The “Wile E. Coyote of contemporary liberal catholicism” rides again!

wile-e-coyote helpEvery once in a while the Wile E. Coyote of contemporary liberal catholicism over at Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) goes on a venom bender.

Michael Sean Winters can last a few weeks without bashing Acton Institute and then he falls off the wagon.   This week he’s been on Acton Institute’s case twice… twice already, that is.  HERE and HERE

MSW can’t stand Acton Institute.   He once wrote, “I confess that the mere mention of the words ‘Acton Institute’ get my teeth on edge.”

Nay rather, MSW can’t stand the people involved with Acton Institute.   For MSW, anyone who supports expansive and dynamic free markets is labelled as a Randian who hates the poor and, *GASP*, a… I can hardly bring myself to write it… libertarian!

In today’s assault on Acton, MSW goes giddy over an article at Commonweal by David Bentley Hart, an Orthodox theologian.   He all but swoons over Hart’s prose, especially when Hart allegedly sticks it to Acton Institute’s Sam Gregg.

Here is some chronology, as far as I can make it out.

  1. David Bentley Hart has an article praising Pope Francis in the December 2015 First Things.  HERE
  2. Sam Gregg of Acton responds to Hart, also in December 2015, at Public Discourse. HERE
  3. Hart writes another piece at First Things in June 2016. HERE
  4. Gregg responds again at Public Discourse. HERE
  5.  On 27 September 2016 Hart writes something for that bastion of fidelity Commonweal in which he refers to Gregg’s writings for “Public Interest” (getting the name wrong, but that’s no nevermind I guess).  HERE
  6. MSW swoons over Hart at Fishwrap, today, 3 October 2016.  HERE

But wait!  There’s more.


An AUTHENTIC “Acton Institute” pen given to me PERSONALLY by Fr. Robert Sirico of, yes, ACTON INSTITUTE!

You will want to read Edward Feser’s demolition of Hart’s 2015 piece at Public Discourse in April 2015.  HERE


Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has some kind of hang-up about Thomism. It leads him to do strange things. Two years ago, in First Things, Hart put forward a poorly reasoned critique of the Thomistic natural law approach to ethics. As his critics pointed out at the time, among the foibles of the piece was Hart’s conflation of the “new natural law” theory of thinkers such as John Finnis and Robert P. George with the “old natural law” approach of writers such as Ralph McInerny and Russell Hittinger. When the difference between these views is understood, Hart’s critique collapses.

Rather than trying to answer this objection and extricate himself from the hole he’d gotten himself into, Hart kept digging, relentlessly reiterating his fallacious conflation in a series of sometimes dyspeptic replies to his critics.


And be sure to catch Dylan Pahman’s razing of the Hart piece so lauded today from the swooning couch, also at Public Discourse today, 3 October 2016.  HERE


Yet another AUTHENTIC Acton Institute pen, perhaps similar to the one with which Sam Gregg penned his most recent book For God and Profit: How Banking and Finance Can Serve the Common Good – UK HERE


In a recent article in Commonweal, “Christ’s Rabble: The First Christians Were Not Like Us,” Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has doubled down on his controversial claims about the Christian view of wealth and poverty. He claims, like a caricature of the Protestants he unfairly dismisses, that the New Testament is on his side because he can read it in Greek. Well, so can I, and so can basically every theologian who has ever disagreed with Hart’s position. Fluency in Greek does not make one an authority on the New Testament or early Christianity.

The poverty of Hart’s hermeneutic can be seen by examining the sparsely substantiated claims he makes about the earliest Christians. Hart believes that “the New Testament … condemns great personal wealth not merely as a moral danger, but as an intrinsic evil.” Hart dismisses every New Testament qualification of this claim as being countered by a more absolute reading of other passages that has apparently escaped all other Christian readers for the last 2,000 years. In reality, Hart’s view cannot be found among early Christians.


Dylan Pahman is also Orthodox, as is Hart.

Poor MSW.  He seems to have taken to someone whom one of my correspondents describes as a gnostic with his own secret knowledge that trumps 2000 years of reflection on Scripture.

I got a “trump” in there.  I just want one more…


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    A few sad Commonsqueal stories.

    Their Web site publishes an article explaining that racism “is non-negotiable,” and that no one could ever vote for a racist candidate. Fine. In the comments section, however, I asked how many readers voted have voted against FDR in 1944 because of his very racist internment Japanese-Americans. They were not amused. Defenses of FDR usually involve the logical fallacy of “special pleading.”

    A recent article asks if Trump will respect the results of the election. A few months ago, the magazine published an article expressing hope that “faithless electors” in the Electoral College could “stop Trump” even if he wins majorities or pluralities in states. I suggested that the editors are suffering from a complete lack of self-awareness.

    In response to hysterical articles about Trump, I frequently recall an article they published in 2012 by Jeff Madrick on how the 2012 election “was the most important since 1932,” and that Obama had to win re-election.

  2. majuscule says:

    Oh do go over to the Fishwrap and check out their new “peer reviewed” “civil” commenting apparatus. I think it will be a hoot.

    I was able to sign up using an email address that Fr. Z found suspicious when I tried it here when I first tried to register (and I don’t blame him). And they didn’t even ask me to verify it.

  3. Pingback: TUESDAY EDITION | Big Pulpit

  4. JonPatrick says:

    Ever notice how Wile E Coyote never actually falls until after he has looked down and realized that there is nothing holding him up.

    I am waiting for the moment when the modernists/deists in the church finally realize there is nothing holding them up either. At least for them God is there with the safety net if they realize in time and ask for it.

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Acton Institute.

  6. iprimap says:

    Overall I like the Acton Institute and its work. But sometimes its researchers go anti-nuclear power because they misunderstand the Price Anderson Act, the impact of Regulatory strangulation from the US NRC on the commercial nuclear power industry, and how that necessitated DOE funding to get new reactor designs licensed (I had a run-in with one of their apologists).

    I also have issue with using the NIV for their Stewardship Study Bible:

    Why not a good Catholic translation -RSVCE? Perhaps because of the Presbyterians who work there (no offense to any Presbyterians – I have good friends of that persuasion).

    But no matter. Acton does far more good than the not so good in my little objections.

  7. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    What an interesting-looking list of debate in public discourse – about ‘first things’ (among others, from the look of it), though one that looks like it will take some attentive reading! I’ve read various interesting DHB things (mostly, indeed, at First Things) down the years, but have somehow missed all this. And have read various things by John Finnis and Robert P. George with delight and instruction, while having no sense of Ralph McInerny and Russell Hittinger… Thanks for what looks like a lot of good exercise for ‘the little grey cells’ (though MSW does look haplessly tangential to it all).

  8. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    Whenever MSW writes, fill the comment boxes with “Who are you to judge?”

    Remind him that Frances Kissling citing theologians Dan Maguire and Rosemary Reuther proved that Vatican II was all about respecting personal conscience, meaning that people can believe what they want to believe. .

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Sirico’s book was great, looking forward to Sam Gregg’s.

    Those pens look to be “high-speed and low-drag.” I bet Sam Gregg was wielding one when triumphantly jousting with Hart.

    And I do believe I heard: Acton Institute!

  10. JustaSinner says:

    May lay persons come to Acton Institute seminars?

    [Oh yes! They are primarily attended by lay people, many who are not Catholic.]

Comments are closed.