Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris was built out of stone and wood and glass without electricity or computers. It was not built by committee, or consultants or according to state regulations. It was built by a culture superior to our own. And we know it.
Perhaps not everyone who has ever stood in awe of Notre Dame knows why it attracts them. Not everyone who watched an entire forest of oak as old as Charlemagne collapse in flames knows why its destruction made them tremble. But tremble they did.
As the spire cracked and buckled, millions of us felt civilization trembling. But trembling at what? At the loss of God? At the sudden recognition that, for all our progressive confidence, deep down everyone knows that Western civilization lacks the philosophical and religious principles that once made such a structure possible in the first place?
By William Saunders, JD, Program Director of the MA in Human Rights at The Catholic University of America
The March for Life, the President, and Executive Branch Developments
In November, the UN Human Rights Committee published Comment 36 to guide the understanding and implementation of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In doing so, the HRC attempted to make abortion an accepted part of every nation’s law and practice. First, it is important to note that, other than a regional protocol in Africa, no binding international document mentions abortion. Abortion advocates have, thus, long sought to shoehorn abortion into the provisions of binding international documents. This is precisely what the HRC is trying to do with Comment 36.
The ICCPR is a treaty; that is, it contains legally binding obligations for any nation that ratifies the treaty. Most nations have ratified it, but those that have not are not bound by its terms. The ICCPR is one of the two major treaties designed to implement the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was issued by the United Nations after World War II.22 It is worthwhile to pause and consider the preamble to the Declaration in order to understand how far off-line the HRC went with Comment 36.
On March 13, the director of our M.A. program in human rights, William Saunders, greeted the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Most Rev. Christophe Pierre, at the Vatican Embassy in DC. Graduates from our M.A. in Human Rights will help bring the Catholic perspective to bear in the international arena.
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.
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.
I suppose it’s a bit preposterous for me to feel a deep personal connection with Notre-Dame. I’ve been there maybe a dozen times during brief Paris sojourns over the past decade. Hardly exceptional compared with the experience of the legions of faithful who worshipped there regularly, or of the millions of Parisians and French who learned the moods of Notre Dame as they passed by on vacations or just going about their daily business over the years. Notre Dame was literally as well as figuratively the center of the island in the center of Paris, and thus the center of France, and what it means to be French. Even the most jaded cosmopolitan Parisian could not avoid a relationship with Notre Dame, as it is impossible to go much of anywhere in Paris without passing by it.
Despite my limited familiarity, Notre Dame was my Notre Dame. Great architecture does that to you. The embodiment of history and culture does that to you. Faith does that to you. A great cathedral is a bit like a great author, a great performer. He may be read by millions or perform in sold-out stadiums, but you know he is speaking directly and personally to you. That was my Notre Dame.
Two visits to Notre Dame stand out; both visits were unexpected. I had intended both days to be in Lille, and ended up in Paris due to train misfortunes. I suppose there are earthly explanations in each case, though I’m inclined to believe that something more profound is involved.
Originally published on 1 May 2019 at The Imaginative Conservative.
Dennis Coyle, Ph.D. is an IHE Fellow and an associate professor and Politics Department Chair at The Catholic University of America. Dr. Coyle’s research interests include liberal constitutionalism, property rights and regulation, social science theory, and generally the interplay of institutions, culture, and values in law, policy, and administration.
MA promises to help ensure a “Catholic voice” present in rights discussions.
A new program in human rights is being started at The Catholic University of America.
A Master of Arts in Human Rights, developed by the Institute for Human Ecology (IHE) at CUA, is designed for graduate students who wish to study human rights from a distinctly Catholic perspective.
The one-year degree will draw upon existing courses of several schools and departments at CUA, including arts and sciences, law, philosophy, canon law, theology and religious studies. The interdisciplinary degree will be awarded by the School of Arts and Sciences through a new Center for Human Rights associated with the IHE.
by IHE Fellow Andrew M. Yuengert, Ordinary Professor of Economics and Social Thought
“They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.” – Vatican II, Lumen Gentium
Catholic Social Doctrine (CSD) compares the laity to leaven – mixed thoroughly into society, occupying every social space, acting where they are to sanctify the world. The leaven metaphor (like all metaphors) is imperfect; its limits can help us to see the challenge of communicating CSD to the laity, and inspiring them to act on it to sanctify the social order.
Think about what leaven does. Leaven doesn’t work according to some master plan; it’s not a voting bloc banding together to lobby the bread to rise. It is instead a sort of local catalyst. Each bit of leaven works where it is, converting glucose into CO2; by these separate actions it causes the dough to rise.
The documents of CSD don’t read like a manual for leaven; CSD reads like a manual for ‘bakers’ – for public policy. Unless the leaven decides to lobby for a better baker or different temperatures, the baker’s manual won’t be interesting. Of course, the laity aren’t just ‘leaven’. Catholic citizens care about the social order – about how it is ‘baked’. The principles of CSD serve as a guide for the laity as citizens, but outside of politics – and much of social life is outside of politics! – the laity won’t find much guidance for their other ‘social work’: raising families, building networks of friends, starting informal social initiatives and businesses.
True, Catholics are spread throughout society like leaven, but they are not passive like leaven in the hands of a public policy ‘baker’. Each Catholic (and every person, Catholic or not) is himself a baker, and his work is important to him – as part of his flourishing, as a contribution to the communities to which he belongs, and as a participation in God’s loving work. If CSD is indeed ‘social’, then its most basic principles (human dignity, common good, solidarity, subsidiarity, option for the poor) ought to apply to every social project, embodying wisdom for every family, community, and business. The work of promoting CSD ought to bring its principles down to the level at which the laity live, enabling them to weave those principles into “the very web of their existence.” If Catholics can recognize and embrace that wisdom, at work “in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life,” then the insights of CSD can have their greatest effect, from the ground up.
This perspective is a healthy corrective to the tendency of public policy analysis to overlook the ‘social work’ carried out in families and in small communities. The task of public policy – the design and reform of laws, regulation, and institutions – is crucial, but all too often public policy analysis treats persons like predictable, passive, and manipulable leaven, to be managed solely for the sake of whatever loaf the government is baking. From the personalist perspective of CSD, government is not the only baker; society is full of them, at every level, in every family, Church, business, association, and neighborhood – all doing important work, all necessary for the flourishing of persons and society.
Andrew Yuengert, Ph.D. is an IHE Fellow and an Ordinary Professor of Economics and Social Thought at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America. Dr. Yuengert has made research contributions in several fields: economic philosophy, Catholic Social Teaching, the empirical study of religion, labor economics, and finance. He is a former president of the Association of Christian Economists, and currently serves as editor of its journal, Faith & Economics.
An unusual mix of scholars, friends, and students met on campus at Catholic University March 19 for the second Novak Symposium, a project of the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship, directed by IHE Fellow Andreas Widmer.
Michael Novak, the esteemed author, philosopher, and theologian for whom the Symposium is named, loved to examine commonly held ideas to see whether or in what sense they were actually true. For example, although it’s usually held that the United States is the land of the “rugged individual,” Novak studied life in early America and saw that it was really the story of communities being built by common needs and interests — the land of the community barn-raising, not the isolated loner. Thoroughly orthodox in his Catholicism, he nonetheless excelled at bringing a fresh perspective to our sometimes too- conventional thinking.
It’s in this spirit that the annual Novak Symposium convened: not to repeat what Michael Novak said, but to continue his genuinely open-minded and big-hearted manner of confronting problems. This year’s theme took as its starting point Novak’s Templeton lecture from 1994, which student participants were asked to read. In 1994, with the collapse of Soviet Communism, the world assumed that the free market had “won” the debate with Socialism. Is that still true in 2019?
The event took place in two parts. In the morning, in the fashion of a traditional academic conference, three speakers engaged the question from their distinct perspectives. Author Mary Eberstadt, a close Novak friend, discussed what it means to engage a problem with a “catholic mind.” (A taste of her remarks is available here.) George Mason University Professor of Economics and Philosophy Peter Boettke argued that free markets require virtue, but do a better job than the alternatives when it comes to fostering the needs of the human person, who has more than just material needs. Economist and techno-visionary George Gilder offered a fascinating presentation on how the Chinese economy has begun to outpace the American in dynamic innovation. It was an intellectually bracing morning.
In the afternoon, students competed in a “social justice hack-a-thon,” during which they tried to tackle a current social problem in a “Novakian” manner — that is, applying Novak’s definition of social justice as a personal virtue aimed at building the common good. Professor Elizabeth Shaw, Director of Special Academic Projects for the Ciocca Center at The Busch School, and a long time collaborator with Michael Novak, organized the event. She was especially pleased by the high student participation rate, since an important aim of the program is to spread Novak’s legacy to a new generation. “Interacting with students was a priority and a joy for Novak, so the good turnout of undergraduates, both for the morning conference and for the hackathon in the afternoon, was especially gratifying,” she said.
Andreas Widmer is an IHE Fellow and the director of entrepreneurship programs at the Busch School of Business. Mr. Widmer works closely with top entrepreneurs, investors, and faith leaders around the world to foster enterprise solutions to poverty and promote virtuous business practices.
It’s more authentic to stand before a young person and humbly say, “I’ve found something I’m eager to share with you, and I want to provoke you to go on your own journey for the truth,” than to deny that teachers, mentors, and other role models are speaking from tradition with authority.
For the past several years, I have assigned Monsignor Luigi Giussani’s The Risk of Education as the final book in a seminar I teach on liberal arts education. One student’s response to Risk of Education echoed what I felt when I first picked up a book by Giussani, just a few years ago. She remarked that “Giussani uses common words in uncommon ways, which is strange.” Pausing, she then continued, “But it’s also compelling.”
Giussani, the Italian Catholic priest and founder of Communion and Liberation, isn’t playing language games. Rather, the unconventional ways that he defines terms like tradition, authority, reason, verification, and provocation are actually challenges to implicit assumptions about the person and community that are expressed in our use (or misuse) of language. Thus, Risk of Education isn’t only a model for educators. It’s also a critique of modernity—and a sketch of a way forward.
Let me begin by saying something about how the Sacred and Profane Love podcast came to be and what its future is.My podcast began as an extension of a three year, 2.1 million dollar research project titled, “Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life,” which was generously supported by the John Templeton Foundation.The project’s aims were explicitly interdisciplinary: Candace Vogler and I brought together philosophers, religious scholars and theologians, psychologists, and other social scientists to investigate whether some conception of self-transcendence could help to make ordinary cultivation and exercise of virtue a source of deep happiness and meaning in human life.While the project produced many traditional research outputs, including an edited volume, it also had public facing components, including a well-trafficked blog; a few years into it I decided to launch a podcast that explored our central questions in a different way—viz., by focusing on literature rather than philosophy, theology, or the social sciences.
Originally, I had no idea if anyone would listen to the podcast, but judging by the fact that it is now often the first thing people mention when they meet me, it seems to have gained some traction, and the hope is to see it continue to grow over the next few years.Although I am still releasing a few episodes over the coming months with support from the John Templeton Foundation, going forward next year it will be underwritten by The Institute for Human Ecology, which is a research institute housed at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. The IHE is a multi-disciplinary institute that supports work focused on questions about the nature of human flourishing, so it fits well with my own work. This new partnership means that after a brief hiatus from blogging and releasing new episodes, I’ll be back to podcasting in the upcoming months, and I plan to continue the podcast so long as there continues to be a reasonable demand for it.
Through the early twentieth century, nationalist sentiment was esteemed because it expressed desires for self-governance and freedom from oppression, and the sentiment squared with the growing awareness of rights, political freedom, and dignity held by people and peoples. “But Hitler changed all that,” argues Israeli political philosopher Yoram Hazony, president of the Hertzl Institute, in The Virtue of Nationalism. The century which began as a contest between opposing universalist claims (liberal and socialist theories) and nationalism, saw the latter collapse because of its association with Nazi atrocities.
Nationalism is back, however. In the United States, Eastern and Central Europe, and elsewhere, appeals to the nation are on the rise, and Hazony provides its thoughtful defense in his The Virtue of Nationalism. Hazony, to his credit, does not defend nationalism as some mere modus vivendi, but instead claims that the “national state” is the best expression of political order and an international system of national states is preferable to anarchic and imperial alternatives. The national state is the political form best suited to preserve domestic peace, the conservative goods of family and local culture, freedom, and creativity.
Empire, Hazony argues, is the national state’s biggest threat, conceptually and empirically: empires are universalist and seek to impose their impersonal, abstract values on nations; they stultify in the name of “humanity” and shame national pride by trumpeting universal ideals, as for instance the UN routinely shames Israel. The Virtue of Nationalism is also a strikingly personal book, with vignettes of his childhood and his love of Israel imbuing the book with both intimacy and urgency; Hazony’s case for the nation is a case for his home, Israel. And as he makes plain in an earlier, excellent, and likewise provocative book, The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel’s Soul, his defense is of an Israel of “the Jewish people, the land of Israel, [and] Jewish national values.” The Virtue of Nationalism is remarkably clear and direct, and in more than a few places, beautifully written.
[Editor’s Note: Dr. Mary Hirschfeld is Associate Professor of Economics and Theology in the Department of Humanities at Villanova University. She holds Ph.D.s in economics (Harvard, 1989) and theology (Notre Dame, 2013). Her work is along the borderline between economics and theology. In addition to having published numerous articles, she is the author of Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Humane Economy (Harvard University Press, 2018), which has been awarded the 2019 Economy and Society International Award by the Fondazione Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice. She spoke to Charles Camosy about the current debate over socialism and capitalism taking place in the United States.]
Camosy: Lots of talk about socialism in the news these days. Bernie Sanders is a front-runner for president. Younger people say they are increasingly skeptical of capitalism and much more open to socialism. But I also get the sense that these terms aren’t being used with much precision. Speaking as a student of economics, what is socialism?
Hirschfeld: “Socialism” is not an analytical term in economics. Instead, economists would use more precise terms to pick up various institutional features one might call “socialism.” So you can find economic analysis of central planning, or state-run enterprises, or the size of government-run welfare programs and the like. I should add that the term “capitalism” is much the same – a word that figures in public discourse much more than it does in economic analysis.
Mike talks with theologian and economist Mary Hirschfeld about her book Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Humane Economy. Professor Hirschfeld started her career as an economist, getting her Ph.D. from Harvard and then working and teaching in the field for the next 15 years. She then made a fascinating career change, going back to graduate school and earning a doctorate in theology from Notre Dame. She’s currently an Associate Professor of Economics and Theology at Villanova University.
Topics Mike and Professor Hirschfeld discuss include:
what theology can bring to a discussion of economics
what Thomas Aquinas – a medieval Dominican friar – can contribute to our understanding of 21st century economics
why economics isn’t as value-neutral as many people think
money, desire, and happiness
‘maximizing your utility’ vs. ‘ordering your life’
The destruction wrought by the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis is impossible to deny. But what actually caused it to begin with?
To tackle this question, experts in the fields of theology, sociology, management, gender, and journalism gathered at The Catholic University of America on March 26 for “What’s Really Going On? The Root Causes of the Current Crisis.” The third in a series of “Healing the Breach of Trust” events, the conference was sponsored by The Catholic Project, a Catholic University initiative dedicated to healing within the church.
Stephen White, executive director of The Catholic Project, kicked off the day’s discussions by attributing the current crisis to a “diabolical tangle” of issues related to sexuality, clericalism, power, and deceit.
Introductory address by Stephen White and Susan Timoney:
“Clear careful thinking about complicated problems is especially difficult and especially necessary at a time so charged with anger and emotion,” White said. “Understanding how we got into this tangle is a critically important part of finding our way out.”
In her opening remarks for the day, Associate Professor of Theology Susan Timoney compared the current crisis to the events of 2002, and said that back then, it “seemed clear what needed to be done” in terms of increased background checks and new child protection policies. The 2018 crisis, she said, brought to light “much deeper and more complex issues” related to the “toxic mix of power and sex.”
“We can feel defeated by this toxic combination,” Timoney said. “We should not only expect something different [in the Church], but we should recognize sin for what it is and address it as such.”
In the discussion panels that followed, speakers tried to explain factors which may have contributed to the crisis. Boston College Professor Richard Gaillardetz and Chad Pecknold, associate professor of theology, explained how clericalism and careerism within the clergy may have resulted in a culture of secrecy and cover-ups related to sexual misconduct. One way to fix this, Gaillardetz said, might be a greater emphasis on shared responsibility between priests and laypeople in the Church, and an increased emphasis on the universal call to priesthood all Catholics participate in through baptism.
The Role of Power and Clericalism in the Crisis – Two Views:
Pecknold said he attributes the crisis to a culture of spiritual fatherlessness, and a rise in cultural and liturgical relativism. He suggested that it is only through humbling ourselves and turning our “interior altars to him” that the Church will be able to recover and heal.
During a panel which was moderated by Sociology Professor Brandon Vaidyanathan, management professors Gary Weaver (University of Delaware) and Michael Edward Brown (Penn State University) attributed the crisis to a lack of ethical leadership and poor organizational management within the church, in which people might fear being punished for reporting bad behaviors. In addition to new rules and procedures, the two men suggested the Church will also need more subtle cultural changes when it comes to long-expected social norms and attitudes regarding clergy members.
The Perspective of Organizational Behavior on the Crisis:
“Simply focusing on rules and monitoring disciplines alone can lead to people adopting unhelpful ‘don’t get caught’ attitudes,” said Weaver. “That can also lead to perceptions where people think they can do the wrong thing and push blame. When those kinds of perceptions are afoot, the organizational results are usually worse, not better behavior.”
During the afternoon, Rev. Paul Sullins, a retired professor of sociology, shared data that he believes to show correlations between homosexuality and abuse within the Church. Julie Rubio, a professor of theological studies at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, placed the Church crisis within the larger context of the Me Too Movement, explaining how abusers use sexual violence to exert their power. While the abuse crisis in the United States seems to include men abusing mostly other men and boys, she noted that the abuse crisis in other parts of the world often involves clergy abusing women and religious sisters.
Role of Sexuality & Sexual Teaching in the Crisis – Two Views:
A possible solution for abuse in the Church, Rubio said, would be a more holistic formation for seminarians with regards to “living celibacy,” in which priests and seminarians are not taught to ignore their sexual and relational needs, but to seek intimacy and relationships in other ways.
The conference concluded with a discussion among Catholic journalists about media coverage of the ongoing crisis. That panel included Greg Erlandson, editor in chief and director of Catholic News Service; Jeanette DeMelo, editor in chief for National Catholic Register; and Rev. Matt Malone, S.J., president and editor in chief of America Media.
The final Healing the Breach conference, “The Way Forward: Principles for Effective Lay Action,” will take place on April 25 at Catholic University, with a keynote presentation by Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron. For more information on this conference, The Catholic Project, and other Catholic University initiatives responding to the sexual abuse crisis, visit thecatholicproject.org.
The Catholic clergy sex abuse crisis is caused by a too-fawning deference to clerics called “clericalism.” Or a failure to guard against the sleazy culture outside the church. Or a moral relativism that denies one “truth.” Or gay priests. Or a warped bureaucratic structure that’s kind of like the Mafia.
U.S. Catholics know they are in the thick of a clergy sexual abuse crisis, but that’s where agreement ends. When the abuse topic exploded in the church in the early 2000s, everyone knew the focus was stopping the shuffling around and cover-up of priests abusing children.
In 2019, there’s a void. With that lack of consensus, many parish priests are saying little about the crisis.
Since March began, Women’s History Month has highlighted famous women and their places in our collective history. However, the private histories of our families hold countless ordinary women who lived extraordinary, but hidden, lives of faith, hope and love. Women’s History Month is much impoverished if we let it pass without honoring the ordinary women in our own families.
I am blessed to have such women in my own family tree. History does not know them, but through family stories I do. Two beautiful biographies come to mind:
My great grandmother was born in southern Italy’s bucolic hills. When I visit her homeland, it seems like paradise. But, rural life was difficult in nineteenth century paradise. So, she watched her husband leave Italy’s shores to see if the United States held more promise for their growing family. Determining it would, he sent word back to her. I am told that she endured a long transatlantic voyage with toddler boys before arriving in New York the same winter as the notorious Blizzard of ’88. I often wonder what went through the heart of this young woman from the tropical Mediterranean, as a blizzard engulfed her new hometown. She never again saw the family or country she left behind. She delivered twelve children into the world, but only six of them survived infancy. Her husband died in the winter of 1902, leaving her the single mother of six in a country whose language and customs were still new to her.
Yet, her home became a much-loved gathering place and her life a bridge between the old world and the new. She lived to see her children’s children thrive. She was the matriarch of her large family through World War One and the Great Depression, passing from this life in the midst of World War Two. She lived a courageous life lost to history but filled with faith, hope, and love – the same faith, hope and love of so many women who, through the ages, have held the world together.
Her youngest child was another remarkable woman and my maternal grandmother. Born in New York in 1902, she never knew the father who died right after her birth. American women could not yet vote and their opportunities were limited. Yet, my grandmother graduated high school, leaving behind notebooks that reveal a meticulous student with handwriting and mathematical skills that I envy. Serious photographs of her during high school Shakespearean plays show a surprising dramatic flair. She worked at a department store to help support her family and married a dashing Italian mechanic with a pompadour and a motorcycle. She welcomed two daughters just as the country plummeted into the Great Depression that devastated her family. Her meticulous budgets for those years survive, tabulating all her family’s income and the minutest of their expenditures. Long before Airbnb, my grandmother took guests into her home during the 1939 World’s Fair to help pay her mortgage and feed her family. She guided my mother through college, graduate school, marriage, and motherhood – making sure her younger daughter’s dreams knew no limits.
But her greatest legacy was her love for her older daughter – a beautiful firstborn with bright eyes, dark curls, and a crushing brain injury during her birth. My grandmother devoted herself wholeheartedly to this daughter’s care, knowing that love often demands giving away one’s life for another. She sewed her beautiful dresses and gave her Christmas presents. Family photographs always show my grandmother next to this beloved daughter, feeding her patiently from the same good china as everyone else. With the exception of one road trip, my grandmother likely never again traveled more than fifty miles from her home; love for her daughter was her world. “Mama” was the only word I ever heard my aunt say. This was the heartfelt, more-than-eloquent tribute to my grandmother, another unknown woman who lived her life with faith, hope and love – the same faith, hope and love of so many women who, through the ages, have held the world together.
These brief portraits capture only two of the good, holy women whose lives are intertwined with mine. I pray that women such as these have also blessed yours. Their lives, like those of so many women, will go unknown and uncelebrated this month – if we let that happen. But, maybe we owe them more. It is women such as these who are the heroines of ordinary times.
Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor Law at the Catholic University of America. “On Ordinary Times” is a biweekly column reflecting on the ways to find the sacred in the simple.
THE FATHER-SON PROJECT, UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS AND A NEW RESOURCE AT CUA
by Dr. Pat Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Initiative
In my estimation the strategic project of the next century (100 years) is the movement of fathers taking unto themselves alone, the sexual formation of their sons, resulting in sons capable of being great husbands and fathers. However, I predict that those interested in a totalitarian state (the socialist state) as well as radical-core feminists (and there is a significant overlap) will oppose this movement with merciless pursuit, for, if it spreads, it takes away from them their most powerful tool — “sex gone wild”.
In the forthcoming square-off fathers, who do have the inherent right to direct the education of their children, we will need the back-stop of law. Luckily this right is recognized in the United Nations Human Rights Treaties and Declarations of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. The world’s reflection on what had gone wrong during and leading up to World War I and World War II led to the founding of the United Nations and with its hope that such horrors would not happen again, and to that end issued the Human Rights documents.
But with rampant individualism coupled with ignorance of the nature of good government, “Human Rights” discourse, today, is a double-edged sword even among — especially among — educated Westerners, most of whom cannot articulate the nature of human rights and as a result are increasing easy prey for “false rights.”
Dr. Mary Hirschfeld, IHE Fellow and Associate Professor of Economics and Theology at Villanova University, recently received recognition for her book Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Humane Economy, published in 2018.
The book was awarded the Economy & Society International Award, presented by the Fondazione Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontifice. From the Foundation’s website: “The prize is awarded to a work which stands out for its original contribution to in depth study and implementation of the Social Doctrine of the Church, is of proven doctrinal soundness, and exceptional quality.”
Dr. Hirschfeld holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. Her integrated research marrying the two fields provides critical insights into the future of our global economy. The publisher describes Aquinas and the Market:
“In a Thomistic approach, she writes, ethics and economics cannot be reconciled if we begin with narrow questions about fair wages or the acceptability of usury. Rather, we must begin with an understanding of how economic life serves human happiness.”
Dr. Hirschfeld’s work leads toward a more humane economy by showing us that, just as people are multi-faceted, so are areas of study. Her writing demonstrates that a society fit to remain siloed is increasingly outdated, and that steps must be made toward a more integrated marketplace.
Is it possible to consider human dignity in a field that includes manipulation and deceit? What moral obligations are involved in a life of espionage?
Those were the questions up for discussion during a recent event, “The Humanity of Espionage.” The panel discussion, which included four former CIA spy handlers, was held on Feb. 28 at The Catholic University of America.
Event moderator Nicholas Dujmovic, assistant professor and director of the University’s Intelligence Studies Program, previously worked at the Central Intelligence Agency for 26 years. He began the night’s discussion by defining espionage as the collection of national security intelligence through human means, in which a U.S. case officer, or handler, is passed information from a foreign national, or spy.
“At its core, espionage always involves a relationship,” Dujmovic said.
Dujmovic was joined during the evening by John Bennett, a former director of the National Clandestine Service at the CIA; Juan Cruz, a former career CIA operations and case officer; Gil Kindelan, a retired case officer with 34 years of government service in the US Army and the CIA; and Scotty Skotzko, who served 40 years as a CIA operations officer with eight oversea postings.
The discussion was the fourth in a series of events cosponsored by the Intelligence Studies Program and the University’s Institute for Human Ecology. Dujmovic said the night’s purpose was to explain how a life in intelligence really works and how it can affect those in the field.
The four case officers began the discussion by sharing how they viewed their work. Skotzko compared working as a case officer to being “a professional opportunist,” who is skilled at “establishing relationships and looking for converging interests.”
For him, the process of building relationships with potential spies, is “a process of helping them find purpose in doing what you want them to do.”
Bennett said the job involved three stages: deception, manipulation, and corruption. At the heart of espionage, he continued, is always a paradox: “This relationship formed on the basis of deception has to be a relationship of absolute trust both ways.”
Cruz described his case officer work as a privilege, and compared the relationship formed between a spy and his handler to “a covenant, not unlike marriage.”
“It’s a bond forged in hardships and risks, for a greater good,” Cruz said. “A good case officer is a teacher, a student, a father, a shoulder to cry on, an amateur psychologist, a confessor, and if you’re lucky, a friend.”
As the night continued, the men discussed the challenges of recruiting new informants and later terminating those relationships in a way that is safe for both parties.
“Finding the right timing for recruitment is actually really tough, it’s not something like flipping a coin,” said Cruz. “It’s the same thing with termination. It must be done as professionally and carefully as possible. And you should always know how it’s going to go.”
Bennet said it is important to know a spy’s motivations. While some are giving information because it’s the right thing to do, others do it for “simply transactional” reasons, or as a way to inflict harm on a regime.
The men also talked about the moral “red lines” intelligence officers should never cross, which included acts of intimacy, lethal force, and blackmail.
At the end of the conversation, the former case officers shared regrets and discussed their personal experiences losing assets and colleagues.
“At every phase of my career, I have lost colleagues along the way,” said Bennet. “We never forget them and it never gets easier.”