Acton Notes - January/February 2013 Notes

Acton Experts Sought on Pope Francis

On March 13, the College of Cardinals selected a new pope, the Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name Pope Francis. His papal title pays tribute to Saint Francis of Assisi, who devoted his life to poverty, shunning materialism and worldly comforts. Pope Francis is widely known for his humble simplicity, preferring to take public transportation and cook his own meals.

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope. In 1998 he became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and in 2001 was elevated to the office of cardinal. Pope Francis is the first pope from South America and the Western Hemisphere.

Rev. Robert Sirico, Dr. Samuel Gregg, Kishore Jayabalan, and Michael Severence were all in Rome when the announcement was made and spent the week offering commentary to American and international news outlets. Acton experts have appeared on BBC World News, CNBC, Fox News, CBS News, and many other television, radio, and print news sources.

Rev. Sirico released the following statement about Bergoglio: "Pope Francis is a man of great spirituality who is known for his commitment to doctrinal orthodoxy as well as for his simplicity of life. Like Benedict XVI, he combines concern for the poor with an insistence that it's not the Church's responsibility to be a political actor or to prescribe precise solutions to economic problems. In that regard, he's a model for all Catholic bishops and clergy throughout the world."

Earlier, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would resign from the papal seat at the end of February. As experts on Pope Benedict's thought and theology, a host of Acton staff were called on to discuss the pope's reasons for resigning. With the announcement of the new Pope, the Acton Institute broke all records for web and mobile traffic on the Website for March 13. You can follow the latest Acton coverage of Pope Francis on the Website at

Rev. Robert Sirico at Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought

Rev. Robert Sirico was invited to participate in The Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought's Sixth Annual Great Debate on Monday, Jan. 28. The debate took place on the campus of the The University of Colorado at Boulder. It sought to answer the question: "Can the free market adequately care for the poor?" Fr. Peter Mussett, pastor of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center and director of campus ministries, moderated the debate, with Rev. Sirico arguing in the affirmative against Michael Sean Winters, a writer for National Catholic Reporter. It was a five-part debate with opening statements, a chance for rebuttals and questions, a period of questions from audience members, and closing statements.

Rev. Sirico opened the debate with a definition of free market capitalism; he said it is an economic system that:

Embraces the foundation of a positive and normative role for business, the market and the markets they engender, private property to be considered sacred, though not absolute, and the means of production that result from all of this being kept in private hands.

Winters argued for further regulations in the marketplace and declared, "We have an economic system that creates disincentives to act in a Christian manner – it is not morally neutral." If you are interested in viewing the entire debate, a video is available on the Acton PowerBlog under the title, "Video: The Sirico-Winters Debate on the Government's Role in Helping Poor."

AU Lecture Capsule: Morality and the Limits of Markets

On June 14, 2012, the Very Rev. Paul Hartmann delivered a lecture at Acton University titled "Morality and the Limits of Markets." Hartmann declared, "Wherever two or more are gathered, there is law." Hartmann made the point that in building a moral culture, there are limits to markets saying, "Markets will give you what the culture demands."

Hartmann stressed the different moral behaviors of humans and expressed the need for applying all of our lives and goals towards the ultimate good. He noted that the Greeks believed whether you followed the law determined whether you were a moral person. Thus, the lawgivers determined right and wrong. Hartmann then spoke about Thomas Aquinas and how his teaching was instrumental in appealing to the higher law and the deeper relationship between morality and law.

Hartmann declared the markets were morally neutral and said "our moral choices tell us we need something." He emphasized the importance of the market to live out the calling in our life that leads to God and added markets only limit that when they take away from the aims of holiness and rightly ordered love.

Very Rev. Paul Hartmann is the Judicial Vicar of the Metropolitan Tribunal, Archdiocese of Milwaukee and president of Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha. He holds a Licentiate in Canon Law from the Catholic University of America, and received his M.Div from St. Francis Seminary. This course will be taught again by Hartmann at Acton University in 2013.

Acton Completes Move to New Headquarters

The Acton Institute has moved into its new building at 98 E. Fulton Street in downtown Grand Rapids. March 6 marked the first day for staff in the headquarters.

A new building was needed because of current expansion in programs, staff, outreach, and operations. The space adds a lecture hall, conference center, library, and studios for radio and television programming. The building provides a spacious 24,000 square feet and will allow for plenty of growth for Acton in the decades ahead.

In a February 21 story written for MLive by Jim Harger, he noted:

The institute, which was ranked 13th in the "Top 50 Social Policy Think Tanks" by the University of Pennsylvania's Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program in January, is vacating offices it has occupied in the Waters Building.

Though construction fences still surround the three-story building, Acton officials were eager to show off the transformation they have wrought inside the 84-year-old landmark in downtown Grand Rapids.

Some of the most dramatic changes are on the ground level, where construction crews dug down two feet and raised the ceiling two feet to create a 200-seat auditorium with adjoining breakout rooms and a gallery for receptions.

Acton is also proud to play a further role in the economic expansion and growth of downtown Grand Rapids. Acton's executive director, Kris Mauren, told MLive he expects to make four to five new hires in 2013. The Acton Institute would like to thank the generous donors and supporters for making this move possible and for helping to expand our mission to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.