Religion & Liberty Article Listing

How does Acton's Rome office contribute to the mission of the Acton Institute?

The Acton Institute has a number of affiliates around the world, but when it came time to establish a presence in Rome, the institute opted not to start another affiliate, but to open a new Acton office, Istituto Acton. This allows the institute and its Grand Rapids staff to work closely with the Rome staff on a number of important projects that further our mission to promote a free and virtuous society on the international stage.

A large part of the execution of Acton's mission is to serve future religious leaders. Obviously, Rome is an important place to forge relationships with future Catholic clergy from around the world. Just like in the United States, we offer a number of lectures and conferences—most notably our recent series of Centesimus Annus conferences—that bring seminarians that blend of theological insight and economic truth for which Acton is known...

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Born on February 4, 1906, in Breslau, then part of Imperial Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer began his theological education in 1923 at the University of Tübingen. He later trained under liberal theologians Adolf von Harnack and Reinhold Seeburg.

Following what he would later call a conversion experience, Bonhoeffer intensified his focus on contemporary theological problems facing the church. With the ascendancy of the Nazi party in Germany, Bonhoeffer was among the first of the German theologians to perceive the pervasiveness and significance of the looming Nazi threat.

When the pro-Nazi German Christian party won the church elections in the summer of 1933, Bonhoeffer quickly opposed the anti-Semitism of the Nazis in an...

From the Gulag to the Killing Fields

In a personal account of his internment in the Albanian gulag, Nika Stajka catalogued the fourteen types of torture that communist authorities used against prisoners. These ranged from shooting by firing squad to sleep deprivation to the cutting of flesh with scissors and knives.

In his memoir, published in 1980, Stajka recalls:

We were all labeled as “enemies of the people,” reactionaries, traitors, saboteurs, criminals, villains ... that is why the “popular government” had no mercy for anyone of us, although we had been told at first that work was a great privilege for us, with the “socialist emulation” on our empty stomachs and enduring club blows on our backs, worse off than animals, since we were all between the ages of sixteen and forty-five years, while the aged and handicapped, unable to work, “ate the government bread as parasites.” They said that “it...

Exporting Hope

Growing up in Estonia, when was the first moment that you realized there was something wrong with the Soviet system?

I couldn't actually say the exact moment. It was very early, but not too early, because my grandfather has told me some stories that I don't remember myself. I was born on the twenty-second of April, the same day Vladimir Lenin was born. I nearly gave my grandfather a heart attack when he asked once whom I loved most in the world. There are a lot of beautiful [people I could have named], including my grandfather, but I shocked him, saying that I most loved Lenin. He was really shocked that his grandson was so brainwashed. But it didn't last very long. Because when you're honest, you understand the Soviet system very quickly because the truth is so clear. The contrast between the truth and Soviet propaganda is very clear and seeable for...

Editor's Note

It is a measure of how radically the situation of Europe has changed in the past generation that one regularly encounters seminars and symposia with grand but gloomy titles such as “Whither Europe?” or “The European Future?”

The question mark is key. There is much doubt about the health of Europe. Part of that is a demographic issue with plunging birthrates and mass immigration, the specter has been raised of a European future that is lacking Europeans. But it is more than that. If the European body is weak, the cause might be in the European soul.

This issue of Religion & Liberty looks at that question, benefiting from the insights of some of Europe's leading voices. Our lead interview is with Mart Laar, the former Estonian prime minister, who talks about “exporting hope” in the context of his country's post-communist transformation. A view from Western...

Europe Is Losing Its Soul

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Europe is a unique cultural and spiritual phenomenon that was formed over the course of centuries and is currently undergoing fundamental changes. Why does the fate of Europe concern us, representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church? Because Russia, while possessing a distinctive culture and self-consciousness, is also an integral part of Europe. It is not by chance that Dostoevsky, who like nobody else was conscious of Russia's uniqueness, nevertheless called Europe his second home. In the Russian soul, Europe occupies a special place, primarily because of its Christian roots. I would like to stress that these roots go back not only to Western Christianity, but also to Eastern Christianity, mainly through...

Dignity, Democracy, and the Free Market

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The Acton Institute is hosting a series of lectures celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of Centesimus Annus , Pope John Paul II's landmark encyclical. The following is taken from President Aznar's address delivered on May 4, 2006, at the Italian Parliment in Rome.

The myth of the perfect society is certainly nothing new. The idea of an earthly paradise organized by superior men, whether they be aristocrats, wise philosophers, or members of a self-appointed proletarian avant-garde, has been an incessant theme in human affairs since the time of Plato.

However, the twentieth century laid bare exactly what these utopias conceal: the fact that all of these idyllic and harmonious invented...

Conjugal Economics

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The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23). When Adam awoke from his nap and uttered these words about his wife, he offered a view of how God's perfectly formed male-female relationship was meant to look. Only eight verses later this ideal relationship comes to an end when man and woman fall from the perfect plan of God.

In her book The Redemption of Love: Rescuing Marriage and Sexuality from the Economics of a Fallen World , Carrie Miles works to reunite modern day perceptions of marriage with God's vision of marriage as it was originally intended. Miles offers up a readable and insightful book by...

Doubled-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

Genesis 17:3

“When Abraham prostrated himself, God continued to speak to him: 'My covenant with you is this: you are to become the father of a host of nations.'” Gen. 17:3

Within decades of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, the good news had spread from Jerusalem through the Hellenistic culture of the eastern Mediterranean to Rome, and to ends-of-earth places such as India and the British Isles. In the following centuries, holy men and women protected the heritage of Western civilization in monasteries and convents, and then re-evangelized the barbarian-conquered West, thereby helping to create a new entity known as Europe. Over the next two millennia, Christianity built much of what we take for granted in civilization today: universities, economics, a belief in human rights and the dignity of all persons.

Certainly, the house of modern...

Europe without Roots

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Optimism is obligatory, but it's cheap. In the current situation, there is a heavy price to pay. Relativism has wreaked havoc, and it continues to act as a mirror and an echo chamber for the dark mood that has fallen over the West. It has paralyzed the West, when it is already disoriented and at a standstill, rendered it defenseless when it is already acquiescent, and confused it when it is already reluctant to rise to the challenge.

One should not think of philosophy as a luxury for initiates, to be consumed only within the walls of the university. It is instead a powerful tool for the promotion and spread of ideas and energy, and a vehicle of influential opinions. It always has been. It would thus be mistaken to...

Interest and Responsibility

Since at least the middle ages, the payment and receipt of interest has existed under a moral cloud, due mainly to a misunderstanding concerning what interest is and why it exists. Medieval theologians gradually came around to the view that now prevails in economic science.

What connects all forms of interest is the insight that interest is nothing more or less than the exchange ratios between different time horizons. If I prefer to save now, I must put off current consumption. If you prefer to spend now, you must acquire the resources to do so. We can make an exchange between the money you want to spend and the money I want to save. I agree to lend you money, and we negotiate a fee to put to work what might otherwise have been idle resources.

In doing so, of course, I cannot dictate the terms because I must depend on your willingness to pay and I must compete with...

What is the Acton Institute doing to support promising young scholars?

An important part of the work of the Acton Institute is promoting the scholarship of tomorrow. Aside from offering conferences, seminars, and publication, the Acton Institute promotes scholarship monetarily. The Calihan Academic Fellowships, Research Fellowships, and Travel Grants provide monetary assistance to students of special potential, encouraging them to explore the intersection of religious principles with human dignity, the importance of the rule of law, limited government, and religious and economic liberty.

Following are some examples of our Calihan recipients and their work:

Rachel Patterson

Rachel Patterson—an Australian lawyer and a master's student at Columbia Law School—spent the summer of 2006...

Anders Chydenius

Known as the Adam Smith of the North, Anders Chydenius laid out his economic prescription for mercantilist [Sweden-Finland] in The National Gain in 1765, suggesting a concept of spontaneous order eleven years before Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations: “Every individual spontaneously tries to find the place and the trade in which he can best increase National gain, if laws do not prevent him from doing so.”

For Chydenius, freedom and diligence were the foundations of an economically prosperous nation; direction from the government only gummed up the gears of a natural system of human interaction.

Thus the wealth of a...

There's No Such Thing as "Business" Ethics

The wave of recent corporate scandals has spurred an increased interest in business ethics. As illegal and unethical behavior is exposed in the business world, society has demanded reform.

In his book, There's No Such Thing as “Business” Ethics, John C. Maxwell firmly contends that there is no difference between business ethics and general moral behavior. “There's no such thing as business ethics,” writes Maxwell, “there's only ethics. People try to use one set of ethics for their professional life, another for their spiritual life, and still another at home with their family… If you desire to be ethical, you live it by one standard across the board.” He believes that people behave unethically because of the convenience and the desire to win no matter the cost. In addition, people rationalize their choices with relativism by choosing their own ethical standards to guide...

Second-Career Clergy and Parish Business

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The seminary in The Collar is what's called a second-career seminary, a seminary for men who have come to their vocation later in life. Some of the seminarians featured in the work, like the retired marketing executive Jim Pemberton, come from significant careers in the business world. What are these men looking for in the priesthood, and do they make good priests?

I think that at the center of that question is a mystery, right? What are they looking for? One of the reasons I called this book The Collar was because of the sense of these men being collared, being brought to a profession, being brought to this new life, and not always willingly. It's...