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Points of Light Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Monday, 04 April 2011

Yes, I know. It looks pretty bad. America has stumbled into its third “kinetic military action.” The dollar is starting to look like the once fabled Italian lira. Illegitimacy is up, family formation down. And public deliberation about these problems does little other than kicking the can further down the road, past the next election, or at least to where someone else will have to take real responsibility.

On top of everything, the Catholic Church seems to be passing through one of those phases best described by the great English historian and convert Christopher Dawson:

The Church as a divine society possesses an internal principle of life which is capable of assimilating the most diverse materials and imprinting her own image upon them. Inevitably in the course of history there are times when this spiritual energy is temporarily weakened or obscured, the Church tends to be judged as a human organization and identified with the faults and limitations of her members. But always the time comes when she renews her strength and once more puts forth her inherent divine energy in the conversion of new peoples and the transformation of old cultures.

At The Catholic Thing we’ve done our best on all fronts, especially on the question of a Catholic renaissance, which is also the best hope for everything truly good for persons and communities. In that vein, I’d like to bring to your attention two particular points of light in the hope that you, or someone you know, will get the word and be moved to participate.

The Faith & Reason Institute, the parent organization for TCT, runs several regular programs, perhaps none more important than the Fides et Ratio Seminars we sponsor in different places around the country every summer and the Seminar on the Free Society that takes place each year in the Slovak Republic.


   Contribute to the Faith & Reason Institute to support of its seminars in the Slovak Republic and in the U.S. 

The Fides et Ratio Seminars, as the name attests, take their inspiration from the late John Paul the Great, who will be beatified on May 1. These are our direct effort to renew the Catholic intellectual tradition at Catholic colleges, universities, and seminaries in the United States. The director of the seminars, Dr. Patrick Powers, brought the idea to me several years ago: a week of intensive reading of great Catholic books by faculty, staff, and administration of institutions of higher learning with the goal of producing hundreds of professors who had had a chance to reconnect with the tradition and with like-minded counterparts at other schools. We have daily Mass and meals together, sit in seminar discussion on the books (no lecturing!), and provide a serious stipend, room and board, and library of works to enable participants to spend time away from family and other duties.

The financial resources were generously provided by Michele and Donald D’Amour, the latter the highly successful CEO of Big-Y Foods – and not coincidentally, a former student of late TCT founder Ralph McInerny (Donald wrote his doctoral dissertation on Aristotle’s “great-souled man,” a concept he seems to have taken to heart). It started slow, but has taken off like the proverbial rocket. This year there will be six seminars in various parts of the country. And for the first time, in Denver under Archbishop Chaput, there will be one at the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary for workers in that archdiocese, giving them, too, a chance to immerse themselves in our Catholic tradition – which has become all too unfamiliar, even to Catholics.

There will also be intensive seminars at Thomas More College in New Hampshire, Wyoming Catholic College, and the St. Malo Retreat Center north of Denver. To date, we have attracted over 350 participants total who have gone back to over 75 institutions with the good news of Faith & Reason. Deo volente and human generosity continuing, we’ll stay at this for several years more and there will an even greater number of faithful, informed people in Catholic liberal arts energized to take on the Herculean task of forming a new generation of Catholics for roles in the Church and the world.

Which brings me to my second point of light: We’ve all complained about young Catholics and many of us are worried about the pernicious influence of anti-Christian and anti-American values in Europe. This summer will be the eleventh year that the Slovak Seminar on the Free Society will bring together young Americans, graduate students and young professionals, with young adults similarly situated from Central and Eastern Europe. Over the course of ten days, we study Catholic social thought, culture, economics, politics, democratic institutions, and the spiritual and intellectual foundations of true liberty. Click on the ad in the right hand column or here to see what it’s like.

One of our alums went on to do a doctorate with the natural law theorist John Finnis at Oxford and then returned to Bratislava to found a new residential college for Catholic university students. Slovakia is a good place for this work because Slovaks and others in the region are unashamed of being Catholic, indeed, think it quite natural. They also have a favorable opinion of America in general. And the interactions among Americans and Europeans – not least in visiting historical sites, hiking the High Tatras mountains, and the last night, even doing some Slavic dancing – give the spiritual and intellectual camaraderie a more earthly dimension.

As I started out by saying, things are quite bad and it will take a lot of work to bring about what Joseph Ratzinger once called the “convalescence of reason” in our day. But these are two demonstrably successful efforts, and we hope they will lead to many more. If you are interested, or know someone who would be, contact Dr. Powers, director of the Fides et Ratio Seminars or, for the Slovak Seminar, Liz McCoy. And if the Spirit moves, you can contribute to either program by clicking on the donation button above and specifying which one you want to support.


Robert Royal
is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

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Comments (13)Add Comment
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written by Bill, April 04, 2011
Dr Royal: These Fides and Ration seminars sound like wonderful opportunities for academicians to share ideas. I have two quibbles: you cite the present condition of the Church and then refer to "John Paul the Great". This puts you at a certain point on the ecclesiastical spectrum.I, and other informed Catholics, believe the state of the Church is largely a result of 26 years of JP II's nonfeasance. The second point is only a few scholars are affected. In Nov. 2009, the American bishops approved Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. 65 million Catholics(?) will benefit from knowing that the Church's condemnation of contraception is a constant teaching. This is something that Catholics have not been taught in forty years!
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written by CCI, April 04, 2011
@Bill

So Evangelium Vitae and Veritatis Splendor don't count?
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written by CCI, April 04, 2011
@Bill

Theology of the Body as well?
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written by Bill, April 04, 2011
Thank you for both replies. The operative words in my e-mail were: "American bishops" and "constant teaching". All three documents you cite are Papal/Vatican initiatives. Unfortunately, many if not most of these documents have been and are ignored. The very reason that the Faith and Reason Institute exists, whether one realizes it or not,is to fill the vacuum left by the failure of papal/episcopal leadership on the pressing issues of how lay people are to lead their daily lives. Fathers Eutenuer and Corapi had become larger than life because many lay people were demanding direction from them as they appeared to STAND FOR SOMETHING. These tasks should be accomplished by the Ordinaries as that is their proper role. When they abdicate their responsibilities, the Church collapses.
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written by CCI, April 04, 2011
My comment was directed toward your claim that Pope John Paul II was derelict in his duty to teach the Faith, specifically issues of sexual morality as you stated in your post. If you are claiming that the American bishops have been negligent as well in this regard, then I agree; to say, however, that JPII failed in this regard is quite a stretch. Are you claiming that Evangelium Vitae and Veritatis Splendor are being ignored by the laity? How can the laity be culpable for ignoring documents which the bishops have never taught to them, much less mention? This of course brings us back to the negligence of the bishops, not JPII.
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written by Achilles, April 04, 2011
Thanks CCL, I have been trying all day not to respond to the reduction of "informed Catholics". Certainly John Paul the Great was human, but you have to ignore mountains of facts to call him "nonfeasant". I wonder if Bill would find himself a more worthy pope?
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written by Bill, April 04, 2011
Dear repliers: May we deal with two concrete items regarding JP II and sexual morality (not theory but praxis)? Abp Weakland stepped down as Abp of Milwaukee in 2002 amid allegations that he had used (embezzled?) $450,000 of diocesan funds to pay off a former male lover. Did the Church prosecute him? Was he made to pay back the monies he purloined? He was allowed to quietly retire. Who was the Pope? Look up Fr. John Minkler. In 1995, at Cdl O'Connor's request, he turned over a seven page report on the homosexual activites in the dioceses of Albany and Rochester, N.Y., which included both ordinaries,to the Cdl who was shortly to see JP II. When the Cdl. showed the dossier to the pope, his reply was "I can't do anything about it". See Paul Likoudis's book Amchurch Comes Out.
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written by Brad Miner, April 04, 2011
On JP2 and the sex-abuse crisis: In her bio of him, Peggy Noonan says he was simply too old and too incredulous to accept the truth as some, including Cardinal Ratzinger, were presenting it to him. George Weigel amplifies the reasons for his incredulity, mainly that the child abuse charge was a common smear used first by Nazis and then by communists to discredit the Church.
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written by Diane, April 04, 2011
These are wonderful programs for profs and faculty members, and it's exciting to witness this renewal, but what about Catholic college students stuck in public universities (for financial reasons or with a major not available from a good Catholic college) who will never receive a genuine liberal arts education? How about a summer program that would introduce these students to the classics?
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written by Bill, April 05, 2011
Brad: Thank you for your reflective reply. Nowhere in my posts do I refer to "child abuse", but rather to adult, consensual homosexual activity involving priests and bishops.
If JP II "was simply too old and too incredulous to accept the truth..." for the 26 years of his pontificate, then he was certainly not "Great" and he should have stepped down. It was BXVI, who upon his investiture as pope, declaimed "the filth in the priesthood".
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written by Achilles,, April 05, 2011
Bill, though your claims may have validity in appearance, the rigidity and breadth of your indictment is nonsensically arrogant. I can’t call myself an “informed Catholic” as you and your cohorts, but does that include a near omniscience? 26 years of “nonfeasance”, can you hear yourself? Was John Paul the Great really responsible for the immoral homosexual behavior? Do you really fault him for incredulity or have solid knowledge that he was not incredulous? I still have trouble believing that priests could do the things that some of them have done, like weakland and maciel. These weak men have brought great filthy shame on Mother Church. Are the requirements for greatness really reduced to the homosexual and predatory behavior of certain sick men? Surely you must think there is more to John Paul the Great then just the actions of these perverts?

If you might extend or expand your view you and your informed Catholics might see a little of the forest for the tree you have been commenting on as if it were a forest.
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written by Bill, April 05, 2011
Dear Achilles: Thank you for your thoughtful post. The "actions of these perverts". as you put it, has cost the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. TWO BILLION DOLLARS and climbing, in attornies' fees and settlements. That may not be a lot of money in your circle, but it is in mine.
Shall we move on to Assisi I, clown masses (sic), altar girls, ......?
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written by Achilles,, April 06, 2011
Hey Bill, no, 2 billion is not a lot in my circles, not even the smallest fraction of the worth of a single innocent soul.
I am only suggesting there may be a fowl habit of attribution of improper wieghts and measures from an undetected myopia.
I wish you the best Bill and I always enjoy your posts, Achilles

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