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A conversation with Robert Sirico - S10.E11


WORLD Radio - A conversation with Robert Sirico - S10.E11

What do Jesus' parables teach us about God, man, and economics?

Robert Sirico Handout

I’m Warren Smith, and today you’ll be listening in on my conversation with author, speaker, and the founder of the Acton Institute: Father Robert Sirico. He has a new book, called The Economics of the Parables.

ROBERT SIRICO, GUEST: What Jesus does is deal in the real world. And he uses things, ideas, and concepts and presuppositions that are pre economic in the sense that they're not academically economic points. But when he talks about private property or contract disputes, or wage levels, or the conflict between people who are being paid different wages, he's dealing with a backdrop of economics.

Robert Sirico is one of those men who defy easy categorization. Raised in an Italian Catholic family in Brooklyn, he now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the heart of Dutch Reformed country. He rejected his Catholic upbringing to become a gay activist and one of the early leaders of the Metropolitan Community Church movement, which is a denomination made up of gay congregations. He was also ordained a Pentecostal minister and pastored churches in the Pacific Northwest. To add to his interesting associations, Father Sirico’s brother is Tony Sirico, an acclaimed actor best known for his roles in Woody Allen movies and as “Pauly Gualtieri” in the hit show The Sopranos.

This eclectic background doesn’t make Robert Sirico an obvious candidate to become one of the most significant Christian thought leaders in the nation. And the picture clouds even further when you consider that his college training is in English and Theology, but he has emerged as one of the nation’s most articulate Christian thinkers regarding economics—in part because of that theological training, and his deep understanding of the nature of man. In fact, it was a study of what Father Sirico calls a “Christian anthropology,” what the Bible has to say about the nature of humankind, that ultimately led him back to theologically and politically conservative ideas and—finally—back to the Catholic Church as well.

But Father Sirico remains fluent in ‘evangelicalese.’ In fact, the think tank he founded, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, is one of the few organizations that comfortably operates in both worlds.

Father Sirico has a new book out. It’s a close look at some of Jesus’ best known parables, and what they teach us about God, about man, and about economics. We talk about the book, but we also use this book as a way to talk about his remarkable life.

Father Sirico had this conversation with me from his home in Grand Rapids.

WS: Robert Sirico, welcome to the program. You know, we are going to talk about your book, I promise you, but but whenever I have a guy like you on the program, somebody who's been at what they're doing for a long, long time, I can't resist the opportunity to do a little bit of a retrospective on your life and career. And I hope you'll indulge me that for a few moments. You know, one of the things that's fascinating to me about your life and career, even though you are today, a Catholic priest, and, you know, have been Catholic for many, many years, and you were raised Catholic, you went for a fairly significant sojourn outside the Catholic Church sort of in the the Jesus movement, Pentecostal, you know, charismania stuff of the 1970s. Can you say how you got from a Catholic boy in Brooklyn to that?

RS: Well, you know, I grew up in a very culturally, you know, my brother is an actor. He played Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos. So that's the ethnicity, that kind of tough, New York Catholic, even if it was mostly cultural Catholic, environment that I came out of. And this is in the 60s, and all of a sudden that there's just seemed to be a shift going on in the church at the time. I didn't have the vocabulary to explain it. But it just became less interesting, more boring. What it was, was the after effects of the Second Vatican Council. And, you know, within Catholicism, we hold together a lot of the tendencies that you see formed denominations within the Protestant world. So we've got the liberals and the conservatives all in one pot, so to speak. And I was vulnerable, both, you know, because of the lack of my own solid education and formation, at 13 years old that when I met a kid in school, he happened to be a Jehovah's Witness. And he was the first person who taught me how to look up a Bible verse. I had a missal, which is our compilation of prayers and scriptures from the mass. I thought that was my Bible. And he said, No, it's got the Bible in it, but it's not the Bible. Let me show you and, you know, he just took perfect advantage of the moment. And then I got to meet his family, and then I went with him to Kingdom Hall. And that opened up a whole different way of looking at religion. Prior to that my, my experience had really mostly been with either Roman Catholics or Jews. Oddly enough, I you know, I've been to many Jewish synagogues and really appreciate the Jewish expression of faith.

So, over, over time, I drifted from the Catholic Church and found some friends who went to black Pentecostal churches. And so I enjoyed the music and the preaching and I went to Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Tabernacle, before it was the famous Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir when it was on Atlantic Avenue. I worked with Anne Wilkerson, David Wilkerson's mother, in Greenwich Village and was in Greenwich Village the night of the Stonewall riots, the, what's described as the birth of the gay liberation movement. And so I had a real diversity of religious experience through my teens and into my early 20s. And my return to Catholicism wasn't the kind of conversion where you come back angry at your experiences. You know, people, I always say that converts, when I get Catholic converts, especially evangelical converts, and they're just roaring about Protestantism, I say, you need to be on an island for about a year or two, before we let you into the general public, because you're going to just confuse things. So I didn't come back to the church with this hatred of all of those experiences or beliefs, but with an appreciation for how they made me who I was. The end of that exile from the Catholic church, I was involved with the political left. I really kind of had lost my faith, and was very confused personally. This is now getting into about 20, 21 years old. Through about 25 years old, I was involved with the political left, including the gay movement, the early feminist movement, this civil rights movement, and the anti war movement.

WS: Well, in fact, Robert Sirico, if I could interrupt you there and correct me if my if I've got your history wrong, but were you not involved in the early formation of the Metropolitan Community Church, which was known as the probably the premier church? Yeah, gay church in the country. And that, that's a huge shift. What, what got you there and what got you out of there?

RS: I'm tempted to tell you all about it, because a lot of colorful stories. But I'm writing an autobiography. And I don't want to give away too much. Because you're

WS: Sure. Yeah, right. Don't want to spill all your candy in the lobby as a sales trader used to tell me. Well, I get that. But…

RS: Let me, let me sum it up this way by saying that as I see it now, as I look back now, I mean, at the time, I couldn't have described it this way. I think I wanted to retain my evangelical sensibility. But I also wanted to find some resolution to this interior conflict in my own psychological understanding of myself as a sexual being. And that seemed to be the way to do it. But the more I got into it, the more I saw that the values and ideas were not my values and ideas. That there were things that I found, personally repugnant, and backed away from it. I can delineate this and tell you stories about it that that, I hope will be the stuff of the autobiography. But it's sufficient to say that I left. And, and you know, and having left that even now, this is, this is almost 50 years ago, we're talking about. I mean, I knew the leadership of the movement. I was part of the leadership. I don't look upon those folks, those friends, and I have a few of those friends left who will talk to me. But I don't look upon them with hatred or disdain. You know, that experience, along with the earlier experience among evangelicals has made me, now that I'm a retired priest - well, I don't know what that means, because I still do what I did - but it made me a good, a good pastor. Because I can listen to anyone I can really love and appreciate people as diverse as they are. And people in the way they look or the way they present themselves don't horrify me, don't, don't cause me to pull back in disdain. But really, I get drawn to people in those conditions. And I know the difficulty of of that confusion.

WS: Yeah, yeah. Well, for the record, I've known you personally for probably 10 or 15 years. And the entire time that I have known you, you have been a lion for conservatism, both theological conservatism and political conservatism as well. Economic, you, you're well known for your leadership of the Acton Institute, which of course promotes financial freedom and, or freedom in the financial realm, I should say. Maybe ,maybe a better way to say that,

RS: But with a moral understanding, with a moral orientation.

WS: That's right, not libertarianism, but with the idea of a moral center upon which we, we are upon which we make are our economic ideas, rooted and grounded. So, so that's how I've known you. I didn't know you in that earlier era in the 70s. I know again, I don't want to steal the thunder from your bio, autobiography.

RS: But maybe give you a few crumbs that are...

WS: Yeah, what are some of the key milestones along you don't have to walk me down the Emmaus road completely. But what are a couple of the milestones that were on that road?

RS: Well, you know, I knew Walter Martin, I guess he was called the Bible Answer, man.

WS: Yeah. And before Hank Henegraf, he was the Bible Answer Man.

RS: Oh, yeah, that's right.

WS: Yeah, yep.

RS: I used to go to his classes in New York City. He used to teach at, I think it was Calvary Baptist. Maybe that was his mentor. Who was his mentor? His name is slipping me, but a very evangelical lion. But then, then he was teaching at the, the original Christian Missionary Alliance Church, on I think it was Ninth Avenue, every Monday night. I would go every Monday night and got to know him. And what he taught me was a kind of intellectual approach to the scriptures, to the faith. To be reasonable, just not just emotive. Because a lot of the charismatic stuff was just emotive. The importance of the creeds and things like that. Then, moving away from that into the left, I think the real moment that caused me to turn was not only seeing the danger of the lives. This is long before AIDS, too. And if you can believe that I was insisting on chastity before gay marriage, in that community and Hollywood, and how I was viewed as nuts. I have a recording somewhere of my preaching at the Metropolitan Community Church in which I said, quote, unquote, the gay lifestyle is satanic. And I was saying this as a gay activist. And as a gay preacher. And people knew what I meant by that. They didn't agree with me.

But finally, politically, there began to be a change in me, because I saw that socialism there, because somebody gave me some books to read that really clicked. It really helped me to understand something that I kind of knew in my bones, but didn't know how to express it academically. And that rationality and understanding markets brought back my early Catholic formation, which was really basically a Natural Law orientation to the world and to theology. And I began reading systematically. And that's when, by the way, I went to college. Because I didn't go to college, there was no intellectual tradition in my family. We didn't go to college. And so I, I went to college at like 25, 26 years old, which was great because I got my money's worth. And, it was there that I was able to deal with things much more deeply, philosophically. And then eventually, theologically, in that I discovered, or shall I say, rediscovered, my, my vocation to the priesthood. So I, I had an experience when I was visiting Europe for the first time in St. Peter's where I understood that God was going to, was calling me back to my roots. And I mean, the bottom line is that I love the truth, more than I love myself. I love the truth, more than I love my passions. And that I came to understand there was a way of redirecting passions in a way that is in accord with the truth. That's not been easy at all times. But I thank God that I've been faithful to that. And I want to do that, I want to live that witness in a way that is authentic and credible to other people.

WS: Well, that's a powerful word, Father Sirico. And you know, one of the ways that you have done that publicly is through the Acton Institute. I made a furtive, outsiders attempt to describe the Acton Institute just a few moments ago, but it's now been around for what? You founded it around 1990? Is that accurate?

RS: 1990, yeah.

WS: Yeah. So over 30 years now, and had a huge impact. Had a huge impact on my thinking, and I know many others as well. But take, deliver our listeners from my incomplete and imperfect definition. How would you describe the Acton Institute? What is your work there?

RS: Let me first say that from the inception of the institute, we decided it was going to be an interfaith endeavor. So it was a kind of like evangelicals and Catholics together before there was an evangelicals and Catholics together, just practically living this out. It was important to us that we not come at this thing in the way most mainstream ecumenical dialogues, especially of that era came at it, where we were compromising our beliefs in order to have some kind of unity. We thought, and especially, I founded it, when Chuck Colson came to the second anniversary dinner in Grand Rapids, he said, I had to come to Grand Rapids, the bastion of Calvinism in the United States and see the audacity of this priest to set up a think tank in the middle of ‘Calvin City.’ And that really kind of spoke to the way in which we, we approached it. We didn't, we didn't pretend we didn't disagree on on many things far more important than economics, honestly. But we knew that we had to, you know, come to some promotion of, of liberty.

So the institute, the way I would put it to your audience, who is a more sophisticated audience than a lot of others, is to say, in the same way, that Christ is God and man, in the same way the Incarnation tells us about the goodness of creation and the seriousness with which God takes the human reality, including our cultures, so the Acton Institute wants to help people who think sincerely and morally, to understand the practical dimensions of how that morality can be enfleshed in the world. And we think that the free market is a better way to achieve moral ends, with a special regard for the poor, than command and control economies, than socialist economies. And then, lo and behold, we found that there's a whole history of this thinking. And there are a lot of people in all kinds of religious and even secular contexts, who understand that you've got to have the moral held intention, with the practical. I'm fond of quoting one philosopher who said that if you want to build a cathedral like Notre Dame that represents the rising of the soul to God, you better first understand geometry. Because piety is never a substitute for technique. And that's, that's what it is. If we're going to bring the glory of God to our world, then we'd better understand how this world really functions and operates.

WS: Well, that's a beautiful description, and in some ways, ah Father Sirico, it seems to me and again, correct me if I'm wrong, that much of what you are saying is, is in some ways hiding in plain sight, you might say. In other words, this is stuff that is in Scripture. It is stuff that has been in certainly Catholic social teaching for, you know, a millennium or more. And, and even in much of the Protestant reformers, there was a sense of these ideas. Why do you think therefore, if what I just said is true or has a grain of truth to it, why do you think therefore, that there is such a need in the Christian community? Why do so many Christians have flirtations with progressivism and with socialism? What are they missing? And what are we who are communicating these ancient truths not doing well, so that these ideas aren't getting more traction in the culture?

RS: Well, that was a good set of questions. If I had to lay it at the foot of one thing, and it's never one thing. But you know, one of the prominent problems, I think, in in religious thinking is this excessive sentimentalism. So that we allow, we allow ourselves to think that, because we love the poor, and we're called to that, it's indisputable obligation of the Christian is to be there for those who are without. I mean, that's everything about Christ and his coming to the world, and he expects us to live that out unto the least of these, you know. But that that sentimentalism thinks that it can just ignore the harsh, harsh reality of trade offs, and scarcity. And I mean, what people forget is that God didn't put us in a jungle. He put us in a garden. And a garden requires a certain number of things. It requires work. It requires toil. It requires productivity, planning. And those things are just not as exciting as picturing yourself, you know, just feeding the poor without asking yourself where that food is going to come from in the first place. There's a group, an evangelical group. I won't mention them, because I don't want to open you up to, to criticism, although you bring it on yourself anyway. But you know, that they want, Bread for the World, you know. And when they came to the parish I was in and they presented themselves, everybody's enthusiastic. We're going to get involved in this. And I said, okay, how much bread do you produce? That is how much food do you distribute to the poor? Well, we don't, that's not what we do. Well, Bread for the World, what do you do? We monitor legislation. And we'll give you talking points on the legislation, even homilies, to preach. So you can have Bible studies, and homilies and stuff so that you can advocate for specific pieces of legislation dealing with nutrition and food distribution. I said, Well, that's, that's nice, but that's, you know, ignoring the whole world of the production of food. And that that's a market and that a market isn't a bad thing. Prices are not bad things. Prices are things that communicate to us information about the relative costs of producing, in this case, food. And I think that's the sentimentalism is is a part of the thing.

WS: So evangelicals want, well not just evangelicals, but you know, even many Catholic Christians and others, we want to build the cathedral without doing the hard work of understanding algebra, and geometry, and physics, and gravity, and all of that, right?

RS: Good luck. It's going to come tumbling down. And that's exactly what we see with regard to the welfare state. You know, that we're, we think compassion is just emoting. And as our mutual friend, Marvin Olasky, pointed out, compassion is ‘suffering with.’ How much like Jesus Christ we need to be to ‘suffer with.’ And ‘suffering with’ both in terms of giving of our means, but more normatively, creating systems of productivity that enable people to sustain them themselves.

WS: Yeah, well, that's a nice, I told you that we would eventually get to your book, Father Sirico. And I think now is that moment, now that we're 20 plus minutes into our conversation. I do want to talk about your book, because that is sort of a nice segue into your new book, The Economics of the Parables. A couple of just quick questions about the book. Let's just stipulate for the record, that we're not going to be able to go through book chapter and verse. If you want to know what's in the book, go get the book and go read the book. But I do want to hit a couple of high points and just ask you some of the raison d'etre of the book, if I might. Number one is just this. There are about, if my I know there's probably different people counting different ways, but the way I count it there are between 25 and 30 parables in the four canonical gospels.

RS: Some of the commentators say there are up to 200.

WS: Yeah, exactly. So why these 13? I think there were 13 or so chapters.

RS: I chose 13. And I really, you know, there are two or three more that that I really should have included. Maybe in, when the next edition of the book comes out if there is a next edition, I'll include them. These are ones that I'm, you know, I've preached on many times. And I've had a lot of questions about these. I mean, obviously, the parable of the talents. You know, that's or the laborers in the vineyard. The prodigal son. You know, I didn't have the prodigal son in the original draft. And the, it was the editors at Regnery, who said, you've got to have the prodigal son here. It's one of the most well known ones. So I, you know, in the last month put that chapter together. So, I guess in some sense, it's arbitrary. I could have included lots more. I mean, this could have been endless. The way this started was my notes from my homilies over the years. And then I had to research, some research assistants at Acton over the years, and I would give them a list of commentators that I wanted them to pull the, the research on, and let me look at it, what what other people were saying about these texts.

Interestingly enough, there really, there's no substantial book that deals with the economics of the parables. There's one small book that was published in England, but it doesn't go into the detail and kind of flesh it out. There's some very good journal articles on aspects of different gospels and the economic aspects and I deal with some of them. And then came to really appreciate, I have to say, Arlen Haltgrins work and Cline Snodgrass, especially, their monumental works. These are both evangelical scholars, parable experts. But then there's Jeremias and, and others, too, who you have to read. And it was an exciting thing. So I had this process going on with the homilies and I'd always get distracted by my work with Acton or another book or appearance or my pastoral work - you know, I've been a pastor the whole time that I've been president of the Acton Institute - that God sent us a plague. And I sat down during the lockdowns and finally finished the work.

WS: Yeah. Well, Father Sirico, let me ask you a couple of questions about sort of your strategy in writing about these parables. Because you note early in the book, that the parables are not primarily economic lessons. In other words, Jesus did not say I'm going to teach you an economic lesson. And I'm going to do this in the form of a parable.

RS: No, quite the opposite.

WS: He was teaching us about the Kingdom of God. And that's where the parables come from. So how did you, personally, you know, maybe as a matter of spiritual discipline, and as an intellectual discipline as well, keep that main idea, that big idea in mind as you were writing the book? Because I imagine that it would be a temptation, especially for someone with your vocation, of your calling, and your expertise, to proof text the parables to make economic or political or ideological points. I sense that you did not do that at all. What did you do to guard against that?

RS: So far I haven't been accused of doing that. I'm sure that will come up because I mention it several times in anticipation that that were the thing. You know, as a preacher, it's amazing, you know, in my parish…you know me through the Acton Institute. My parishioners didn't know me through the Acton Institute. They know me as their priest. And they were astounded. Every now and then I'd get somebody come and say, father, did you write that article in the Wall Street Journal on blah, blah, blah? Yeah. Oh! I didn't know you had a whole other life. That kind of thing. So when I preached I didn't preach on economics. I didn't preach on politics. I preached on morality. And, and early on, you know, when I was in seminary, I saw people who eisegy. You know, I've read the corpus of liberation theology, and I give a few examples of it in the book of how people eisegy. Or for that matter, you know, on on the right, you know, the prosperity gospel folks. They eisegy all the time. And I find that unappealing and superficial. When you were describing how does a person with my, my vocation do that, it's because of my vocation that I wouldn't do that. It's because my primary reference point is the gospel of Jesus Christ, not economics. What Jesus does, though, is deal in the real world. And he uses things, ideas, and concepts and presuppositions that are pre-economic in the sense that they're not academically economic points. But when he talks about private property or contract disputes, or wage levels, or the conflict between people who are being paid different wages, he's dealing with a backdrop of economics. And surprisingly enough, that backdrop of economics is just natural. You know that people are going to be envious, because your, your benefactor is generous. Some are going to be more productive than others. And for various reasons. That's just the real world. And my approach to economics is not ideological, and it is not mathematical. It's human action. And that's why I felt it very easy to do that.

WS: Well, as I said, a few moments ago, Father Sirico, we're not going to be able to dig into the book in great detail. And as you also rightly said, that, you know, we don't want to do a Jesus Juke, so to speak, and just pull, you know, or proof texts and pull economic lessons out of the parables or out of Scripture. That said, let me just ask you a couple of questions, kind of as a lightning round, maybe here in closing, about some of the hot button issues that we're facing in our culture today. And maybe what the parables or what scripture or what, you know, deep thinking about these issues for a number of years can, can, can say to us about these questions. One would be just the whole question of capitalism, generally. It's under fire in many parts of the world, it's under fire in many parts of Christendom.

RS: It's under fire on the part of many conservatives.

WS: Well, exactly right. Yeah. And so give us your most robust, biblical defense of capitalism.

RS: Well, first of all, I don't want to defend capitalism, because the word itself is too narrow. It just focuses on one dimension. I much prefer the phrase ‘free markets’ or ‘free economy.’ And I think that is rooted in the nature of the human person who seeks to make the best use of resources that are scarce. Going back to that image of the Garden of Eden, that's just the human condition. And what is so noble about that, to my mind, is that human beings in their creativity, are willing to risk their own resources to create solutions for other people's problems, for other people's wants. And that what that has generated in human history is the most productive economic system, which has come to be called capitalism. But again, I don't like the phrase. In all of human history that is the cause of the rise out of poverty of more people ever before. In fact, the fact that we can sustain eight billion people on our planet is an indication of the success of a free economy, which really only begins to emerge in the last 200 years of human history. I mean, if you looked at a chart and saw this, this hockey stick that just jumps right up, when we begin understanding the relationship between private property, human initiative and freedom, the rule of law, all of those institutions that we know in the West as the free society. If that's not a morally compelling case, I don't know what it is.

WS: Right, exactly. So you would not say what Winston Churchill said about democracy. Which he famously said that democracy is the worst form of government known to man, except for all the other forms of government. He's essentially saying that democracy is the lesser of many evils. That does not seem to be your argument. You are actually saying that there is something enobling and moral about free markets. Am I getting you right in that?

RS: Yes. What I'm not saying is that it is a perfect system. What I'm not saying is that human beings are perfect. What I'm not saying is that just because a person is successful in a market that they have attained virtue. There are a lot of people, I don't even have to elaborate this. I mean, everybody knows that. You have to elaborate the other side of it, that there's not virtue in poverty either. You know, poverty in and of itself is not virtuous. We want to help people come out of it. It can be a way of service. And if if we put the moral guidelines in place, moral sensibility, it can be a very powerful occasion for evangelizing the world as well.

WS: My final, I think it's going to be my final question, Father Sirico. You, every time you say something, it stirs in my imagination so many more questions. But I know we need to draw our conversation to a close here. So let me, let me ask about how you want the book to be used. Because as I read the book, there were two or three things that really jumped out at me. And I know they're not, they weren't accidental. And, and I'm wondering if they might inform the answer to this question. How do you want them to be used? One of those was that you quoted the the parable directly from Scripture at the beginning of each chapter. So there was kind of a, a rich, helping of God's Word.

RS: By the way the King James Version.

WS: Right, right. Well, I was gonna, yeah. The King James version, which I mean, you, and you noted in the introduction, that the King James version might seem inaccessible to some. And we know from modern scholarship, maybe not even be the best translation. But you also noted that there is a beauty and a richness and a resonance to that language, which was why you used the King James version, which is something that as a word guy, myself, I really appreciated very much.

The other thing about the each chapter that I found very fascinating was that you had a piece of art, a drawing an etching. They were, now the book was in black and white. So you often would use an etching or a wood cut, that would allow it to be reproduced in black and white without compromising the artistic integrity of the piece, which I thought was a really thoughtful and beautiful stroke. So, getting back to the question here. How do you want the book to be used? And did my, by adding those two pieces there to the book, am I wrong to conclude at least in part that maybe you hoped that this book would be devotional in nature. That it would not just be an intellectual food, but that it would be something beautiful that would nourish our hearts as well.

RS: You know, I suppose. I really appreciate that observation. And I can't say that I intended for that to happen. But I suppose the reason it came out that way is because my, my pattern over many years, and I kind of picked this up from John Paul when I heard that he would sit in his chapel and meditate on a scripture or document that he had to write before God and make it, and weave prayer into the writing of it. And that's what I did with those homilies. That's the way I prepare my homilies. I kind of just sit in the chapel with the text. And I just begin jotting thoughts down. And then I'll go out later and read commentators and things like that. So it's a, it's a very meditative process. So I think, yes, I think that would be one useful way to approach it. If you you read the text first, and just let it sink in. And then do the the more academic, more intellectual work. I would also hope that preachers who are notorious for their theft of homilies of other people would, would have free rein with what I've produced here. You know, there's no private property in the sermon department, although I think there are some scandals where people are, you know, lifting other people's sermons and presenting them as though they were their own. So there's that dimension of it. I could see this book as well, being used by families who are going through succession. Because there's very often and even in good Christian families, there's very often a tension with regard to inheritance or the succession of businesses. And there are some of these particular homilies, the prodigal son might be one of them, and the dispute with the the young man that comes to Jesus and asks him to settle the dispute with his older brother. I think those parables could be helpful, and maybe those chapters could be helpful for a family who wants to sit down and think about what we're doing here. What are our highest values?

WS: Yeah, yeah. I'm familiar with the old expression that families often go from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations. That the first generation works hard. The second generation often were witnesses to that hard work. They know how their parents built whatever wealth they might have. But the third generation, often, unless you're intentional about teaching that third generation, they will not necessarily learn those lessons. They're not obvious to them. They don't see them with their own eyes.

RS: Yeah, and that's the danger of, you know, philanthropy and leaving large estates for the third and fourth and fifth generation to distribute, because the intent gets obscured. We've seen that in some of the major foundations in the United States.

Ws: Yeah, exactly right. Yeah. And another topic we've written about here. Well, listen, Father Sirico, we've wandered far afield and, and we've also probably abused my promise to try to keep this conversation to around 35 minutes or so. But let me just say that I found the book so nourishing, and I've been nourished by your life and career. Your work at the Acton Institute has often been a resource for me over the years. So thank you very much for this book and for being on today. And I know you are, you know, I hope you have many, many years ahead of you. But you've already mentioned that you're sort of retired and emeritus status from certain things, so.

RS: I'm doing other stuff.

WS: Well, that's good. I'm glad you are. And that does lead me to what is truly and surely my final question. How do you want to be remembered? How, you know, after all of the things that we've talked about? I mean, I would think that any one of them would make a, you know, a full statement of purpose for most men I know. And yet you have them all on your plate, all on your tombstone, so to speak. What do you want to be remembered for?

RS: You know, it's funny, you should mention my tombstone because I've already chosen the epitaph. And it's from Augustine, from The Confessions. He said something that really intrigued me and I've sat with it, and every time I sit with it, becomes deeper and deeper in it's profundity. He said, “Long have I loved thee, oh beauty ever ancient, ever new. Long have I loved thee.” And what, he elaborates that. And he says that, uh, you know, I, I saw you, but I didn't understand you. And you compelled me to come to you. I'm putting it all in my own words now. You compelled me to come to you. Your, your beauty drew me in. If If I'm to be known as anything, I want to be known as someone who was captivated by Christ, and who had the immense, immense fortune of being invited into a relationship with Him. That, that's, that's the foundation of who I am.

That brings to a close my conversation with Father Robert Sirico. His new book is “The Economics of the Parables.” It was released in May.

Listening In comes to you from WORLD News Group, and this program is just one of the many benefits that comes with a WORLD subscription. To find out more visit WNG.org/subscribe.

Also, I remind you each week that “Listening In” now has an extensive archive of more than 450 conversations with writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, politicians and pastors, news makers, and interesting people of all kinds. But I’d like to draw your attention to one in particular. Back in 2016 I interviewed Michael Matheson Miller. He was the director of a documentary called Poverty, Inc. This award-winning movie was produced by The Acton Institute, and it explores some of the ideas we discussed today. To find it, head over to the World News Group website and use the search engine to explore what we have there. Again, that’s WNG.org.

Tune in next week to hear my conversation with Chris Wall and Neal Harmon. Neal is one of the founders of Angel Studios, which produced The Chosen, and is currently producing an animated series based on Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather novels. Chris Wall is the showrunner for that project.

The producer for today’s program is Leigh Jones. Johnny Franklin is the technical producer. And Paul Butler is executive producer for WORLD Radio. I’m your host, Warren Smith. And you’ve been Listening In….

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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