Catholic University's School of Business & Economics will be co-hosting a conference next Monday with the Acton Institute. The topic will be the relationship between religious and economic liberty, about which the only interesting question is whether the devotees of Ayn Rand at Acton are trying to jump on the religious liberty bandwagon, or vice-versa. Either way, teaming up with the Acton Institute raises some serious issues about the Catholic identity of the only university in the U.S. owned by the bishops. Acton is not shy about their devotion to libertarianism. If you doubt it, check out this essay by Acton Institute founder and president Fr. Robert Sirico in which he makes the case that John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" is really a Christ-figure. I want to believe CUA's new School of Business & Economics is not hell bent on embracing the kookiest rightwing ideologies. I want to believe that they are not undermining Catholic social doctrine. I know that Dean Abela is too smart to believe this nonsense about any innate connection between religious and economic liberty - it would seem pretty obvious that it is precisely the reduction of the human person to homo economicus that has done more to make the Catholic commitment to the common good seem like an artifact, and that religious liberty must be understood, by Catholics, as within a common good framework, not in terms of a liberal conception of negative rights. I want to believe, but it is getting harder to believe.