Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Video: ‘Fighting Poverty: We’ve Been Doing it All Wrong’

Yahoo! Finance’s Stock Analyst, Kevin Chupka, recently interviewed Rev. Robert Sirico about the “Cure for Income Inequality” and the work of PovertyCure. Chupka begins by stating that “close to half the planet lives on less than $2 dollars a day” and that an alarming number of Americans are living below the poverty line. He then states that despite all the good intentions, decades of charitable giving hasn’t done much to end this problem. Chupka and Sirico discuss PovertyCure’s mission to “challenge the status quo and champion the creative potential of the human person;” looking for ways to engage the poorest of the poor in trade rather than simply giving them money and hoping for the best.
Read ‘Fighting poverty: We’ve been doing it all wrong.’ at Yahoo! Finance.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sainthood Will Seal Two Pope's Places in History

On April 27, the Christian world will change. The largest Christian denomination on earth, the Catholic Church, will commit itself irrevocably to the legacy of two men who helped to reform it — Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II — by proclaiming them saints.

John XXIII was the man who stunned his advisers by summoning the Second Vatican Council, a meeting of bishops from around the world with the mission of re-proclaiming the truth of the Gospel, stripped of historical accretions that tied the church to the dead world of 19th-century monarchies out of fear of revolutions.

At the heart of that council was the Church’s embrace of religious liberty for all believers of every faith — a life-and-death issue to the hundreds of millions of Christians then imprisoned by communism.

One of the architects of that council was a bishop who lived in the captive nation of Poland, Karol Wotyjla. He would go on, of course, to serve as Pope John Paul II and play a key role in dismantling the Soviet empire and bringing religious freedom to half a continent.

Now their roles as prophetic preachers of the Gospel will be sealed in the eyes of history by their successor, Pope Francis.

Pope Francis has been pope just over one year, and one interesting way to look at each of these men is to observe the commentaries on the first year of each pontificate and observe how remarkably similar the reactions are: They were all unlikely men who came to a papal conclave planning to vote for another man, thinking they would soon return to their respective dioceses; two of the three from outside Italy and each, in his own way, winning the hearts of the people immediately by a sense that he would be his own person, personable, accessible, and close to the people.

Will Francis change the church in as profound a way as the men whom he recognizes this week? Only time will tell, but it seems to me unlikely. There are few remaining "inessential" issues where the church really does need to catch up with the times. Maybe a few more bishops will sell their palaces and go live among the people. No doubt the views of the vast and growing church in the developing world will find more of a voice in papal statements on economics and politics, counterbalancing the perspectives of older but shrinking churches in places like Germany and Italy.

But on the core issues that exercise the secular media, the church’s insistence on faithfulness to human dignity, marital fidelity, and the sanctity of life, nothing will change, because it cannot.

No pope has the authority to revoke or revise the moral law that is "written on the human heart." His role is simply to proclaim it. And in a world that desperately wishes not to listen, that’s a hard enough job.

All Christians should wish Pope Francis well, as a voice that speaks out against the fallenness of our hearts and the shallowness of our culture, pointing our eyes ever backward to the words and deeds of an itinerant preacher from Nazareth.

This article originally appeared on

Friday, March 28, 2014

Rev. Sirico on President Obama’s Meeting with Pope Francis

In this short talk, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, offers some general observations about the recent meeting between President Barack Obama and Pope Francis at the Vatican.  Rev. Sirico also reflects on the differences in philosophy that make a Presidential/Papal alliance, such as what occurred during the time of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, unlikely.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Pope Francis, without the politics

Pope Francis has captured the imagination of many people over the last year-plus -- not all of them Catholics. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP/Getty Images
In 2005 I was invited to Rome by the BBC to provide commentary for the events surrounding the death of Pope John Paul II and the subsequent conclave that would elect Joseph Ratzinger as Benedict XVI. On the day the cardinals entered the conclave, I was on camera with the veteran BBC correspondent Brian Hanrahan (who died in 2010) and who seemed incredulous that the College of Cardinals might elect Ratzinger who had just given a memorable homily to the cardinals in which he decried the “dictatorship of relativism.”

Could so narrow-minded a man, I was in effect asked, become pope?

I argued that Ratzinger was well-known to each of the cardinals and that, he more than any other, had the best chance of being elected. I allowed, however, that perhaps “a friendlier version” of Ratzinger could be elected, and speculated that perhaps this might be “Bergoglio of Argentina.” I was about eight years off.
So, on a rainy March evening in Rome last year, finding myself unexpectedly once again present for a conclave, I was familiar with the man who would walk on to the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica. Nonetheless, this pope of many firsts (the first to take the name Francis, the first Jesuit, the first from the Americas) was ready with a number of surprises of his own. For those of us who follow the papacy, Pope Francis provides a constant stream of material for reflection.

For commentators accustomed over the past 30 years of explaining the meaning of dense theological and philosophical magisterial texts which were the norm prior to this pontificate, the simplicity and spontaneity of Pope Francis’ style can be confusing and somewhat deceptive.

Whereas his predecessor had largely taught in very precise words and nuanced argument, Francis speaks boldly through effective and moving gestures. One tender and manifestly genuine embrace of a deformed man is worth an entire encyclical on love. And in the age of the Internet, it is more instantly accessible to millions of people.

It is no surprise that the man who took as his model and name the model of il poverello of Assisi would place the poor as a central concern of his pontificate: their dignity, their rights and their sustenance. Yet, the spontaneous gestures and the impromptu manner in which they are displayed ought not to beguile us into thinking this pope is offering a superficial dichotomy between left and right; between capitalism and socialism. To think that any pope, but especially this pope, is animated in his concern for the poor and vulnerable by a particular political ideology is to miss him completely.

While renouncing the notion that the market alone is sufficient to meet all human needs, Francis is also prepared to denounce a “welfare mentality” that creates a dependency on the part of the poor and reduces the Church to the role of being just another bureaucratic NGO. The complexity of his thought surprises some, on both the Right (some of whom worry, needlessly, that he is a liberation theologian) and the Left (who are already using his words to foment a political “Francis Revolution” in his name). Such tendencies reveal a rather anemic understanding of this man but also of Catholicism, which has historically been comfortable balancing the tensions of apparent paradoxes (Divine/human; Virgin/Mother; etc.). It is too facile a temptation to collapse 2,000 years of tradition, commentary and lived experience into four or five politically-correct hot button sound bites that are the priority, not of the Church, but of propagandists with an agenda.

If one wants to understand Francis’ thinking about the poor, it would be good to look objectively at his much talked about, but little-read Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel.” It soon becomes apparent that much of this Exhortation is an extension of a keen insight that Jorge Bergoglio had when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires:

We cannot respond with truth to the challenge of eradicating exclusion and poverty if the poor continue to be objects, targets of the action of the state and other organizations in a paternalistic and aid-based sense, instead of subjects, where the state and society create social conditions that promote and safeguard their rights and allow them to be builders of their own destiny.

As one who has promoted a free economy as a normative way to assisting people out of poverty, I find two innovative challenges in these words which could go a long way to depoliticizing the debate about wealth and poverty.

Imagine if all of those presently engaged in the debate on these matters began to ask questions such as, “What excludes the poor from the process of prosperity?” or “What would a society look like that no longer considers the poor as objects of paternalistic aid but rather as potential shapers of their own destiny?”
The particular details of policy prescriptions are not the heart and soul of Francis’ incredible attraction on the part of people throughout the world. It is not his political motivation that moves us as we witness his embrace by — and of — frail human life.

In a monumental and unanticipated way Pope Francis is changing the tired conversations of the past and inviting us to engage in a process of healing so desperately needed in our world today. Almost single-handedly he is changing the way in which people view Catholicism, not by changing Catholicism, but by retrieving many of its own treasured traditions and putting them out front.

His strategy comes from his view of the Church and it is not secret. It is simple, and he stated himself clearly. He sees the Church as a field hospital after a battle.

“The thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful,” he said. “It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds.”
Heal the wounds, yes. And then awaken society to the greatest resource of all: the human person. That is the path out of poverty.

This post originally appeared in The Detroit News. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Rev. Sirico Comments on ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ and the Economic Views of Pope Francis

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.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jim Wallis Book Hype: Embracing the Market Economy?

Coming during the week prior to Easter, I naturally thought the email I received from Sojourners — which I have been reading for my Lenten penance religiously — would contain some spiritual admonishment. “Just one week until … ” the subject line said. Am I at fault for thinking my mind was going to be directed to the good news of human redemption in the Resurrection of the Lord just a few days hence?

Ironically, the organization that so regularly decries free markets and denounces profit-making was merely hyping Jim Wallis’ new book, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good. Wallis, as far as I can tell from his previous efforts, wants us to believe that you are on God’s side as long as you are on Jim’s side, because that is God’s side when it comes to economic life.