Acton Institute responds to the Fishwrap

Acton Institute was mentioned more than once – favorably and unfavorably – at the recent USCCB meeting during discussion of a statement about economics (subsequently killed by a vote of the bishops).

Acton Institute responds to National Catholic Reporter [aka Fishwrap] article on bishops’ economic statement

Here is the comment posted this this morning on the National catholic Reporter article titled, “Statement on economy denounced by archbishop fails to pass.”

Full statement follows:

An important clarification.

Archbishop Fiorenza’s assertion that the Acton Institute views Rerum Novarum as “no longer applicable today” is incorrect. The archbishop is most likely basing this claim on a June 2012 America Magazine blog post by Vincent Miller titled, “Sirico Completely Wrong on Church’s Social Teaching.”


In the post, Miller cites an interview Fr Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, did with the New York Times on a story about Duquesne University and the attempt by adjunct professors to organize a union there. Miller claimed that Fr Sirico’s comment to the Times was “astounding in its ignorance or mendacious misrepresentation of the basis for the Church’s support for unions.”

To which Fr Sirico replied on the Acton PowerBlog:

“Anytime I can get a progressive/dissenting Catholic magazine/blog like the Jesuit-run America simultaneously to quote papal documents, defend the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, embrace the Natural Law and even yearn for a theological investigation “by those charged with oversight for the Church’s doctrine” of a writer suspected of heresy, I consider that I have had a good day.”  [ROFL!]

And further on:

Mr. Miller jumps to the conclusion that by saying that Leo’s observations of the circumstances for workers in 1891 were historically contingent, I am somehow arguing that what Leo said has no bearing today. Now, that is a particularly odd reaction because the entire thrust of Leo’s encyclical, beginning with its title, was precisely aimed at looking around at the “new things” (Rerum Novarum) [Actually, in Latin res novae means “revolution”, in a negative sense.] that were emerging in his day, and reflecting upon them in the light of Scripture, Tradition and the Natural Law. If the situation in Pittsburgh and the graduate students teaching part time courses in 2012 is remotely comparable to the subsistence living conditions under which many workers lived in the latter part of the 19th century, this has somehow escaped my notice.

Nonetheless, I am delighted to see Mr. Miller is vigilant about the Church teaching and his citations from magisterial texts; not a single line of any of those cited do I disagree with.

Read the whole thing HERE.:

John Couretas
Communications Director
Acton Institute

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. The Masked Chicken says:

    I am not sure I understand what the dust up is about. Colleges are rapidly switching to adjunct faculty, not as a cost containment for students, but as a means of reducing having to pay benefits and to escape any real justice with regards to hiring and firing faculty (adjuncts are disposable faculty). It is a form of domestic outsourcing in that faculty jobs that would normally be full time and tenured are outsourced to temporary cheap labor. The tenured professorship is going away, except for increasingly rare circumstances like hiring a Nobel Prize winner. Most colleges will fight tooth and nail to prevent adjuncts from unionizing, because then they would no longer be in a position of strict control. Unionization among skilled employees makes sense as a protective. No one is forced to join a union, but it is one way to guarantee some rights when tenure goes away.

    The Chicken

  2. acardnal says:

    ” No one is forced to join a union . . . .”

    Yes they are in many states – particularly in public sector jobs.

  3. The Masked Chicken says:

    Let me rephrase: no one can be forced to join a union (that is not to say they may not be coerced). Joining a union pre-supposes “free” assembly. If one is forced to join a union, there is another term for that: extortion.

    The Chicken

  4. The Masked Chicken says:

    Yes, that means many public sector jobs violate Catholic moral teaching. Whoda guessed?

    The Chicken

  5. acardnal says:

    The state, county and municipal jobs in my state are (until we got our new governor/legislature) public sector union jobs. The government contracted with the union. If I want a state, county or municipal job here, I have NO choice: I MUST join the stupid union.

    I also was forced to join a union in the private sector when I worked as a buss boy at a restaurant.

    No one should be forced or coerced to join a union against their will in order to work! I support
    “right to work” law and those states which are right to work. I believe there are 23 now.

  6. dominic1955 says:

    That is a hoot and so true. When published articles in dissenting magazines/blogs call for someone to be investigated for orthodoxy and go on to quote and reference pre-Vatican II popes at length, I just have to roll my eyes. Start doing this for ALL of Catholic doctrine, and maybe someone will take you seriously. If you want to start picking and choosing for your pet causes (which are often, rightly, historically or situationally conditioned) it makes the whole liberal edifice just that more laughable.

    The academic world is a joke. Tenure gave progressivist nutjobs an almost unassailable bully-pulpit from which to spread their noxious doctrines and a place to put great pressure on anyone who was on the tenure tract to knuckle under and tow their line. Having a gaggle of adjucts just goes to show how important “higher” education really is. Its like the move from individual craftsmen to wholesale stores. Get in line, plunk down your cash, receive (usually inferior) product.

    As to unions, is this right really unassailable? The popes speak of a natural right to organize and the like, but this obviously does not apply to every sort of society and organization. Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI very explicitly had it in mind that this support towards worker organizing was no support towards leftist labor organizations or other non-/anti-Catholic labor groups. There is also the issue of whether unions have grown long in the tooth and takes on a life of its own. From my own experience and the stories I’ve been told by reputable sources, unionizing at times seems to have a similar effect on industries as collectivization-though for different reasons. Why is anyone going to have any real drive or reason to excercise some creativity if they are getting $30 an hour and full benefits to push a button? How can anyone stay in business having to dole out that kind of scratch for people to do practically nothing? Does Catholic social teaching really advocate such a soul-crushing outlook on labor and economic life? I think not. People have a right to organize, people do not have a right to have their every trifling demand fulfilled.

    Same with the Obamacare “insurance for all” nonsense. Sure, sounds good on the surface (everyone gets insurance) but then, praytell, who is going to foot the bill? Businesses that have any sense are not going to have full time employees that could just as easily be made part-time. Money doesn’t grow on trees.

  7. acricketchirps says:

    How can I get a job as a buss boy. Bussing is one of my very favorite things to do! And you can get money for it?

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    “The academic world is a joke. Tenure gave progressivist nutjobs an almost unassailable bully-pulpit from which to spread their noxious doctrines and a place to put great pressure on anyone who was on the tenure tract to knuckle under and tow their line. Having a gaggle of adjucts just goes to show how important “higher” education really is. Its like the move from individual craftsmen to wholesale stores. Get in line, plunk down your cash, receive (usually inferior) product.”

    I have no idea what you mean. It is true, perhaps, in English, sociology, psychology, art, and history departments (i.e., most humanities), that there are certain political leanings that come into play in the selection process, although I can’t speak from any first-hand knowledge (so, perhaps my sense of things is wrong), but I have never seen this happen in music or science. The hiring committees care about publication history, grant funding, prizes won, etc. Most tenure-track performance-based fields have no time to get involved with politics – what would it gain them? The time it takes to get involved with politics could be time taken to write another paper or two or write a million dollar grant proposal or practice for a recital. That is how they gain standing and respect in their fields.

    Now, after someone gets tenure, things might change, but I find only certain fields politicized to any degree (mostly, humanities).

    As for adjuncts being inferior – that is simply silly. I know two clarinetists of equal ability. Both have doctorates. Both studied under legends in the field. There are 300 applicants for a single job opening in performance. Once you get your foot in the door, things usually go well (if you apply yourself), but what about the other equally talented people? This other person adjuncted at 4 different colleges. In no way did the students receive a substandard education from the person who was forced to adjunct. I know both of these people. I was in graduate school in musicology when they were undergrads and I played in many ensembles with them.

    I know retired professors who make extra money as adjunct. Some of them just like to teach and don’t miss the pressure of full-time life. Adjuncts, as a rule, are closer to the students and are more polished in their teaching styles. Full-time science faculty are focusing, increasingly, on research.

    The rule, however, since the beginning of the university system, has been for full-time faculty. Teaching is a vocation, not a hobby. That some are only able to fulfill this vocation on a part-time basis due to no fault of their own is like having a part-time nun. I am not talking about the monetary aspect, but the idea that teaching and research is a genuine vocation, and yet, in the increasingly crass world in which we live, even vocations have become a mere commodity to be bought and sold. As I say, adjuncts are just another form of outsourcing for a modern university system that no longer cares for the pursuit of knowledge, but for the pursuit of dollars. Many colleges are adopting a business model instead of an educational model as their operating principle. It is the colleges that have made students a mere means to an end. That has cheapened education while the college administrations get rich. Most adjuncts are poor folk trying to do what they love. I have no problem with them unionizing.

    The Chicken

  9. LisaP. says:

    At the risk of bringing up a touchy subject, I recently had a talk with a smart, good lady who had a biochemistry degree from a prominent California university. I told her I teach the scientific precepts of creation science as well as intelligent design and standard Darwinian evolution theory. It was a total conversation stopper. She told me she simply couldn’t go there, because she was a scientist and believed that science should be explained with science. I asked her which scientific assertions of creation science she disagreed with. She said, “That the Bible must be read literally as saying the Earth was created in 7 days.” I said, no, not which faith assertions — which scientific assertions. She was not only unable to list scientific assertions that creation scientists are wrong about (there are textbooks full of them), she was unable to comprehend that creation scientists used the scientific method and data collection at all.

    It seems to me that politics, culture, and religion are very much a part of science at the university level. I am totally good with a university professor being able to calmly explain to me how the science of intelligent design or creation science is completely wrong. I am weirded out by the seeming lack of curiosity about another theory of the universe, the inclination to shut down inquiry instead of addressing it, the acceptance of the idea that someone can live their life on the basis of “science” but make judgments on fields based on no data whatsoever.

    My friend felt she didn’t need to figure out for herself that creation scientists or intelligent design scientists were wrong or, in fact, not scientists at all — people she trusted (her professors) told her. And, likely, someone they trusted told them. Is this the way scientists operate in a system where there is little political, cultural or religious influence?

    Seriously asking your opinion.

  10. LisaP. says:

    Oh, and that’s just one extreme example. How many tenured professors in the sciences are willing to entertain other ways of thinking regarding, say, the eugenics practiced on Downs Syndrome fetuses? How about the other thrid rail, climate change? That study a while back about how chemical contraception might be altering the progress of mating choices, that wasn’t an outlier? How come this is the first we’ve heard of it in 40 years of the Pill? In medical research, very university based, isn’t there an overwhelming amount of politics and culture warring?

  11. LisaP. says:

    For the record, too, I’m a nut case who thinks the solution is not unions but tearing down the whole university system and letting the guys who would work as adjuncts band together and rent an empty strip mall and set up their own shop to practice their vocations following a guild organization. So, guess I disqualify myself from intelligent conversation on this topic! :)

  12. wmeyer says:

    I told her I teach the scientific precepts of creation science as well as intelligent design and standard Darwinian evolution theory.

    LisaP, I’m sure she considers the theory to be settled science, as well, and not the theory which remains.

  13. dominic1955 says:

    Thank you for pointing out my rather disjointed post. I should have proof read my random thoughts before hitting the “post” button.

    Your last paragraph is basically what I was getting at. We (Catholic) began the university system. A university (or any institution of higher learning) should be all about the actual development and enrichment of the human person, in this case, primarily through knowledge. Part of a truly holistic approach will also obviously look to foster physical and spiritual (i.e. cultivating the virtures, combating the vices) well-being. I meant no disrespect towards adjuncts, I’ve had great one when I was in school. What I meant is that the schools are more interested in churning out degrees than actually educating people. They want to get the most bang for their buck. The adjunct might be brilliant or they might be dull but either way they are putting bodies in classrooms to give grades to other bodies that are pumping the funds into the school.

    Its also not merely about merit or grant writing. I hope this isn’t universally applicable. but it seems to me you’d be pretty hard pressed not to find the staff of most schools as entrenched lefties. Humanities its pretty much a granted, but like LisaP. alluded to, many of the science folks are hard headed Darwinists and crude materialists. The love of knowledge is dying, replaced by a tyranny of loyalties to vain opinions! None are so dogmatic (in the perjorative sense) and anti-thought than the new inquisitors of the usurper orthodoxies.

    Higher education should not be primarily about getting a job skill or work permit, as degrees are pretty much these days. I’ve worked with a variety of people who have advanced degrees and I am continually jaded by the realization that many these people are not “educated” in any classical sense of the term but rather white collar work-permit equipped! It seems to me these folks never learned how to think but rather just how to push paper or just do certain things in order to get a well paid career. This is a travesty and makes it very clear to me why we are in the dire straits we are in societally.

    We have the collective smug self-righteousness of thinking our era has progressed so far beyond past eras. In reality, we still have the rabble but the rabble has the hubris of thinking that it has attained what only a select few in the past ever did. Sure, they have their parchment but it strikes me as having a greenback vs. a gold dollar. Both are dollars, sure, and might have the same face value but I know which one I’d rather have.

  14. acardnal says:

    acricketchirps, I know, I know. sic: bus.

    Another nice advantage of being a bus boy – besides bussing – is that the waitress had to share her tips with you. But most of that $$$ was used to pay my union dues anyway. LOL.

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    “It seems to me that politics, culture, and religion are very much a part of science at the university level.”

    You have to make a distinction between teaching and research. In research, many researchers chase the almighty grant funding, no matter where it comes from. Many researchers simply have poor to no training in philosophy, metaphysics, or moral theology, so they can’t make the distinctions that properly connect their science to the public at large. More than that, advancement comes from publication and grant history. Universities like to see lots of both – the bigger the better and they don’t usually care where they come from. Still, science is a self-correcting mechanism and there is only so long that a falsehood will stand, unexposed. What is done with the science from that point, onward, is usually not in the hands of scientists. Jacob Brownowski, in his documentary, The Ascent of Man warned against scientists who get into bed with power. Speaking of John von Neumann, the famous mathematician, he said:

    “… he wasted the last years of his life. He never finished the great work that has been very difficult to carry on since his death. And he did not, really because he gave up asking himself how other people see things. He became more and more engaged in work for private firms, for industry, for government. They were enterprises which brought him to the centre of power, but which did not advance either his knowledge or his intimacy with people… “

    With regards to teaching, perhaps in the biological sciences these sorts of questions come up in the classroom, but not so much in the physical sciences. There is barely enough time to get through the material, not to say make comments on cultural topics. They completely disappear at the graduate level.

    However, you raise an interesting topic. In your friend’s case, I think she just assumed that someone had already done the work and it was outside of her interest to read the literature. She should have, honestly said, “It doesn’t really interest me, but I could do research, if you want,” and then given you a literature citation or two. I often have to assume the standard answers are correct outside of my fields, since I don’t have time to re-invent the wheel in every discipline and when someone asks about, say, meteorology, I send them to certain books or websites. If the topic has a direct theological implication, it usually perks up my ears, but that cannot be said for the atheist scientist in the foxhole.

    Now, I have had Creationists in my classroom and we have had discussions, outside of the classroom, but, then, I am an odd duck (isn’t that what a chicken is?), since I engage in Catholic apologetics. I can’t, normally, really discuss either politics or religion in the classroom, because I neither have time, nor do I want to hear from the higher-ups. Unlike in English classrooms where, it seems, every Freshman class writes an essay on abortion or some other controversial topic, these things do not usually happen in a physical science classroom. Again, this is more of an interest problem than a discipline problem. Most scientists just want to be left alone to work on their little corner of things. Those heavy into teaching, who see the effects of science on society, while they would like to engage students on these topics, usually find themselves handicapped by administration policies, or the simple fact that most students are not, themselves really very informed.

    As for the adjunct storefront university – I have heard it suggested many times. I actually like the idea, although I don’t know how that would get accredited.

    The Chicken

  16. The Masked Chicken says:

    As for scientist being to the left, well, it was leftist-leaning Richard Feynman who bucked the status quo and exposed the complicity of NASA management in the first space shuttle disaster:

    “For a successful technology,” reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

    Many scientists are politically liberal because they confuse freedom in scientific research with moral freedom. Most scientists have poor training in the philosophical disciplines, so make often mistake efficient causes for final causes (see Ed Feser’s, The Last Supersitition, for a discussion, or google, Four Causes).

    The Chicken

  17. mysticalrose says:

    Off topic, but . . . did any one else click through to the NCR “call to action” article? There is a giant nun puppet and a banner with “aggiornamento” printed on it. Seriously?! Hello CTA? The 60’s want their stuff back!

  18. LisaP. says:

    But Feynman was a long time ago, wasn’t he, when left kind of meant an ideology instead of a conformity?

    Are you saying that teaching scientists at university level aren’t more or less likely to be left (and secular) or are you just saying that they are largely left and secular but it doesn’t affect their work because an element has the same number of electrons whether I’m a Democrat or a Republican?

  19. wmeyer says:

    But Feynman was a long time ago, wasn’t he, when left kind of meant an ideology instead of a conformity?

    Sheesh! Not all that long ago, as he was on the panel for the Challenger disaster, which was, after all, 1986. But your point is a good one. Of JFK were alive today, the current Dems would have nothing to do with him–too conservative.

  20. wmeyer says:

    Let’s see, who to trust…. Fr. Sirico or Vincent Miller? ROFL! I nothing in Mr. Miller’s bona fides which suggests any particular areas of competence apart from theology, and post-Vatican II, the majority of theologians have left me unimpressed. All the more for being a contributor to Amerika.

  21. LisaP. says:

    I’m coming to terms with the idea that the 70s and 80s were a long time ago. . . . . sigh. . . . . . the country song that sings about cutting open Stretch Armstrong to see what he is made of gits me. . . .

  22. pj_houston says:

    I’m not surprised at all by the objections of AB Fiorenza, he’s long been part of the problem here in Houston. You know its not a good sign when commenters at the fishwrap are in your corner. Just recently he allowed the funeral of State Sen. Mario Gallegos to be held at our Co-Cathedral. Sen. Gallegos had a rating of 100% from the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and was a well known proponent of laws favoring abortion. A real Ted Kennedy moment.

  23. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Are you saying that teaching scientists at university level aren’t more or less likely to be left (and secular) or are you just saying that they are largely left and secular but it doesn’t affect their work because an element has the same number of electrons whether I’m a Democrat or a Republican?”

    There are many scientists who are religious, but hide the fact because the prevailing intelligentsia are materialists. This was the conclusion of a recent study.

    Now, regardless of whether on believes in God or not, it was He who established the laws of a nature and every time a scientist acknowledges theses laws, he acknowledges God, whether he knows it or not. St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) said: “Those who search for truth are searching or God, whether they know it or not.”

    The problem is that with regards to how a particular scientific discovery impacts society, some scientists stop looking for truth and look for expediency.

    The Chicken

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