Robert Sirico

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The Rev.
Robert Sirico
Priest of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Diocese Grand Rapids
Ordination 1989
Personal details
Born (1951-06-23) June 23, 1951 (age 65)
New York City, New York, United States
Nationality American
Denomination Roman Catholic
Occupation President of the Acton Institute
Profession Priest, author, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute
Alma mater The Catholic University of America

Robert A. Sirico (born June 23, 1951) is an American Roman Catholic priest, and the founder of the Acton Institute. He is a political and cultural commentator.

He is the younger brother of The Sopranos actor Tony Sirico.


Sirico was raised in a Catholic family in Brooklyn, New York, but by his early teenage years he had left the Church. He received an associate's degree from Los Angeles City College, studied at St. Mary's University College, London, and received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Southern California.

On May 10, 1972, Sirico publicly declared his homosexuality and became a gay rights activist.[1] He subsequently joined and served as a Pentecostal preacher in the Metropolitan Community Church. Sirico initially promoted left-wing politics, but after a time he began to realize he did not agree with the principles of socialism.[2][verification needed][3][verification needed]

A deeper study of the human person led to his return to the Catholic Church in 1977, and later the writings of St. Augustine and the biography of Blessed John Henry Newman moved him to consider the priesthood. He received an M.Div. from The Catholic University of America in 1987 and was ordained a Paulist priest in 1989. He was assigned to the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan and soon thereafter founded the Acton Institute.[2][3][4]

Public life[edit]


Sirico was ordained a Pentecostal minister[5] and established a healing ministry in Seattle around 1970/71. He became very popular and gained the support of several charismatic churches in the area. A foundation was established for the financial support of his ministry. During this time, according to Sirico, he believed that homosexuality was condemned by the Bible as a perversion. However, he soon found it "impossible" to heal a person from being gay. He eventually made a public announcement that he was gay himself and intended to form a church for gays. This led to him losing the support of his healing ministry's backers.[6]

In 1972, Sirico founded Seattle's Metropolitan Community Church, which primarily ministered to gays. The church became a member of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC).[7] MCC had been founded in 1968 as "the world’s first church group with a primary, positive ministry to gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender persons."[8]

In April 1973, Sirico and the MCC picketed the Seattle Police Department, claiming there was a "vendetta" by the Seattle Police Department against homosexuals. In October 1973, Sirico was arrested in Seattle for "walking in the roadway" after crossing the street to come to the aid of a gay man he saw was being arrested.[9] In jail, Sirico was reportedly singing "We Shall Overcome" until he was bailed out by a parishioner. The citation was later struck down at trial and Sirico was let off with a warning by the judge.[10]

In July 1973, Sirico went to lead the newly founded Metropolitan Church of Cincinnati.[11]

Sirico was a proponent of gay marriage and performed same-sex marriages as a Protestant minister.[5] In 1975, Sirico performed the first gay marriage in the history of Colorado at the First Unitarian Church in Denver.[12]

Sirico left Seattle for Los Angeles, where he became the director of the Los Angeles Gay Community Center. In 1976, police conducted a raid at one of the center's events, a "male slave auction." Sirico stated the event was merely a fundraiser for the center and that the police raided it in order to "discredit the image of gay people in this community for legislative gains."[13] Charges against the arrested were later dropped.[14]

In the early part of the decade, Sirico held Left-leaning political and economic views, even becoming involved with Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden and their campaign for economic democracy.[15] However, when after reading Friedrich von Hayek's The Road to Serfdom and Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom, he became a Libertarian.[16]


After his move to Los Angeles, Sirico attended Los Angeles City College, earning an A.A. in Humanities and Speech Communications in 1978. He then went on to study English and Speech Communications at the University of Southern California and completed his B.A. in 1981. He spent a year studying literature at St. Mary's University in Twickenham, London before returning to California in 1980.[17]

Sirico earned his Masters of Divinity from The Catholic University of America in 1987.

After completing his novitiate with the Paulist Fathers' house of formation, St. Paul's College in Washington, D.C., Sirico was ordained a priest of the Paulist Order in 1989.[18]


In 1990, in response to what he saw as an insufficient understanding of economics by religious leaders and the religious isolation of business leaders, Sirico founded the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids. With the motto "connecting good intentions with sound economics," the institute provides a vision of free market economics within a Judeo-Christian moral framework.[4] In Sirico's words:

The essential thing was my frustration when I was in seminary … to hear homilies preached that inevitably insulted business people. I knew this was a serious error both theologically and pastorally. Theologically, because of the moral bankruptcy of socialism as an ideology. But pastorally because it alienated good people who were working and attempting to participate in the Christian mission.[19]

Shortly after the institute's founding Pope John Paul II published his encyclical Centesimus annus. Some, such as Greg Burke, have claimed that John Paul II gave support to Sirico's economic and moral vision by taking what Sirico calls a "preferential option for liberty," and asserting that economic freedom is essential for a moral society, and makes aid for the poor more effective.[4]

Political and social commentary[edit]

Sirico's writings have appeared in The New York Times,[20] The Wall Street Journal,[21] the Financial Times,[22] Forbes,[23] National Review,[24] The Washington Times,[25] First Things,[26] the National Catholic Register,[27] the National Catholic Reporter,[28] Crisis magazine,[29] and the Journal of Markets & Morality.[30] In his writing, he addresses such topics as the ethics of political and social freedom and the history of civil rights, international trade and finance, business ethics, and bioethics.[31]

Sirico lectures around the world on economics and morality—in North and South America, Central and Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.[32][33] He is also a frequent radio and television guest.[34][35]

In November 2009, Sirico signed the "Manhattan Declaration," an ecumenical statement issued by Christian leaders in defense of the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.[36][37][38]

Appointments and honors[edit]

In 1990, Sirico was inducted into the Mont Pelerin Society. He served on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from 1994 to 1998. The Franciscan University of Steubenville awarded Sirico an honorary doctoral degree in Christian Ethics in 1999. The Universidad Francisco Marroquín in 2001 granted him an honorary doctorate in social sciences.[39] He is a member of the American Academy of Religion.

He also serves on the board of advisers for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and the Civic Institute in Prague.[40][41]





  • The Social Agenda: A Collection of Magisterial Texts (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2000; ISBN 88-209-2920-1)


  1. ^ "'Male Slave Mart' Raid In L.A. Called A Mistake". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Associated Press. April 12, 1976. 
  2. ^ a b Meehan, Chris (July 26, 2003). "Building a House of Virtue". The Grand Rapids Press. Grand Rapids, MI. 
  3. ^ a b Sullivan, Elizabeth (February 8, 1993). "Rev. Robert A. Sirico: The Inside Track". Grand Rapids Business Journal. Grand Rapids, MI. 
  4. ^ a b c Burke, Greg (September 8, 1991). "The Market & Liberty". National Catholic Register. North Haven, CT. 
  5. ^ a b "Fr. Robert Sirico on gay marriages he once performed". National Catholic Reporter. October 18, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Pastor to perform homosexual marriages" (PDF). The Seattle Times. May 11, 1972. 
  7. ^ Brown, Charles (August 5, 1972). "Church for homosexuals to get charter". The Seattle Times. 
  8. ^ "History of MCC". Metropolitan Community Churches. Retrieved September 15, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Gay Liberation leader calls arrest police harassment". Seattle Times. October 19, 1973. p. B5. 
  10. ^ Atkins, Gary (2003). Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging. University of Washington Press. pp. 200–201. ISBN 9780295992822. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  11. ^ Kaufman, Ben (July 7, 1973). ""Gay Church', Pastor Organized In City". The Cincinnati Enquirer. 
  12. ^ Zyda, Joan (April 22, 1975). "2 men wed in Denver church rite" (PDF). Denver Post. Retrieved September 15, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Gays decry police raid of LA 'slave market'". Eugene Register-Guard. April 12, 1976. 
  14. ^ "L.A. prosecutor won't press gay slavery charges". The San Bernardino County Sun. April 25, 1976. 
  15. ^ Sirico, Robert (March 23, 2012). "Defending the Free Market". C-SPAN. Retrieved September 16, 2016. 
  16. ^ Neumayr, George (March 10, 2000). "Father Sirico On Capitalism And Christianity" (PDF). Neumayr. 
  17. ^ Sirico, Robert. "About". Fr. Robert Sirico - The official blog for Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  18. ^ The Paulist Fathers Celebrate with Joy the Conferring of the Order of Priest on Robert Alan Sirico, C.S.P., Joseph Anthony Ciccone, C.S.P., Stephen John Connor, C.S.P., Joseph Fennel McMonagle, C.S.P., Lawrence Anthony Rice, C.S.P., Edward Casimir Nowak, C.S.P., Nathan Thomas Wilburn, C.S.P. by His Eminence Johannes Cardinal Willebrands, President, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Church of Saint Paul the Apostle, New York City, Saturday, May Thirteenth, Nineteen Eighty-nine. Catholic Church. 1989. 
  19. ^ Golder, Ed (November 8, 1998). "Capitalism and Christ". The Grand Rapids Press. Port Grand Rapids, MI. pp. D1, D4. 
  20. ^ Sirico, Robert A. (September 28, 2000). "An Unjust Sacrifice". The New York Times. Retrieved August 5, 2011. 
  21. ^ Sirico, Robert A. (July 13, 2009). "The Pope on 'Love in Truth'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 5, 2011. 
  22. ^ Sirico, Robert (August 9, 1994). "Capitalism Must Seize the High Ground". The Financial Times. London, England. 
  23. ^ Sirico, Robert (August 25, 1994). "Samaritan's Dilemma". Forbes. New York City: Forbes. 
  24. ^ "Boehner's Catholic Critics Rush to Protect Welfare State". National Review. Retrieved August 5, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Ethics and Layoffs". Washington Times. Retrieved August 5, 2011. 
  26. ^ Sirico, Robert (October 1996). "How Partisan Are the Bishops?". First Things. New York City: Institute on Religion and Public Life. 
  27. ^ Sirico, Robert (March 8, 1998). "Should the IMF Bail out Asia?". National Catholic Register. Irondale, Alabama: EWTN. 
  28. ^ Sirico, Robert (September 24, 1999). "Peace and trade, not sanctions, will change Iraq". National Catholic Reporter. Kansas City, Missouri. 
  29. ^ Sirico, Robert (February 2001). "The Strange Spiritual Journey of Garry Wills". Crisis. Washington, DC. 
  30. ^ "The Late-Scholastic and Austrian Link to Modern Catholic Economic Thought" (PDF). Journal of Markets & Morality. 1 (2): 122–129. October 1998. Retrieved August 10, 2011. 
  31. ^ Sirico, Robert (July 11, 2001). "No Compromise on Stem Cells". The Wall Street Journal. 
  32. ^ "Liberty, Economics, and the Clergy". Organization Trends. Washington, D.C.: Capital Research Center. July 1992. 
  33. ^ "Priest to lecture on free market in free society in Nassau next week". The Nassau Tribune. The Bahamas. March 7, 1991. p. 8. 
  34. ^ Nicholson, Jennifer (December 15, 1990). "The economics of Christianity". The State. Columbia, SC. p. 3-D. 
  35. ^ "TV program to debut Dec. 2". The Michigan Catholic. Grand Rapids, MI. November 17, 1990. 
  36. ^ "List of Religious & Organizational Leaders Signatories". Manhattan Retrieved August 10, 2011. 
  37. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (November 20, 2009). "Christian Leaders Unite on Political Issues". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved August 10, 2011. 
  38. ^ "Read the Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience". Manhattan Retrieved August 10, 2011. 
  39. ^ ""Staff Member: Rev. Robert A. Sirico." Acton Institute". Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  40. ^ ""Board of Advisors." Civic Institute". Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  41. ^ "CFACT Board of Advisors". 2009-07-08. Retrieved 2012-03-14. 

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