Robert Royal

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of, 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.

recent articles

On Secular Repentance

This column originally appeared in the January 2000 issue of Crisis Magazine.   Repentance is good for the soul. In the past few decades, the Church has been called upon from various quarters to repent for her misdeeds over the 20 Christian centuries. And John Paul II has openly admitted some of the faults of … Read more

Seeing Things: Christian Scripture/ American Scripture

On the Last Day, when some classifying angel is assigned to assess the cultural theories produced during the 20th century, there may not be much to put under the positive column. I have always thought one particularly wrongheaded development to be what literary theorists call “homologies.” What usually occurs under this esoteric heading is a … Read more

The Controversial Odyssey of James Joyce

This month—June 16, 2004, to be exact—will be the 100th anniversary of “Bloom’s Day,” the fictional date for the action in one of the great modern literary masterpieces, James Joyce’s Ulysses. Like Dante, Joyce transmuted real and imagined events in his native Dublin during the course of one day into a remarkable and perhaps even … Read more

Seeing Things: The Arts of Life

Modern fiction about women is usually thought of as experiencing something of a boom these days. And of course, in a way, this is true. Not only are female novelists and poets quite prominent, but there has been a deliberate, and somewhat successful, attempt to recover women writers from earlier ages who were unjustly neglected. … Read more

Seeing Things: Hispanic Peril — or Promise?

Samuel Huntington, a political scientist at Harvard, fluttered the PC dovecote nearly a decade ago by arguing that after the Cold War, ancient cultural systems, largely coterminous with the territories of major world religions, would reassert themselves and become the main source of future conflict among nations. His book, The Clash of Civilizations and the … Read more

Seeing Things: Extra! Faith Kills Reason

There is an unfortunate kind of Catholic who seems to think that everything the Church does must be beyond criticism. The recent handling of the pedophilia crisis by some American bishops should have laid that pious myth to rest. But embattled Catholics in the present are often tempted to believe that it was once different, … Read more

Seeing Things: Happiness and Its Pursuit

We are entering the election season, when, in advanced democratic nations, candidates promising paradise engage in an elaborate mating ritual with constituents who believe they are suffering pangs just this side—and perhaps just that side—of hell. Perhaps in the long run, this drive to make everyone perfectly happy contributes something to the dynamism of a … Read more

Seeing Things: Laud We the Gods?

If you think about it for a second (most people never do), it is quite strange that we in the West are still vaguely aware of the Greek gods. Classical myths often seem ridiculous to us because they show gods hard to respect. Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, Athena, and the others are beautiful, powerful, and immortal—almost … Read more

Seeing Things: Secretary to the Invisible?

Let’s start this one at the end. Sometimes it’s the only way to make sense of a story. The title character of J. M. Coetzee’s new novel, Elizabeth Costello (Viking), is a much-honored postmodern writer who, inexplicably to herself and to us, winds up in a strange kind of literary limbo (whether this is a … Read more

Seeing Things: Faithful Reasons

I generally don’t like books with titles such as An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Religion, Scottish philosopher John Haldane’s latest (Duckworth). Even when well done, they tend to encourage the habitual and snotty arrogance about sheer intelligence that today is both widespread and pernicious. Other treatments are fine for the middling masses that did not … Read more

Seeing Things: Victims Anonymous

One of the most telling features about our memory of the recent past has been the almost total lack of attention to the victims of Communism. In fact, a group created to erect a memorial to those victims on the mall in Washington has been fighting a steep uphill battle. It is not surprising that … Read more

Seeing Things: Between Two Worlds

Peter Steinfels, the talented religion columnist for the New York Times and former editor of the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal, begins his new book, A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America (Simon & Schuster), in 1996 with Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s funeral. Steinfels was born in Chicago and baptized in the … Read more

Seeing Things: The Old Urbanism

“First we shape our buildings, and then our buildings shape us.” This little bit of Churchillian wit, which might seem merely clever at first sight, has in recent decades shown a deep and wide-ranging truth. When we used to shape our courts, banks, schools, and government buildings along classical lines, law, economics, education, and politics … Read more

Seeing Things: Master and Pupil

“I remember that when I was eighteen years old, it seemed to me that the very hours of sleep deprived me of life. I had a furious and eager thirst for everything that awaited me, people I didn’t know, words I had not yet said, works, books, men. And I could not give any of … Read more

Seeing Things: A Tale of Faith and Reason

Since Vatican II, the Catholic Church has had to cope with a great deal of confusion about what it teaches. The problem, appearances notwithstanding, is not solely a Catholic one brought on by the council. Protestants, too, struggle in the aftermath of the Sixties to hold on to classic Christian notions. And it does not … Read more

Seeing Things: Schindler Lists

Why did God allow Adolph Hitler to live? I don’t mean by this question to ask why He created such a man. Most of us at some point (maybe even several) in our lives feel that we have made a horrible hash of God’s gift of existence. And thus understand that if God was not … Read more

Seeing Things: Over There and Over Here

The long lead times of a monthly magazine make predictions perilous. Especially so, gentle reader, when there is growing likelihood of war at the moment I write. But let me gaze into the crystal ball: As you read this, our forces have overrun Iraq, probably without many Western, or even Iraqi casualties (Deo volente). The … Read more

Seeing Things: Through Hell and Back, Again

Anthony Esolen has brilliantly translated the ancient Roman poet Lucretius and Torquato Tasso’s Christian epic on the Crusades, Jerusalem Liberated (both available from the Johns Hopkins University Press). But he has just published a new translation of Dante’s Inferno that should bring him even greater prestige. If there is any justice in the world of … Read more

Seeing Things: Unveiling Islam

Since September 11, 2002, a tidal wave of books has engulfed us, allegedly aimed at remedying what our media frequently remind us is our ignorance about Islam. The media themselves are no small part of the problem. For example, in April 2002, U.S. News & World Report asserted: “During the Crusades, East and West first … Read more

Seeing Things: The Pope’s Calling

Culture, like agriculture, is often nourished in soil enriched by rot. The combination of order and barbarism in the Roman Empire offered a cultural opening for early Christianity. The collapse of the classi­cal world brought with it medieval darkness and crudity, but the various forces that came together to fill the cul­tural gap contained energies … Read more

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