Defending her article on Opus Dei in yesterday’s Crikey, Kate Mannix referred to Dr Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute in Michigan as an inspiration for some of Cardinal Pell’s thinking.

I got to know Sam Gregg during a brief period in 1998 when we were both employed by the Centre for Independent Studies
in Sydney. I was editorial manager, he was running a program called
“Religion and the Free Society.” We actually got on well, both being
interested in the same sorts of ideas. He certainly never made me feel
uncomfortable, but I was concerned that a liberal organisation like the
CIS would employ him.

Sam is a serious intellectual, intelligent and happy to debate his
views, but he is not a liberal. I’m sure he is sincere when he says he
believes in a free society, but in the natural-law Catholic tradition
words do not always mean what they seem to, and “freedom” ultimately
comes down to being free to do what the pope tells you. Sam would never
engage in religious persecution himself, but his ideas lead
inescapably, in my view, to the conclusion that persecution is
justified.

Like the Acton Institute, “Religion and the Free Society” was largely
concerned with promoting capitalism among religiously-minded people. I
don’t have any problem with that; I think capitalism is a good thing
too. But using religious arguments to justify it is deeply dangerous,
because they undermine its fundamentally secular and liberal
foundations.

The Catholic church has a long and proud intellectual tradition. The
Jesuits, who in some ways were an earlier version of Opus Dei, produced
many outstanding scholars who enriched civilisation. But, not to put
too fine a point on it, they also drenched Europe and the Americas in
blood.

I would be happier if I thought the two things could be neatly
separated, but I fear that an intellectual return to the thirteenth
century would have unpleasant practical consequences.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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