Acton U 2013: Day 1 (with UPDATES)

I am once again participating in Acton University. This is a wonderful few days.

There are swarms of people this year, I think last night the announcer said 1300 people from 85 countries.


Fr. Robert Sirico gave the opening address.


Over the years I have made some friends among the Action staff and some of the regular participants. It is great to see everyone again. Here is one fellow you might know: Michael Voris. I will be working to convert him away from his dependance on Richard McBrien (you remember my exclusive super double top secret investigative report deep into the secrets of Church Militant, right? HERE).


Kidding aside, Michael is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and his coworkers are outstanding.

This morning we have Mass scheduled for 7:15 in the Extraordinary Form. Then breakfast. Then the work begins. (Before someone asks, yes, they have Ordinary Form too.)

I’ll post some notes during the day as time permits.


First lecture was on Newman as a liberal and as a conservative in politics and economics.


The candy store is open!



The venue is across the river from the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. Interesting visit!


Next lecture: Origins of Economics: The Scriptures and Early Church Fathers on Wealth and Poverty


Class on the school of Salamanca, then Why Augustine matters?


Our speaker is Marina Nemat.

Look her up.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. John of Chicago says:

    or “summary”–works both ways for me.

  2. Jim says:

    “Michael is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet “

    Fr Z, ‘nice’ is probably not the word Mr Voris would like himself to be called. He is acutely aware of the etymology of that word (late 13c., “foolish, stupid, senseless,” from Old French nice (12c.) “careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish,” from Latin nescius “ignorant, unaware,” literally “not-knowing,” from ne- “not” (see un-) + stem of scire “to know” (see science))

    Add to that the fact that he is a hammer of the “Church of nice”.

  3. dmreed says:

    Ah come on Father, do you know how upset it makes Mark Shea, Samcha Fischer et al every time you try to “mainstream” “extremist” Catholics like Michael Vorhis? They litterally have to be exploding everytime you post a picture of Vorhis on your site, especially considering the number of visitors your site receives each day. Don’t you realize your posts like this are doing nothing for the concerted effort to black ball Vorhis (and all who associate with him) from all respectable Catholic people and activities? Come on Father, get with the program. Didn’t you get the Archdiocese of Detroit memo? Don’t you realize that Vorhis peddles an un-nuanced version of Catholicism, and if there is one good thing VII did, it was to add nuance to Catholic teaching. And don’t you realize that Vorhis once was seen in public with someone who once expressed the idea that Jews have to convert to Christ for salvation, and don’t you realize that Holocaust denying is a mortal sin?

    (Sorry, Father, couldn’t resist the sarcasm; I love your work and I love Michael Vorhis’ work too. Keep doing a great job.)

    [First, he spells his name “Voris”. Second, are you suggesting that Vatican II did only one good thing and that is the example you give? “Nuance”?]

  4. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “Michael is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and his coworkers are outstanding.”

    I have been on retreats with Michael as presenter and at other conferences he has given. He is exactly as you say, Fr. Z. :) Co-workers, too!


  5. eiggam says:

    Enjoy your time in Grand Rapids. They are a happy city having won the Calder cup in Hockey. There will be a big celebration tonight.

  6. acardnal says:

    Fr. Z, you should check out the President Ford Museum while you are there. I saw something about it on C-SPAN when they were visiting all of the Presidential Libraries, and it looked very interesting.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    I am pea-green with envy…………………

  8. ocalatrad says:

    While the conference does seem like it’d be quite fun and thought-provoking, I’m a little leery of the Acton Institute for the reasons elucidated on the Distributist Review. It seems like an attempt to wed liberal free-market ideas under the apparent guise of Catholic social thought. Too often the free-market camp veers into amoral libertarianism and economic determinism, as if the market was guided by immutable laws just as motion is guided by the laws of physics.

  9. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Distributism has been promoted by holy people, but so has capitalism and other economic systems.

    In His parables, Jesus certainly seemed to assume buyers and sellers, absentee landowners (like God) and tenants, lords and servants, debtors and owners of debts, investment with interest… so there’s clearly a lot of room for discussion on these sorts of issues.

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: absentee landlords, I was referring to Jesus’ parable about the non-living-in vineyard owner, which of course was also based on Isaiah’s song of the vineyard. Strictly speaking, this would mean that God was not a distributist, since He had tenants on His land instead of working the grapes Himself.

    Of course, you could also argue that the whole situation was forced on God by Israel’s distancing of Him, or that Jesus is showing us that absentee landlordism isn’t a bright plan unless you’re God and prepared to die as part of it. But there you go — a lot of room for discussion.

  11. alanphipps says:

    “[Right on schedule here come the distributists!]”

    In fairness, not all distributists will jump on this here bandwagon! [They’ve got their own.]

    Fr. Z., I believe Dr. John Pinheiro is speaking at Acton U this year. Be sure to talk to him about the cool things he is doing at Aquinas College.

  12. ocalatrad says:

    I’m curious as to what is particularly objectionable about distributism. I grapple with these economic questions quite often.

  13. TomG says:

    ocalatrad: the only thing “objectionable” I’ve ever been able to figure out about distributism is that, according to the naysayers, it “doesn’t work.”

  14. inexcels says:

    My problem with distributism is that the sources I’ve read describing it basically make it sound like subsistence farming. Which means either the sources I read did a poor job of describing it, or it’s a terrible idea.

    As far as the notion that “the problem with capitalism is there aren’t enough capitalists,” though, I’m entirely on board with that.

  15. Father Z, the conference looks like a great time, the talks, the attendees, the ‘candy’. Glad to see the growing attendance. Drat, I’m sorely wishing I could be there too.
    Voris is a kind man, courageous, but kind.

  16. contrarian says:

    Duly noting that I’m lobbing tomatoes from the peanut gallery, I might also point out that E. Michael Jones, whom Michael Voris has had on his interview show as a guest, has written some rather scathingly fun stuff about the Acton Institute. Just to point out that rather ironic connection. Not that everyone has to endorse everyone else’s views, of course. :)
    But those interested have access to google. :)

  17. Tomato lobbers rarely contribute helpfully to conversations.

  18. “Voris is a kind man, courageous, but kind.”

    Courageous AND kind. The two are not inherently opposed, and the truly courageous souls are always kind. Anyway, as I’ve said elsewhere, Michael has more courage in his pinky finger than most “Establishment Catholics” have in their whole bodies.

  19. dmreed says:

    Oh gosh, my apologies for misspelling Mr. Voris’ name. I guess what I’m suggesting is my thought that some pretty harsh and unfair criticism was lobbed at you two some some time ago (and may still be being lobbed, for all I know). It was almost laughable, had the criticism not been so unjust. As to Vatican II, it was a beautiful thing with many goods, so long as it is properly understood through a hermeneutic of continuity, as they say.

    I guess my last comment was a poor attempt at being facetious and was totally off topic; my apologies.
    As to Acton, they’ve always seemed like a great organization. As to distributism, I’ve always interpreted it as “capitalism properly understood” and have seen any conflict between capitalism and distributism as unnecessary.
    Thank you Father for allowing me to comment at your blog.

  20. Imrahil says:

    Dear @TomG,

    hm… being a Catholic metaphysics-upholder (no special expertise, but I do know there actually is such thing and that is much these days), I can only say: so what. I will not bow to this upstart in authority which is called “reality”; nay, rather perish.

    I always regret it when people say that socialism did not work. The right says “socialism, sorry folks, did not work”. The left says “socialism, oh how good would it have been, but it did not work”. I say the fact that socialism, after all, has, if it is no tragic hero, at least joined the tragic heroes where they are now, is perhaps the only charming thing about out it.

    What Chesterton meant when he said “wanted: an unpractical man”, I fully endorse. Including of course, joking aside, the practical benefits of an unpractical man.

    That aside, I am no distributist meaning that in the sense that I cannot claim any substantial knowledge of distributism. Even so, I think I do not follow the insistence of distributists to be just as distinct from capitalism as from socialism.

    Nevertheless, why did distributism not work? First, because having sort of a bad name it was not recognized when it appeared. (Distributism, while it may be among other things about distributive justice, is not about distribution; it is to my understanding about a sound, natural and Catholic economy based on private property and the just price, which at the present (i. e. 1920s) time perhaps requires a one-time distribution of some goods. This distribution, while according to distributists it is a requirement for distributism to start going, is not a part of distributism running. There certainly were distributist measures.

    Second, because there is a “union through free-trade” movement around which, also in the face of at least so-perceived immigration-into-social-systems, keeps cutting off distributist achievements (on national scale), once again, in favor of global capitalism (in the distributists).

    Let C be a currency. I know a country where, one time, each citizen were given 60 C to have personally and each company 60 C per head of workforce. All other fortunes, if in money and not in “real things”, were not very far from annulled (C was a new currency). The same country, which at that time was among the have-nots, got a large sum by one of the haves, the United States of America, to her eternal reward and the said country’s gratitude. The same country still has in its law system paragraphs that favor workers owning stocks in their own companies, and proletarians forming a fortune by not spending earnt money, mainly through tax discounts.

    As it were, the country thrived.

    Perhaps because “distributism does not work”, this was and keeps being called a miracle.

    (And the moral of the story? To make distributism [or at least distributist-sounding measures] work, it helps to win the Soccer World Championship. :-) )

  21. Imrahil says:

    in favor of global capitalism (in the distributists).

    That should read:
    “in the distributists’ sense”.

  22. Imrahil says:

    (Comment above was an addition to a comment in moderation.)

  23. Norah says:

    I would have loved to hear the talk on the school of Salamanca and Augustine. Do you know if there will be a transcript?

  24. introibo says:

    Thanks Contrarian for mentioning The Church and the Libertarian by Christopher Ferrara. This is a formidable volume which cannot simply be pooh-poohed.

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