The National Catholic Review

Culture

May 2016

  • May 25, 2016

    History has not been kind to Éamon de Valera.

    By the 1990s, the roar of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger had put a merciful end to the recession of the 1980s. Those dreary years had sent yet another generation of youngsters abroad, desperate (as the Irish-American rock band Black ’47 put it) “to get out of the land of de Valera.”

    In 1993, Tim Pat Coogan published a long biography that cast a harsh light...

  • May 25, 2016

    The most recent installment in Oxford University Press’s Women in Antiquity is everything that one would hope for in a book designed to offer “an accessible introduction to the life and historical times of women from the ancient world.” For those who are unfamiliar with her, the Byzantine empress Theodora (A.D. 500-48) is an especially illuminating figure by which to bring so many aspects of the ancient world into focus.

    Born...

  • May 25, 2016

    No topic, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is out of bounds for the theologian. This is because theology’s true subject matter is God, and “all things,” Aquinas sagely points out, either “are God Himself or...refer to God as their beginning and end” (Summa Theologiae, q. 1 a. 7).

    With the mandate of the Angelic Doctor, then, what might be said—theologically—about Taylor Swift, the 26-year-old musical megastar, who released...

  • May 12, 2016

    Studies in positive psychology confirm that a life of service creates a more lasting sense of well-being than the “good life” of comfort and pleasure. Given the pivotal place of service in the New Testament, contemporary Christians might wish to reflect on how their faith, their community life and their openness to the Spirit’s grace can enrich human service and give new meaning to Christian life. This is the focus of Stephen Pope’s fine book on models of...

  • May 12, 2016

    Out of his vast knowledge of the ancient world, Robin Lane Fox, an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, has drawn a remarkable picture of Augustine—the child, the teenager, the youth, the man. His method is not unlike the contemporary quest for the historical Jesus. He situates Augustine in his time and place(s), comparing and contrasting him with well-documented lives of men his age. This is especially effective in discussing Augustine’s earliest years....

  • May 12, 2016

    It may be difficult to believe a profession that commands the salary and social status of U.S. physicians is in crisis, but there is widespread and growing discontent within this guild. While serious reform is afoot for the health care system writ large, the clinicians at its center (or at its top) are receiving scant attention.

    In The Finest Traditions of My Calling , Abraham Nussbaum offers a plea to see that true reform of...

  • May 6, 2016

    American theater has nothing to prove on the world stage; the 20th century saw to that. After languishing in the shadow of its European forebears, our young country’s theater had a definitive flowering in the so-called American century, as playwrights found a native language in the nation’s bustling vitality and heedless striving, common pleasures and modern anxieties. From Arthur Miller to August Wilson, we had playwrights not only worthy of our national dialogue but who are able...

  • May 3, 2016

    If you have ever found it tempting to eat dessert before the main course, then I would encourage you to indulge this streak and read the second part of this memoir first. For readers unfamiliar with the life and philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand, the profundity of his struggle, the manner of his Catholic thinking and the reason why the Nazi Gestapo might want to assassinate him, the short essays at the end of this memoir bring all of this into focus....

  • May 3, 2016

    One of the great paradoxes of Buddhist-Christian relations is that Buddhist worldviews diverge so radically from Christian perspectives that in many ways it seems difficult to imagine any understanding at all between their respective adherents; yet many Christians, including myself, have found that engagement with the Buddhist tradition has strongly enriched their Christian practice. Mutual understanding is precarious: if a Christian assimilates Buddhist...

  • May 3, 2016

    Is there something to be gained by assessing the merits of the losing side of a long-settled scientific argument? Christopher Graney’s answer in Setting Aside All Authority is an unequivocal yes, and he takes one of the most celebrated cases of scientific advance—the victory of heliocentrism over geocentrism—to show us. The work contributes to an effort among historians of science to demonstrate how much more genuinely scientific the entire dispute was than...

  • May 3, 2016

    To Montse, the Virgin Mary is not so much the mother of God as she is a type of goddess, one who is sorrowful and carefree all at once. She doesn’t guide or shield people but goes with them and adds her tangible presence when required. She’s more of a sister than a mother.

    It’s possible that Montse feels this way about the Virgin because she was abandoned as an infant and left in a monastery chapel. But readers won’t know for...

  • May 3, 2016

    Reinhold Niebuhr, with his usual gift of mixing irony with political insight, once observed that he avoided reading political history because of the strained Manichean nature of the scholarship produced by the likes of presidential historians. Who would have guessed, he dryly observed, that President Warren G. Harding (of Teapot Dome fame) had actually fought with the Armies of the Lamb, as opposed to the Armies of the Beast? Who knew? But of course Niebuhr’s...