Had I more time today I would write an extensive correction to The Washington Post‘s questionable quotes from Fr. Robert Sirico, head of the Acton Institute. In it, Sirico sets forth the typical Acton line that the Church is not competent to speak on economic matters while holding that because Pope Francis is “not an economist,” his teaching on economic matters need not be followed. This is not a Catholic position to take, unless one wishes to dissent from the magisterium — which Acton, an inter-confessional organization, routinely does. Let us not forget what Pope Pius XI taught authoritatively in his masterful encyclical Quadragesimo Anno:
42. Even though economics and moral science employs each its own principles in its own sphere, it is, nevertheless, an error to say that the economic and moral orders are so distinct from and alien to each other that the former depends in no way on the latter. Certainly the laws of economics, as they are termed, being based on the very nature of material things and on the capacities of the human body and mind, determine the limits of what productive human effort cannot, and of what it can attain in the economic field and by what means. Yet it is reason itself that clearly shows, on the basis of the individual and social nature of things and of men, the purpose which God ordained for all economic life.
43. But it is only the moral law which, just as it commands us to seek our supreme and last end in the whole scheme of our activity, so likewise commands us to seek directly in each kind of activity those purposes which we know that nature, or rather God the Author of nature, established for that kind of action, and in orderly relationship to subordinate such purposes to our supreme and last end. If we faithfully observe this law, then it will follow that the particular purposes, both individual and social, that are sought in the economic field will fall in their proper place in the universal order of purposes, and We, in ascending through them, as it were by steps, shall attain the final end of all things, that is God, to Himself and to us, the supreme and inexhaustible Good.
Yes, there has been some understandable conservative and traditionalist concern with the Pope’s actions and words over the past two years, but on the plane of the Church’s social magisterium, Francis speaks in continuity with his predecessors. You would never know that, however, from reading Acton propaganda, which is why no mention should be made of that institute by any publication which seeks to discuss the Catholic Church and her authentic teachings.