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Wrapping up the last quarter of 2018 grants the opportunity to take stock of where the Acton Institute began and where we’re headed. Even though this year’s Acton University and Annual Dinner are in the rearview mirror, plans are already well underway for next year’s events. It’s often an unstated fact that our mission is too important to let our guard down even for one day against the forces of statism as well as economic and religious obscurantism.

When we first conceived of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, Kris Mauren and I dreamed big. We wanted an all-star lineup of the best and brightest free-market and religious thinkers to assist us in our mission, and we set out to recruit as many of them as possible. After all, what good is an educational and research organization without the finest talent and sharpest minds available?

Naming all those we endeavored to enlist is impossible in this space, but let’s just say we succeeded beyond our wildest imaginings. In this, we were equal parts lucky and fortunate. The luck derived from scaling a steep learning curve unscathed when it came to realizing our dream. We were fortunate because others understood our compelling plan that married free-market economics with sound, theological principles.

Nearly 30 years ago, such a concept was perceived as oxymoronic. Those of us who came of age in the 1960s and 70s were accustomed to separating economics from spirituality. When the two topics were linked it usually meant the message of Judeo-Christianity was depicted as some form of soft socialism. What was needed was an institute that could provide proof from both Biblical and other faith-based texts as well as empirical, scientific research that greater economic freedom results in greater economic prosperity for all strata of society.

Furthermore, our focus isn’t primarily focused on the economics of human existence, important though that is. We advocate for a “free and virtuous society,” which entails adopting the precepts of Judeo-Christian moral behavior as an overall benefit to civilization at large. When properly understood, “ordered liberty” abjured libertinism while embrazing humanitarianism, such as what is depicted in the New Testament parables. The Parable of the Talents, for example, relays not only a potent economic lesson on saving and investment, but also a relevant message concerning virtuous human conduct.

So, readers can be confident that there will be no resting on Acton’s past laurels. Our previous accomplishments are but an investment that we anticipate will deliver huge dividends for future freedom and virtuous living.

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Rev. Robert A. Sirico received his Master of Divinity degree from the Catholic University of America following undergraduate study at the University of Southern California and the University of London.  During his studies and early ministry, he experienced a growing concern over the lack of training religious studies students receive in fundamental economic principles, leaving them poorly equipped to understand and address today's social problems.  As a result of these concerns, Fr. Sirico co-founded the Acton Institute with Kris Alan Mauren in 1990.