It’s a Catholic thing

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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 Royal.

"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," said Royal.

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.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015