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Acton Notes - February 2009

Stewardship Curriculum Receives Praise

The Effective Stewardship curriculum and study guide has received generous praise from religious figures and church leaders across the United States. Thanks to a generous grant, a sample DVD and guide was sent to thousands of Protestant churches and organizations, and Catholic parishes and organiza tions last summer. The task was a monumental effort and could not have been completed without the help of many on the Acton Institute staff.

The Effective Stewardship curriculum provides a manageable, five-week study for small groups or larger auditorium classes. It will help Christians to think economically and to avoid many common economic pitfalls. And it will help them to under- stand that Christian stewardship touches every aspect of our lives.

Charles W. Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, called the curriculum “a great piece of work which has filled in a lot of the blanks in my own thinking.” Colson also praised the Acton publi cation Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, calling it “nothing less than a masterpiece.”

Among the various responses and feedback the Acton Institute received, there was a constant theme of thankfulness and time- liness for the materials that were sent out. Christian clergy were excited to receive faith-oriented material on the subjects of tal ents, environment, fellow man, church and family, and finances that all offered a fresh and thoughtful perspective. Another strength of the curriculum is that it greatly encourages dialogue and discussion within study groups that utilize the material.

Zondervan, a very distinguished publishing compa ny is planning to market the curriculum, giving it an even greater reach. The curriculum is becoming an essential tool for religious leaders to learn more about the Acton Institute, and will be invaluable for educating congregants across the country. To find out more about the DVD curriculum and to view the main trailer and the individual trailers for each lesson, go to www.effectivestewardship.com.

Is Capitalism Dead?

Rev. Robert A. Sirico was interviewed on Ave Maria Radio on January 8 by host Al Kresta. He was asked about the remarks made by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor who said that “Capitalism has died.” Rev. Sirico countered by saying, “The free enterprise system, when constructed upon an ethical center, is the system that should be seen as recommended to people who come out of the system of socialism.” Rev. Sirico noted that many of the economic problems associated with the current crisis were not caused by free markets, but rather government inter vention. He cited the government’s involvement of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as root causes of our current financial woes.

Sirico declared that if free markets are in fact dead, “We should all mourn.” He added, “It is the free economy that raised people out of pov erty internationally. It is free markets creating access to work, trade, globalization that has raised people out of poverty without even intending, but socialism has left the largest piles of bodies of any ideology or movement in history over the last century.” Rev. Robert Sirico warned against a radical capitalism without morality, referenc ing the thoughts of John Paul II in Centesimus Annus. Michael Miller, director of programs at the Acton Institute also weighed in on the remarks by Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor in a commentary where he explained how John Paul II illustrated “the important truth that markets are fundamen tally human relationships,” and “how markets “have a moral dimension.” The Acton Institute is always ready to counter well meaning yet poten tially harmful economic proclamations.

Remembering Neuhaus

The Acton Institute and Rev. Robert Sirico were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a long time friend, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus on January 8. Neuhaus is well known for his astounding 1984 book: The Naked Public Square, and his jour nal First Things. Neuhaus argued in The Naked Public Square that religious faith and ideas were wrongfully being diminished and excluded from society. “His legacy is rich: at once intellectual, political and spiritual; his prose was unfailingly engaging and his thought deep and probing. His insights into the moral foundations of the American experiment remind one of the work of another New York priest, John Courtney Murray, SJ,” said Rev. Sirico.

A Special Thank You

As we begin 2009, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support over the last year. The Acton Institute has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and we have enjoyed working with you to defend freedom and virtue these past ninteen years. We know how important every dollar is, especially during these difficult economic times, and we deeply appreci ate every one that was generously donated. Also, please know that your investment is making a last ing impact. This year, with your help and encour agement, we were able to continue the success of our multimedia endeavors with The Birth of Freedom and our Effective Stewardship curriculum, expand our critical work with future religious leaders and business people, and fortify our scholarly research with new publications. Thank you! We could not do it without you, the supporters of the institute, and we hope our work in this new year will earn your continued confidence and friendship.

Dr. Condit Sounds Health Care Alarm

Dr. Donald P. Condit sounded the alarm for reform in the health care system at the Acton Lecture Series on January 15 by declaring “health care reform is for this generation.” Dr. Condit, who offered an impressive array of facts and figures, called the status quo and greater government takeover of the industry “an unsustainable resource consumption.” By continuing down this path, he noted, “We are only kicking the can down the road to our kids and grandkids.” He cited the horrendous future costs of current entitlements like Medicare and the stress it will put on the government because of the retiring baby-boom generation.

Dr. Condit made the case that relying on employers to provide health care is becoming an unsustain able burden as well. The system is unfair to work ers because of the inability to make positive career changes for health reasons. He cited the tax inequi ty, “where 60 percent of workers receive health ben efits tax-free and 40 percent of workers don’t, and pay taxes as well.” He criticized the lack of choice and competition that an employer-based health system breeds. Dr. Condit believes that the government could take the $250 billion subsidy currently given to employers and instead help families and indi viduals purchase private insurance, especially those who might have problems purchasing insurance because of a pre-existing medical condition.

Another area of concern that Dr. Condit put con- siderable focus on in the health care crisis is the danger of socialized medicine. “Half of health care expenditures are currently paid for by the gov- ernment now,” said Dr. Condit. While sheer cost is a grave concern under a single payer system, so is rationing, respect for life, and inefficiency. Dr. Condit stressed the duty to improve access, affordability, and the quality of care. Dr. Condit also pointed to portability, reforming the tax law, competition, and disease prevention as additional important steps to reform. A great strength of his presentation was paying attention to those who have a financial need so they are not left without options for coverage. Dr. Condit, MD, MBA, is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Acton and You

If you are in the Grand Rapids area, please make plans on joining us this year for the Acton Lecture Series at St. Cecilia’s Music Center. The next lecture will feature Acton’s director of research, Dr. Samuel Gregg. Dr. Gregg will be speaking on “America’s Economic Crisis: Looking Back, Looking Forward.” This timely and relevant lecture is scheduled for February 12. Other lecturers for 2009 are Mr. Laurence Reed, Acton’s president Rev. Robert Sirico, Mrs. Teresa Tomeo, and Mr. Michael Miller. Mr. Lawrence Reed is the former president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the new presi- dent of the Foundation for Economic Education. Mr. Reed will speak on “The Importance of Character in a Free Society.”

The Acton Lecture Series began in 1991 as a service to the local community. Through the series, the institute seeks to bring knowledgeable and thought-provoking speakers to the area, providing our local audience in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with the opportunity to interact with prominent thinkers on issues of faith and freedom. If you would like additional informa- tion concerning the lecture series, you can contact Mandalyn Keeler through the Grand Rapids office or at mkeeler@acton.org