(St. Catherine of Siena)
“The nights are light in summer, so that at midnight the beholders are often in doubt whether the evening twilight still continues, or that of the morning is coming on.
(St. Bede the Venerable)
Cheerful heralds of the latest vapid — but highly destructive — Church “renewal” cannot help disliking St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380). She is, after all, an irritating late medieval example of the kind of “doomsayer” they regularly chastise as being “closed to the voice of the Holy Spirit in history”. And even though the words of St. Bede the Venerable (672-735) might at first glance seem more suitable to their taste, he would ultimately have to be dismissed by them as well. For this great author of the Ecclesiastical History committed the unforgiveable crime of suggesting that the precondition of a new dawn was the dispelling of a still very threatening, pagan-inspired, twilight gloom by means of a zealous and politically incorrect Catholic evangelization.
Christian hope is a guiding principle for the Roman Forum. It is this and this alone that enables us to appreciate both Catherine and Bede properly. Christian hope rejects the delusive modern spirit of “optimism”, and demands the kind of realistic judgment regarding the true state of the spiritual health of individuals and societies provided by Catherine at the beginning of the tragic and pastorally devastating Great Western Schism. But Christian hope also rejects a false “pessimism” that would deny to God’s grace, combined together with a firmness in the Faith and a spirit of missionary self-sacrifice, the chance to turn a bad situation into something better — as Bede saw happening in Britain.
Christian realism requires an open, Catherine-like proclamation of the ever-increasing evils of our own pastorally devastating times, along with the fact that prominent churchmen, from the top on down, seem to be “optimistic” regarding a fruitful compromise with them. These evils, rooted in that modern naturalism that casts off God and the Church’s influence over His Creation, logically had to reach their current peak. Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio (1793-1862), one of the editors of the Jesuit journal, La Civiltà Cattolica, already predicted this in the nineteenth century, at a time when Catholic leaders vigorously disdained all flirtation with Enlightenment naturalism.
“Once they abolished the supernatural realm and returned to pagan rationalism, the modernizers of society found that they could not stop. They had to continue their demolition, beginning with the moral truths that serve as a foundation for the existence and order of society, and then society’s whole natural organic structure. … All that remains to do now is to have the individual unlearn all the essences of things, deny all the laws of logic, and burrow into the Night of complete ignorance in order that he be said to reach the apex of perfect liberty.” (La Civiltà Cattolica, I, vii, 1851, 45; II, i, 1853, 31)
But a hopeful Christian realism allows us to perceive “the morning coming on” even as “the evening twilight still continues”. We at the Roman Forum see this possible new dawn precisely because we do pay serious attention to the true “voice of the Holy Spirit in history”. That voice can be heard in the statements of a growing number of prominent cardinals, prelates, and lay organizations from around the globe as they prepare for a clear, militant defense of marriage and the family at the coming Synod. And just as in Bede’s England, that voice of the Holy Spirit in our time is one that “brings on the morning” by demanding commitment and self-sacrifice to the fullness of Catholic Faith and morality in the face of pagan disbelief, persecution, and calls for surrender from tragically weak as well as openly modernist churchmen.
The Mission of the Roman Forum:
Nourishing an Indissoluble Marriage with Christ and His Church
Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand, who founded the Roman Forum in defense of the encyclical Humanae vitae, wrote profound studies on the nature of human love. His passionate discussion of the natural and supernatural blessings coming from Catholic matrimony, the Catholic family, and all the other aspects of a Catholic life was rooted in his profound understanding of the incalculable benefits emerging from constant nourishment and deepening of another indissoluble marriage alliance: that contracted by each and every believer with Christ and His Church.
We at the Roman Forum seek to continue von Hildebrand’s work of nourishment of the ineffable “transformation of all things in Christ” made possible by the “marriage” of individuals and the societies in which they live with Our Savior and His Mystical Body. We continue his work through a “basic training” in the use of truly Catholic intellectual weaponry guaranteeing full appreciation and application of the teachings of our Faith.
This basic training arms defenders of Catholic Christendom with spiritual and intellectual weapons that come from our own Tradition, and not from “false friends” who wish us to accept at least part of their badly flawed liberal, conservative, capitalist, and socialist arguments. It is a basic training that the Roman Forum undertakes on both the national and the international level, and for a “band of brothers” whose fraternal union will continue for all eternity. The Roman Forum’s basic training in the use of intellectual weaponry nourishing and defending an indissoluble marriage alliance with Christ and His Church takes the following four forms:
The New York City Church History Lectures and Seminars
For the last twenty-four years, the Roman Forum has been the only organization in the country offering men and women not enrolled in an academic program a systematic, university-level course in the history of the Catholic Church and Catholic Culture. These take place on Sundays in Manhattan in the vicinity of New York University in Greenwich Village. Details of our 2015-2016 series, which is entitled — “Splendors and Miseries of the Tridentine Life: The High Baroque and the Architects of Demolition: 1689-1748” — are enclosed.
Last year, the Roman Forum also began a two-semester seminar on Catholic Social Doctrine. This will be offered once again, with the first semester as a general introduction and the second focused on the particular problems posed by John Locke, the undisputed founder of Liberalism. They will conclude with a weekend conference in New York in April of 2016 on Locke and Liberalism. Seminar details, along with information regarding our recently established Catholic League to Un-Locke America, are enclosed. Please consult our website early next year for Locke Conference information.
The Gardone Summer Symposium
One of the ways in which modernity has cheapened and annihilated the drama of life has been through a two-headed assault on man’s international responsibilities; an assault undertaken either by denying the value of international cooperation in and of itself or by perverting its character when actually admitted. But Catholicism and Catholic culture are intrinsically international in character. Developing an international Catholic camaraderie in encouraging the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, especially in these difficult days of global secularist reductionism, immeasurably strengthens our vision, our knowledge of the problems that we jointly face, and, inevitably, our effectiveness as well.
In pursuit of this goal, the Roman Forum, for two weeks during the summer for the past twenty-three years, has literally transformed a small Italian resort — Gardone Riviera, on Lake Garda, the largest and most beautiful lake in Italy — into an international Catholic village. It uses this time to offer daily traditional masses, lectures, superb food and wine, and day trips to surrounding sites of historical importance such as Venice and Trent: all in the service of building an enduring spirit of international camaraderie. For participants, many of whom come back year after year and feel like a family, it is a rare and wonderful opportunity to experience Catholic life on the continent where Catholic culture first fully came to flower. And we can see the ever-growing value of this annual cultivation of an international dialogue, camaraderie, and concern for beauty in our “Catholic village” for the animation of our life back in our various homes during the rest of the year.
The Summer Symposium hosts a large international faculty, which has included Dale Ahlquist (G.K. Chesterton Society of America), Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carámbula (Human Life International, Front Royal, Virginia), Patrick Brennan (U. of Villanova), Christopher Ferrara (American Catholic Lawyers Association), Fr. Brian Harrison (Catholic U. of Puerto Rico, Emeritus), James Kalb (author of The Tyranny of Liberalism), Michael Matt (editor of The Remnant), Brian McCall (U. of Oklahoma), John Médaille (U. of Dallas), Fr. Richard Munkelt (Roman Forum), Fr. Gregory Prendergraft (FSSP), Duncan Stroik (Notre Dame U.), John Vennari (Catholic Family News), Alice von Hildebrand (Hunter College, Emeritus), David White (US Naval Academy, Emeritus), and myself from the United States; Danilo Castellano (U. of Udine) and Roberto de Mattei (Lepanto Foundation, European U. of Rome) from Italy; James Bogle (President, Una Voce International), Fr. John Hunwicke (Anglican Ordinariate, Mutual Enrichment blog), Matthew McCusker (SPUC and Voice of the Family), and Sebastian Morello (Center for Catholic Formation, Benedictus College) from the United Kingdom; Miguel Ayuso-Torres (U. of Madrid) from Spain; Beverly De Soto (Regina Magazine) an American working out of Germany; Gregor Hochreiter (Oekonomika Institute, Vienna), Thomas Stark (Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule, St. Pölten) and Fr.Edmund Waldstein (Stift Heiligenkreuz) from Austria; David Berlinski (Discovery Institute) and Bernard Dumont (editor of Catholica) from France; and Taivo Niitvaagi and Varro Vooglaid (Hereditas Foundation) from Estonia. The late, prolific, traditionalist author Michael Davies, from the UK, and my predecessor as chairman of the Roman Forum, the late William Marra (Fordham U.), were honored speakers from 1993 until their deaths. Faculty and students are served spiritually by a large number of secular and religious clergy. 2010-2015 Summer Symposium lectures are available through The Remnant Newspaper (www.remnantnewspaper.com). Many past Summer Symposia lectures can be downloaded to your computer or purchased on audiotape at Keep the Faith (www.keepthefaith.org).
Given the vast and ever-increasing range of demagogic attacks upon the Catholic vision, the mounting threat of criminal penalties upon people seeking to defend it, the political correctness and confusion of much of the Christian world, and the wide expertise of the firmly Catholic international scholars and activists attending the Symposium, Gardone, 2015 was entitled Forbidden Topics: A Free and Rational Catholic Challenge to the Frightened Modern Mind. With sixty participants, lectures from sixteen different speakers, and messages of welcome from Raymond Cardinal Burke and George Cardinal Pell, this was our most successful Symposium to date.
The twenty-fourth annual Gardone Summer Symposium will take place from 27 to 8 July 2016. Applications (email@example.com) are already welcome, and spaces, as always, will be limited to no more than sixty participants. It might be appropriate at the moment to call this Symposium “Waiting for Godot”, since we believe that we must put off a final determination of a topic until the conclusion of the momentous Synod on the Family in Rome this coming October. Definitive information regarding next year’s theme will be posted in November on the Roman Forum website and mailed to all those who receive this message.
Our twenty-fifth Symposium in 2017 is one that will be organized with special solemnity in conjunction with support from the municipal government of Gardone Riviera.
From International Congress to International Catholic Think Tank
The 2013 Summer Symposium expanded upon the theme of global intellectual cooperation and spiritual camaraderie by giving itself a “second name”: that of the First International Christendom Congress. Inspiration for this title came from the late nineteenth century Italian Catholic lay movement known as the Opera dei Congressi. The Opera shaped Catholic spiritual, intellectual, artistic, political, and economic forces into a kind of “parallel government” that prepared believers living in a regime that was institutionally hostile to their interests for the time that they could gain control of it and transform it “in Christ”. Its name came from the fact that its labors were undertaken through local committees and congresses that then met on the national level to discuss the problems that they faced and the successes and failures that they had had in seeking to overcome them. Our plan was to use the Symposium to discuss themes whose conclusions could be brought back by participants to animate discussion in local organizations in their various countries. Participants would then return each year with further suggestions for problems that needed to be confronted from a Catholic perspective. The final goal was nothing else than “regime change”: replacement of global secular pluralism with the global reign of Christ as King of men and societies.
The second Congress at the 2014 Summer Symposium did two things. It established a Summer School for a small number of international students of all ages to continue their exploration of Church History, Philosophy, and Theology in Gardone during July and August. It also inaugurated a permanent Think Tank operating out of Gardone, our New York address, and sites available to us in Rome and Vienna.
The Congress held as part of our 2015 Summer Symposium issued the Lake Garda Statement discussing the current crisis in the Church as a Christological Crisis with negative effects on the meaning and practical significance of Catholic Social Doctrine and the doctrine of Christ the King. We intend to send a copy of this Statement to every member of the College of Cardinals and participants in the coming Synod in Rome, expanding upon the theme in a 2016 congress in Budapest. The Lake Garda Statement has already been sent to everyone receiving this message and can be found on the Internet. Details of next year’s Summer School are enclosed. Information on our Central European Conference will be made available on the Roman Forum website.
Roman Forum Tours
These are designed to offer direct experience of sites of Catholic spiritual, intellectual, and broadly cultural significance. Our next tour, planned for eleven days in February, 2016, will be to the Holy Land. The chaplain will be Fr. Richard Munkelt, and our guides Dr. John Rao from the United States and Prof. Dr. Thomas Stark from Austria. Mass in the Extraordinary Rite and a lecture concerning the scriptural and broad cultural history of this, the original wellspring of our Faith, will be integral parts of the daily program.
Other excursions organized by Roman Forum Tours are eleven-day trips to study Greece; Greater Greece (southern Italy and Sicily); The History and Culture of the City of Rome; The Papal States; The Holy Roman Empire; The Road to Compostella; and Crusader France.
Those interested in having the Roman Forum organize a tour outside of our regular program are encouraged to contact the Director.
Please consult our website (www.romanforum.org) and that of The Remnant Newspaper for more complete information on all these “weapons” in the “Roman Forum Armory” and our many other events, including our annual New Year’s Eve Dinner Dance in New York City (also discussed on the last page of this document).
An Urgent Appeal for Funds
In order to undertake our projects properly, the Roman Forum requires an annual budget of $70,000.
Mailings, advertising, books, storage space for them, and use of conference halls alone now cost us at least $20,000 per year.
A much greater sum of $50,000 is needed to support the Summer Symposium and the Summer Academy. Our international roster of scholars, clergy, seminarians, and musicians grows larger every year. Sixteen men and women spoke at this year’s program. Although they receive no compensation for their work here, their travel as well as their daily food and lodging expenses must be covered. Moreover, almost all of the college students, seminarians, and young priests hoping to attend the Summer Symposium — and crucial to the future of the traditionalist movement — require some financial assistance.
Our appeal is urgent, because by August our treasury runs almost literally on “empty”. We are grateful for every small donation we can muster. Nevertheless, the aid of a Lorenzo the Magnificent would also be welcome. As a not-for-profit registered charity our budget is, of course, open for public inspection. All donations are tax-deductible.
The crisis of Catholic Christendom is a global spiritual and intellectual crisis. It can only be addressed by redirecting men and women back to faith in Christ; back to serious and complete Catholic teachings on the individual, society, and the proper meaning of freedom; back to a holistic love of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in all their forms; back to a politics that has substance to it and is not a criminally expensive fraud. It is this work of redirection back to Christ — with the help of an infinitesimal percentage of the funds wasted in but one modern political campaign — that the Roman Forum seeks to accomplish on both a national and an international level. To show you our appreciation, we have arranged that the intentions of our benefactors be remembered once a month at a traditional Mass offered at the headquarters of Human Life International by our chaplain, Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula. With the acknowledgment of your donation, of any size, you will receive a note confirming that you have been enrolled in these Masses. I thank you in advance for your generosity.
John C. Rao, Chairman
D. Phil., Oxford University
The Roman Forum
No. 11 Carmine Street #2C
New York, N.Y. 10014