Immaculate Little Mary in Mexico

On 6 January 1840, the Feast of the Three Kings, Sister Magdalena knelt before a nativity scene in her convent in Mexico City, contemplating the Christ Child in the manger. She then had a thought: if we honor Jesus’ infancy, why not that of His dear Mother? She was not familiar with the “Maria Bambina” devotion across the sea in Italy.

Suddenly, a lovely little girl appeared before her, dressed like a tiny princess and reclining in thin air! Sister Magdalena immediately knew that this beautiful child was the Virgin Mary, appearing to her in the form of a baby.

The Infant Mary seemed to be telling her “I will grant great graces to whoever honors me in my infancy”.

The astonished nun went to the abbess and told her of her vision and her desire to promote devotion to little Mary. The abbess did not quite share Sister Magdelena’s excitement, so the devotion was not promoted right away. But Magdelena kept praying for God to bring it about.

Eventually, Sister Magedlena did receive permission to ask a local sculptor to fashion a statue of the Infant Mary. Once she received the image she began to spread the devotion. Many people experienced miracles through the intercession of little Mary, but others questioned the suitability of such a devotion.

The case was eventually brought before Pope Gregory XVI, who approved the devotion and even granted indulgences to those who practiced it! Thus the question of suitability was solved.

Over the decades God performed numerous miracles of healing for those who venerated this statue. Soon an order of nuns called the Slaves of the Immaculate Child was founded, as well as a priestly order, the Missionaries of the Nativity of Mary. Both are dedicated to the Immaculate Little Mary, and continue to work for the Church in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

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Holy Relics

Classification of Holy Relics

Is the Relic Authentic?

First Class Relics

Second Class Relics

Third Class Relics

Agnus Dei

Scriptural Basis for Veneration of Relics

The Treatment of Holy Relics

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Ascension Catholic Community Ministry of Intercession for January 2015

Thank you Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits and blessings you have given me, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.

For the Pope’s intention that those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for the peace,

For evangelization: that this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.

Lord Jesus, help our church to find creative ways to seek out all who are alienated from you and your church.

We ask you to comfort all those living with mental and physical pain.

Holy Spirit, thank you for all the men, women and children who minister in our parish. Bless their ministry: Bless all who contribute to the financial support of our parish and other good causes. Help all of us to be good and generous stewards of our time, treasure and talent.

We pray for the unemployed and the homeless, that with faith in God and the help of good people they may find relief from their burdens.

We pray that all politicians may always act with honesty, integrity, and love for truth.

God Our Father, protect young people who are runaways or who are alienated from their families may they be reconciled or otherwise helped in their need.

The peace of Christ be with you in the New Year,

Father Eamon and the Ministry of Intercessions

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Holy Relics Housed at the Hermitage Chapel

Hermitage Relic Collection

First Class Relics

Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J.

Second Class Relics

Blessed Virgin Mary

Saint Joseph Spouse of the B.V.M.

Saint Marcelino Champagnat

Saint Mutien Marie Wiaux

Saint Therese of Lisieux

Blessed Edward Joannes Maria Poppe

Blessed MigPopeuel Pro, S.J.

Pope John Paul II

Third Class Relics

Our Lord Jesus

Our Lady of Lourdes

Saint Anthony of Pauda

Saint Louis Marie De Montfort

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Saint Michael the Archangel

Saint Peregrine

Saint Philomena

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

Saint Therese of Lisieux

Blessed Daniel Brottier

Blessed Edward Joannes Maria Poppe

Blessed Maria Sagrario of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

  Venerable Michael J. McGivney

Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

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Scriptural Basis for Veneration of Relics

Exodus 13:19 “And Moses took Joseph’s bones with him: because he had adjured the children of Israel, saying: God shall visit you, carry out my bones from hence with you.”

4 Kings 13:20-21 “And Eliseus died, and they buried him. And the rovers from Moab came into the land the same year. And some that were burying a man, saw the rovers, and cast the body into the sepulchre of Eliseus. And when it had touched the bones of Eliseus, the man came to life and stood upon his feet.”

Matthew 9:20-22 “And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed. But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.”

Acts 19:11-12 “And God wrought by the hand of Paul more than common miracles. So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons: and the diseases departed from them: and the wicked spirits went out of them.”

The earliest Christians saw things in the same way as the ancient Israelites and those in the New Testament accounts. St. Augustine (A.D. 354 – 430) wrote in City of God:

If a father’s coat or ring, or anything else of that kind, is so much more cherished by his children, as love for one’s parents is greater, in no way are the bodies themselves to be despised, which are much more intimately and closely united to us than any garment; for they belong to man’s very nature,

St. Jerome (ca. A.D. 340 – 420) clarified Catholic belief in his Ad Riparium:

We do not adore, I will not say the relics of the martyrs, but either the sun or the moon or even the angels — that is to say, with the worship of “latria”…But we honor the martyrs’ relics, so that thereby we give honor to Him Whose [witness] they are: we honor the servants, that the honor shown to them may reflect on their Master… Consequently, by honoring the martyrs’ relics we do not fall into the error of the Gentiles, who gave the worship of “latria” to dead men.

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Saint Hugh of Lincoln

Roman Calendar : November 17
Carthusian Calendar : November 17

Born about the year 1135 at the castle of Avalon, near Pontcharra, in Burgundy; died at London, 16 Nov., 1200. His father, William, Lord of Avalon, was sprung from one of the noblest of Burgundian houses; of his mother, Anna, very little is known. After his wife’s death, William retired from the world to the Augustinian monastery of Villard-Benoît, near Grenoble, and took his son Hugh, with him. Hugh became a religious and was ordained deacon at the age of nineteen. In about the year 1159 he was sent as a prior to the cell, or dependent priory, of St-Maximin, not far from his ancestral home of Avalon, where his elder brother, William had succeeded his father. At St-Maximin, Hugh laboured assiduously in preaching and whatever parochial duties might be discharged by a deacon. Becoming more and more desirous to give himself to the complete contemplative life, he visited in company with the prior of Villard-Benoît the solitude of the Grande Chartreuse. Dom Basil was then head of the Chartreuse, and to him Hugh confided his desire of submitting to the Carthusian rule. To test his vocation the prior refused him any encouragement, and his own superior, alarmed at the idea of losing the flower of his community, took him back quickly to Villard-Benoît, and made him vow to give up his intention of joining the Carthusians. He submitted and made the promise, acting, as his historian assures us, “in good faith and purity of intention, placing his confidence in God, and trusting that God would bring about his deliverance”; his call to a higher life was yet doubtful, his obedience to one who was still his superior was a certain duty, and not a “sinful act”, as thinks his modern Protestant biographer. Realizing that his vow, made without proper deliberation and under strongest emotion, was not binding, he returned to the Grande Chartreuse as a novice in 1153. Soon after his profession the prior entrusted him with the care of a very old and infirm monk from whom he received the instruction necessary to prepare him for the priesthood. He was probably ordained at thirty, the age then required by canon law. When he had been ten years a Carthusian he was entrusted with the important and difficult office of procurator, which he retained till the year 1180, leaving the Grande Chartreuse then to become prior of Witham in England, the first Carthusian house in that country. It was situated in Somerset and had been founded by Henry II in compensation for his having failed to go on the crusade imposed as a penance for the murder of St. Thomas of Canterbury. The first two priors had succumbed to the terrible hardships encountered at the new foundation, where the monks had not even a roof to cover them, and it was by the special request of the English king that St. Hugh, whose fame had reached him through one of the nobles of Maurienne, was made prior. His first attention was given to the building of the Charterhouse. He prepared his plans and submitted them for royal approbation, exacting full compensation from the king for any tenants on the royal estate who would have to be evicted to make room for the building. Long delay was occasioned by the king’s parsimony, but the Charterhouse, an exact copy of the Grande Chartreuse, was at last finished. Henry placed the greatest confidence in St. Hugh, frequently visiting Witham, which was on the borders of Selwood forest, one of the monarch’s favourite hunting-places. The saint was fearless in reproving Henry’s faults, especially his violation of the rights of the Church. His keeping of sees vacant in order to appropriate their revenues, and the royal interference in elections to ecclesiastical posts evoked the sternest reproach from St. Hugh.

In May, 1180, Henry summoned a council of bishops and barons at Eynsham Abbey to deliberate on the affairs of the state in general. The filling of vacant bishoprics was determined on, and, among others, the canons of Lincoln, who had been without a bishop for about sixteen years, were ordered to hold an election. After some discussion, their choice fell on the king’s nominee, Hugh, prior of Witham. He refused the bishopric because the election had not been free. A second election was held with due observance of canon law — this time at Lincoln, and not in the king’s private chapel — and Hugh, though chosen unanimously, still refused the bishopric till the prior of the Grande Chartreuse, his superior, had given his consent. This being obtained by a special embassy in England, he was consecrated in St. Catherine’s chapel, Westminster Abbey, on 21 September, 1181, by Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury. He was enthroned in Lincoln cathedral on 29 Sept. The new bishop at once set to the work of reform. He attacked the iniquitous forest laws, and excommunicated the king’s chief forester. In addition to this, and almost at the same time, he refused to install a courtier whom Henry had recommended as a prebendary of Lincoln. The king summoned him to appear at Woodstock, where the saint softened the enraged monarch by his ready wit, making him approve of his forester’s excommunication and the refusal of his prebend’s stall. He soon became conspicuous for his unbounded charity to the poor, and it was long remembered how he used to tend with his own hands people afflicted with leprosy then so common in England. He was a model episcopate. He rarely left the diocese, became personally acquainted with the priests, held regular canonical visitations, and was most careful to chose worthy men for the care of souls; his canons were to reside in the diocese, and if not present at Lincoln were to appoint vicars to take their place at the Divine Office. Once a year he retired to Witham to give himself to prayer, far from the work and turmoil of his great diocese.

In July, 1188, he went on an embassy to the French king, and was in France at the time of Henry’s death. He returned the following year and was present at Richard I’s coronation; in 1191 he was in conflict with Longchamp, Bishop of Ely and justiciar, whose unjust commands he refused to obey, and in 1194-5 was a prominent defender of Archbishop Geoffrey of York, in the dispute between that prelate and his chapter. Hugh was also prominent in trying to protect the Jews, great numbers of whom lived in Lincoln, in the persecution they suffered at the beginning of Richard’s reign, and he put down popular violence against them in several places. In Richard I Hugh found a more formidable person to deal with than his predecessor had been. His unjust demands, however, he was resolute in opposing. In a council held at Oxford, in 1198, the justiciar, Archbishop Hubert, asked from the bishops and barons a large grant of money and a number of knights for the king’s foreign wars. Hugh refused on the ground that he was not bound to furnish money or soldiers for wars undertaken outside of England. His example was followed by Herbert of Salisbury, and the archbishop had to yield. Richard flew into one of his fits of rage, and ordered the confiscation of Hugh’s property, but no one dared to lay hands on it. The saint journeyed to Normandy, met Richard at Chateau-Gaillard and, having won the monarch’s forgiveness and admiration by his extraordinary courage, proceeded to rebuke him fearlessly for his faults — his infidelity to his wife, and encroachments on the Church’s rights. “Truly”, said Richard to his courtiers, ” if all the prelates of the Church were like him, there is not a king in Christendom who would dare to raise his head in the presence of a bishop.” Once more St. Hugh had to oppose Richard in his demands. This time it was claim for money from the chapter of Lincoln. Crossing again to Normandy he arrived just before the king’s death, and was present at his obsequies at Fontevrault. He attended John’s coronation at Westminster in May, 1199, but was soon back in France aiding the king in the affairs of state. He visited the Grande Chartreuse in the summer of 1200 and was received everywhere on the journey with tokens of extraordinary respect and love. While returning to England he was attacked by a fever, and died a few months afterwards at the Old Temple, the London residence of the bishops of Lincoln. The primate performed his obsequies in Lincoln cathedral, and King John assisted in carrying the coffin to its resting-place in the north-east transept. In 1220 he was canonized by Honorius III, and his remains were solemnly translated in 1280 to a conspicuous place in the great south transept. A magnificent golden shrine contained his relics, and Lincoln became the most celebrated centre of pilgrimage in the north of England. It is not known what became of St. Hugh’s relics at the Reformation; the shrine and its wealth were a tempting bait to Henry VIII, who confiscated all its gold, silver and precious stones, “with which all the simple people be moch deceaved and broughte into greate supersticion and idolatrye”. St. Hugh’s feast is kept on 17 November. In the Carthusian Order he is second only to St. Bruno, and the great modern Charterhouse at Parkminster, in Sussex, is dedicated to him.

Like most of the great prelates who came to England from abroad, St. Hugh was a mighty builder. He rebuilt Lincoln cathedral, ruined by the great earthquake of 1185 and, though much of the minister which towers over Lincoln is of later date, St. Hugh is responsible for the four bays of the choir, one of the finest examples of the Early English pointed style. He also began the great hall of the bishop’s palace. St. Hugh’s emblem is a white swan, in reference to the beautiful story of the swan of Stowe which contracted a deep and lasting friendship for the saint, even guarding him while he slept.

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Marriage on the Downturn

A significant amount of the media coverage about the deliberations of the Synod on the Family was about whether those who are divorced and re-married outside of the Church could receive Communion.

No data has been forthcoming on the number of people who are in this situation, but some recent reports show a significant trend away from marriage in the first place. Thus, while divorce is without doubt a serious problem, if people do not even marry at all then the institutions of marriage and the family are in trouble.

The first study comes from the English organization, the Marriage Foundation. The Oct. 10 report revealed that the United Kingdom has the highest proportion of children living in lone parent households of all the countries in Western Europe.

According to the statistics agency of the European Union, Eurostat, 24% of UK children lived in lone parent households in 2012. This is almost identical to the 23.8% figure produced by the UK’s Office for National Statistics. While lower, the average level for the EU countries overall is still at 16%.

A number of countries had levels over 20%, including Belgium, Denmark, France, and Ireland.

Some major Western European countries have relatively lower levels of single parenthood, such as Italy at 12%, but even so it is on the rise, compared with 9% in 2005.

“These figures are alarming. Evidence clearly shows the negative impact of being brought up in single parent homes,” commented Harry Benson, Research Director for the Marriage Foundation.

“These children are less likely to attain qualifications, more prone to experience unemployment and are more likely to commit crime,” he said.

Unmarried parents

Analysis of the statistics by the Marriage Foundation, Benson explained, shows that in Western Europe the rising levels of lone parenthood is not the result of divorce, but the result of a dramatic increase in the number of children brought up by unmarried parents.

In the UK, for example, the divorce rate has fallen in recent years, while the number of lone parent households continued to rise.

“We need to restore trust and confidence in marriage for the sake of generations to come,” Benson insisted.

The proportion of lone parent households is set to increase in the future, as a result of ever-increasing numbers of children being born outside marriage.

Even in Mediterranean countries the percentage of births outside marriage, which were very rare until a couple of decades ago, is reaching high levels. It Italy it is at 28%, Spain 36% and Malta 26%. In the UK it is at an alarming 48%.

In Eastern Europe by contrast the main contributor to single parent households is still divorce.

The cost to society of single parenthood is very high. According to the report in the UK the cost to the taxpayer of family breakdown is estimated at 46 billion pounds a year, more than the defence budget.

A similar situation exists in the United States. A Sept. 24 report from the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends found that the number of American adults who have never been married is at an all time high.

In 2012, one in five adults ages 25 and older (about 42 million people) had never been married, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. By comparison in 1960 only 9% in that age range had never been married.

The Pew report noted that a number of factors have contributed to this change. In part it is due to people marrying at a later age, but the number of adults cohabiting and having children outside marriage has also increased substantially.

Never married

According to projections by Pew Research, when today’s young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, a record high share (25%) is likely to have never been married.

While economic considerations are far from being the only factor in changes in patterns of marriage nevertheless national fiscal policies do have an influence.

A report just published by Ireland’s Iona Institute, titled “Taxation and the Family: Restoring Balance and Fairness,” accuses the government of weakening support for the family by means of the tax and spending policies.

In the last few decades the tax system has been changed to take less account of dependents, especially children, in the family home. This, the report said, is a form of individualization as each taxpayer is considered as an individual and it ignores the children and other dependents they may have.

This means that the one-income married family is at a great disadvantage compared to two-income families and single parent families.

Marriage and family life face grave challenges. Going beyond the media hype and publicity by special interest groups, the work of the Synod will be essential if the Church is to deal effectively with these problems.

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Pope to Consistory: We Are Witnessing a Phenomenon of Terrorism

Dedicating this morning’s Consistory of Cardinals to the Middle East, and particularly the region’s Christians, Pope Francis has called on the international community to do their part as well as his fellow prelates to protect those suffering in the war-torn region.

Addressing the Consistory of Cardinals convened this morning at the Vatican just one day after the close of the Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis said, “we cannot resign ourselves to think of a Middle East without Christians, who for 2,000 years have professed the name of Jesus.”

“From this meeting today,” Francis said he expects “that valid reflections and suggestions may come forth to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering and also confront the tragedy of the decrease of the Christian presence in the land where it was born and where Christianity was spread from.”

The Pope reaffirmed the Church’s desire for peace in the region while calling on the international community to find a solution to the conflict through “dialogue, reconciliation and political commitment.”

At the same time, he noted, “we would like to give the greatest possible support to the Christian communities, to maintain their stay in the region.”

The 77 year old Pontiff also expressed his concern and worry with the current conflicts in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq.

“We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism in an unimaginable dimension,” the Pontiff said, recalling how many are being persecuted and forced to flee brutally.

“It seems that the awareness of the value of human life has been lost, it seems that the person does not count and can be sacrificed for other interests,” the Pope said. “All of this,” he continued, is “unfortunately because of the indifference of so many.”

Fr. Lombardi on Consistory

In a briefing at the Holy See Press office, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, spoke on the consistory, and the addresses made by the Holy Father and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. He also confirmed the presence of 86 cardinals, patriarchs, and superiors of the Secretariat of State at this morning’s consistory.

Fr. Lombardi stressed their call upon the international community, particularly to provide, to the Christian refugees, the opportunity to return to their homes as soon as possible, implementing the “security zones”, for example in the Nineveh Plain.

These interventions echoed the theme of the Vatican meeting, called for by Pope Francis, of Middle Eastern nuncios and diplomatic representatives held at the Vatican October 2 to 4.

His remarks, echoed by a communique issued by the Holy See today, also “called for an appeal to all the people kidnapped in the Middle East, so that the world will not forget them.”

Soon after, thirty interventions were given by the cardinals and patriarchs present in the Synod Hall.

The Patriarchs of Churches in the Middle East, in particular, have described situations and the main problems of the respective Churches in their respective countries, including Iraq, Syria, Egypt, the Holy Land, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Generally, the interventions focused on certain principles: the need for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, the defense of religious freedom, and support for local communities, the importance of education to create new generations capable of dialogue between them, and the role of the international community.

Regarding the first point, Fr. Lombardi explained, it was stressed that the Middle East has an urgent need to redefine its future.

The importance of Jerusalem as “the capital of the faith” for the three great monotheistic religions was underscored, as well the need to arrive at a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Syria.

Moreover, the spokesman reiterated their reaffirmation that, “In the face of violence perpetrated by ISIS, it was confirmed that you cannot kill in the name of God.”

Religious Freedom

The Vatican spokesman noted that freedom of religion and conscience, is a “fundamental human right,” one which is “innate and universal” for all mankind.

In addition to this right, the cardinals also stressed the need for Christians to recognize all the civil rights of other citizens, especially in countries where religion is not currently separated from the state.

Turning to how to support local communities in the region, Fr. Lombardi said: “It was confirmed that a Middle East without Christians would be a great loss for all, since they have a vital role in maintaining the balance of the region and for the great effort in the field of education.”

The communique noted that, “It is therefore essential to encourage Christians to remain in the Middle East and persevere in their mission, because they have always contributed to the well-being of the countries in which they live.”

Migration of Christians

Reflecting on the issue of migration of Christians, the consistory confirmed that those migrating “must find acceptance in the churches and in the States to which they migrate with the hope to also have adequate pastoral structures for the different rites.”

Furthermore, it was required to continue the delivery of humanitarian aid in the Middle East, that Christians are encouraged to stay on site and cultivate the various manifestations of solidarity possible by the churches in other countries, even with travel and pilgrimages.

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Texas and its assault on the churches and faith

This action by the government to subpoena these pastors that have voluntarily filed with the IRS comes as no surprise to me. This part of the tax code is working as intended when introduced in 1954 by of Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. Since this portion of section 501(c)(3) was ratified and approved most uninformed churches in America have organized as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt religious organizations.

I have never understood why any church would file for a 501c3 when it is not required. This voluntary contract places restrictions upon any 501c3 church. 501c3 churches are prohibited from addressing the vital issues of the day. By becoming a 501c3 the church have made an contract that says a church or organization may not openly speak out in opposition to, anything that the government declares as legal, even if it is immoral, doing so that church would then jeopardize its tax exempt status.

In the U.S.A. churches have always been Tax Exempt, the First Amendment clearly places the church outside the jurisdiction of the civil government. Since churches aren’t taxable in the first place, I have always wondered as have knowledgeable IRS employees why do so many of them go to the IRS and seek permission to be tax-exempt?

In order for certain organizations to be considered for tax-exempt status by the IRS an organization must fill out and submit IRS Form 1023 and 1024. However, note what the IRS says regarding churches and church ministries, in Publication 557:
Some organizations are not required to file Form 1023. These include:

Churches, interchurch organizations of local units of a church, conventions or associations of churches, or integrated auxiliaries of a church, such as a men’s or women’s organization, religious school, mission society, or youth group. These organizations are exempt automatically if they meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3).

According to IRS Code § 508(c)(1)(A):
Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations.
(a) New organizations must notify secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status.
(c) Exceptions.
(1) Mandatory exceptions. Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to—
(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches.

Thus, we see from the IRS’ own publications, and the tax code, that it is completely unnecessary for any church to apply for tax-exempt status. In the IRS’ own words a church “is automatically tax-exempt.”

Organizations That Qualify To Receive Deductible Contributions

You can deduct your contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization. To become a qualified organization, most organizations other than churches and governments, as described below, must apply to the IRS.

In the IRS’ own words a church “is automatically tax-deductible.”

Not only is it completely unnecessary for any church to seek 501c3 status, to do so becomes a grant of jurisdiction to the IRS by any church that obtains that State favor.

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Economics for Ecclesiastics

On October 10 and 13 the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross launched a ground-breaking academic program, Economics for Ecclesiastics. Brian Griffiths, a member of the British House of Lords and former economic policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, taught the university’s first two inaugural lectures to a capacity-enrollment of priests, nuns, seminarians, and lay students from developing and industrialized nations.

For most of the religious students specializing in theology, philosophy, communications, and canon law, the three-module economics course means navigating a new field of human inquiry – one filled with complex charts, graphs, mathematics and an entirely different ‘lingo’ to learn.

Economics for Ecclesiastics also represented the pontifical university’s first foray into teaching economic principles while at the same time presupposing the moral-theological teachings of the Church.

Moral judgments on issues such as fair prices, living wages, material wealth, and poverty are inevitable and welcome during classroom discussion. However, the new course concentrates on a ‘positive’, ‘scientific’ study of economics – on the empirical, objective how and what we know about economic realities, as opposed to the ‘normative’, ‘prescriptive’ aspect about how economic behavior and systems should ideally be.

While a prescriptive approach to teaching economics is of vital interest to the students, who in their professional and religious lives must assess political-economic values when preaching, giving pastoral counsel to business persons, and being effective in their missionary work, the course’s director, Msgr. Martin Schlag, has a different vision.

Msgr. Schlag is moral theologian who created the course with philosophy professor colleague Dr. Juan Andres Mercado as part of the university’s already successful Markets, Culture and Ethics Research Center. Together they have a ‘first-things-first’ approach.

Schlag expressed concern that religious students have long needed a broader, more “expert approach” to analyzing economic findings prior to making value judgments about specific economic conditions, actions and systems in their own experience. “Ethics has an important role to play both in economic agency and in epistemology, since every human act is always also an ethical act,” he said. Yet “morality plays a lesser role in epistemology”, that is, in how we first come to know and comprehend various economic realities. “It excludes certain aims from the object of economics, and it is possible to bridge the gap between the epistemological and moral spheres.”

This is what Paul Samuelson and William Nordhaus, co-authors of the textbook in use, mean when they say that in order for economic justice to occur economics students must have “cool heads at the service of warm hearts.”

Indeed, this also echoes the “Francis effect”, where religious and lay professionals, inspired by the new pope, are now more than ever eager to discover how to actually help ‘the least of these’ —those who suffer gross economic injustice on a daily basis. Therefore, they are encouraged not simply to hope and pray that economies fix themselves, but actually develop practical wisdom about wealth creation and human flourishing on an anthropological level.

In his first lecture, “Determination of Market Prices”, Lord Griffiths introduced some core economic concepts, such as supply-demand curves, input-output, price equilibrium, perfect-imperfect competition, inelasticity-elasticity, market failure, externalities, variables, and scarcity. “Economies are complex and require careful study”, he said, referring to the tens of millions of exchanges that occur every day in commercial trade.

One inquisitive student raised the issue regarding the actual effect 40 million aborted children has had on supply and demand curves for commodity and labor markets in the United States, while others debated practical examples of how price equilibriums are reached in inelastic and elastic demand curves.

Milk is an example of a “commodity that has high inelasticity”, said Griffiths. The demand tends to be steep for essential, staple items of “our daily bread”, he said.

“People will be willing to pay high price for milk and bread –up until a certain point, of course,” he said while discussing the latest example of price fluctuation of milk from 31 to 27 pence in the United Kingdom. “There are also variables and externalities”, he said, that can drive prices down such as “health concerns”, citing a recent drop in British dairy consumption and price due to studies released correlating fatty whole-milk products to heart disease and obesity.

Session II, “Government and Markets”, focused on the definitions of basic economic models: free market capitalism, command-and-control economies, and “mixed versions” which combine elements of free exchange with some level of government intervention. “There really is no pure market or pure command economy”, said Griffiths. “Virtually every contemporary economy is a mix of both.” He said it is really a question of percentage of which has more market exchange or more government involvement in the overall macro-economic balance.

Some technical policy discussion centered on the effect which government subsidies, tariffs, import substitution, regulation, and price ceilings have had on developing and industrialized economies. Extreme examples, as during war-time Britain, included radical effects on price and supply curves due to government rationing of commodities, like butter, and large-scale import bans.

The next two modules of Economics for Ecclesiastics – “Inflation and Debt” and “Entrepreneurs, Growth, and Poverty” – will be co-taught by Lord Griffiths and Dr. Antonio Argandoña, emeritus professor of economics and business ethics at Spain’s leading MBA program, I.E.S.E. Between module lectures, the Markets, Culture and Ethics Research Center will offer students and professionals ongoing seminars on economic history and business ethics.

Michael Severance is Operations Manager at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Rome.

(October 15, 2014) © Innovative Media Inc
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