Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Message from Bethlehem: Lord Acton Tends to Corrupt

Lord Acton (1834-1902) was a nineteenth English historian, a Liberal Catholic who intensely disliked the counterrevolutionary direction down which the Church was headed under the leadership of Blessed Pius IX. He is a hero to many modern men and women who share his Enlightenment outlook on society, politics, and especially the meaning of freedom. These include the directors of a powerful and well-heeled American think tank, the Acton Institute, which has an enormous influence in Catholic circles around the entire western world.

Acton is most well known through his teaching that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power to corrupt absolutely. This dictum, repeated by constitutionalists and libertarians alike, is supposed to force those of us who justify Church and State use of power to face honestly the unpleasant truth about ourselves: that we are on the low road to becoming despicable tyrants or friends of tyranny. But it seems to me that a solid Catholic analysis of the Power Dictum leads to a quite different conclusion: that it is actually this teaching of Lord Acton which tends to corrupt, and the absolute dedication to promotion of his beliefs, represented by foundations like the Acton Institute, which corrupts absolutely. For the Actonian PD, in practice, reflects a Gnostic and Manichean vision totally incompatible with the one taught by the holy babe born in Bethlehem.  (more...)

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