In his 1998 encyclical "Fides et Ration" ("Faith and
Reason"), St. John Paul wrote, "Faith and reason are like two
wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of
truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know
the truth - in a word, to know himself - so that, by knowing
and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness
of truth about themselves."
Faith without reason, the pope argued, becomes superstition.
Reason without faith, he wrote, leads to nihilism, or the
"philosophy of nothingness."
Author and teacher Robert Royal has a long career as a
Catholic scholar and has taken to heart the message of St.
John Paul's encyclical.
Royal, 64, was born in Bridgeport, Conn., and attended local
Catholic schools. He earned a bachelor's and master's from
Brown University in Providence, R.I., and a doctorate in
comparative literature from Catholic University in
Washington. In 1978, he was named a Fulbright scholar and
studied in Florence, Italy.
Royal is a parishioner of St. Ambrose Church in Annandale.
Royal's wife, Veronica, is a well-known iconographer.
Royal is the author or co-author of more than 10 books,
including Reinventing the American People, The Catholic
Martyrs of the Twentieth Century (2000) and The God That Did
Not Fail (1995.) In addition, Royal has written numerous
articles that appeared in publications like The Washington
Post, National Review and First Things. From 1982 to 1999,
Royal was the vice-president of the Ethics and Public Policy
Center. He's been a guest on "Bill Moyers Journal" and a
commentator for EWTN.
Royal was the graduate dean at the Catholic Distance
University, but stepped down from that position last fall
because of time constraints.
In 1999, he founded the Faith and Reason Institute as a
vehicle to put the ideas of St. John Paul into practice.
Royal said that the mission of this Washington think tank is
to bring both faith and reason into the public discourse. The
institute is independent of any Catholic organization, and
Royal sees this as an advantage. Independent funding gives
them a high level of freedom and flexibility.
Faith and reason are two ways of coming to the truth, said
"We don't hold up the Bible," he said, "we make arguments."
Royal said that the institute hosts five or six weeklong
seminars annually for faculty and staff of Catholic colleges.
"It's a way for them to reconnect to the Catholic tradition,"
Royal is the editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, an online
publication he founded in 2008 that offers a daily column by
respected authors on the relationship of religion -
especially Catholicism - and daily public life. The columns
are translated from English to Slovak, Spanish, French,
Italian and Portuguese. Royal is a contributor, but he has a
stable of writers that include Father Paul Scalia, the
bishop's delegate for clergy, and Catholic author and
journalist Michael Novak.
The Catholic Thing is popular netting between 7,000 to 10,000
visits a day. Royal said that when he was covering the
extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome last year, visits
spiked to about 20,000 a day. He believes that The Catholic
Thing has a loyal following because of its reliable content.
He'll be covering the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod
of Bishops in October 2015 for EWTN. Like the extraordinary
Synod last year, Royal can expect a spike in visitors as
Catholics continue their search for reliable content on
Catholicism and the public discourse.