Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Mediating Institutions

One of the most vital insights of modern social thought is the importance of mediating institutions–churches, schools, fraternal organizations, professional associations, and even clubs–for a free society. Not only are they effective, sometimes crucial, in providing services of all sorts, they are, as Tocqueville pointed out, a bulwark of freedom against the encroaching power of the state. The recognition of the consequence of these associations is especially significant for Americans because we have been particularly adept at forming them. As Tocqueville observed more than a hundred years ago, Americans “carried to the highest perfection the art of pursuing in common the object of their common desires.” While America has been very fortunate in the establishment of such institutions, perhaps surprisingly, another society not...

John Courtney Murray, S.J.

John Courtney Murray entered the Society of Jesus in 1920. He was ordained a priest in 1933 and received his doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome in 1937. Afterwards, he assumed the Jesuit theologate at Woodstock, Maryland, where he was a professor of theology until his death. Additionally, Murray edited the magazine America and the journal Theological Studies.

While Murray's academic specialties were the theology of grace and the Trinity, his major contributions were in public theology, especially concerning church, state, and society. His prevailing theme was the compatibility of American constitutionalism and Roman Catholicism. Indeed, according to...

Freedom in the Making of Western Culture

Freedom, the first of two planned volumes, is Patterson’s attempt to explain why one culture valued liberty while so many others did not. His effort is of particular interest, given how long it took for freedom–with the concomitant protection of democratic electoral processes, economic opportunity, and human rights–to finally advance in Africa, Asia, and the one-time Soviet empire.

Alas, Patterson’s ample research is undermined by his failure to clearly define freedom. Instead, he mixes three contradictory variants of the term.

One definition is most clearly identified with the Anglo, and American, political tradition: “personal freedom” from coercion by the state. It is “at its most elementary,” writes Patterson, “the sense that one, on the...

Toward Humane Governance

R&L: Let’s begin with a discussion of the distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, especially in light of the former becoming enfeebled. What should our stance be regarding the remaining authoritarian regimes?

Kirkpatrick: I always assume that democracy is the only good form of government, quite frankly, and democracy is always to be preferred. I think that it’s always appropriate for Americans and for American foreign policy to make clear why we feel that self-government is most compatible with peace, the well-being of people, and human dignity. We should make that clear and help to achieve it where we can. I don’t think that means that we ought to send troops around the world overthrowing governments, but I do believe that we ought to make...

An Evangelical Looks at Centesimus Annus, the Nature of Man, and Human Economy

There are good reasons to celebrate Centesimus Annus. Pope John Paul II’s blistering rejection of socialism and warm accolades for free enterprise should be trumpeted around the world–as indeed they have been.

In large part, however, the pope’s comments on socialism versus capitalism are merely the announcement of a judgment long since obvious to anyone who observed history with discernment. Nevertheless, I am excited about Centesimus Annus and see it, in one important respect, as on the cutting edge of economic thinking.

Why? Because it focuses on the nature of man, and not in terms of the Enlightenment idea of man as autonomous but in terms of the Biblical idea of man as fallen and sinful, yet still bearing the image of God and capable,...


Looming large among the vices constituting the Seven Deadly Sins is invidia, that is, envy. It belongs there. A human being infected by the virus of envy becomes a mean-spirited individual, incapable of heeding St. Paul’s admonition to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” The triumphs and good fortune of others elicit not pleasure but bitterness, a bitterness warping and twisting the soul.

Nearly five decades ago, Joseph Alois Schumpeter, an Austrian-born economist who became a permanent professor of Economics at Harvard University, penned a volume touching upon the evil that is envy. Entitled Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, the work analyzes the workings of a market economy with rare subtlety and sensitivity. The unprecedented success of such an economy in improving the material...

Hugo de San Víctor

"The pursuit of commerce reconciles nations, calms wars, strengthens peace, and commutes the private good of individuals into the common benefit of all."

Así escribió Hugo de San Víctor. Hugo (1096-1141) fue un canónico de la Abadía de San Víctor de París. Su elección vocacional es significativa en cuanto que los canónicos regulares formaban parte de un movimiento que buscaba recuperar el ascetismo de la Iglesia de los primeros tiempos y combinarlo con el servicio al prójimo en sus vecindarios. Su pequeña dimensión y las reglas flexibles les permitió realizar pequeñas donaciones para ser usadas en la administraci...

Ugo di San Vittore

Così scrisse Ugo di San Vittore. Ugo (1096-1141) fu un canonico dell’Abbazia di San Vittore a Parigi. La sua scelta vocazionale è significativa, in quanto i canonici facevano parte di un movimento che intendeva recuperare l’ascetismo della Chiesa dei primi tempi, combinandolo con il servizio al prossimo. La piccola dimensione e la regola flessibile consentirono loro di realizzare piccole opere poste al servizio della Chiesa: ospedali e scuole che normalmente venivano utilizzati da altri monasteri. Questa era la missione alla quale si dedicò Ugo.

Ugo arrivò a San...

Hugh of St. Victor

"The pursuit of commerce reconciles nations, calms wars, strengthens peace, and commutes the private good of individuals into the common benefit of all."

So wrote Hugh of Saint Victor. Hugh (1096-1141) was a canon regular at the Abbey of Saint Victor in Paris. His choice of vocation is significant in that the canons regular were part of a movement that sought to recapture the asceticism of the early church and to combine that with service in their neighborhoods. Their small scale and flexible rule allowed them to put smaller benefactions to use in the administration of churches, hospitals, and schools than normally would have been utilized by larger and older monasteries. It was to that...

The Economic Problem in Biblical and Patristic Thought

“Due to the automation” of E.J. Brill’s “systems” (forsooth!) this remarkable book has been kept waiting nearly two years for a notice. I hope that it will now receive at long last the attention–and the sales–it deserves.

For more than twenty years, Christian economists (and non-economists), usually of an ‘evangelical’ persuasion, have been busy constructing ‘Christian’ or ‘biblical’ economics. The Bible is taken to be, or to contain, a set of instructions for ordering twentieth-century economic relations. With the aid of a little elementary textbook analysis we are informed that this or that economic policy–full employment, low interest rates, minimum wages, farm subsidies, and so forth–are or are not ‘Christian.’ Moreover...

Corporate Philanthropy

R&L: Capital Research Center recently published a study of patterns of corporate philanthropy in the United States. Could you give us a brief summary of that study?

Johnson: Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy is an annual study of corporate public affairs giving. Using the Forbes 250 listing of America’s largest corporations, it examines contributions to public policy groups–not traditional service charities, the arts, hospitals, etc.–because these groups increasingly determine the political, economic, and moral climate in which businesses and society must operate. In other words, these contributions are highly leveraged.

The study proves that America’s largest corporations continue to fail the tests both of...

Did It Liberate? Liberation Theology: Post Mortem

Editors note: In the inaugural issue of this journal there appeared an article entitled “Death Knell for Socialism and Liberation Theology” [January/February 1991]. Subsequent to the appearance of the papal encyclical Centesimus Annus, Acton President Father Robert Sirico predicted in an article in National Review : “… this encyclical constitutes the epitaph for liberation and collectivist movements.… The ‘Christian-Marxist dialogue’ is dead.”

These obituaries were, of course, not well received in quarters sympathetic to a socialist-Christian synthesis. It is, therefore, satisfying to see these assertions confirmed from the mouths of the very people who for too many years have been advancing ideas deleterious to the very liberation and self-determination they seek.



At a reunion of Johnson administration officials in Austin, Texas, a quarter century after the War on Poverty fired its cannonades, the mood of reminiscence was akin to Wordsworth’s memory of enthusiasm following the French Revolution: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.” Sargent Shriver exulted that the Reagan years had not really damaged Great Society programs, most of which were “still in existence, all helping millions of Americans today.” New York Times columnist Tom Wicker described the sumptuous affair and proposed that it was time to stop moaning, and, instead drink a toast to “vision and aspiration, confidence and compassion.”

Vision, aspiration, and confidence were all present, but was there compassion? It depends on what we mean by the word. When Speaker of the House, Tip O...


With the commencement of our second year of publishing Religion & Liberty, we are adding a regular feature by the Reverend Dr. John K. Williams. Dr. Williams is a graduate of Melbourne and Oxford Universities. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree, he taught philosophy at Melbourne for three years before studying for the ministry. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church, and served as chaplain and senior teacher at St. Leonard’s College, East Brighton, Australia, for eleven years. Dr. Williams currently works as a lecturer and writer, and spent several weeks at the Acton Institute as mentor for our “Toward a Free and Virtuous Society” conference, and adjunct scholar. This column will offer our readers an opportunity to evaluate current wisdoms in the light of a traditional philosophical approach.


Alexis de Tocqueville

Estas son palabras de Alexis de Tocqueville en su clásica obra Democracia en América.

Nacido en París en 1805, Tocqueville era miembro de la pequeña nobleza. Fue enviado por su familia a los Estados Unidos, junto a su amigo Gustave de Beaumont, para evitar el alboroto resultante de la revolución de 1830. Si bien el declarado propósito de su visita era estudiar el sistema penal americano, Tocqueville hizo mucho más que eso durante su viaje de nueve meses (11 de Mayo de 1831- 20 de Febrero de 1832) que le llevaron desde Boston en el este, hasta Green...