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Twenty-Third Gardone Riviera Summer Symposium

(June 29th-July 10th, 2015; 11 nights)

Forbidden Topics:
A Free and Rational Catholic Challenge to the Frightened Modern Mind

A conference bearing the provocative title “Forbidden Topics” might seem to indicate a significant change in the Roman Forum’s history of sponsoring solidly academic Summer Symposium themes. But far from representing any rejection of scholarly sobriety, this year’s conference matter actually responds to three immediate intellectual demands.

The first of these demands emerges from a happy and purely “in house” Roman Forum development. After twenty-three years of activity in Gardone, so many scholars from so many diverse countries and disciplines wish to participate in the unique Catholic experience that the Summer Symposium offers that finding one overriding theme accommodating all of them has become a real challenge. Our earlier, purely Church historical focus, has proven to be much too narrow for the rich faculty we have at our disposal in Italy---and much more suitable to leave to our New York program alone.

Secondly, the deadly rational, scientific, cultural, and socio-political shrapnel from the centuries-old assault on the arsenal of Catholic theology and practice has expanded exponentially in the past few years in both range and quantity. Two characteristics of this headlong rush of the Enlightenment to its inevitable “dead end” are: 1) the increased number of topics that modern men are terrified to address logically and even to confront at all; and 2) the realization on the part of traditionalist Catholics---men and women popularly caricatured as “intransigents”---that they alone seem to be willing to discuss all issues of intellectual and practical importance, with all of their consequences. In short, if we traditionalist Catholics do not address the “Forbidden Topics”, no one else will.

Finally, outright persecution of Catholicism and those Catholics daring to defend the living remnants of the natural and divine law still is mounting and threatening to become unendurable. Given the scope of the danger, all believers are now called upon to be international activists in our devastated cultural vineyard, equipping themselves with manifold arguments and strategies that may rouse their fellow Catholics to exchange their allotted role as cheerleaders for the Zeitgeist for that of becoming open, vigorous enemies of modernity’s insults to the human mind and soul. Hence, the pressing need for mobilization of our international army of thinkers to offer summer recruits a highly varied and sophisticated basic training in just how to fight for both Faith and Nature; in just how to urge their terrified contemporaries to a courageous opening of their heads and hearts to that Catholic vision which alone can give them life in all its abundance.

Whatever the diversity of “Forbidden Topics” and practical strategies for addressing an ever-intensifying assault on divine and natural law that the 2015 Summer Symposium may discuss, it is this overriding vision of transformation of all things in Christ that will remain, as always, the key to directing the program down a broad, cohesive, exalted Catholic direction: a key that is the hallmark of every project of the Roman Forum.

Faculty, Clergy, Musicians

Dr. Miguel Ayuso-Torres (University of Madrid)
Rev. Mgr. Dr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula  (Human Life International)
James Bogle, Esq. (President of Una Voce International; author of A Heart for Europe)
Dr. Patrick McKinley Brennan (Villanova University)
To be announced (Director of Musical Program)
Dr. Danilo Castellano (University of Udine)
Rev. Bernard Danber, O.S.A.
Dr. Roberto de Mattei (European University, Rome)
Bernard Dumont (editor, Catholica, France)
Christopher A. Ferrara, J.D. (President, ACLA)
Rev. John Hunwicke (Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham)
James Kalb, Esq. ((Author, The Tyranny of Liberalism)
Michael J. Matt (Editor, The Remnant)
Dr. Brian M. McCall (University of Oklahoma)
Professor John Médaille (University of Dallas)
Sebastian Morello (Benedictus College; Centre for Catholic Formation, London)
Rev. Dr. Richard Munkelt  (University of Fairfield)
Dr. John C. Rao (St. John’s University)
Dr. Thomas Stark (Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule, Austria)

John Vennari (Editor, Catholic Family News)

Daily Program

Each day involves two lectures with discussion (morning and pre-dinner), and Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Rite (Tridentine Mass) at noon. Other masses are offered throughout the day. There are no lectures on Sundays. Musical and theatrical entertainments take place in the garden of the Angeli and in the Piazza dei Caduti in the evenings after dinner


The full cost of the Gardone program in a double occupancy room is $2,900. This includes tuition, room and board (very ample breakfast and dinner with wine, beer, and other beverages at will; all gratuities also), transportation to and from Malpensa Airport in Milan, and a boat excursion on the lake. Single rooms are extra, their price depending upon the room concerned. A number of full and partial scholarships may be available. Preference for scholarships will be given to professors, students, clergy, and seminarians. Nevertheless, anyone who genuinely cannot afford the full tuition and believes himself to be a worthy candidate for assistance may apply.

Accommodations and the Setting

Accommodation and lectures for the Gardone program are at the Locanda agli Angeli and the Hotel Villa Sofia on Lake Garda, in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy. Both hotels are located in Gardone Sopra, a ten-minute walk from the lakefront, where free, clean beaches with a number of amenities can be found. They offer beautiful swimming pools and gardens on their premises. Meals are taken at the Angeli and at other trattorie several minutes walk away. Mass is in the parish church, also within walking distance. Arrangements to arrive earlier or stay later, at additional cost, may be made through the director.

Gardone is within easy traveling distance of Verona, Venice, Trent, Brescia, Milan, Ravenna, Pavia and Padua. In years past, participants have rented cars to tour the area, taken private and more extensive boat trips on the lake, attended the opera in Verona, and even ventured as far away as Florence. The region offers opportunities not only for swimming, but for hiking, biking, boating and scenic walks as well. The lectures are scheduled in such a way as to allow time for recreation and sightseeing.


Transportation to Italy must be arranged privately. Two shuttles (morning and afternoon) to Gardone will be provided from Malpensa airport only on June 29th, and one back to Malpensa on July 101h. Participants arriving and leaving at different times or arriving at and leaving from different airports are responsible for making their own arrangements for getting to Gardone. Gardone can be reached by shuttle from the Airport to Milano Centrale (50 minutes), train to Brescia (50 minutes), and bus to Gardone Riviera (50 minutes), or by taxi from the airport (which can be very expensive and is best arranged through the Forum).


First time applicants only must include name, address, telephone number, e-mail, date of birth, occupation, academic degrees attained or pending, and the names and phone numbers of two references. Application should be made as soon as possible as there are only fifty places available.


A non-refundable deposit of $500 will secure one’s reservation. Once again, space is limited, so it is advisable to send this in as soon as possible after acceptance. Payment of the remaining fee can be made by check no later than May 19, 2015. After that date, payment must be made in cash in Gardone. We have no means of handling checks in Italy. Deposits and all other payments must be made out to the Roman Forum and mailed to Dr. John C. Rao, 11 Carmine St. Apt. 2C, New York, NY 10014.

Final Notes

Seminar participants must eventually send us both their arrival and departure information. It is also important to let us know if you wish to arrive earlier or stay later than the scheduled symposium dates (at extra cost). We would appreciate this information by June 20th by e-mail. A representative of the Roman Forum will meet participants at their arrival gates. Should the contact person not be found, please look for the bus driver holding a sign saying Molinari Agency, Gardone Riviera. His cell phone number will be sent to you by e-mail just before the departure date. In case of trouble, telephone the Locanda agli Angeli (from the USA, 011-39-0365-20991; from Italy, 0365-20991).

Barring the unpredictable, the weather should be sunny and quite warm/hot. We are in the foothills of the Alps, however, so one may need a sweater or light jacket for dining and sitting outside in the evening. Please also bring a light poncho or some other form of protection from a shower. If you do enjoy swimming and hiking, do not forget a bathing suit and good walking shoes. Tennis courts are available for use nearby. Access to the Internet is available from the Angeli, the Villa Sofia, and throughout Gardone by means of Brescia WiFi. There are ATM machines just outside the Angeli and at the Banco di Brescia, a short distance away from the Villa Sofia.

Gardone’s greatest difficulty is laundry. There is no laundromat in the village. Someone does stop by every day to pick up any laundry that needs to be done. This will be returned in two days. Under normal circumstances, laundry costs are expensive in Italy. With the dollar-euro exchange what it now is, it may be the greatest expenditure of your trip. There will be a general orientation at cocktail hour on Monday, June 29h at the Angeli. A schedule of masses, as well as information about the Sunday boat trip and excursions during the week will be emailed to everyone sometime before the program begins.

Please consider giving a tax-deductible donation to support the attendance of a speaker, a member of the clergy, a seminarian, or a student. A special thanks in this regard to the health care professionals at I-DOhC ( Mail all applications and send donations to:

Dr. John C. Rao, Director
The Roman Forum
11 Carmine Street, # 2C
New York, NY 10014
e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Roman Forum 

“Even if the wounds of this shattered world enmesh you, and the sea in turmoil bears you along in but one surviving ship, it would still befit you to maintain your enthusiasm for studies unimpaired. Why should lasting values tremble if transient things fall?”
(Prosper of Aquitaine)


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