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 Institute for Human Ecology is pleased to announce the launch of a new Master of Arts in Human Rights, designed for graduate students from the United States as well as abroad, with diverse academic interests and backgrounds, who wish to study human rights from a distinctly Catholic perspective. The innovative, interdisciplinary Master of Arts curriculum will draw upon diverse academic offerings throughout Catholic University and it will be awarded by the School of Arts and Sciences through a new Center for Human Rights associated with the IHE.

Through this program graduates will:

  1. Become knowledgeable about the international legal structure of human rights;
  2. Understand the Catholic anthropology of the human person;
  3. Understand the natural law of rights and the place of rights in the political order;
  4. Be able to analyze and discuss whether claimed “rights” are defensible as such;
  5. Understand the intersection of human rights concepts and Catholic Social Thought;
  6. Be prepared to contribute to the building of a culture of human rights that advances the good of the human person in community.

Following an introductory orientation week before the semester begins, the program consists of 30 semester hours of post-baccalaureate coursework, including a capstone course designed to bring together the insights from the other courses and which looks at the Church’s work at the United Nations and other international bodies. The capstone course will consist of a seminar, and requires completion of a research paper. The degree, which could be completed in one year, may include one or two summer courses.

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


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.


Duty To Protect

by Lucia Ann Silecchia, Ordinary Professor of Law


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

By Thomas Dompkowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Generativity: Envisioning a Future Beyond Consumer Society

by Brandon Vaidyanathan, Associate Professor of Sociology


We live in consumeristic societies today in which we’re encouraged to formulate life-goals and identities by perpetually acquiring goods we don’t need for subsistence. The consumerism enshrined in all our institutions today—educational, medical, commercial, political, scientific, and even religious—leaves us mired in a kind of social adolescence, a short-termism that jeopardizes the well-being of future generations.

Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have equally lambasted such consumerism. The various economic, social, and environmental crises of our times underscore the urgent need to envision a future beyond consumer society.

What might a future beyond consumer society look like?

In a new book, edited by Prof. Mauro Magatti at the Catholic University of Milan, my colleagues and I propose an answer this question, which we call “Social Generativity.”

Psychologist Erik Erikson coined the term “generativity” to describe the stage of maturity in psycho-social development. In contrast to adolescence, when the personality is focused on identity and is incapable of caring for those around oneself, generativity denotes the stage of maturity in which one can make commitments even to future generations. The answer to the problem of consumer society requires looking for how this capacity might be institutionally cultivated.

Since 2012, the project team has been studying organizations in Italy that suggest a way out of the mess we’re in. This has produced a video archive of more than 100 case studies of organizations. Analyzing these data, we have identified three dimensions of socially generative action:

  1. Authorization (the I-Other axis): Asymmetry in social life need not always lead to domination. Consider a model of parenting in which a child is brought into the world not as a project to control and dominate, but rather as a new life that one nurtures, so as to mature to generate and nurture life of his or her own. Generativity obtains under conditions of social asymmetry when something new is initiated, nurtured, empowered, and let go, so it can to thrive and even generate. This process is exemplified in organizations such as the Loccioni Group, a manufacturing firm that actively incentivizes employees to develop independent spin-offs.
  2. Inter-temporality (the Past-Future axis): The generative logic bridges past and future. To be generative, one has to recognize that one is always generated. Sustainable contributions to the world are aided by one’s history, tradition, and cultural identity. This means not simply learning from ongoing experiments and mistakes, but from our history and tradition. Brunello Cucinelli, spurred by the humiliations suffered by his father as a factory worker, strove to create a business that places human dignity and justice at its core. Today his successful clothing brand donates 20% of company profits to charity; pays workers 20% higher than the industry standard; and pays for the training of young local artisans in the local region. Cucinelli’s projects operate on various time horizons: some 5, others 20, still others 200 years.
  3. Exemplarity (the private-public axis): The generative initiative bridges private and public. It is a proposal to a community; it depends upon validation from and accountability to that community, which can assess whether their real needs are being met. A generative contribution isn’t necessarily a recipe or model to replicate, but can empower and inspire others to act. An example here is 24Bottles, a successful start-up from Bologna which produces multipurpose steel bottles for urban lifestyles. The firm invests heavily in the reduction of plastic bottles in schools, and has received significant recognition in national and international media.

Preaching “thou shalt not consume” isn’t going to solve the problem of consumerism. Our hope is that highlighting such mechanisms and examples of Social Generativity will harness our desire to generate or ex-corporate—which is as natural as our desire to consume or in-coporate.

It simply needs to be activated.

Christianity & National Security: Exploring Church Teaching on Government’s Divine Vocation

IHE Executive Director Joseph Capizzi will be speaking next Saturday, September 30th at the conference: Christianity & National Security: Exploring Church Teaching on Government’s Divine Vocation.

Providence: A Journal of Christianity & American Foreign Policy is hosting this groundbreaking two-day conference on essential historic Christian teaching about God’s purpose for government, starting with its vocation for security and public order. The conference will include leading scholars and practitioners of political theology and national security. They will address issues such as Just War teaching, nuclear weapons, Reinhold Niebuhr, Christian Realism, nationalism, international human rights, American Exceptionalism, torture, and terrorism. This event is open to all but is especially aimed at Christian young people who are graduate students or early career. More information can be found here.

What Exactly is Human Ecology?

What Exactly is Human Ecology?
Like all animals, we are embodied creatures. We need food and water and shelter to survive. But unlike other animals, which act mostly on instinct, we are also spiritual and social beings endowed with free will. We are born into families and raised by parents. We live in neighborhoods and cities and countries, whose customs and cultures shape our habits and outlooks. We are taught by teachers. We worship in parishes. 
Human ecology, then, goes beyond the clean air, water, food, and shelter we need to survive. It includes not just the laws of physics, but the natural law. It includes all those concrete institutions we need to become more than we were. To develop virtue. To be happy. To flourish.
The Paradox
There’s a paradox for those of us who live in the United States and Western Europe. In the last fifty years, we’ve become more concerned about natural ecosystems. And despite problem areas, the air we breathe and water we drink are cleaner than ever. Almost no one dies from the air and water borne diseases that beset our ancestors for millennia. Most of the industrial pollutants of the last century, from lead to sulfur dioxide, are gone. We continue to find clever ways to clean up after ourselves. And still, leading voices in our culture push the cause of natural ecology with life-and-death urgency.
In contrast, our culture has grown detrimental to genuine human flourishing. In the last fifty years, institutions most vital to human flourishing have been under assault. The first environment in which we enter the world—our mother’s womb—is now a high-risk zone. Roughly one in four American children are raised by only one parent. (That number is far higher for the poor and most minorities.) About half of marriages end in divorce. 
Governments around the world now deign to redefine marriage, an institution that predates every state and society. And fast on the heels of that assault is the attack on human nature itself. Even the existence of men and women, of male and female, father and mother, is up for grabs.
Any defense of human ecology, then, must seek to protect and preserve not just our natural environment, but our moral and cultural environment as well. 
Man cannot, and should not, live by clean food, water, and air alone; an ecology is needed that cultivates the mind, the will, and freedom.
Jay W. Richards, Ph.D., is Assistant Research Professor at the Busch School of Business and Economics and faculty fellow at the Institute for Human Ecology.

A theologian’s take on how to avoid conflict with North Korea

By Matt Hadro

.- Dialogue and prudent actions to uphold international resolutions are key to maintaining peace amid rising tensions between North Korea and the international community, one theologian said.

“Dialogue is critical to resolving this particular issue,” Dr. Joseph Capizzi, a moral theologian at the Catholic University of America, told CNA. “We have kicked the can down the road for 50-plus years, with regard to Korea.”

Click here to read the full article, originally published by Catholic News Agency.