The Institute for Human Ecology (IHE) at The Catholic University of America is the nation’s leading academic institute committed to increasing scientific understanding of the economic, cultural, and social conditions vital for human flourishing. Drawing on the Catholic intellectual tradition, the mission of the IHE is to educate students, sponsor multidisciplinary and social scientific research, advise Church leadership and policy-makers, and organize symposia, conferences, and lectures for the academy and the public square. IHE programs challenge the deterministic and reductive institutions and arguments that thwart the pursuit of greater freedom and prosperity for all.
What is Human Ecology?
Ecology is the science of the relationships among living things and their environment. Human ecology is the systematic study of human beings in their relationships with one another, with various human communities, and with the natural world shared among all the living organisms on the planet.
Human ecology, because it concerns itself with relationships is concerned with the flourishing of those relationships, and of the human beings in them. Human ecology is thus also the systematic study of human flourishing.
Precisely because of its systematic character and its care for evidence and argumentative rigor, it is permissible to speak of human ecology as a science, where “science” is understood to mean the systematic study not just of the natural world (natural science) or of social and/or political phenomena (social science), but of all sources of human values, aspirations and understanding, indeed of all reality. For that reason, human ecology is particularly interested in the contributions of philosophy, theology, and the humanities.
What does the Institute for Human Ecology do?
The IHE is dedicated to rigorous multi-disciplinary academic research, through which it explores the many questions pertaining to the nature of human flourishing from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, seeking particularly to illuminate the social sciences in those places where they intersect with and are illuminated by Catholic social doctrine.
Why Human Ecology?
Human ecology is the answer to a specific problem: disconnection from reality. This problem was noticed by Pope Leo XIII, in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. It was reiterated by Saint John Paul II, by Pope Benedict XVI, and by Pope Francis. It continues to be a problem to this day. We are so disconnected that the very word “reality” poses a major challenge to many academics.
The reduction of “Science” to the empirically observable leaves us unable to account for, or even discuss, the good, the true, and the beautiful, and this leads to a reduction of our understanding of man himself. Behaviorists, for example, are powerless to explain why it thrills us to stand at the brink of the Grand Canyon because they can’t account for beauty. This shrinking of our understanding has practical effects, as the repeated failures of socialist experiments demonstrate. We need to think only of the long lines in the old Soviet Union to enter stores with nothing on the shelves to see that unless our understanding is grounded in the real — things as they truly are — even the most laudable efforts to help others become disconnected from what actually helps.
In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis makes a point that Pope Benedict had also made. Everyone recognizes, Pope Francis observes, that there is a natural ecology — there is an order to nature that we cannot violate with impunity, without causing grave harm to the planet. If we understand this, it should not be hard to see that humanity, as part of this natural order, has its own ecology as well, and this human ecology has requirements such as human dignity, marriage, private property rights and the like.
Human ecology, then, is vital because it enables us to broaden our horizons, studying the human person scientifically, but without deliberately excluding the insights of philosophy and theology that connect us to that which is.
The Center for the Study of Statesmanship
Under the umbrella of the IHE, the Center for the Study of Statesmanship promotes research, teaching, and public discussion about how statesmanship can defuse conflict and foster respectful foreign and domestic relations. It explores sources of moderation, humility, compromise, and circumspection, placing special emphasis on the moral and cultural dimensions of restraint. The center considers how American constitutionalism — with its emphasis on limited and decentralized power, virtue, and deliberation — applies to foreign affairs. Attention is given to the moral, political, social, and financial costs of military interventions and nation-building.
The center advances its mission through new professorships and visiting fellows, bringing its research to bear on fields such as diplomacy, military studies, and intelligence studies, as well as various academic disciplines. It plans to offer faculty research grants and to support graduate study. Rooted in scholarly research, the center will sponsor meetings, conferences, and public speeches, while working with other organizations in the nation’s capital to inform and influence public debate.
Professor of Moral Theology, The Catholic University of America | Executive Director of The Institute for Human EcologyExpertise: Social Ethics, Moral Theology, Law and Religion
Managing Director of The Institute for Human EcologyFormer Legislative Director and Chief Counsel in the United States Senate.
Media Fellow for The Institute for Human EcologyDirector of Public Relations for the Busch School of Business and Economics.
Administrative Assistant for The Institute for Human EcologyToni and her husband Pat, B.A. '76 CUA, M.S.W. '77 CUA, live in Kensington, Maryland.
Our Patron: Saint Joseph
Encyclical by Pope Leo XIII on devotion to Saint Joseph
15 August 1889
The special motives for which Saint Joseph has been proclaimed Patron of the Church, and from which the Church looks for singular benefit from his patronage and protection, are that Joseph was the spouse of Mary and that he was reputed the Father of Jesus Christ. From these sources have sprung his dignity, his holiness, his glory. In truth, the dignity of the Mother of God is so lofty that naught created can rank above it. But as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures. For marriage is the most intimate of all unions which from its essence imparts a community of gifts between those that by it are joined together.
Thus in giving Joseph the Blessed Virgin as spouse, God appointed him to be not only her life’s companion, the witness of her maidenhood, the protector of her honour, but also, by virtue of the conjugal tie, a participator in her sublime dignity. And Joseph shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men. Hence it came about that the Word of God was humbly subject to Joseph, that He obeyed him, and that He rendered to him all those offices that children are bound to render to their parents. From this two-fold dignity flowed the obligation which nature lays upon the head of families, so that Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was. And during the whole course of his life he fulfilled those charges and those duties. He set himself to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Infant; regularly by his work he earned what was necessary for the one and the other for nourishment and clothing; he guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch’s jealousy, and found for Him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and in the bitternesses of exile he was ever the companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and of Jesus. Now the divine house which Joseph ruled with the authority of a father, contained within its limits the scarce-born Church. From the same fact that the most holy Virgin is the mother of Jesus Christ is she the mother of all Christians whom she bore on Mount Calvary amid the supreme throes of the Redemption; Jesus Christ is, in a manner, the first-born of Christians, who by the adoption and Redemption are his brothers. And for such reasons the Blessed Patriarch looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided specially to his trust – this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the Father of Jesus Christ he holds, as it were, a paternal authority. It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.
Prayer to Saint Joseph promulgated by Pope Leo XIII:
To thee, O blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of thy thrice holy Spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg thee also to take us under thy protection. By that charity wherewith thou wert united to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which thou didst cherish the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray that thou wilt look down with gracious eye upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His blood, and wilt succor us in our need by thy power and strength.
Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen off-spring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving Father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under thy patronage, that, following thine example and strengthened by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in Heaven. Amen.
Our Title Treatment
The fleur-de-lis (lily flower), which appears on the coat of arms of Pope Leo XIII, who issued the charter for The Catholic University of America, traditionally represents the Holy Trinity as well as the Blessed Virgin Mary. (It was, for instance, featured on the coat of arms of Saint Joan of Arc.) The lily is also the ancient symbol of Saint Joseph, the patron of the Institute for Human Ecology. The twelve stars bring to mind Mary’s crown of twelve stars (“on her head a crown of twelve stars”) (Revelation 12:1), the twelve Apostles, and the twelve Schools at The Catholic University of America. Additionally, the stars symbolize the light radiated by God, as described, for example, in the Psalms: “in your light we see light” (36:10).
Document granting Jeanne d’Arc armorial bearings
2 June 1429