Welcome to Ordinary Time!

By IHE Fellow Lucia Ann Silecchia, J.D.

“Ordinary time.” This is a season of the year – and season of life — that is deeply, drearily underrated.

As a child, I dreaded the days after Christmas. Trees were dragged to the curb with faded tinsel hinting of glories just passed. The longest vacation of the school year gave way to cold, holiday-deprived Januaries. Beloved Christmas music abruptly left the airwaves. Easter joy, summer road trips, 4th of July celebrations, and the springtime panoply of graduations, First Communions, Confirmations, family birthdays and weddings all seemed so far away.

To make matters worse, this new season bears what looks like the blandest of names: “ordinary time.” Such a mundane, plain word is the moniker attached to most of the year – and most of our lives.

Read the rest of the article here.

Originally published on 18 January 2019 at the The Catholic Free Press.

IHE Fellow Lucia Ann Silecchia, J.D. is a professor of law, and director of the Summer Law Program in Rome at The Catholic University of America. Her expertise is in environmental law and ethics, Catholic social thought & law, and Catholic higher education.

St. Joseph: <br>The Silent Guardian

“Go to Joseph: and do all that he shall say to you.” (Genesis 41:55)

The Institute for Human Ecology invokes Saint Joseph as its patron saint. March 19 is the primary feast day in the Latin Rite for Saint Joseph. And so, the Catholic Church has traditionally spotlighted the Foster Father of Jesus Christ during this third month of the year.

Pope Leo XIII underlined in his encyclical, Quamquam Pluries, that “the Joseph of ancient times, son of the patriarch Jacob, was the type of Saint Joseph, and the former by his glory prefigured the greatness of the future guardian of the Holy Family.” The Book of Genesis tells how the brothers of the first Joseph betrayed and sold him to the chief palace guard of the Egyptian pharaoh. After many trials, Jacob’s son became the vizier of Egypt.

During a famine in and around Egypt, the pharaoh advised his people to turn to Joseph in all of their needs: “Go to Joseph: and do all that he shall say to you.” Many spiritual writers of the Catholic Church have applied this verse to the foster father of Jesus.

None of Saint Joseph’s words are recorded in the Gospels, but this great saint’s actions speak loudly to Christians. He was the “just man” (Matthew 1:19) who responded promptly to the messages from God given to him in dreams and by angels. He subsequently took the Blessed Virgin Mary into his home, and later led his Holy Family to Egypt when Herod sought to kill Jesus. He returned to Nazareth after an angel informed him of Herod’s death.

Later in Quamquam Pluries, Pope Leo XIII recommended that “men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph. Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity….the rich will understand, by his lessons, what are the goods most to be desired and won at the price of their labor. As to workmen, artisans, and persons of lesser degree, their recourse to Joseph is a special right, and his example is for their particular imitation.”

One hundred years later, in his apostolic letter Redemptoris Custos, Pope Saint John Paul II emphasized the “profound interior life” of Saint Joseph. He noted that the saint’s “submission to God…is really nothing less than that exercise of devotion which constitutes one expression of the virtue of religion.” The Guardian of the Holy Family’s life of work and prayer prefigures the Rule of Saint Benedict.

A 19th-century follower of Saint Benedict, Dom Bernard Maréchaux, wrote eloquently about Saint Joseph’s patronage to all humanity: “The life of Joseph the worker was a humble life, and because of this, it was doomed to be forgotten. Here is precisely how, from this life of humility, God could fashion a patronage that extends itself to billions of human beings…Far above the half-faded images of founders of empires, law-givers, and conquerors, appears the gentle and inspired face of Saint Joseph the Worker, brightened by the divine radiance of Jesus.”

May Saint Joseph inspire us and protect us as we go about our daily lives working for the advancement of the Kingdom of God!

Matthew Balan started working at the Institute for Human Ecology in January 2019. He is a native of Wilmington, Delaware, and currently lives in Annapolis, Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

What does ‘for the life and health of the mother’ mean in abortion law?

By Christine Rousselle

New York’s newly-signed abortion law permits abortion for any reason up until the 24th week of a pregnancy, and then afterwards in cases to protect the “life and health” of the mother, but what does this mean?

Opponents of the Reproductive Health Act, signed into law Tuesday, say it will result in the killing of healthy, viable, unborn babies. The law’s supporters point to the “life and health” clause as a protection of real medical discretion. What exactly is the “life and health of the mother” in law? One Catholic law professor told CNA that it adds up to near abortion-on-demand.

According to Professor Lucia A. Silecchia of the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, the term is “one of the most notoriously vague provisions in abortion jurisprudence,” and is included in various opinions and laws without any sort of clear definition as to what it actually means.

Read the rest of the article here.

Originally published on 25 January 2019 at the Catholic News Agency.

IHE Fellows in Atlanta at the Allied Social Sciences Association in January

On January 5, three IHE fellows (Andy Yuengert, Catherine Pakaluk, and Mary Hirschfeld) presented recent research in a paper session at the annual meetings of the Allied Social Sciences Association in Atlanta. The well-attended session, “Explorations in Christian Thought and Economic Analysis,” was organized by Andy Yuengert, and sponsored by the Association of Christian Economists. The three papers each offered insight into how Catholic perspectives on society and the human person might affect how we think about economics and the economy. Mary Hirschfeld (Villanova), drawing on her recent book, “Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Human Economy” (Harvard University Press), explored the distinction between “being” and “having” in Catholic Social Doctrine. How should we look at the economy differently when our vocation (“being”) is not equivalent to the multiplication of material goods (“having”)? Catherine Pakaluk followed with a discussion of dependence in economic studies of human relationships. Pakaluk outlined the differences between statistical dependence in social science research and dependence in actual families, in schools, and in the workplace. She then reflected on the challenge of analyzing these two kinds of dependence together. Andy Yuengert reflected on the difficulty that economics has in analyzing virtue, especially Aristotelian virtue. To model reality economists must simplify it, and the virtues are needed to address the very complexity that economists leave out of their models. A fourth paper, presented by Gordon Menzies of University of Technology, Sydney, outlined an economic humanism based on Christian principles.

The presenters were joined by four discussants, young economics PhDs and PhD students interested in Catholic Social Doctrine. The discussants brought their mainstream economic expertise to bear in their comments, at the same time being willing to grapple with the perspectives of the papers, which was decidedly outside of the mainstream. Their comments added critical perspective to the session, placing the papers more firmly in conversation with the economics discipline.

Human Rights and the Truth About Man:<BR>The Universal Declaration at 70

by IHE Fellow V. Bradley Lewis

Seventy years ago last month the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). That document has since become a touchstone for the moral evaluation of political regimes around the world as well as for the continuing development of international law. Its passage was clearly part of the world’s reaction to the catastrophic destruction caused by the Second World War.

The document was also extraordinary for addressing the continuing division of the world by radically different moral, political and religious views. The issuing of the document led the great Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain to make his now-famous comment on human rights. When Maritain was asked how such agreement on the rights protected in the UDHR was achieved, he replied that we can agree on which rights to protect, “provided no one asks us why.” In this we can see both the promise of the UDHR and the international human-rights movement more generally, but also their perils and limitations.

Read more here.

V. Bradley Lewis is an associate professor of philosophy. Dr. Lewis specializes in political and legal philosophy. He has written articles on the political thought of Plato and Aristotle and on some figures in the neo-Thomist tradition, as well as on the topics of public reason and religious freedom.

Originally published on 8 January 2019 at the National Catholic Register.

The Little Prince beats The Prince

In one of my seminars this semester, “Classics of International Relations,” we read The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli. It is a cold, calculating manual for how to gain and keep power that not even the last chapter, a rousing call to liberate Italy from foreign occupation, can redeem. And it is a book that appears on many syllabi of international relations as well as business strategy – after all, the belief seems to be, conquering a city is not that different from expanding market share.

But maybe next time I teach the class, I will skip Machiavelli – or at least, read his Prince together with a completely different book, The Little Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupery. Yes, that classic for kids and for discerning adults who can see an elephant inside a boa constrictor.

The reason is that le petit prince understands social order and what is needed to maintain it much better, or least much more fully, than the Prince. For the latter, fear is the dominating emotion when we encounter other people. Others, in fact, are hell – or at least potential hell. They are “ungrateful, fickle, pretenders, evaders of danger, greedy for gain”, according to the Prince (chapter XVII). If that’s the case, only political power – a polity that dominates over us – can supply the necessary conditions for social cohesion and order. Political power is thus not an outcome, but the foundation of order.

The Little Prince is different. Upon landing on earth, he seeks others because loneliness does not satisfy him. He develops friendships, with a fox and then with the author, a pilot stranded in the middle of the desert. Friendship requires time, patience, slowly developing ties of mutual dependence. It is inevitable that there will be pain as friends go away or fall short of our expectation (“it is sad to forget a friend”!), but the risk of pain should not move us away from our humanity: to be human means to be a friend and to have friends, whatever the impossibility of predicting a friendship’s future serenity. Being alone – an ideal for The Prince who seeks complete autonomy based on overwhelming and efficient power – is hell for le petit prince.

So, next time I teach this class, Machiavelli may have to be tamed by the Little Prince. Niccolò’s Prince may offer technical knowledge of the political machine, but the Little Prince gives us wisdom of human interactions; the former fears and dominates others, the latter seeks others so he may love. Who would you rather follow?

This is based on a longer essay published in 2014 in The American Interest:

Two Princes


Jakub Grygiel, Ph.D. is associate professor at The Catholic University of America.

Journalists Discuss ‘Healing the Breach of Trust’ in the Church after Sex Abuse Crisis

A journalist’s vocation is, according to New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, “to seek out the truth and to tell true stories about the world by writing these stories in an entertaining and interesting fashion.” But what happens when the fascinating, complex story a journalist is reporting involves a scandal in their own faith?

That question was at the heart of a Nov. 19 discussion panel, “Healing the Breach of Trust,” which was hosted by The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Human Ecology. The panel, which was moderated by Douthat featured religion journalists Elizabeth Bruenig (The Washington Post), Christopher White (Crux/The Tablet), and J.D. Flynn (Catholic News Agency), who earned his licentiate in Canon Law from the University in 2007.

[Watch the video from the event here.]

Over the course of the hour-long conversation, the four journalists discussed numerous issues related to the sex abuse crisis, including the role the secular and Catholic press play in investigating, reporting, and framing the public’s understanding, and the ways they believe the Church can move forward and heal after the ongoing scandals.

The discussion is the first of a series of planned conferences at Catholic University titled, “The Church and the Laity: Healing the Breach of Trust.” University President John Garvey gave a brief introduction at the event, noting that the current crisis feels different than the one in 2002: “In 2002, most Catholics trusted the bishops to take care of the problem,” he said. “Today many Catholics see the bishops themselves as the problem. The faithful have lost trust in their bishops.”

President Garvey urged the faithful to find a way to respond to the crisis that will take a step toward healing that loss of trust. He also announced the launch of a new University project entitled “The Church and the Laity,” which will examine the role of the lay faithful in Church reform.

Douthat began the conversation by asking panelists how their experiences as faithful Catholics have shaped their coverage of abuse revelations. In terms of pure storytelling, Douthat said the sex abuse crisis is a compelling assignment for journalists because it is a “remarkable human drama” and a “complex story.” On the other hand, he noted that Catholic journalists feel a personal responsibility and commitment to the institution they are covering.

“We believe the Church is a means through which God has willed the salvation of the human race,” Douthat said. “That makes covering the Church at this moment complicated.”

White said he finds covering the abuse scandal “profoundly exciting and profoundly challenging.” His faith has been affirmed by the number of people who are passionate about learning the truth and taking steps in a positive direction, but he said he also misses the days when he could look at his faith in a less complicated way.

“I miss not thinking I have to observe my faith instead of simply practicing it,” he said. “I miss thinking of a cardinal or archbishop as just someone I respect and not someone I cover.”

Bruenig said she takes solace in the fact that she can bring her faith to her work, especially when it involves speaking to abuse survivors.

“I think that for them, knowing that I am a fellow Catholic who cares in a very real way, there is a therapeutic element,” she said.

Still, she said there have been some stories she wished she didn’t need to hear.

“It’s indelible, I can’t unknow it,” she said. “I do hope the victims and the survivors and the journalists covering this, I hope they’re getting something good out of it and that it’s not having an overall detrimental effect.”

A lack of information from Church authorities is a common challenge for journalists covering the abuse crisis, the panelists said.

“Our religion reporters literally wrote a story about all the people who refused to talk to them,” said Douthat. “The Vatican is very closed to us. It’s not like reporting on someone like Trump. There are ways the Vatican can more successfully stonewall The New York Times in ways that an American politician or bishop cannot.”

This lack of response can put journalists in an uncomfortable position. While clergy understand the importance of the investigations, they are sometimes too cautious or fearful to answer questions on the record.

“We broke a story this summer and a bishop called me and said, ‘Thank you for doing this and please keep naming names. We need this purification of the church,’” said Flynn. “But then the closer we got to his diocese, the more those ‘thank you’s’ started to dry up.”

Flynn believes that one issue standing in the way of rebuilding trust in the Church is a lack of transparency from Church leadership about the specific steps taken to investigate abuse allegations. Decisions need to be made about when to reveal names of credibly accused priests and what terms like “credibly accused” even mean. He also believes there should be set penalties and processes in order for priests who engage in acts of sexual misconduct of any kind.

“Catholics want transparency in the process and they want more details,” Flynn said. “At the same time, due process is still very important.”

To conclude the discussion, Douthat asked the panelists what their first actions would be to heal the Church, if they were suddenly placed in charge.

White said he would place a mother as the leader of the sexual abuse investigations. Flynn suggested a large public penance for all Church leaders. As for Bruenig, she said she would advocate for a culture of radical truth-telling inspired by Christ himself.

“Before any procedural change, before any policy comes forward, we just have to adopt a policy of telling the truth even if it hurts you because this is a religion that has a radical sacrifice at the center of it,” she said.

Radical self-sacrifice is at the middle of Christianity because it’s a thing that inspires faith. If Jesus sacrificed himself for you, that’s something you can believe in and people want to feel that way about the Church.”

This article was originally published by The Catholic University of America on November 20, 2018. Watch the video from the event here.

Upcoming events in the “Healing the Breach of Trust” series include: “The Role of the Laity in Responding to the Crisis: Theological and Historical Foundations,” on Feb. 6; “What’s Really Going On? The Root Causes of the Current Crisis,” on March 26; and “Renewal in the Church: Principles for Effective Lay Action,” on April 25.

The Human Condition across the Curriculum

By Msgr. Anthony R. Frontiero, who is an IHE Fellow and a faculty member of the new MA in Human Rights. He is a former Diplomatic Attaché to the Holy See Mission to the United Nations and currently serves as Vice Rector and Director of Human Formation at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. 

In his book Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times (2017), Leon R. Kass asserts that, when it comes to education:

“It would seem to require, at the very least, that we understand not merely our individual peculiarities but also our shared nature as human beings; not only who, but what are we human beings? It means asking questions about the relation between our nature and our culture—not only in its variety as the plurality of cultures, but also in its universality, everywhere shaping human life with rituals and customs governing birth and death, language and song, marriage and education, justice and duty, and beliefs about the divine…The charge to self-knowledge is admittedly a tall order. Nevertheless, thoughtfulness about what we are includes thoughtfulness about what we can and should become. The quest for self-knowledge, for an answer to the question, “What is man?” embraces further questions: “What is a good person? What is a good life for human beings? What is a good community and a good citizen?” 1.

In an age of identity politics and amidst the confusions and divisions that abound, the ongoing conversation around on the purpose of education and formation, particularly in the Catholic tradition, seems to be ever more important. Pope Francis has said, “Education cannot be neutral. It is either positive or negative; either it enriches or it impoverishes; either it enables a person to grow or it lessens, even corrupts him. The mission of schools is to develop a sense of truth, of what is good and beautiful.” 2.

Some years ago, Monika Hellwig articulated an apt description of the Catholic intellectual tradition which I find to be quite helpful. She said that it is “a 2000 year old conversation between the Church and the world, a dialogue between the Christian community of believers and the culture in which it finds itself.” 3. To be sure, the Catholic intellectual tradition is broader and older than the university; but clearly that the university, and primary and secondary institutions, serve as stewards of this “conversation,” preserving, transmitting and developing it by engaging the questions and challenges of its own time and place.

According to Hellwig, included in this conversation is both the content and the way of doing things; the content, of course, being Sacred Scripture, the treasure of Church teachings, Apostolic tradition, formulations of the faith elaborated in theology, philosophy, catechesis, the natural sciences which integrate faith claims with human knowledge, spirituality, devotions, and rituals and ceremonies, etc.. The way of doing things can be said to be the concrete responses to the content that we treasure—the promotion of values and principles that are “characteristically Catholic,” for example; but at the same time are shared by many religious traditions—so that what and how we teach and live is not something we embrace and endeavor to promote so that we can somehow live in isolation. As the famous Jesuit preacher Walter Burghardt said of the celebration of Sunday Mass…It’s not a private party where all the good guys huddle together for one hour of blessed forgetfulness.

Indeed, the way of dealing with our experience as Catholics, and our knowledge and tradition, in order to acquire true wisdom, to live well, to honor God, and to build good societies, involves embracing and sharing certain values and principles, such as: (1) Human life has meaning, a meaning which can be known; (2) The basic principles of right and wrong are given and not humanly invented; (3) The deliberately fostered yearning for communion with God is in some way connected with the way we relate to one another; and (4) In the person of Jesus Christ we have an utterly trustworthy interpretation of the meaning and destiny of human life, of human relationship with God, and of what constitutes a good life. 4.

In his unique style, the late Monsignor Luigi Giussani, in his work entitled The Risk of Education: Discovering our Ultimate Destiny (1995), wrote that, when it comes to education, “The issue [we are discussing] is an entirely personal matter…unless we are educated to become assimilated by the merciful mystery that created us and saved us, and unless we have a personal dimension rooted in our faith in the mystery, we will neither create a reality that can be a witness to it, nor shall we inhabit that reality.”5.

The “2000 year old conversation between the Church and the world” has always borne witness to the truth of that experience, and I submit that the human condition, known in its truest nature by faith and reason, by virtue of our creation and redemption, has something singular to say on every subject in every curriculum.

Monsignor Anthony Frontiero is an IHE Fellow and Vice Rector and Director of Human Formation at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

1. Leon R. Kass, Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times (New York: Encounter Books, 2017), p. 264.
2. Pope Francis, Address to Italian Educators, May 10, 2014.
3. Monika Hellwig, Presentation on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Catholic University (Fairfield: Sacred Heart University Press, 2000).
4. Cf. Hellwig.
5. Luigi Giussani, The Risk of Education: Discovering our Ultimate Destiny (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995), p. 42.

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.”

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.”

The next fellowship will be held July 7-12, 2019.

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.
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