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Leading Chinese political philosopher, Ratzinger scholar named to pontifical academy

June 06, 2023

On June 5, Pope Francis named three scholars, including a Chinese critic of political equality and a leading Australian theologian, to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

According to its statutes, the academy has the “aim of promoting the study and progress of the social sciences, primarily economics, sociology, law and political science. The academy, through an appropriate dialogue, thus offers the Church the elements which she can use in the development of her social doctrine, and reflects on the application of that doctrine in contemporary society.”

Members, who need not be Catholic, are appointed to 10-year terms “on the basis of their competencies in the social sciences and of their moral integrity.” Since 2022, Cardinal Peter Turkson has been the academy’s grand chancellor.

Tongdong Bai (Twitter), 53, is a professor of philosophy at Fudan University (China), a leading neo-Confucian political philosopher, and the author of Against Political Equality: The Confucian Case (First Things review). He sees Confucian meritocracy as a correction of democracy. “What I am trying to do is to save liberalism by curbing democracy and equality,” he explained.

Bai is not hesitant to weigh in on US politics: for example, he has tweeted, “Between the politically correct emptiness of the left and the politically incorrect cruelty and stupidity of Trump’s right, it is often the Never-Trumper Republican columnists have interesting things to say.”

“It’s joked that Trump wishes to make America 1950s again,” he tweeted following the Dobbs abortion decision. “With the overturning of Roe, thanks to three Trump justices, it actually happens. Who says Trump couldn’t get anything done?!”

Justin Farrell (Twitter), 39, is a professor of sociology at Yale University’s School of the Environment. A Wyoming native who was a first-generation college student, he is the author of Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West. Recent journal articles include “Elevated serious psychological distress, economic disruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic in the nonmetropolitan American West“ and “Effects of land dispossession and forced migration on Indigenous peoples in North America.”

In 2021, Farrell organized a workshop for the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on “Truth and Post-Truth in Communication, Media and Society“; he described the workshop as “a fantastic few days at the Vatican to research the philosophical and profit-motive drivers of science denial.” Earlier this year, he spoke at a pontifical academy workshop on the topic of “Large-scale analysis of colonization and climate change.”

Tracey Rowland, 59, is a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame Australia and the former Dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne (2001-2017). She is the author of 150 articles and eight books, including Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Francis appointed her to a five-year term on the International Theological Commission in 2014, and she was awarded the Ratzinger Prize in 2020. More recently, in May 2023, she wrote “Ten Theological Principles from the Benedict XVI Treasury.”


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  • Posted by: grateful1 - Jun. 07, 2023 3:59 PM ET USA

    Let us pray that whatever contribution Ms. Rowland makes is not outweighed by that of the two leftists who will be sitting beside her. This piece is an example of why I never, EVER donate to anything with the word "Pontifical" in it.