The Roman Forum is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the broad defense of Catholic doctrine and Catholic culture. It was founded in 1968 in the wake of Humanae vitae by the great philosopher, Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977), whom Pope Pius XII called “the twentieth century Doctor of the Church”.
Born and raised in Florence, von Hildebrand (left) began his career at the University of Munich. Nazi persecution drove him to Catholic Austria and the University of Vienna, before the Anschluss forced him to emigrate anew. He finally settled in the United States, taking up a position at Fordham University in New York City. Dr. von Hildebrand’s life work was committed to the union of philosophy with all the other arts and sciences under the corrective and transforming guidance of the revealed truths of the Catholic Faith.
Professor von Hildebrand’s successor as head of the Roman Forum was the late Dr. William A. Marra, also of Fordham University. Dr. Marra was active on radio, television, and lecture programs throughout the United States and Europe. In 1991, he was followed by the current Director, Dr. John C. Rao, D. Phil. in Modern European History from Oxford University, and Associate Professor of History at St. John’s University in New York City.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the modern world has been the presumption of an unavoidable conflict between nature and religion. Naturalists look upon the introduction of religious ideas into daily life as a death sentence for individual freedom and social progress. Many people with religious convictions are suspicious of the world around them and consider any interest in nature and human achievement to be an impossible obstacle to spiritual growth. The results, taken together, have been disastrous: “culture” that lacks both transcendence and depth; one dimensional religious perceptions; flatness, boredom, lack of poetry and purpose in all aspects of life.
A second modern tragedy has been the compartmentalization of existence. Many theologians know no philosophy; most scientists, no theology; many experts in abstract intellectual studies, little about the fine arts; most artists, or, for that matter, most people in general, nothing of the need to root themselves in the permanent things. Almost no one can place his field of study or his daily actions within an historical context. Men work at counter purposes and gain little for their efforts but a vision of shadows on the back wall of the cave of modernity.
The Roman Forum has sought to respond to this tragic situation through an active defense of the one force that can pull all of the aspects of nature and the supernatural together: Roman Catholicism. Between 1968 and 1991 it worked chiefly by means of ad hoc lectures responding to current crises in Church and society. By 1991, however, it realized that these admittedly valuable conferences were nevertheless somewhat disconnected, thereby partly obscuring their ultimate purpose. The Forum decided that a successful fulfillment of its stated task demanded dedication to a systematic teaching of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful—one that ignored neither the particular nor the whole picture of knowledge, the arts, and life in general—within a more broad and structured historical framework. It also concluded that at least part of this systematic training had to be given in an environment which, by its history and development, was more congenial to the Catholic love of Faith, Reason and the hierarchy of values than an America which, besides being secularized in its contemporary practices and beliefs, was Protestant and Enlightenment in its origins.
This broader, historically-focused and international program was inaugurated on February 23rd, 1992, the Solemnity of the Chair of Saint Peter in Antioch (now the Forum’s patronal feast), with a Solemn Pontifical Traditional Mass celebrated by His Eminence, Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler, former Prefect of the Vatican Library. It involves several projects. The New York City Church History Lecture Series offers an in-depth discussion of consecutive periods in the life of Christendom each year from September through May. The Gardone Summer Symposia in northern Italy carry on that study in a full Catholic spiritual, intellectual, historical and social environment in June and July. Annual tours will take participants to various European sites of Catholic interest giving flesh to the themes discussed in New York and Gardone.
Special Colloquia held throughout the year maintain the Roman Forum’s older commitment to dealing with broad contemporary problems, rooted in theology and philosophy, involving the Church and society at large. All of the Colloquia and Symposia lectures since 1993 have been preserved, and are now available through Keep the Faith (www.keepthefaith.org). Articles dealing with both scholarly and immediate issues are published in the Forum’s Letter From the Romans. Its spirituality, rooted in understanding the full consequences of the Incarnation for personal and social life, is presented in our on-line discussion of the Theology of the Mystical Body of Christ. The Forum also sponsors dinner meetings with prominent speakers from throughout the world at various times during the academic year in order to create a closer sense of Catholic fraternity and joy.
John C. Rao, D.Phil., Oxford
Associate Professor of History, St. John’s University
Board of Trustees:
Mr. Ward T. Henderson
Rev. Dr. Richard A. Munkelt
Dr. John C. Rao
Msgr. Dr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula
Miguel Ayuso Torres (University of Madrid, Spain)
Rev. Mgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carámbula (Human Life International)
James Bogle, Esq. (President of Una Voce International)
Danilo Castellano (University of Udine, Italy)
Bernard Dumont (editor, Catholica, France)
Christopher A. Ferrara, J.D. (President, ACLA)
David J. Hughes (Musical Director)
James Kalb (author of The Tyranny of Liberalism)
Michael J. Matt (Editor, The Remnant)
Professor John Médaille (University of Dallas)
Brian J. McCall (University of Oklahoma)
Rev. Richard A. Munkelt
John C. Rao (St. John’s University)
Thomas Stark (Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule, Austria)