April 23, 2014

Is Religious Freedom in Peril?

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Last night syndicated columnist Terry Mattingly and myself (Fr. Hans Jacobse) discussed where religious freedom in America was under assault. The discussion was, I believe, informative. I was very impressed with Mattingly's comprehensive knowledge and analysis of the legal challenges concerning religious liberty. The discussion focused on the moral issues, particularly gay rights, as the locus of the conflict. I pointed out that gay rights is an anthropological question at its core that challenges the increasingly fractured moral consensus necessary to hold a society together because it fundamentally redefines what we understand male and female to be. I see "gay marriage" as a threat to liberty because it grants government the authority to deem relationships not found in nature or the moral tradition of Western Civilization as morally licit, thereby establishing the State as both the source and final judge of the morality that shapes the moral consensus. Religion is the ground … [Read more...]

Patriarch John X Speaks on the Abducted Nuns of Maaloula, Syria

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Source: Antiochian Archdiocese His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, issued the following remarks on December 5, 2013 at a press conference in Balamand, Lebanon: Amidst the calamities besetting Syria and the bloodshed afflicting our people and amidst the uncertainty that still surrounds the fate of our metropolitans Boulos and Youhanna in Aleppo, it is with deep pain that the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East has received news of the abduction of her daughters, nuns and orphans of the Monastery of Saint Thekla in Maaloula on December 2, 2013 and their being transported to Yabroud. Because our initial attempts to obtain the release our abducted daughters did not achieve the desired outcome, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East calls upon the international community and all governments to intervene and make efforts to release them safely. She likewise calls upon the conscience of all humanity and upon the spark of living … [Read more...]

Dylan Pahman: Climate Change, the Green Patriarch, and the Disposition of Fear

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Source: Acton Powerblog | Dylan Pahman Today at First Things’ On the Square feature, I question the tone and timing of Patriarch Batholomew’s recent message on climate change. While I do not object to him making a statement about the subject in conjunction with the opening of the Warsaw Climate Change Conference, his initial reference, then silence, with regards to Typhoon Haiyan while other religious leaders offered their prayer, sympathy, and support to those affected, is disappointing. I write, While other religious leaders offered prayer and tangible support, all that has come from the Phanar is an environmental statement. Hurting people need practical and pastoral help, not politics. An additionally troubling aspect of the problem comes from his clear implication that the typhoon was caused, or at least intensified, by anthropogenic climate change, using this tragedy to advocate for a political cause through a disposition of fear: This week — even as … [Read more...]

Fr. Robert Sirico Broadens the Discussion on Religion, Freedom and Poverty Begun by Pope Francis [VIDEO]

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Fr. Robert Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton institute which is arguably the most creative think tank on religion and economics in America today, takes a closer look at Pope Francis' recent statements about the world economy. Below is a blog post authored by John Couretas who works at Acton. Source: Acton Institute Power Blog | John Couretas Video: Rev. Robert A. Sirico Comments on the Economic Views of Pope Francis in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ In this short talk, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, offers some general observations about the new “Apostolic Exhortation” published Nov. 26 by Pope Francis. Specifically, Rev. Sirico addresses the economic content of the work, titled “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) and poses some questions for further reflection. And please take a moment to watch this PovertyCure trailer also posted here. … [Read more...]

Pope Francis and Poverty

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Source: National Review Online | Samuel J. Gregg If there is anyone in the world today who embodies the joy of the Christian Gospel, it is Jorge Mario Bergoglio. And the happiness offered by embracing and living true faith in Christ and His Church (rather than the vapid sentimentalism that often passes for love these days) permeates Pope Francis’s new (and rather long) “apostolic exhortation,” Evangelii Gaudium, from beginning to end. Reading the text, one does experience a profound sense of just how life-transforming belief in Christ should be. Evangelii Gaudium is in many ways a beautiful document. The emphasis upon the Trinity’s most neglected member — the Holy Spirit — in the Church’s life is especially inspiring. Then there are the practical insights about how to breathe life into aspects of the Church’s evangelical outreach that have long been moribund (as in the content-free homilies routinely endured by many Catholics in Western countries). Also helpful for theological … [Read more...]

What George Washington Shows Us In His First Thanksgiving Proclamation

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In 1789 both the House and Senate called on newly elected President George Washington to issue a proclamation of thanksgiving to God for His protection and blessing on their fledgling nation. The proclamation is a call to prayer for both nation and people, for it understood that a virtuous nation could not be maintained without virtuous people. The exhortations to repentance and duty in both "private and public station" reveals that these early founders understood religion is the ground of culture. There is no liberty without virtue. Civil and religious liberty were the reasons why the Early Americans sacrificed to the measure that they did. These virtues and thus these freedoms, cannot be comprehended apart from God because it is only by God that man perceives he is created to be free. To the people who have forgotten God, the understanding that freedom and virtue work hand in hand exists only as an irrelevant echo. It results in a moral blindness of the first order and, … [Read more...]

Met. Hilarion: The Voice of the Church Must Be Prophetic

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Source: World Council of Churches Address by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk,Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate,At the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches Busan, the Republic of Korea, 1 November 2013 Your Holinesses and Beatitudes, Your Eminences and Graces, dear brothers and sisters, esteemed delegates of the Assembly, The World Council of Churches has a long and rich history. Set up after the Second World War, the Council responded to the expectations of Christians of various confessions who strove to meet, to get to know each other and to work together. Over the sixty five years since the founding of the WCC, several generations of Christians belonging to religious communities that were cut off from each other have discovered for themselves the faith and life of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Many prejudices regarding other Christian traditions have been overcome, yet at the same time that which divides … [Read more...]

Limited Time Free eBook Offer: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalism

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Source: Acton Institute Beginning today, Acton is offering its first monograph on Eastern Orthodox Christian social thought at no cost through Amazon Kindle. Through Tues., Nov. 12, you can get your free digital copy of Creation and the Heart of Man: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalism (Acton Institute, 2013). The print edition, which runs 91 pages, will be available later this month through the Acton Book Shop for $6. When the free eBook offer expires, Creation and the Heart of Man will be priced at $2.99 for the Kindle reader and free reading apps. A summary of Creation and the Heart of Man: Rooted in the Tradition of the Orthodox Church and its teaching on the relationship between God, humanity, and all creation, Fr. Michael Butler and Prof. Andrew Morriss offer a new contribution to Orthodox environmental theology. Too often policy recommendations from theologians and Church authorities have taken the form of pontifications, obscuring many important … [Read more...]

An Eastern Orthodox Case for Property Rights

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Fr. Jensen: ...[P]roperty rights are not a panacea – protecting and enhancing private ownership will not cure all that ails us personally or socially. Nor can we separate the exercise of our right to property from the moral law or, for Christians, the Gospel. But Orthodox social thought does I think allow us to make a convincing case that property rights are a key element of human flourishing, a necessary ingredient of a just society, and an aid to Christian ministry. Rooted as it is in human nature, it is also a right that can help us see the dignity of all members of the human family and of the ability that all of us – rich or poor, male or female, young or old – have to serve the flourishing of those around us, our society and the Church. Source: Action Institute | Fr. Gregory Jensen As a pastor, I’ve been struck by the hostility, or at least suspicion, that some Orthodox Christians reveal in their discussions of private property. While there are no doubt … [Read more...]

Human Trafficking Enters A New Marketplace: Organ Harvesting

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This is unadulterated evil, a new slavery where the strong prey on the weak. Source: Acton Institute Power Blog |Elise Hilton There have been whispers of it before, but now it has been confirmed: trafficking humans in order to harvest organs. The Telegraph is reporting that an underage Somali girl was smuggled into Britain with the intent of harvesting her organs for those desperately waiting for transplants. Child protection charities warned last night that criminal gangs were attempting to exploit the demand for organ transplants in Britain. Bharti Patel, the chief executive of Ecpat UK, the child protection charity, said: “Traffickers are exploiting the demand for organs and the vulnerability of children. It’s unlikely that a trafficker is going to take this risk and bring just one child into the UK. It is likely there was a group.” According to the World Health Organisation as many as 7,000 kidneys are illegally obtained by traffickers each year around the … [Read more...]

How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization [VIDEO]

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(May 30, 2013) In "How the West Really Lost God", leading cultural critic Mary Eberstadt delivers a powerful new theory about the decline of religion in the Western world. The conventional wisdom is that the West first experienced religious decline, followed by the decline of the family. Eberstadt, however, marshals an array of research, from historical data on family decline in pre-Revolutionary France to contemporary popular culture both in the United States and Europe, showing that the reverse has also been true -- the undermining of the family has further undermined Christianity itself. … [Read more...]

Dylan Pahman: Self-Discipline Today or Hardship Tomorrow

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Source: Acton Institute | Dylan Pahman In the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, a collection of wise stories and sayings from the first Christian monks, the following is attributed to one Abba Zeno: “Never lay a foundation on which you might sometime build yourself a cell.” This saying has at least two possible applications: 1) Do not start something you do not intend to see through. 2) Do not put off for tomorrow the asceticism you can do today. Unfortunately, both of these lessons are lost on our federal government when it comes to financial responsibility, and it is our children who will pay for the sins of their fathers. Starting October with a government shutdown over the congressional budget and the real possibility that we may hit the limit of our debt ceiling, our federal financial situation is not very reassuring. Last month, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned that “under a wide range of possible assumptions about some key factors that influence federal spending and … [Read more...]