, about the 16th century spanish churchmen; which Social Encyclical references them?

  63. Doug says:

    Hooray Le Renard! What a remarkable article by Professor Woods. I particularly appreciated the example of supporting local farmers by creating an enterprise which benefited both the farmer, the cause of local enterprise and the consumer, all without sitting around waiting for the government to create a bloated, inefficient subsidy program that would cost the taxpayer billions while truly benefiting no one in the long term.

    I challenge everyone taking the position that capitalism is antithetical to catholic social teaching to read the professor’s article. Here’ the link again…

    Three Catholic Cheers for Capitalism

  64. Hugh says:

    The day I read a solemnly promulgated doctrine from the Holy Father that the state is better than the free market at running the Post Office will the day I begin to suspect that my understanding of economics from a free market perspective is wonky.

    But not before I try out a new pair of spectacles.

  65. Michael says:

    “And those few whose idea it is that pornography is protected speech triumphs over the many who think it a legally prohibited evil.”

    I think the point is that a secular government that is not strong enough to prohibit pornography is also not strong enough to prohibit Catholicism. A secular government that is made strong enough to prohibit pornography will feel its oats and soon enough come after the Church. And I am the one that is called a utopian!

  66. michigancatholic says:

    Widukind,
    I can’t get that podcast to load on my computer.

  67. fatherrob says:

    Michigan Catholic:

    Be glad you couldn’t get that podcast to open. That, and Randy Engel’s diatribes in print, are nothing more than a tissue of unsubstantiated innuendoes, calumny, and detraction. And “widukind” is engaging in spreading innuendoes, calumny, and detraction.

    Take note of Fr. Sirico’s response to the Culture Wars hit piece, published in either the August or September 2007 issue of Culture Wars:

    “In reading your May article alleging to give an account of my life and beliefs, I was reminded of the line from (oddly enough) De Profundis, to the effect that, ‘…what is said of a man is nothing. The point is, who says it. A man’s very highest moment is…when he kneels in the dust, and he beats his breast, and tells all the sins of his life.’ This I have done, for which I received absolution and have attempted to live a life of penance from that time (some 30 years ago), to this. I am, by God’s sheer grace, one of those to whom St. Paul refers in 1Cor. 6:9 and 10 when he writes, ‘…and such were some of you.’

    I take this occasion to joyfully affirm the teachings of the Magisterium of Catholic Church with regard to faith and morals, especially sexual purity, and to affirm that I have taught and lived these teachings in both my public ministry and private life the whole of my priesthood. Any allegations to the contrary are simply untrue.

    Fr. Robert A. Sirico,
    President
    The Acton Institute

  68. Phil says:

    @I am not Spartacus:

    You said:
    “Tell me, when did we as Americans, through our elected representatives, legislate in favor of legalising pornography?

    So much for the people and our Constitution as the rule of law. Everything must be sacrificed on the altar of Libertarianism”

    First of all, I’m not even an American, thanks for presuming. Secondly, and much more important: you’re reasoning not from the principle but from practice, which could have turned out in 1000 otehr ways. The only thing you’re attacking this way is that the SCOTUS overstepped it’s authority. I know a few cases where they really overstepped their boundaries – Roe vs. Wade anyone?

    Nothing of whta you say adresses in the slightest the question if the civil government should forbid porn (as a matter of morals, not as a matter of did-they-follow-the-wish-of-the-electorate), or the point of a government that can’t be trusted; as Michael said:

    “I think the point is that a secular government that is not strong enough to prohibit pornography is also not strong enough to prohibit Catholicism. A secular government that is made strong enough to prohibit pornography will feel its oats and soon enough come after the Church. And I am the one that is called a utopian!”

    Please stick to what the debate is really about. The Acton institute does not exist to promote porn, but to promote limited government (among other tenets) – those are 2 very different things.

    PS: Fr. Z.: the boldface/italics from your post now flow over into the comments. As many people use italics to indicate quotes, could you kindly fix it?

  69. berenike says:

    The problem with the Acton is that, insofar as one can draw conclusions from the prose they put out, they are more interested in showing that the magisterium agrees with them than in making their ideas agree with the magisterium.

    Pius XI

    Hamish Fraser on Pius XI

    Mr Woods and Social Modernism

    Apropos economic wotsits – don’t forget to distinguish between free markets and capitalism.

  70. EVERYONE: You should stick to discussion of Acton Institute and its positions, rather than get mired in gossip about individuals.

    What Acton says about religion and economics is far more interesting.

  71. I am not Spartacus says:

    First of all, I’m not even an American, thanks for presuming.

    I was addressing Fr. Sirico’s “Forbes” piece about the American govt vis a vis pornography.

    Secondly, and much more important: you’re reasoning not from the principle but from practice, which could have turned out in 1000 otehr ways.

    Wrong. I am writing about the Principle that the First Amendment does not recognise a right to produce and publish pornography. I am dealing with reality not what-if’s.

    The only thing you’re attacking this way is that the SCOTUS overstepped it’s authority.

    Clearly, that is incorrect. All one has to do is read what I have written.

    Nothing of whta you say adresses in the slightest the question if the civil government should forbid porn (as a matter of morals, not as a matter of did-they-follow-the-wish-of-the-electorate)…

    It is not an either-or proposition. It is both a matter of morality and the American people Constitutionally exercising their will through their elected Representatives. Objections against that are, in my opinion, an exercise in libertarian ideology.

    or the point of a government that can’t be trusted; as Michael said: “I think the point is that a secular government that is not strong enough to prohibit pornography is also not strong enough to prohibit Catholicism. A secular government that is made strong enough to prohibit pornography will feel its oats and soon enough come after the Church. And I am the one that is called a utopian!””

    That can be said of any activity the govt engages in. For instance, it is a common observance that the power to tax is the power to destroy. Ought we (as I favor) eliminate the “Law that never was” (16th amendment)? (I’d even be in favor of digging-up Philander Knox and putting him on trial for perjury).

    The reality is the Constitution restricts what the govt may do, not the people. And the idea The First Amendment recognised a right to pornography is so far from reality that it is risible.

    Yet, The Acton Institute’s position, in effect, recognises the govt, in the Judicial Branch, was acting in accordance with The Constitution. That is a position that results in ideology trumping Constitutionality and the rule of law.

    The First Amendment recognises a right to freedom of religion. It does not recognise a right to pornography. Conflating religion and pornography in an argument against legitimate exercise of Constitutional Governmental power is, in my opinion, a form of intellectual pornography.

    Please stick to what the debate is really about. The Acton institute does not exist to promote porn, but to promote limited government (among other tenets) – those are 2 very different things.

    When libertarian ideology results in such things as surrendering philosophical ground to pornographers and surrendering our Civil Liberties to an Unconstitutional Judicial Tyranny which unjustly has usurped authority intended to reside with the several states and the people, then that ideology must be exposed, criticised, and struggled against.

  72. Ron says:

    Le Renard,

    Just because Spanish scholastics in the 16th century may have had proto-capitalistic practices and views does not mean they were congruous with traditional Catholic teaching. Also note that we don’t see capitalism flourish until during and after the Protestant Revolt. Before that time, when the Catholic Faith still held sway, there was no capitalism. 16th century Spanish Scholastics don’t prove that capitalism agrees with Church teaching.

    The capitalist does well to heed the words of Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum:

    “Therefore, the well-to-do are admonished that wealth does not give surcease of sorrow, and that wealth is of no avail unto the happiness of eternal life but is rather a hindrance; that the threats pronounced by Jesus Christ, so unusual coming from Him, ought to cause the rich to fear; and that on one day the strictest account for the use of wealth must be rendered to God as Judge.64″

    Those who intend to, and who do, amass great wealth (often by immoral and greedy means) will have to render an account to the King.

    Pax Christi tecum.

  73. jarhead462 says:

    This is a very interesting discussion…however….I have noticed quite a few people writing about a so called “Living Wage” and the Minimum Wage, but let’s be realistic here. The idea that any job you do should come with a “Living Wage” is retarded. Not all jobs are worth paying even the mandated Minimum Wage. The Idea of having a Minimum Wage is problematic, because it hurts the people earning minimum wage the most. Every time the government raises the minimum wage, it forces employers (particularly small business owners) to make choices about losing money (after all, you go into business to make profit, not to be a Social Program), or cutting back on employees, which can have disasterous consequences for a small business, forcing them to close, and putting everyone out of work.
    I find the Socialist/Marxist economic ideas of many Catholics completely mystifying.

    Semper Fi!

  74. Le Renard says:

    Ron,

    Just because Spanish scholastics in the 16th century may have had proto-capitalistic practices and views does not mean they were congruous with traditional Catholic teaching.

    To the contrary, their ‘capitalism’ avoided the problems that we are currently experiencing today.

    Medieval and Late Scholastics understood and theorized about the free economy in ways that would prove profoundly fruitful for the development of sound economic thinking in the West.

    Modern economics, therefore, constitutes another important area in which Catholic influence has, until recently, all too often have been obscured or overlooked.

    In fact, Catholics are now being called its founders.

    I’m not going to provide a summary of these facts since to do so would merely result in a bowdlerization of what was presented in Dr. Woods’ book, “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization”.

    In Chapter 8, in particular, he discusses in detail the contributions made by these Scholastics to modern economic theory, citing even the works and critiques of eminent modern economists.

    Besides, I’m not “Readers Digest”!

  75. Eric says:

    Thanks Jar Hear:

    I had the same thought. Why should I be fored to pay a 17 year old high school student the same as I pay a 32 your old father of four? It’s ludicrous. When the minimum wage is increased, prices go up and the the amount that wage buys is the same as before. The only thing it accomplishes is the decrease the worth of money people have been saving from their hard earnd wages.

  76. Michael J says:

    There are some people who(mistakenly) believe that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is pornographic. There are others who define ponography not so much in terms of sexual acts and nudity but in terms of cruelty and violence and who (again, mistakenly) consider depictions of our Crucified Lord to be pornographic.

    Obviously, simple common sense tells us that these ideas are absurd and that there can be no comparison of the Sistine Chapel(much less a Cruicifix!) and the filth of pornography, but that is not the point.

    For those who believe that the federal government (or any civil government) should ban pornography, what assurances can you offer that these ridiculous definitions of pornography won’t become part of the law?

  77. M.Z. Forrest says:

    For a comprehensive treatment refuting the proposition that the Salamanca Scholastics were proto-Austrians, see here: http://drchojnowski.blogspot.com/2004/12/corporation-christendom-true-school-of.html

  78. mbd says:

    Ron: I find it surprising that you state that “before that time(i.e.the Protestant Reformation)when the Catholic Faith still held sway, there was no capitalism” in view of your earlier statement that you are reading Fanfani. Your comment is a classic statement of one proposition of the Weber Thesis which has been largely refuted by subsequent scholarship. In fact,that aspect of Max Weber’s thesis was specifically refuted by Fanfani who demonstrated that capitalism was alive and flourishing in the Netherlands and Italy a full century before Martin Luther and John Calvin broke with Rome. Later historical analysis has suggested that the advent of capitalism can be found in many other parts of Europe in the Fifteenth Century as well.

  79. berenike says:

    Re the “Late Scholastics” (why do these types always give them capital letters?) – referring to a couple of Spaniards at the beginning of the C16 – just because they were Catholic, doesn’t mean they were right.

    And please, do not conflate free trade with capitalism.

    re the Austrians:

    I had a long and tedious conversation with a priest fan of Mises (writing a doctorate on him) a couple of months ago. He was trying to prove to me that it is oh-such-a-Catholic approach to things.

    His two problems were that that he doesn’t understand that economics-as-normative is, and has to be, a subordinate science, and that he thinks freedom means “freedom from”. Now, whether or not he was presenting Mises’ accurately, I don’t know. He certainly thought he was.

  80. I sure wish this blog would get off the economics tangent and get back to “Say the Red and Do the Black.” It’s why I come here. I have no interest in the economic/social lunatic fringe. Indeed, I think it’s mighty odd, under the circumstances. We all have hobbies, but ???

  81. Doug says:

    michigancatholic,

    this blog IS off the economics tangent. haven’t you noticed the new posts left by fr. z lately? it’s just this particular post that’s stuck on economics because…uh…the topic is ECONOMICS.

    the reason this blog is so interesting is because of fr. z first of all as well as the attention and contributions of a diverse group of people who are willing to speak their minds on a range of topics. sure, (by the way, it’s say the BLACK and do the RED) is the main focus; but, a traditional catholic who is one-dimensional would be a poor addition to the fold. sometimes it’s worthwhile to branch out a bit.

  82. I sure wish this blog would get off the economics kick and back to “Say the Red and Do the Black.” That’s the reason I come here.

    Is it going to dawn on anyone in here anytime soon that there is no such thing as a distinctively Catholic economics? Your salvation depends a lot more on your attitude toward your wallet than on the contents of your wallet, whether you’re left wing or right wing. That’s why people who live in Communist countries aren’t damned automatically. Think about it. This business I’m hearing in here is downright Calvinist. And don’t you cradle catholics give me any crap about that. I’m a minister’s granddaughter and I know this better than you do.

    Also, it strikes me that this is a rather large hobby Fr. Sirico has here. Odd for a priest. Explains the news media thing though.

    I have some more details about Acton Institute. Acton Institute was started with help & funding from the *Atlas Economic Research Foundation* out of Fairfax, Va (founded by John Blundell, 1981); its goal, quote = “to litter the world with free-market think tanks” and “increase both the reach and local credibility of the free market message, thereby having the most cost-effective approach.” Acton Institute has 469 siblings, all of which are targetted Mini-Mes of Atlas. They exist to propagate this variety of political economics to different market shares and interest groups under the guise of being specific to that market group.

    Atlas Economic Research Foundation, in turn, was started with help & funding from the *Institute for Economic Affairs* (London England, founded 1955 by Antony Fisher). Stated belief = people should be free to do anything they want in life as long as they don’t harm anyone else. In other words, “Do what thou wilt.” Think about where you might have heard that phrase before. Atlas also has many siblings, also founded by IEA.

    Here’s your basic chronology from the webpage of the IEA itself. http://www.iea.org.uk/record.jsp?type=page&ID=24 There’s nothing particularly Catholic about it. They’d like you to think there is. That’s what the machinery of Acton Institute is for.

    “20 And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this? They say to him: Caesar’s. Then he saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:20-21

  83. Doug, speak for yourself. I hold a grad degree in philosophy and and do engineering research with my undergrad degree, and I think that I’m probably not all that unusual in here. There are quite a few laypeople who come through here all the time who could talk your socks off on any academic specialty you care to name. It’s a vicious stereotype that trads walk around with their noses up their sleeves and nothing in their heads.

    Besides, this is a big blog with lots of visitors. I expect a little bit of crackpot fringe economics from a Grand Rapids think tank isn’t going to change any of those facts much. AT. ALL. It’s only an annoyance.

    Wanna know something that shocks Catholics?? Many laypeople are FAR better trained academically than just about any priest you know. That didn’t used to be the case, but it is now. [If you hadn’t seen this in print, you’d ought to have been able to discern that from the ridiculous and sloppy homilies most Catholics have to endure every Sunday.]

    There’s nothing sillier looking than a priest pontificating very poorly in someone else’s specialty. When they start spouting about metaphysics, I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or puke. But what I really hate is that asinine nonsense from Teilhard Chardin, another wannabe priest. The dreamy segue generally comes from someone who couldn’t tell a periodic table from a bedsheet on a good day–and harbors some vague and fuzzy ideas about energy in the sky. Ack. Priests usually get a bye on this kind of behavior because people won’t challenge them. But that still doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about when they start spouting nonsense. We laypeople are a mannerly lot but we’re not dumb.

    So ease up on the trads, particularly the lay trads. We’re generally not likely to really need a lecture on crackpot economics to make our days complete. ;)

  84. OK, so it’s “Say the Black and Do the Red.” I’m female. I don’t have any intention of being ordained any time soon.

  85. Clare Krishan says:

    May a lady add her iota of commercial experience (it seems my 5c worth may be seen as besmirching the hallowed pixels of those who comment here with the wages of sin)

    ditto le Renard, with a big caveat, that the whole discussion hangs on a thread, that of the fabric of our pants pockets – if they are threadbare pickpockets will have easy pickings. The Magesterial teachings of Leo XIII will not help us here – since they were written before the explosion in fiat currency ex nihilo, and embezzlement by central banks.

    “I suggest that a study group be formed around the study of this great encyclical. No need to look outside the Church for answers. She has
    them all.”

    Acton and Mises do stellar work translating the original Latin treatises of Salamanca and the extraordinary conservative fiscal discipline behind the Dutch bankers that funded the mercantilism that birthed America. Those who critique the Marxists must also critique the AdamSmithists since both men built their utopian vision on a flawed reading of history – see “Catholism, Protestantism and Capitalism”
    mises.org/rothbard/RothbardOnKauder3.pdf
    as correctly noted previously in the thread with a “labor theory of value”

    However Acton is not doing as much as the Austrians are to highlight the very real sin of theft involved in fractional reserve banking, the institutional usury decried by Fr. Bernard W. Dempsey SJ back in 1943 (for an eye opener, certainly anyone who reads/writes about economics and hasn’t a clue how crucial banking is in todays global economy of ‘Monarchy/Theocracy/Communist Sovereign Wealth Funds’ read the book “Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles” by Jesus Huerta de Soto at

    http://www.mises.org/Books/desoto.pdf)

    Sound money is the basis for a rational discussion on economic exchange of values, but too many folks are deeply ignorant, indeed idolatrous of their Government – level’s of faith and trust not even the most devout RadTrad ‘Read the Black, Do the Red’ evinces in public! The Catholic must always be aware that money is simple another commodoty that we use to represent the care we would give in person if present and able, it gives us the liberty to pursue our charisms while exchanging tokens for those we do not possess. Money is merely a token for what we value, the just price (for just wage for one’s labor says Leo XIII is merely the sustenance expected at mealtimes during labor, and if the labor product is unsatisfactory he would even deny the hungry inept laborer a meal!) a marginal utility decision signifying the love that motivates the purchaser’s intended need and the love that motivates the sellers intended need. We are all needy, no one can deny that!

    Will look forward to more posts…

  86. One does not make a plural out of the word “level” with an apostrophe, Clare. And the word is “commodity,” which with your viewpoint you’d ought to be able to spell.

    If money is love, then is the richest man is the most loved? What of the poorest man?

    Can all that we value be put into the form of these tokens that you say represent love? Are they love? Could they ever be? What relationship EXACTLY do they bear to it?

    Why did Christ say, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests: but the son of man hath not where to lay his head,” and then do nothing about it? He refused the tempter, remember. What is the Kingdom of God? And where?

  87. Clare,

    If you say that all that we value be put into the form of the tokens, then you call yourself a materialist of the worst kind. Just go buy your salvation and don’t bother with me. I’m not a token in your collection and you don’t need me. Very simple, if it only worked that way. It doesn’t.

    If you say that all that we value cannot be put into the form of the tokens, then you admit that you must partition value into a token-able part and a non-token-able part. By doing so, your argument loses its force. You play tokens with the token-able part and it says nothing to the other part by necessity. IN other words, there is nothing that can compel the non-token-able part to become a portion of your economy. So have your little token games with that little collection of treasures you have. Big deal. *The tokens themselves & the stuff they represent doesn’t say anything about salvation–rather, it’s the attitude you have toward the stuff that speaks to your salvation.* Ah, but if that is the case, again the tokens cannot hold all the value.

    You could be dirt poor and not have a penny to your name. Do you believe it would make you lose your worth? You could be as rich as a king. Do you believe it would make you one bit more worthy in anyone’s eyes? No. It would make you more feared, more obeyed, more powerful. But not more worthy. Not one iota more. Your worth comes from another source and you can do nothing about that. Not one thing. That’s never been for sale. And neither is anyone else’s worth. Ever.

    You do not own yourself. You cannot do with yourself what you wish. That’s not how your humanity works. Thank God for that. It’s a gift. This inability to even own yourself brings you to others and it brings you to God, by its very nature, if you will let it. Let it.

    Count your tokens to manage your household, yes. Use your tokens to express things that are deeper, yes. But don’t adore your tokens. Don’t think of yourself as a token. Don’t think you own your own being. You don’t. You can’t. You never will. No one does.

  88. Everyone: Liturgy intersects with all aspect of Catholic life. So, from time to time, we must consider also economics.

    As a matter of fact, I heard things this week that made me think of how liturgical things play out.

    Remember, we enflesh our faith.

  89. I am not Spartacus says:

    Steve Sailer has the best definition of Libertarianism. He calls it autism applied.

  90. Yes, Fr. I understand that we enflesh the faith. But it’s not as simple as juat that, because not just any “enfleshment” will do. For instance, we cannot all behave in just any old way and call it good enough. But I guess that’s what this is all about, right? Be careful what you call virtue.

    Economics can be a good career. Like Chemistry or Mathematics, there’s nothing wrong with the subject matter. However, there is something wrong with trying to make it speak all the truths of the faith, of which it is no more or less capable than Chemistry or Mathematics, and for the same epistemological and theological reasons.

    In addition, certain varieties of social/economic theory can be more apt than others to logical mistakes. In addition, the social sciences can conceal motivations and dynamics that chemistry and mathematics, by their nature, are more transparent about. The libertarian/Randian approach is one of those varieties which are fundamentally turned around in ways that can be difficult for people to casually detect. But turned around they are, and it’s demonstrable logically. There are contradictions. They don’t stand up to proof.

    You know, people who love the theory of science have these things too. Have you ever heard of the phlogiston theory (sometimes called the theory of caloric)? Decent but misled thinkers in Galileo’s day went to their graves believing this to their very core, but it’s completely backwards. http://www.bookrags.com/research/caloric-theory-wop/

    There are even “joke theories,” for us who like this stuff. Thus the darksucker light bulb theory. http://home.netcom.com/~rogermw/darksucker.html

    Seriously, Ayn Rand and her ilk (including the extremes of libertarianism) are considered by working philosophers to be intellectual rifraff. Their (and her) theories are as thin as tissue and as easy to knock down, while the immediate competitors, on all sides, are much more robust and compelling logically.

    Sometime, if you like this sort of logical systems talk, you might pick up Thomas Kunn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” Not that I 100% endorse him, or any other theorist on the matter, but the ideas are important to what we think and how we see the world. Fundamental stuff. The popular commonsense framework does change and affects what we will accept….and that does peculiar things to our understanding of ideas, even though it can’t change the basic underlying truth of the matter, if you believe that truth exists, of course. I do.

  91. Clare Krishan says:

    Michigan Catholic and I am not Spartacus:

    I never said “money is love” – you misconstrue my intent in introducing this philosophical perspective to the thread on economics. Tokens are indeed materials and if one lives for them then one is indeed a materialist — the worst kind of sentimentalist — using tokens to ‘ment’ally conjure up the ‘sen’ses one desires, to passively consume the accoutrements of a favored culture. A sensitive lover, on the other hand, recognizes that the most intimate expression of his love is in personal action, exemplified by the Priceless Gift of the Cross. The rest of us aren’t “Jesus crucified” and thus do not possess the faculties to express our love in person, anytime, anyplace. We are blessed to be able to transfer our love via material means (this life of ours is not some Sci-Fi TV fantasy of out-of-body experiences a la “beam me up Scotty”). The biblical injunction against usury is an expression of this principle – we may not usurp the material token, intended to express love for another, for our own selfish gain. Sadly we have become so inured to inflationary monetary interventions we are blind to the errors of our economy and chose to blame the mechanism and not the mechanic (the tool, not the agent; the market, not the moneychanger). The moral aspect of man’s liberty is related to how he applies his free will to utilitizing the blessings at *his* disposal. Socialism and “silent hand” mercantilism both usurp that free will, rendering so-called free trade unfair and inherently immoral.

    In the hope you may comprehend me better, I re-edited my stream of consciousness thus:

    Sound money is the basis for a rational discussion on economic exchange of values, but too many folks are deeply ignorant, indeed idolatrous of their Government – level\’s of faith and trust not even the most devout RadTrad \’Read the Black, Do the Red\’ evinces in public! The Catholic must always be aware that money is simply another commodity (with a price \”interest\” paid for delaying present consumption for future consumption). We use it as a token to represent the care we would give in person if present and able to do the activity ourselves. Currency gives us the liberty to pursue our charisms for the common good, while exchanging a quantity of legal tender to pursue those we do not possess for our own good. Money is merely a token for what we value, the just price (for just wage for one\’s labor says Leo XIII is merely the sustenance expected at mealtimes during labor, and if the labor product is unsatisfactory he would even deny the hungry inept laborer a meal!) a marginal utility decision signifying the love that motivates the purchaser\’s intended need and the love that motivates the sellers intended need. We are all needy, no one can deny that!

    I will look forward to more posts…

    (meanwhile I\’ll continue reading up on Ron Paul, another advocate for the tenets of \”I desire mercy not sacrifices\” of last Sunday\’s gospel – a generous libertarian not a puritan moralist – unlike those who favor incarcerating many of the fathers of inner city kids I teach CCD for the duration of their childhood is a shameful Calvinist relic that no Catholic ought be proud of. Put the offender in the stocks for an afternoon and throw all your rotten vegetables at him if you must have vengeance, I\’ll join you and then offer the chap a cup of tea and begin chatting about what he can do to help raise his son (note for the last four terms we have not enjoyed the wisdom of a \”Father of a Son\” as President, and the two candidates running promise us more of the same inane \”Daddy\’s girl\” indulgences.

    N.B. Pray for all Tim Russert\’s this Father\’s Day, that men learn what it takes to be a Father of men; get to express gratitute to their own fathers before it is too late; that their sons recognise their responsibility to husband their resources for the benefit of human flourishing under the natural law not selfish agglomeration of \”human capital\” as those at Acton would have us believe was Cardinal Trujillo\’s legacy:
    http://www.acton.org/commentary/455_cardinal_alfonso_lopes_trujillo.php

  92. Also, Fr. Z.

    Notice that there is a difference between the substance of liturgy and the dynamics of how the politics of liturgy have played out. They belong to different subject matter sets.

    Also, before you attribute proof to a theory based on the experiential sense you see in it, you should know that there’s a difference between a correlation and a proof. You might be looking at a process sort of “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy.

    Did you know that you can argue a particular outcome or result from opposing points of view, without making methodological mistakes? It’s a particularly confounding feature of logic for some people. At that level it’s all about the soundness of the premises. You might do well to define the premises of the past 3 days with some degree of rigor.

  93. Clare,

    I used to be a Lutheran. When I was a Lutheran, we desired mercy not sacrifices. It’s called imputation of sins, my friend, and it’s not Catholic. How very fitting you should use such language.

    I’m not asking you to tell me little vignettes about your experiences which to you make libertarian ideas seem the case. I am asking you to examine your hidden premises, without which you cannot function in the view you have chosen. Think about the view as a a logical system–don’t just jump into it with both feet, a few personal correlations you’re looking to hook something to, and a non-analytical frame of mind. There are logical laws governing systems and the paradigms that surround them, whether you know it or not.

  94. Clare Krishan says:

    Dear brother Catholic from Michigan – after living for 13 years in Germany among some of the best Lutherans and many of the worst Catholics you don’t need to lecture me about my deficient experiences!

    “I am asking you to examine your hidden premises, without which you cannot function in the view you have chosen”

    I confess to experiencing my birth in Britain not having a logical remise to chose otherwise and grateful my ScotsCanadian mother married my English father. I confess my unpatriotic weakness in criticizing the “British school of Economics” that America is founded on. But as a cradle British Catholic you really ought to have picked someone else to accuse of imputing sins! The sins of my forefathers (sacrificing their not inconsiderable private property as a poll tax and sacrificing their standing in the community to entrust their sons “foreign powers” on order for them to attend seminary, all out of MERCY in defence of their liberty to defend the celebration of the Mass in the chapel of their private homes for the benefit of all their landless Catholic neighbors, is how the very Faith survived in that corner of the Earth.

    “I am asking you to examine your hidden premises, without which you cannot function in the view you have chosen”

    May I ask you to define what hidden premise without which you cannot function in the view you propose? The definition of “money” is a pretty basic tenet, along with the absolute truth of “justice.” Is private property merely “a nice idea” to be jettisoned when the powers that be usurp the authority to dispose of it at will? The debasement of money is not a new phenomenon, the scholastics of the classical Greek and Roman jurisprudence contain many records of cases of expropriation of depositors funds, usually to fund wars or reparition of losses resulting from war, indeed that’s the logic Mariana argued against his King’s stealing the peoples money, not out of ‘economic’ utilitarianism, but the justice of Absolute Truth!

    see | Juan de Mariana S.J. | Alejandro A. Chafuen’s translation at
    http://www.acton.org/publications/mandm/mm9.php

    Argument:

    Does the King Own His Subjects’ Goods?
    Can the King Demand Tribute from His Subjects Without Their Consent?
    Can the King Debase Money by Changing Its Weight or Quality Without Consulting His People?
    The Twofold Value of Money
    The Foundations of Commerce: Money, Weights, and Measures
    Advantages Derived from Alteration of Copper Money
    Money Has Frequently Been Altered
    Different Maravedis of Varying Values in Castille
    Disadvantages Derived from This Alteration of Copper Money
    The Major Disadvantages Derived from This Alteration of Money
    Should Silver Money Be Altered?
    Concerning Gold Money
    Is There Some Way to Assist the Prince in His Need?

    Indeed we ought be grateful the Spaniards took the faith so seriously, since most of the gold in use as legal tender in the United States of America was of Spanish coinage, until the advent of paper money politics and the civil war, and thus we return in the ourobouros of circular argument – wars cause economic damage, fallen nature being what it is folks attempt to avert paying the price, especially if they’re the victor in the conflagration. Many of the splits in Christendom ((like many of the divorces in Christian families) can be laid at the feet of “economic” malfeasance with the civil powers usurping the natural law. The clerical classes were recruited to find arguements to advance the Regents’ concupiscence, in England Thomas More lost his head for refusing to comply.

  95. Clare Krishan says:

    Apologies to dear SISTER catholic from Michigan – I do not intend to irk you “cleanliness is next to Godliness” obsessibe compulsive streak, I was attending a landscape committee meeting at our Home Owners Association and posted before reading the other comments. You’d make a good Catholic School Teacher, no one would have to worry about you sparing the rod, but I’m not so sure our exchanges make for a good witness of the “attraction” charism that the Church’s members are so deficient in right now – can we evangelize outside the Sanctuary, and if so how do we go about learning the acceptable means to that end?

    I hope to learn from your perspective, but you do not volunteer it? How would you recommend that resources be stewarded? Meritocracy has a certain logic right enough, incentivized by externals of power, wealth and fame. But even a democratic meritocracy cannot guarantee the exercise of the virtues. Alisdair MacIntyre proposes “practice” as the process by which folks learn the instrinsics of personal agency, their “vocation” if you will. What do you think of his approach as regards economic prospects for the global economy? IMHO it fits well to the Austrian schools roots in Aristotolean premises. Or would you rather rattle the cup, extend a second collection on Sunday, or levy a tax for every unforeseen malady that mother nature sends our way? How much is a person responsible for their own thriving existence (Pope JPII was big on this – he even titled his magnum opus “LOVE & RESPONSIBILITY.”) by participating in the flourishing of the common good? Read “Requiem for Homo Economicus” at

    http://www.mayoresearch.org/files/REQUIEM.pdf

    Would you have us follow management guru ” Drucker’s conceptualization of | Homo heroicus | the human being as self-sacrificing, self-disciplined, and selfabnegating, the fascist idea of transcendence by expiation or | Homo sovieticus | the human being with no creativity, initiative, or responsibility who through a pact with the state tolerates lies, petty crimes, and poor morale in the workplace in exchange for security? ”

    I await your thoughts with eager anticipation

  96. michigancatholic: Notice that there is a difference between the substance of liturgy and the dynamics of how the politics of liturgy have played out. They belong to different subject matter sets.

    I wasn’t writing about liturgy.  I just attended this conference.

    Also, before you attribute proof to a theory based on the experiential sense you see in it, you should know that there’s a difference between a correlation and a proof. You might be looking at a process sort of “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy.

    I didn’t attribute truth to anything.  I attended this conference.  I learned interesting things that made me think. And don’t fall into the trap that you can lecture me, here, about correlation and proof.

    Did you know that you can argue a particular outcome or result from opposing points of view, without making methodological mistakes? It’s a particularly confounding feature of logic for some people. At that level it’s all about the soundness of the premises. You might do well to define the premises of the past 3 days with some degree of rigor.

    blah blah blah

    YAWN…

    I went to a conference.  I heard some talks.  I learned some things.

    I found this conference to be extremely interesting.  I am not an economist.  So, I had the chance to discuss and listen, learn and engage some of these issues from a perspective that was very useful. I was especially glad to have consistent references to papal encyclicals during the talks.

  97. Okay, Fr. Thanks for your reply. Nothing at all wrong with learning when it’s put into perspective. Sounds like it’s all good.

  98. Hello all. I was at the same conference as Fr. Z (I say you there, Father, but was too shy to say hi, so Hi!). Let me say a few things:

    Acton isn’t a Catholic institute, even though many of its important players are Catholic.

    One of the major themes that is clear to me is that the free market that Acton advocates for would only work under a system with a proper anthropology (a Christian one, natch; hence the first lecture I attended last year, and the first one Fr. Z attended this year). That is to say, without a proper alignment towards God, free markets become material-capitalist societies (like the one we live in now? I would say yes, very much so).

    I can also tell you, after meeting talking with Fr. Sirico a few times, he is a wonderful Catholic priest.

    You all also should be aware that most Acton people would be happy to know that there is a vigorous debate going on here about the issues they discuss. That’s the reason for Acton University: to learn and discuss these matters.

    That is all.