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Retiring CUA prof plans to continue engaging in public policy debates

WASHINGTON (CNS) — For all his love of politics and the “frothy media excitement” that surrounds it,
Stephen F. Schneck is hardly a political animal.

He’s more the thoughtful type, bringing a calm demeanor and insights formed by his Catholic faith to the high-volume and often contentious debates on important public policy issues since becoming director of the
Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America in 2005.

Schneck,
63, was set to retire April 28, but he doesn’t expect to go silent.

While he won’t have quite the stage the institute offered in exploring various aspects of the ever-changing political scene through symposia, lectures and guest columns, he is expecting to draw from a network of contacts nationwide to seek new opportunities to accentuate that politics must be a moral endeavor working for the common good.

Schneck admitted that such a basic standard in the country’s current polarized political environment may be difficult to achieve right now. But he’s not giving up and he will continue to share what he considers to be the key guiding principle for politics in any form. It’s a principle that he also hopes will reach the hearts and minds of those who have chosen politics as a career.

“At some point I came to realize that politics is the doing of civilization. It really is,” he told Catholic News Service in mid-April. “It’s not really about who’s ahead in the polls or who wins or loses. Politics in the broadest sense is about building civilization.”

It’s a concept that students, public officials, bishops and the broader public have heard from Schneck since he joined the university faculty in 1984 after completing work on a doctorate degree from the University of Notre Dame. Schneck, who describes himself as a political philosopher, said he also has worked to build the institute around that essential understanding with a healthy dose of Catholic social teaching mixed in.

“I see what we’re trying to do here (through politics) isn’t just about who gets what when and how,” he explained. “It’s not just about divvying up resources, but it’s really about building civilization. Politics, when it’s working, achieves that. When it does happen, it’s really magical.”

Schneck originally became director of the institute’s forerunner, the Life Cycle Institute, 12 years ago. The institute’s name changed in 2009 to more accurately reflect its mission as Schneck began transforming the program into the highly regarded think tank that it is today. Schneck also expanded the institute’s list of fellows to include experts from a wider array of disciplines and from other organizations and schools.

As the reputation of the institute grew, Schneck gained wider notice in the political realm as well. He was invited to meet with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at times. Several institute fellows have testified on key issues on Capitol Hill.

Of course, CUA’s institute was not the only program to…

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