Skip to main content

Religion & Liberty: Volume 27, Number 3

Justice, applied equally

Oftentimes during prayer I reflect on my good fortune. I grew up in a loving Italian-American family during an amazing era of progress both economically and technologically. My Italian roots were planted so strong.

However, as they say, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Instead of leading a life in quiet near-obscurity, I pursued the public life of a free-market proponent. This entailed employing the Word and other theological and divinely inspired tools to support the small-“w” words of renowned economic thinkers. 

Amazingly, the task wasn’t all that difficult. At first blush, it would seem we founders of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty were attempting to pound square pegs into round circles.

My public life has granted me innumerable opportunities to travel throughout the United States and abroad. My point isn’t to boast, but only to make a point that my travels have provided me with tremendous lessons in what constitutes humanity as our culture traditionally understands it.

Far from being homogenous, our world consists of many perspectives, attitudes and values. However, these myriad views aren’t inherently irreconcilable. In my adopted hometown, for example, religious diversity abounds and there exists dozens of different political views.

Such is the enormity of some of these differences of opinion, readers may recall an attempt by the local government to levy a tax burden on our headquarters. Had this effort succeeded, the Acton Institute no doubt would have survived, at the very least, financially wounded. Fortunately, the case eventually was resolved in our favor, but not before wreaking havoc in the personal and business lives of everyone affiliated with our nonprofit, tax-exempt enterprise.

However large this threat loomed over Acton specifically, we fought not just for our own survival, because a victory for Acton would represent a victory for our entire community as well as our movement. Winning for us meant that the rule of law for everyone also won.

For the most part, somehow, our many tribes have managed to coalesce into a thriving community. People thrive when justice is applied equally. Justice is but one of the lynchpins of a free and virtuous society.

By justice, I don’t mean the sense of fairness we practiced on playgrounds as kids. I mean such practices as applying laws fairly for everyone, protecting private-property rights and religious freedoms as well as ensuring that government follows the laws it enforces on the rest of us. We do this better than many other countries, but we can also do so much better. This, in part, is why the Acton Institute will continue its mission indefinitely.


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.

As president of the