Report on Acton U – III

A new day begins at Acton University, an annual even in Grand Rapids, MI.

This morning yours truly had the early TLM for participants.

I have mentioned the remarkably diverse crowd here. I had an e-mail from an organizer of the event:

AU will bring 400 people together from almost 50 countries. 33 lecturers offering more than 60 courses. 100 different events includes meals, meetings, receptions and panels and networking groups. A couple of the major groups will be almost 30 Catholic High School teachers working on curriculum and bringing economics into the CHS curriculum, and 30 Protestant seminary professors discussing culture and needs at seminaries across the country. Attendees primarily Christian, though the conference will include lectures on Islam by Mustafa Akyol, and a handful of Muslims and Buddhists are participating to learn more about the intersection of Christianity and Free Market Economics.

Many gatherings purport to be "ecumenical" and they very often fail utterly. This, however, has turned out – as it was last year – to be a remarkable experience in ecumenism. People can speak about their perspectives without soft-peddling.

Today on my schedule are talks about:

Economics and Human Action
Islam, Markets, and the Free Society
Fair Trade vs. Free Trade.

UPDATE: Talking about non-scarce goods and how they are multiplying in this digital age.

UPDATE: The table at lunch for bloggers and media people.

UPDATE At the evening meal. Some 350 people. I am told that 300+ applications for attendance were turned down for reasons of space.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. R&R says:

    Thank you for posting this! I grew up under the regime of Christian approaches to economics being automatically associated with big government solutions, and the free market was associated with heartless Darwinism. This sensibility continues to persist.

    Not only is the free market solution often the more just and humane, but it is important for the government to get out of the way and let the Church and private groups fill in the gaps where people slip and fall. I think one of the biggest causes of the destruction of the faith in Europe has been the dramatic expansion of government to displace the role of the Church and Christian charity as the social safety net.

  2. Latekate says:

    Believing that governments of men should decide who shall have and who shall have not is idolatry. Believing that it is OK for governments of men to “redistribute” “wealth” is approving theft, and the government will always take the poor mans lamb and give it to the rich man.

    Associating the God given free market with heartless Darwinism is the favorite ploy of the Marxists, who have had pretty much free rein over control of information and education for the past century until the advent of the Internet.

  3. Scott says:

    hear hear, It is often said that Jesus spoke about giving to the poor as a justification for socialism. But Christ said “Give up your own wealth” he didnt say ” Give up the Wealth of your neigbour”

  4. Sal says:

    I just want someone to explain to me what benefits Catholicism receives from this “ecumenical” approach? Seems like we always end up with some diluted, quasi- or non-Christian approach to “X” issue in the end.

  5. norm says:

    Non-scare goods? Fear is a “non-scarce” good. ;-)

  6. Timbot says:

    I would add that the gentleman in the photo, Jeff Tucker of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, is also one of the leaders in the restoration of sacred music.

  7. mpm says:


    Perhaps Fr. Z. used “ecumenical” in a different sense than the usual. I’m guessing that here he is referring to ecumenical as based on our commmon humanity, and the no-holds barred views held by others from around the world about the needs of “society”, and whether or not they are being served by whatever the current globally-favored approaches happen to be.

    This approach, a kind of practical ecumenism, has been lauded by Pope Benedict even with regard to Orthodox-Catholic interraction, in places like Russia. More or less, let’s see how we can work together to bring improvements in practical matters, without worrying too much about resolving theological issues that we may not agree upon.

    Since the Church has no charism to solve all the problems that face the world per se, Catholics, and Western Civilization Catholics, can often gain better insight into truly viable vs. oppressive solutions to various issues, by hearing how they impact those to whom they are directed.

  8. RBrown says:

    Believing that governments of men should decide who shall have and who shall have not is idolatry. Believing that it is OK for governments of men to “redistribute” “wealth” is approving theft, and the government will always take the poor mans lamb and give it to the rich man.
    Comment by Latekate

    On the other hand, right to property is relative, not absolute.

    Further, once a govt begins to print money, it begins to exert its power in the marketplace via monetary policy. That power is increased by a federal bank setting interest rates.

  9. Robert says:

    Fr. Z:

    For those WDTPRS-ers who live in Grand Rapids, will you be celebrating Mass again, and could we participate?

  10. Joe says:

    MPM – I think you are correct in your explanation of “ecumenical”. Historically it referred to the gathering of the church from around the world, and today to gatherings of Christians. But we can hope that interfaith meetings like this can help non-Christians understand the fullness of the Gospel.
    I hope that this Institute can explore elements from the church’s tradition having to do with economics that are not free trade but distributionist. When we realize that economic structures are linked to the nature of the family (through eg the need, real or not, for both parents to work outside of the house for subsistence) then we see possibilities for going beyond the “capitalism vs socialism” model.

  11. LarryD says:

    Fr Z – you should seek out Al Kresta with Ave Maria Radio while you’re there and have him interview you for his 3 hour afternoon program “Kresta In The Afternoon” – broadcast on EWTN worldwide.

  12. Sal says:

    Thanks, mpm.

  13. mbd says:

    An excellent example in ‘practical ecumenism’ is the journal Touchstone – edited by Catholics, Orthodox and those of various Protestant denominations (from Baptist to Anglicans). It is surprising how often the views expressed by the non-Catholic writer are fully consistent with the Catholic position on matters – and how often the non-Catholic writers come to the defense of the Church and the Pope when attacked from the cultural and political left. This exhibits what is to be gained by all parties in such dialogue.

  14. mpm says:

    Re: practical ecumenism.

    Not to mention the fact that you begin to recognize who your true friends

  15. RichR says:

    Hey! Jeffrey Tucker is there. That’s him in the first photo. As I mentioned before, if you get a chance, Fr. Z., tell him Rich Rychetsky from the Brazos Valley Schola Cantorum says “Hi.”

  16. Veritas says:

    Free Trade is Fair Trade, the alternative in inefficiency which results in waste and condemns poor people to be trapped in overcrowded occupations. Not for nothing was Adam Smith a Professor of Moral Philosophy.

  17. ckdexterhaven says:

    Islam, markets and a free society. That sounds interesting!

  18. Clare Krishan says:

    Fr. Z. any chance that Fr. Sirico would shine some light on the Caritas Christi issue as a business ethics case? Amy Welborn has a post
    where I mentioned your interest in these tricky moral cases (the scholastics of Salamanca being concerned as confessors whether the mercantilist pillagers deserved to be shriven, no?)

    Also your fellow Acton U. alum Denis Ambrose is the cousin of Jen Ambrose (see my comment re:Good Friday in China)
    perhaps worth making yourself known to each other?

  19. cthemfly25 says:

    Acton and Father Sirico do yeoman’s work in promoting a Catholic/Christian culture built upon our greatest gift from God—our freedom.

  20. LarryD says:

    Fr Z – heard you on Al Kresta’s show Thursday afternoon. Glad to see you took my advice ;-)

    You sounded great and spot on. God bless you, esp. throughout the Year For Priests!

  21. thomas says:

    thanks for blogging about the conference. my son is attending and loving every minute of it.

  22. Mark says:

    I’m sorry, but if this “free market” idea is in anyway associated with the scourge of Capitalism in any form, I must as a Catholic strongly disagree.

    Has anyone heard of the Michael Journal and Social Credit?

    The movie Money As Debt?

    Any of Fr Coughlin’s material? ANY of the social encyclicals of the Pope?

    Catholics should be communitarians, not “conservatives” in the two-axes definition.

    I fear this is why publications like America have such an easy time equating us with just being a mouthpiece of Republican politics, instead of an independent moral voice. After all, so many otherwise good orthodox Catholics jump on the “american conservative” Republican Rush-Limbaugh agenda when it comes to immigrants, the economy, the Constitution, war and militarism, etc

    Too many Catholics think that economic conservatism has to go with moral/social conservatism. Maybe “liberal” economic approaches (ie, a welfare state) are not the answer, but Alternative or Third Way economic systems certainly may be.

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