June 04, 2018

Five scholars and 15 Röpke-Wojyła Fellows gathered in Curley Hall on May 19th for the third of four meetings of the inaugural cohort of the Röpke-Wojyła Fellowship (RWF). That meeting was organized under the theme of “Capitalism, Society, and Human Flourishing,” and was a day of spirited discussion and debate centered on key issues in Catholic social thought.

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RWF is sponsored by the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship in the Busch School. As the program’s director, Dr. Frederic Sautet, explains, RWF is conceived as a means “to stimulate future Catholic intellectuals and business leaders into thinking deeply about the moral and economic aspects of a good and free society in light of Catholic social thought, and to help rebuild the social covenant accordingly.”

The program fills a significant gap by engaging students in an intellectual tradition that they likely do not encounter with sufficient rigor in their formal studies, one rooted in the thought of Aristotle, Aquinas, and the scholastics and extending into the contemporary fields of Austrian economics and philosophical anthropology. RWF is named after Wilhelm Röpke and Karol Wojtyła (St. John Paul II), two 20th-century thinkers who made important contributions to this tradition.

RWF sessions are student-led and entirely discussion-based, with an intensive reading list serving as the springboard for each meeting. Most recently, for example, fellows and scholars came prepared to unpack selections from Alexis de Tocqueville, G. K. Chesterton, Max Weber, Hilaire Belloc, Friedrich Hayek, and Gustavo Gutierrez, to name just a few.

Earlier sessions were held on campus this past academic year, in October and February, and were organized under the themes of “Commerce, Political Economy, and the Marketplace” and "Natural Law, Anthropology, and Catholic Social Doctrine,” respectively. They covered readings from, among others, Friedrich Engels, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Ruskin, Adam Smith, and, of course, Wilhelm Röpke and Karol Wojyła.

This year’s fourth and final RWF session will take place on June 18th and 19th in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in conjunction with the annual meeting of Acton University. Fellows will attend the Acton event but will also convene for two days in advance, during which they will present and discuss their own papers as a capstone of their year of study together. Paper topics will include, among others: a comparison of the economic thought of Abraham Lincoln and Röpke; liberation theology in Latin America; Wojyła’s anthropology versus that of John Locke; and the contributions of Josef Pieper and Röpke vis-à-vis the Catholic idea of integral human development.

Röpke-Wojyła Fellows are accomplished senior-level undergraduates majoring in a variety of disciplines at colleges and universities across the U.S. Fellow Isaac Owen of Wyoming Catholic College commented on the interdisciplinary nature of RWF as “the true strength of the Fellowship: it is able to take students from all backgrounds and place them in conversation with one another where they all have something to offer.” Moving into its second year, RWF has attracted another impressive group of students. For the 2018-2019 cohort, 65 applications were received this spring and are currently under review for the 15 available spots.

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