Church Crisis Addressed in Conference Series at Catholic University

Church Crisis Addressed in Conference Series at Catholic University

First ‘Healing the Breach of Trust’ event to be moderated by NY Times’ Douthat

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Four leading religion reporters will gather at The Catholic University of America to discuss the role of the media in investigating, reporting, and framing the public’s understanding of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.

Ross Douthat (The New York Times) will moderate the event, which will feature Elizabeth Bruenig (The Washington Post), J.D. Flynn (Catholic News Agency), and Chris White (Crux). It will take place on Monday, Nov. 19, at 4 p.m. in Heritage Hall, which is located in Father O’Connell Hall on the Catholic University campus.

The discussion, hosted by the University’s Institute for Human Ecology (IHE), is the first of a series of planned conferences titled “Healing the Breach of Trust: Laity, Leadership, and the Crisis.”

“Our goal is to to provide opportunities for constructive and frank conversation between bishops, priests, and laypeople so we can better understand the causes of this crisis and work towards solutions,” said IHE Executive Director Joseph Capizzi.

The November event will provide context for three conferences in the spring that will address the proper role of laity in the Church, the factors that led to the sex abuse crisis, and how the laity and the clergy can work toward renewal together.

“The crisis has damaged the trust laity have — and need to have — in Church leadership,” said Catholic University President John Garvey. “Here at The Catholic University of America, we are in a unique position to assess the current breach of trust that has shaken the laity, and to outline a path forward together with the bishops.”

The event is free and open to the public. For more information or to RSVP, visit  https://ihe.catholic.edu/ event/healingthebreach/ or contact ihe@cua.edu.

MEDIA: To schedule an interview or attend this event, contact the Office of Marketing and Communications at communications@cua.edu or 202-319-5600.

U.N. declaration on human rights must extend to unborn, says speaker

This article was originally published by Catholic News Service on September 24, 2018.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948 in the wake of the atrocities of World War II, is the foundation of religious liberty worldwide and also covers the rights of nonbelievers.

A leading scholar suggested in a Sept. 20 talk that although the landmark document doesn’t mention this, its demand for respect for human dignity should even extend to the unborn.

Read more here.

Religious Citizens and Human Ecology

By Daniel Burns

Pope Benedict XVI’s most famous use of the term “human ecology” was in his speech to the German Bundestag in 2011. He praised the German ecological movement for calling everyone’s attention to the natural order around us—an order that demands our respect and stands above all our attempts to manipulate it. But he added a related point that he said is often left out in our contemporary discussions of ecology:

“There is also a human ecology. Man too has a nature, which he must respect and cannot arbitrarily manipulate. Man is not merely a self-making freedom. …Man wills rightly when he listens to nature, pays attention to her, and accepts himself as what he is and has not himself made. Precisely in this way, and only in this way, is true human freedom achieved.”

Benedict was speaking as a German to his countrymen, and as one public servant to a group of public servants. He was also speaking as a representative of the Christian tradition that, as he emphasized, has played a major role in forming the common culture of Germany and its neighbor European nations. He argued (there and elsewhere) that if we are to recover an understanding of human ecology, we will need to maintain and honor Christianity’s historical and irreplaceable role in Europe’s political culture.

The French political philosopher Pierre Manent was visiting Boston College in 2011 shortly after this speech. He told us there that Pope Benedict had given Catholics a model for our own political engagement today: “He was saying things that you didn’t have to be Catholic to accept, but that no one except the Pope would have said.”

American politics, like European politics, is unthinkable without the historical influence of Christian morality. Anyone who is proud of our political tradition is proud of something that cannot be separated from Christianity. Of course no one has to be a believing Christian to be proud of our political tradition—in fact, few if any of our country’s greatest statesmen have been devout and orthodox believers. But our greatest statesmen have always known how to listen to, and to adopt for themselves, insights from their more devout countrymen. Believing Christians engaged in public life say things that you don’t have to be Christian to accept, but that no one except a Christian would have said.

Today our culture is full of threats to “true human freedom.” What factories in my parents’ generation were doing to our air and water, tech companies are now doing to our children’s minds. A drug epidemic, feeding on despair and driven by greed, is slaughtering our youth in numbers comparable to a major war. Most of our institutions of higher education promote the cheapest of substitutes for the highest human goods: desperate and lonely sexual experimentation in place of love, frantic careerism in place of honorable ambition, servile virtue-signaling in place of self-respect, angry activism in place of the shared search for truth.

My own circle of friends shows me that non-believers are perfectly capable of recognizing these contemporary threats to human ecology. But Christians today (along with other religious believers) have our own language for describing these threats and for calling our fellow Americans to fight against them. We should be making full use of that language. As the friendly reaction of Benedict’s German audience showed us, our fellow citizens do not resent us for sounding like Christians when we speak about issues that concern believer and non-believer alike.

Our common political reason is stronger when it engages with and incorporates voices of faith. If people of faith do not have the courage to raise those voices, human ecology will suffer for it.

Daniel Burns is an IHE Fellow and Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Dallas. He is spending Academic Year 2018-19 at The Catholic University of America as a Research Associate, writing a book on Joseph Ratzinger’s understanding of “healthy secularity.”

Professor Robert George Addresses Human Rights in Conversation with Program Director William Saunders During Kickoff Event

More than 80 students, faculty, and members of the local community gathered for a discussion of human rights and religious liberty with Robert George, Princeton University’s McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at The Catholic University of America’s Heritage Hall on Sept. 20th.

The discussion, which was hosted by the Institute for Human Ecology, was held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The lecture also marked the opening of a new Center for the Study of Human Rights at Catholic University, along with an interdisciplinary degree, a Master of Arts in Human Rights.

Throughout the hour-long conversation, George answered questions from William Saunders, an IHE fellow who serves as director of the master’s program and the Center for the study of Human Rights in the School of Arts and Sciences.

George, who is a member of the Center’s advisory council, began the conversation by discussing the positive influence the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has had on the world since it was issued on Dec. 10, 1948, as a response to the horrific violence seen during the two World Wars.

He called the declaration “an extraordinary achievement” that brought together people from many different faiths and backgrounds to “make a profound statement of the dignity of the human person … and an affirmation of the rights that human beings have, not in virtue of any special strengths — beauty, intelligence, social standing — but simply in virtue of their humanity.”

Though he noted that the document is “not self-executing,” George said that it “gives civil society an instrument in the name of which to demand of repressive governments and offending regimes respect for the dignity of the human person and his rights.”

Continuing the conversation, Saunders and George discussed how the declaration — in Saunders’ words — is “not a perfect document.” Among the dangers of the declaration, the two professors noted, is how easily its language can be used to promote specific ideologies.

“Whenever the rhetoric of a good thing becomes the dominant rhetoric, then people are going to seize upon that rhetoric to advance whatever agenda, whatever ideology they have,” said George. “People will try to win at ideological battles, advance their agendas whatever they are, with the language of human rights. So they’ll inflate claims, whatever they desire, and treat it not as a desire, a want, a feeling, a passion, but a human right.

“We lose our sense of the power and importance of the fundamental rights because of the inflation that happens when you conflate whatever it is you desire, whatever is on your agenda, with rights,” George said.

Saunders and George also spoke about the many responsibilities that go along with human rights, and the differences between positive and negative rights, and how the idea of religious freedom ties in with the declaration of human rights.

At the beginning of the night’s event, George spoke highly of Catholic University’s new Center for the Study of Human Rights, which seeks to bring the Catholic perspective to bear on the discussion and understanding of human rights. The master’s program, which is accepting students now, will begin officially in Fall 2019.

“I think this institution will really bring something new to the table,” George said. “That is an understanding of human rights rooted in the deep tradition of thought that takes us back to Athens and to Jerusalem, an approach to human rights that really anchors human rights in the truth about the human person and the flourishing of the human person. … We need that kind of deep understanding.”

In his introductory statements, Moral Theology Professor Joseph Capizzi, executive director of the Institute for Human Ecology, spoke about the new center and master’s program. He said the program is unique because it “draws on the interdisciplinary strength of this University and also the Catholic intellectual tradition.” Aaron Dominguez, the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, also gave introductory remarks welcoming the establishment of the Center and of the master of arts degree.

For more information about the new master’s program in human rights, please contact William Saunders, Program Director at saunderswl@cua.edu.

This article was originally published by The Catholic University of America on October 1, 2018. Watch the video from the event here.

Photos by Deirdre McQuade/DMcQuade Studios.

The Leisure of Work

By Dr. Max Torres

In the spring of 2017, Dean Bill Bowman and I resolved to organize a conference on the dignity of work, to be held this week October 3-5 at The Catholic University of America. Our attention was drawn to the dire predictions emanating from learned quarters concerning the artificial intelligence fast enveloping us, and its concomitant elimination of the need for human labor.  Sages peering into humanity’s future called for some version of a universal basic income (UBI) to cushion the blow of mass displacement.

This struck us as wrong-headed on two grounds. As businessmen, we knew that the capacity for human ingenuity, if rightly incentivized, would likely suffice to avert Armageddon and most likely usher in an era of prosperity through new industries, enterprises, opportunities, initiatives, and ways of servicing human needs. Moreover, a moment’s reflection on the development of science and technology suggests that, rather that render humans obsolete, innovation multiplies the need, and opportunity, for personal work. Times change, people adapt, and society flourishes when people are allowed to try out new ways of doing things, and to benefit from their experiments.

Secondly, as Christians, we knew that work is too embedded in the designs of Providence to become obsolete among vast swaths of humanity.

Curiously, after the Second World War, neo-Thomist philosopher, Josef Pieper, suggested an alternative danger to that of having too little work: that of overvaluing work, of succumbing to a dictum cited approvingly by sociologist Max Weber that ‘one does not work to live; one lives to work’ (Pieper, 2).

Pieper believed that a culture of work predicated upon constant activity, on valuing effort without regard to the end for which effort was expended, on deprecating activity not aimed at the achievement of some utilitarian end, was a culture inimical to the human person, the creature at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching. The person, said Pieper, needs leisure, the soul of which is celebration, which unites effortlessness, calm and relaxation (ibid. 44). He saw divine worship as the paradigmatic expression of celebration, of leisure. At the end of the day, people most need God, and He is found in leisure, not activity for activity’s sake. As Pope St. John Paul taught in Redemptor Hominis, “Christ the Redeemer ‘fully reveals man to himself’” (1979, 10).  Without leisure, we can’t even know ourselves.

In this age of electronic communication, work reaches into our sacred precincts as easily as into our profane ones, at any time of day or night, 24/7/365.  Rare is the company—Chick-fil-A is a notable exception—that “keeps holy the Sabbath day” as instructed to do by the third commandment, and exhorted by Pope St. John Paul in Dies Domini. What is one to do?

As always, the Saints are helpful.  St. Josemaria, for instance, suggests the following steps:

The first is to recognize work as a path to holiness. Above and beyond a means of remuneration, or even personal fulfillment, work is the place to meet daily with Christ, to have an encounter with Him.

Secondly, work done for love of God is a means to transcend all that is fleeting and ephemeral in our circumstances. Love makes even small things big and converts the monotonous detail of each day into something great.

Third, strive to work with order and constancy, which will express generosity and loyalty in a practical way. With the expansion of time that order brings, we will be able to give greater glory to God in our work.

Fourth, finish work well, for God calls us to offer sacrifices that are without blemish.

Fifth, remember that all honest work is dignified. The dignity of work is conferred by its subject—the person that performs it—not by its object—the work performed. We have it on high authority that God values work by the love with which it’s done and offered to Him, not by its worldly importance.

Sixth, work is best done in company with God, and with rectitude of intention. Reformation protests aside, occasional glances at an image of Our Lady or Our Lord help us to keep them in mind as we work.

Seventh, work is a primary means through which we mature in virtue. That is because a complete range of virtues is called for in our daily work, especially if we mean to sanctify it.

Eighth, work is a service to, and help for, others. Through work, while helping ourselves, we contribute directly to the development of society; we relieve others’ burdens. It is also a practical way help our colleagues.

Finally, work is means of apostolate, a way to reveal Christ to others through friendship and confidence.

Though Pieper didn’t say so, even in a world of superabundant work, faithful men and women have means to resist succumbing to total work. We can convert daily work into an encounter with Christ, a form of leisure, contemplation, prayer, and divine worship. Pieper believed that we work in order to have leisure, to commune with God. This we can do even in the midst of our work. Perhaps through this reformed perspective, we can convert work itself into leisure, into time with God. That is reason for celebration, indeed.

Dr. Max Torres is a Centesimus Annus Della Ratta Family Endowed Professor in the Busch School of Business and a fellow at the Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America.

Civitas Dei Summer Fellowship: Podcasts

Interested in what happened at the recent Civitas Dei Summer Fellowship? Check out talks given by speakers Joseph Capizzi, professor of moral theology and executive director of IHE; Father Dominic Legge, director of the Thomistic Institute; and Adrian Vermeule, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School.

When you click the below links, you’ll be taken to the iTunes page where the podcast will be highlighted grey. You can also find by release date.


Fr. Dominic Legge, OP
An Introduction to Saint Thomas Aquinas on Law: Click Here. Release date 8/28/2018.
Aquinas on Eternal Law, Natural Inclinations, and Natural Law
Part 1: Click Here. Release date 8/31/2018.
Part 2: Click Here. Release date 9/5/2018.
Part 3: Click Here. Release date 9/10/2018.

Dr. Adrian Vermeule
The Relationship between Positive Law and Natural Law
Part 1: Click Here. Release date 8/29/2018.
Part 2: Click Here. Release date 9/3/2018.
Part 3: Click Here. Release date 9/6/2018.

Dr. Joseph Capizzi
An Introduction to Saint Augustine
Part 1: Click Here. Release date 8/27/2018.
Part 2: Click Here. Release date 8/30/2018.
Part 3: Click Here. Release date 9/4/2018.

Next year’s summer fellowship will be held 7-12 July 2019.

More about the Civitas Dei Summer Fellowship by participant Kaitlin Henry

What is the natural law?  How can we think about this classic philosophical and legal theme in our contemporary context? This was the subject of the 2018 summer conference of the Civitas Dei Fellowship, a cosponsored program of the Thomistic Institute and the Institute for Human Ecology.  We brought graduate students and exceptional undergraduate students together to spend a week in Washington D.C. in order to delve deeper into these questions.

The fellows divided their time between lectures on Augustine, St. Thomas, and modern jurisprudence, looking more closely at what it means for something to be natural, or even what it means to have a law. Times of study and prayer were interspersed with opportunities to dialogue with some prominent and truly outstanding Catholic public figures.

Discussions on the natural law tradition were given a new context as the participants experienced the politically charged nature of our nation’s capital first hand. It is one thing to think about justice abstractly, and another to stand on the steps of the Lincoln memorial and remember the implications that an understating of just action the common good can have on American society.

Former CIA Acting Director Recounts 9/11 and Lessons Learned

On the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA, participated in a public conservation with Nicholas Dujmovic, director of Catholic University’s Intelligence Studies Program. Before an audience of more than 100 guests in the University’s Pryzbyla Center, Morell shared his experience working as President George W. Bush’s CIA briefer on that historic day. The event was co-hosted by the Institute for Human Ecology and the Intelligence Studies Program.

Morell was with President Bush in Florida when the 9/11 attacks occurred. The day, Morell recalled, was “a mixture of the intensity of doing my job and the surreal.” When the president asked Morell who he believed was responsible for the attacks he responded, “I would bet my children’s future that when we get to the end of this trail it will take us to Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.” Morell recalled the flight on Air Force One after the president learned of the attacks, “I didn’t know a commercial jet could do what Air Force One did that day.”

Morell and Dujmovic also discussed the CIA’s actions and role in counterterrorism before and after the 9/11 attacks. No institution, Morell said, was more focused on Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden before 9/11 than the CIA. On the topic of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, Morell described the intelligence about WMDs in Iraq as the “greatest intelligence failure in U.S. history.” It was an intelligence collection failure, Morell explained, because intelligence officers failed to penetrate Saddam Hussein’s inner circle to find out what he was doing. But there was also a failure on the part of analysts to rigorously assess and communicate their confidence in their own judgments.

Morell also described how the CIA has learned from past mistakes. Today, he said, every judgment carries a confidence level. In the summer of 2010, Morell was serving as the deputy director of the CIA when the CIA learned of an unusual compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan that could be harboring bin Laden. Because of their experience in Iraq, he recalled, the CIA did extensive alternative analysis to consider other possible explanations.

At the end of the conversation Morell took questions from the audience and offered advice to students aspiring to a career in the CIA or other civil service positions. One of the most important qualities recruiters will look for, Morell said, is “passion about your country.” But one of the greatest determinants of success, he continued, is “the ability to self-assess your performance.”

This article was originally published by The Catholic University of America on September 18, 2018. Watch the video from the event here.

Photos by Deirdre McQuade/DMcQuade Studios.

Catholic University Law Hosts Constitution Day Lecture Given By IHE Fellow

On September 17, 2018, Dr. Daniel Burns, Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of Dallas and Visiting Research Associate in Politics and Fellow, Institute for Human Ecology, delivered the Constitution Day lecture entitled “What Makes Freedom of Religion Different from Freedom of Speech?”

In his lecture, Dr. Burns contrasted the First Amendment’s two guarantees: the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. He argued that free speech is central to our political process while religion, when politicized, is an impediment to it.

“The First Amendment is about two different things: freedom of religion and freedom of speech…We have free speech because every citizen has the right and obligation to contribute to common deliberations about the good and the bad; the just and the unjust,” Burns said. “We protect freedom of speech because we want speech to remain at the certain of our political activity. We protect freedom of religion, in part, because we want religion not to be at the center of our political activity.”

He concluded that the questions of ultimate meaning are best settled outside of law.

The event was co-sponsored by the Columbus School of Law, the Department of Politics, and the Institute for Human Ecology. Following the lecture, students, faculty, staff, and guests were invited to a reception in the Keelty atrium, where they had the chance to speak with Dr. Burns.

You can watch the lecture by clicking here.

Reposted from Columbus School of Law.

A New Master of Arts in Human Rights

The Catholic University of America is proud to announce a new Master of Arts program in Human Rights, available through the Institute for Human Ecology (IHE). Catholic University will join a handful of select schools that offer this degree and is the only school that has designed such a program to incorporate the rich teachings of the Catholic faith.

William Saunders, director of the master’s program and the Center for Human Rights in the School of Arts and Sciences, said he believes the new program will provide “a robust Catholic voice” in the field of human rights.

“The term human rights is so widely accepted and ingrained in the way people think. We want to help people think about it clearly, and that can’t be done without the Catholic perspective,” Saunders said. “The Catholic voice should be present so that human rights can develop in a way that is true and in service of the common good and the human person.”

Aaron Dominguez, the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences where the program will be housed, added “I am pleased to be able to support this program; it is an example of the kind of world changing impact we can have with our faithfully Catholic research university.”

An interdisciplinary degree, the master’s in human rights, will draw from five schools at Catholic University: the schools of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, Law, Canon Law, and Arts and Sciences. Upon completion of this program, students will be prepared to articulate and advocate for a sound understanding of human rights in both the domestic and international fora, greatly advancing the University’s mission of developing citizen leaders in the light of Christian faith. Their degrees will be issued by the School of Arts and Sciences.

For more information, please contact IHE fellow William Saunders, director of the Master of Arts in Human Rights program and director of the Center for Human Rights at ihe@cua.edu.

 

Summer Human Rights Lectures in Europe

As part of the new program in human rights at the IHE, Law Fellow William Saunders taught in Europe for several weeks this Summer, in both Romania and Slovakia.  In Romania, he gave lectures on human rights at several international conferences and seminars. In Slovakia, he taught in the Free Society Seminar, which was launched by the late Michael Novak after the collapse of communism. It explores the principles and institutions necessary for a free society, and is aimed at graduate students from both the USA and Central Europe. Saunders taught on human rights, religious liberty, bioethics, and the rule of law.

Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of a Landmark

What was the most devastating event in human history?  While, sadly, there are plenty of candidates, I would propose World War II.  It was a truly worldwide war, extending far beyond Europe as it involved international empires as well as nation states.  Not only did it wreck the economy of Europe and much of Asia, but it took the lives of millions. Estimates vary, but as many as twenty-five million military personnel died, and twice as many civilians.  The civilians were not only accidental victims, but were often the intended targets of military action. Further, millions perished in concentration camps, or were victims of torture or cruel medical experiments, in both Asia and Europe.

It is sobering to contemplate this carnage.

And it sobered world leaders after the war.  They formed the United Nations to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and to do so, among other things, by recognizing “fundamental human rights,” the “dignity and worth of the human person,” and “the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small” (UN Charter).

On December 10, 1948, they issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to further clarify and specify the “rights” that flowed from the dignity of the person.  The Preamble, referring to the atrocities of World War II, noted that “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.” However, the sure foundation for “freedom, justice and peace” is the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.”

I think it is fair to say that (although a few nations abstained from the vote to adopt the Declaration) “the world” resolved to prevent a third world war by respecting and protecting the dignity of each and every human being.  The Declaration declared itself to be “a common standard of achievement for all peoples…”

While the Declaration is not a legally binding document, it is a strong declaration of principle, of a shared determination not to repeat the atrocities of the past.  For instance, remembering not only the slave trade but also the enslavement of entire populations during World War II, article 4 declares that “slavery…shall be prohibited in all its forms.”  Likewise, recalling the torture and mistreatment of political opponents, it asserts that “no one shall be subjected to torture” (article 5) and “all are equal before the law…” People are not to be thrown into prison or concentration camps at the whim of the powerful for “everyone is entitled…to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.” (article 10)  Innocent civilians may not be targeted and killed for “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person.” (article 3)

The Declaration is not perfect and few perhaps would agree with all its provisions.  But in this its 70th anniversary year, it is well worth our time to contemplate its provisions, and, as it urged, to “strive…to promote respect for these rights and freedoms.”

William L. Saunders is a Fellow and Director of the Program in Human Rights at the Institute for Human Ecology. He is also Director of the Center for Human Rights in the School of Arts and Sciences, and Co-Director of the Center for Religious Liberty in the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America.

 

Civitas Dei Summer Fellowship: Young Scholars Discuss Morality and the Law

What is the role of religion in society? And how can Catholic scholars draw upon the wisdom of the Church to make sense of today’s economic, cultural, and moral challenges?

Those were the questions at the heart of the Civitas Dei Summer Fellowship, a week-long seminar held July 15 through 20. Sponsored by Catholic University’s Institute for Human Ecology (IHE) and the Thomistic Institute, the program introduced young scholars to foundational themes in the natural law tradition. Speakers during the week included Joseph Capizzi, professor of moral theology and executive director of IHE;  Father Dominic Legge, director of the Thomistic Institute; Adrian Vermeule, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School; and Robert Royal, editor in chief of The Catholic Thing.

The seminar, open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates from top universities around the world, included lectures and discussions on the political and moral theories of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and modern constitutional jurisprudence, as well as outings to D.C. landmarks including the Supreme Court and the National Portrait Gallery.

Capizzi said the seminar was intended to “introduce the beauty and the depth of the Catholic intellectual tradition to a group of young scholars who we hope will invigorate our universities.”

Throughout the week, the conference included many discussions on religious liberty, the nature of political communities and pluralism, and how the writings of Augustine and Aquinas remain relevant in today’s society.

Capizzi said he hoped that the seminar provided attendees with a sense of community, introducing them to like-minded people “who care about the Church, who care about the faith, and who care about the good of American society.”

“We want them to know that they are not alone in doing their work and that there are resources available to them through the members of this community as well as here at the institute and Catholic University,” Capizzi said. “We hope that they will become outstanding scholars, some of whom may end up teaching here at Catholic.”

This article was originally published by The Catholic University of America on July 24, 2018.

Photos by Deirdre McQuade/DMcQuade Studios.

Breakingviews – Hadas: Vatican asks the right financial questions

By Edward Hadas

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) – The Roman Catholic Church rarely responds speedily to anything. By its standards, the decade that passed between the 2008 financial crisis and last week’s publication of an official study of finance is the mere blink of an eye. Unfortunately, so little has changed in the interim that the Vatican’s advice, approved by Pope Francis, is as pertinent as ever.

Little about “Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones” (“Economic and Financial Issues”) is explicitly Christian. That approach is intentional. The Church’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development wants to help “all men and women of goodwill” create “a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and a new regulation of financial activities that would neutralise predatory and speculative tendencies and acknowledge the value of the actual economy”.

That hard-to-digest mouthful is sadly typical of the style of this often awkward and poorly translated document. Much of the initial attention focused on the Vatican’s criticism of trading in derivatives. However, the ethical agenda is both clear and helpful. There are three major themes – society, reality and history.

First, society. Something crucial is missing in the financial world when every investor thinks only about maximising their own returns and bankers strive solely to capture the highest possible income for themselves. Even if all these individuals forswear instant gratification in favour of long-term greed, a collection of selfish agendas cannot sustain a healthy society.

On the contrary, shared flourishing requires a conscious commitment to the “common good”. That little phrase appears 20 times in the 18-page document. That dedication is often lacking, as the Catholic Church’s own record makes clear. The Vatican’s banks could have avoided a series of scandals if its bankers were less rapacious. However, advice can still be good even if the giver does not always take it.

The document dismisses the argument, much loved by some economists, that amoral market mechanisms will somehow do the necessary ethical work automatically. To start, markets cannot exist without a great deal of mutual trust from everyone involved.

In finance, there is another problem. Even when participants are “animated by good and right intentions”, they too often end up in “forms of oligarchy” or “asymmetrical situations”. In other words, the strong end up taking unjust advantage of the weak.

Such exploitative arrangements do not promote a “world that is more equitable and united”. On the contrary, the finance business is diverted from its virtuous vocation of helping investment into what economists call rent-seeking. In the Catholic vocabulary, greed is allowed to flourish.

The moral problem of an inadequate commitment to the common good often takes the form of products and practices which are detached from economic reality. The Vatican sets a high standard: financial arrangements should always be based on “a real value, not one which is imputed or difficult to verify”.

Without such an anchor to the real world and without moral guidance, immorality inevitably creeps in. Take complex derivatives. “Questiones” presents them as instruments which exist at an inherently dangerous distance from anything that can be evaluated ethically.

Speculative transactions both distract business people from their true work and subtract money from the “virtuous cycle of the real economy”. It is a “bad financialisation”, which often takes the form of financial instruments that amount to unfair gambling. The document singles out credit default swaps, for enabling investors to bet on bankruptcy regardless of their exposure to the underlying borrower. The ultimate loser is the common good.

Financial workers themselves may struggle to understand what they are doing to the economy and society. Outsiders – regulators – are better placed. However, the authorities can only succeed with the whole financial system’s active and full cooperation. “Quaestiones” plausibly claims that offshore arrangements, tax minimisation and regulatory arbitrage tend to undermine the needed commitments.

Finally, there is history. Christians believe that forgiveness is the only way to get over past sins. That moral insight is relevant to the discussion of the “untenable financial burdens” created by years of unjust and corrupt sovereign borrowing. “From an ethical point of view”, the right policy for these debts is often a “politically mediated … reasonable and agreed reduction”.

In other words, the morally best way forward can be a rewriting of the faulty financial past. That thought is as relevant in Rome as in its Vatican City enclave. At 132 percent of gross domestic product, the Italian government’s debt burden is the second-highest in the euro zone.  Forgiveness, though, is not on offer. The two political parties trying to form a new government had to abandon their proposal to eliminate some of the nation’s debt.

The hard-hearted creditors are certainly in the right legally, and in accord with current European politics. The moral and practical case may be more doubtful, especially when there is widespread resentment against entrenched elites. A thorough examination of financial consciences might help restrain the destructive forces of political populism. Even a decade after the financial crisis, the Catholic Church’s guide is a good place to start.

This article was published on Reuters Breakingviews here.

Pope Francis: Human ecology begins with accepting the body

.- A healthy human ecology begins with a respectful and holistic view of the body as God created it, Pope Francis told participants of the 24th General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

“In a holistic view of the person, it is necessary to articulate with ever greater clarity all the concrete connections and differences in which the universal human condition dwells and which involve us, starting from our body,” the pope said.

Pope Francis delivered the address on Monday at the beginning of a three-day assembly hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Life at the Vatican. The assembly, focused on human ecology, reflected on the theme, “Equal Beginnings. But then? A global responsibility.”

In his comments, the pope discussed the importance of understanding the human body as a starting point for further reflections on human ecology.

“The acceptance of our body as a gift from God is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy an absolute power over creation,” he said, citing his 2015 encyclical Laudato si.

“Learning to accept your body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology.”

This acceptance of the body also recognizes the differences between persons, he said.

“It is therefore necessary to proceed with a careful discernment of the complex fundamental differences of human life: of man and woman, of fatherhood and motherhood, of filiation and fraternity, of sociality and also of all the different ages of life.”

“Valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different,” he said, again quoting Laudato si.

In recognizing the inherent dignity of the human person, the pope said, we learn to see the need to defend the sanctity of all the vulnerable, including the unborn, elderly, sick, impoverished, and trafficking victims.

“When we deliver children to deprivation, the poor to hunger, the persecuted to war, the old to abandonment, do not we ourselves, instead, do the ‘dirty’ work of death? Where does the dirty work of death come from? It comes from sin,” he reflected.

“Evil tries to persuade us that death is the end of everything, that we have come to the world by chance and we are destined to end up in nothingness. Excluding the other from our horizon, life folds back on itself and becomes a consumer good.”

With this in mind, the Pope said, a Christian-inspired bioethics “will engage with more seriousness and rigour to defuse this complicity with the dirty work of death, supported by sin.”

“This bioethics will not take illness and death as a starting point in deciding the meaning of life or defining the value of the person,” he continued. “It will rather start from the profound conviction of the irrevocable dignity of the human person, as God loves him, the dignity of every person, in every phase and condition of his existence, in the search for the forms of love and care that must be addressed to his vulnerability and fragility.”

Pope Francis encouraged those present to root their understanding of human ecology in a true understanding of human dignity.

“We need to reflect more deeply on the ultimate destination of life, capable of restoring dignity and meaning to the mystery of its deepest and most sacred affections,” he said. “The life of man, enchantingly beautiful and fragile to die, refers beyond itself: we are infinitely more than what we can do for ourselves.”

This article was published on the Catholic News Agency page here.

March for Life and the President

William Saunders gives readers an up-to-date account of developments in Washington, DC – at the March for Life, in Congress, in the Trump administration, and at the Supreme Court – regarding law and policy that affect the defense and promotion of the right to life. This article is a must-read for all Catholics, as many of these developments have a direct impact on abortion, assisted suicide, freedom of conscience, and related issues..

View the column here. From The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 1 (Spring 2018). © 2018 The National Catholic Bioethics Center. Reprinted by permission.

William L. Saunders is the Director of the Program in Human Rights, Institute for Human Ecology. He is a graduate of the Harvard Law School, who has been involved in issues of public policy, law and ethics for thirty years. A regular columnist for the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Mr. Saunders has written widely on these topics, as well as on Catholic social teaching. He has given lectures in law schools and colleges throughout the United States and the world.

Virtue and Science

by Paul Scherz, Ph.D.

Evidence from many sources suggests that there are problems in the current practices of scientific research. There is a growing concern over the trustworthiness of the scientific literature because a number of studies have demonstrated the inability of independent investigators to replicate the results of published experiments. These studies, along with anecdotal and survey-based data, have led to investigations and reports not only by journalists but also by prestigious bodies like the National Academy of Sciences. The problems discussed in these publications do not arise from the actions of a few bad apples, but seem to reflect broad issues related to carelessness in experimental design, testing, and statistical analysis.

Commentators have traced these issues to problems in the institutions and culture of science such as a competitive culture that emphasizes speed over accuracy or evaluation mechanisms that prize the number of publications over their contribution to the advancement of knowledge. While these discussions can identify such issues, they rarely point to good solutions, frequently simply encouraging more training in research ethics of the type scientists have undergone since the 1980s or an intensification of evaluation mechanisms. These current discussions lack an adequate picture of the human person that would illuminate how and why the person acts and how a person forms good dispositions.

It is here that moral theology can be helpful. While the relationship between science and religion is often framed only in terms of conflict (either as science opposing religion or religious ethics trying to constrain science), the Christian ethical tradition provides resources for confronting current problems in the moral education of researchers that science desperately needs. By engaging classical and medieval sources on virtues, one can come to a better understanding of how a person develops certain vices that can lead to problems like those found in contemporary science, as well as how a community can foster positive character traits that will aid the search for scientific truth.

In recent articles and a book manuscript, I have used the Catholic virtue tradition to develop resources to identify virtues that scientists need and practices that would form these virtues. My work further seeks to help Catholic scientists to understand how to live their lives as a Christian vocation. By focusing on developing the virtues of individual scientists, this project hopes to reorient science by encouraging a richer human ecology in science that would better serve the common good.

Paul Scherz, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of moral theology and ethics and an IHE Fellow. Dr. Scherz researches the moral theology of biotechnology. He examines how the daily use of biomedical technologies shapes the way researchers, doctors, and patients see and manipulate the world and their bodies.

Freedom, Truth, and Human Dignity: The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religion Freedom

Pope Paul VI characterized the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom — Dignitatis Humanae — as one of the greatest documents of Vatican II. It is also perhaps the most intensely debated document of the Council. Both the drafting of the Declaration on Religious Freedom and its reception have been marked by deep disagreements about what this teaching means for the Church.
In their book, Freedom, Truth, and Human Dignity: The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom*, David Schindler and Nicholas Healy promote a deeper understanding of this important document. Recalling the teaching of Dignitatis Humanae on its 50th anniversary, this book provides a new translation, redaction history, and interpretation of the document, while clarifying the Church’s distinct contribution to the understanding of political order in modern democracies.​

 

by David L. Schindler and Nicholas Healy

 

Between November of 1963 and December of 1965, six distinct drafts of a text on religious freedom were presented to the Council fathers. The book makes available in Latin and English each of these six drafts (together with the interventions of Bishop Karol Wojtyla), to allow for a better understanding of the document’s continuity with and development of Catholic doctrine. Broadly speaking, there were two important debates: the first concerned the very legitimacy of the right to religious freedom (associated, for example, with the name of Archbishop Lefebvre); the second occurred among those who supported the right to religious freedom, but differed regarding the foundations and nature of the right. The latter differences were expressed in two opposing approaches, termed “juridical” (represented by the Americans and John Courtney Murray), on the one hand, and “ontological” (represented by the French, Polish, and Karol Wojtyla), on the other. These approaches differed significantly on three main points, each of which concerned at root the question of the pertinence of truth to the exercise of freedom in the political order. We will outline here the distinct principles of each of the approaches, while highlighting the significance for the present cultural situation of the principles affirmed in the final document.

(A) The juridical approach (which mostly guided the third draft of the document) (i) The nature of the right to religious freedom consists in immunity from coercion and is thus “negative.” Freedom is understood for all legal-constitutional purposes as a structurally neutral or indifferent act of choice. (ii) The foundations for this “negative” right lie in the human act’s exigence for exercising initiative. Relation to the transcendent order of truth (God) remains important for private individuals and institutions but is juridically irrelevant, not a matter of principled concern for the state. (iii) The criterion for any political limitation of the expression of freedom lies in the notion of “public order.” The legal adjudication of perceived violations of rights is understood in terms of a justice or fairness conceived formally in terms of the balancing of conflicting interests, rather than in any objective (natural) ethical good.

(B) The ontological approach (which mostly guided the final draft): (i) The “negative” right to immunity from coercion flows from the (positive) relation to truth implied by the human being’s natural desire—and moral exigence—for truth, ultimately about God. This relation/obligation to truth (God) gives an original positive direction and form to the negative sense of a right understood in terms of immunity. (ii) The foundations for the right to religious freedom lie in this natural desire and obligation to search for the truth and God. (The crucial point here regarding foundations was formulated in an intervention by Bishop Ancel of France during discussion of the third draft of the document. The intervention so impressed Pope Paul VI that he instructed that Ancel be included in the commission tasked with revising this draft.) (iii) The criterion for adjudicating the proper limits of the exercise of freedom lies in the concept of “public order,” which is affirmed while being tied to a “substantive” (natural) common good (i.e., a  just or ethical public order). The Declaration thus retains the ancient idea of the purpose of the polity, while it now emphasizes freedom as a distinct good intrinsic to the administration of political power (legal justice).

In sum, the approach to religious freedom adopted by the Church in Dignitatis Humanae, rests on the mutual implication and thus indissolubility of truth and freedom. (1) Truth implies the interior activity of the human subject (interiorization by the mind), and so far the subject’s freedom. A “truth” forced on a human being fails—insofar as it is forced—to meet the criteria for a proper definition of truth as an interior conformity of the mind with what is (Aquinas). (2) Freedom at root is never simply indifferent to but on the contrary naturally (implicitly) knows and loves the truth about God (Augustine, Aquinas).

In light of the above, we see that the Church in her affirmation of the right to religious freedom in DH did not merely come abreast of what had already been realized in liberal societies. On the contrary, the Church affirmed human rights while interiorly re-forming their foundations and meaning in light of the Catholic philosophical and theological tradition. The Church recognized rights as immunities from coercion (negative) even as she rooted this immunity in—saw it as an implication of—man’s (positive) natural love of truth, ultimately the truth of God. In the face of developments in modern democratic societies, the Church renewed by deepening her traditional understanding of the mutual implication of truth and freedom, insisting that the appropriation of either demands the appropriation simultaneously of both. Truth itself demands the interiorizing participation of the human subject/mind, even as the interiorizing activity of the human subject contains a natural love of truth and God to which is tied the moral obligation to realize the truth. The Declaration, in a word, renewed the Church’s understanding of the human being and freedom, in a way that recognized while transforming developments in the modern liberal political order.

It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of DH’s distinct contribution regarding the right to freedom. Consider, for example, the burgeoning of rights’ claims to include abortion, euthanasia, same-sex unions, and the like. Proper adjudication of such claims cannot be made on the basis solely of formal fairness between competing exercises of freedom of choice; rather, it demands coming to terms with an adequate understanding of the human being. The Church’s task in this light is indicated in DH, rightly interpreted: to work for a universal right to religious freedom, in the broader and deeper context of proposing a substantive vision of the human being—of his true nature and dignity (which flows from the mutual implication of freedom and truth in relation to God).

***

Dignitatis Humanae, far from making the truth-question moot, invites us to recover its universal pertinence. The point is that this question now comes with a deepened awareness that truth itself intrinsically requires freedom for its own realization as true. The Declaration is not an invitation to neutralize the truth question, but to retrieve it in terms of a method that recognizes that “truth can impose itself on the mind of man” finally only in keeping with its own nature as truth (DH, 1)–as communicated by God in creation and finally as revealed by God in Jesus Christ.

*By David L. Schindler and Nicholas J. Healy (Humanum Imprint, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015)

 

David L. Schindler is the Dean Emeritus at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute. He is the editor-in-chief of the North American edition of Communio: International Catholic Review, a federation of journals founded in 1972 by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Henri de Lubac, and other European theologians. He serves as editor of the series “Ressourcement: Retrieval and Renewal in Catholic Thought” with Eerdmans Publishing Company. Professor Schindler has published over seventy-five articles (translated into nine languages) in the areas of metaphysics, philosophical issues in biology and biotechnology, and the relation of theology/philosophy and culture. He is the author of Heart of the World, Center of the Church: Communio Ecclesiology, Liberalism, and Liberation (T&T Clark and Eerdmans, 1996); and also of Ordering Love: Liberal Societies and the Memory of God (Eerdmans, 2011). His most recent edited collections are Love Alone is Credible: Hans Urs Von Balthasar as Interpreter of the Catholic Tradition (Eerdmans, 2008); and (with Doug Bandow) Wealth, Poverty, and Human Destiny (ISI, 2003). Other edited collections include Beyond Mechanism: The Universe in Recent Physics and Catholic Thought (1986); Act and Agent: Philosophical Foundations of Moral Education, with Jesse Mann and Frederick Ellrod (1986); Catholicism and Secularism in America (1990); and Hans Urs Von Balthasar: His Life and Work (1991). Professor Schindler was appointed by Pope John Paul II as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity from 2002 to 2007.

Nicholas J. Healy is an associate professor of philosophy and culture at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute. Since 2002 he has served as an editor of the North American edition of Communio: International Catholic Review. His book The Eschatology of Hans Urs von Balthasar: Being as Communion was published by Oxford University Press. Recent articles have addressed the doctrine of providence, the question of “Christian philosophy,” and the theological anthropology of Thomas Aquinas and Henri de Lubac. Currently he is working on the theology of the Eucharist and Christian states of life.

Duty To Protect

by Lucia Ann Silecchia, Ordinary Professor of Law

 

Next month will mark ten years since Pope Benedict XVI addressed the United Nations General Assembly, following in the footsteps of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II who also spoke hopefully, cautiously, critically, and passionately about their aspirations for the family of nations.

In the decade since, there is one phrase in Pope Benedict’s address that strikes me as particularly worthy of reflection both in the international law context in which he expressed it but, perhaps even more so, as a succinct guide for a life lived well.

Pope Benedict spoke eloquently of a concept called “the duty to protect.” He did this in the context of international human rights law, noting, “[e]very state has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises.” He went on to say that there is an important role for the international community to play should individual states be unable – or unwilling – to offer such protection.  Likewise, he affirmed that the duty or responsibility to protect has, since ancient times, been regarded as an essential function of government. He observed that it “was considered by the ancient ius gentium as the foundation of every action taken by those in government with regard to the governed.”

In his statement to the United Nations, Pope Benedict’s message was clear: the obligation to protect the dignity of the human person against all that may threaten it is the raison d’etre of national governments and international organizations. When they fulfill this function, governments serve their noble purposes.  However, when they are indifferent to this obligation – or worse – they can justly be regarded as failures.

Yet, on the personal level, the “duty to protect” might rightfully be seen as a guide to life itself — not merely a guide to good governance. To each person, many opportunities are given, each and every day, to serve as “protector.” In a single day, a person may be called to protect the innocence of a child, the safety of a frail elder, the hope of a friend in despair, the life of an infant in the womb, the faith of a stranger battered by life’s sorrow, or the soul of a brother facing temptation. That same person may be called to protect the reputation of one who is slandered, the beauty of God’s creation, the fragile peace of a volatile truce, the truth when it is distorted or mocked, or the sacred bond of a marriage in crisis. That person may also be asked to protect the freedom of someone enslaved by circumstances or choices, the dreams of someone who is discouraged, the dignity of someone who is vulnerable, and the courage of one who is fear-filled.

This duty to protect is a weighty responsibility that calls for a courageous selflessness and a willingness to put one’s strength at the service of others. Yet, Pope Benedict’s words of warning to the family of nations are also words of inspiration to the human family: “it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage.”

 

Professor Silecchia, IHE Faculty Fellow, has taught at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law since 1991. She has been an ordinary professor since 2004, and served as the law school’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in 2004 and 2005. She also directs Catholic University’s Summer Law Program in Rome. From September 2015 to August, 2017, she served as Catholic University’s Vice Provost for Policy.

Author George Weigel Shares Thoughts and Stories on Pope John Paul II in Book Q&A

By Thomas Dompkowski

Acclaimed Catholic author and NBC News Senior Vatican Analyst George Weigel addressed a group of about one hundred students, faculty members, and visitors about his newest book on Pope St. John Paul II, Lessons in Hope. The lecture, Q&A, book signing, and reception took place on Monday, January 22nd, at 6 PM in Heritage Hall, and was sponsored by Catholic’s Institute for Human Ecology

Weigel, best known for his acclaimed biography of Pope St. John Paul II, Witness to Hope, wanted this new book to tell the stories of the saint rather than provide another analysis of his life and teachings. Weigel, however, never intended to write the book he discussed before the audience. As the pope’s biographer, Weigel became the closest of friends with John Paul II and the two had an annual Christmas dinner. On December 15th, 2004, the last dinner he shared with Pope John Paul II passed away, Weigel promised the pope that he would continue to tell his story. This book, Weigel hopes, is the fulfillment of that promise he made to the pope more than thirteen years ago.

As a completely anecdotal work, Lessons in Hope is meant to “illuminate facets of this extraordinary life.” The book itself is divided into two sections based on statements by the Holy Father. The first section of the book is organized around what Weigel calls “an extraordinarily rich interior life.” In March of 1996, Pope St. John Paul II and Weigel were discussing a book about the history of the pope’s pontificate. In a fashion Weigel described as “whimsical,” the pope said to him, “I can only be understood from the inside.”

Weigel told the audience that all of Pope John Paul II’s actions and decisions were the fruits of his powerful prayer. The pope’s bold ecclesiastical appointments and his proposal of a World Youth Day, which is attended by many Catholic University students annually, were just some of these fruits. The pope could not just be understood by looking at his actions and prayer life, so Weigel needed to seek out John Paul’s friends to fully understand the pope’s “inside.”

While the pope was a priest in Stalin-era Poland, he befriended young Catholics from his area. He took them into the mountains so they could discuss Catholicism, away from the ever-listening Communist authorities who were determined to stamp out religion from the culture of Poland. It was in this “network of friendship” that some of the pope’s major ideas and initiatives were born, some of those being Theology of the Body, the book he would later author called Love and Responsibility, and the concept of World Youth Day. Weigel summarizes, “as he formed them, they formed him.”

The second section of the book came from a statement by the Holy Father to a gathering in Fatima, Portugal, on May 13th, 1982, exactly one year after the assassination attempt in Rome which almost took the pope’s life. Pope John Paul II stated, “In the designs of providence, there are no mere coincidences.” This was a direct reference to the assassination attempt, as the Holy Father believed that one hand fired the shot, but another hand, that of the Blessed Mother, guided the bullet; if the bullet had been mere millimeters in a different direction, the pope would have died. Weigel states that the pope viewed the attempt on his life as a “facet of divine providential plan.”

Weigel closed his lecture with advice to students and the need to reject the “tyranny of the possible,” the restriction that people feel to accept the status quo.

“Trust the instincts that seem right and after you’ve prayed over them, still seem right,” Weigel said. On the topic of vocations, he tells young people not only to pray, but to seek the counsel of friends and family. He ended the evening with a question and answer portion that involved questions about the current state of the Catholic Church and the role students can play.

This article was originally published in The Tower, The Catholic University of America’s Independent Student Newspaper.

Civitas Dei: The Most Glorious City

By Dr. Chad C. Pecknold

Long before St. Peter was martyred there, Rome was called “the eternal city.” Rome was founded by refugees who had fled fallen Troy, and with the neighboring Etruscans, the legendary twins Remus and Romulus founded a city which would rule the world for millennia in one way or another. Against the Roman idea of an eternal City, Augustine spoke of the city of God, the true eternal City.

While Rome had become Christian, it’s sack in 410 caused many elites to long for a restoration of the old order, convinced that Rome’s decline owed something to a betrayal of the gods, and the official turn towards Christianity. Augustine argued that God had blessed Rome most when it observed laws of nature more than the gods, and that even Rome’s best philosophers could see that the gods were fictions, and that there was only one cause of all existence, which we can call God.

Like Aristotle, Augustine observes that the human person is a social animal, and that this primary good of human nature causes every man to enter into fellowship with his neighbor to keep peace. (City of God, 19.12). This law, observable in human nature, is also tied to our conscience, our innate awareness of a distinction between good and evil acts, which is a good in us that “not even the iniquity of sin can destroy.”

What is also observable, however, after the mysterious loss of an original justice, is the tendency to move towards or away from the highest good. This can be seen in the household, in cities, in associations, in kingdoms, nations and empires. Sin pulls down our social and political nature, whereas God’s grace has come down in order to elevate us. Famously, Augustine calls these two tendencies “cities” (civitates). And what he tells Romans, over some 22 books and 1,100 pages, is that it is only by ordering her laws and her life to the city which is perfectly and justly united to the highest good that Rome will be truly “eternal.”

Whether every Roman elite longing to throw off Christianity was convinced by his argument or not, Augustine transformed the western political dynamic. He showed us how Catholic wisdom stands above, as revealed truth, to enlighten and illumine the direction of every actual human city. When Pope St. John Paul II spoke of the Church as “expert in humanity,” he spoke to this same truth that the Catholic vision is hydraulic. It raises the human person, the human family, the human city, even nations, up towards to City of God.

As some of our own elites long for a return to some invention of gods we make for ourselves, but who do us harm, it is this elevating wisdom from the City of God that the world needs again.

C.C. Pecknold is Associate Professor of Theology and Fellow at the Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America.

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