The National Catholic Review

Culture

September 2016

  • September 26, 2016

    Jayne Houdyshell is ecumenical, at least on stage. Born and raised as a Congregationalist, she has portrayed a Jewish mother several times and is now playing an Irish Catholic mother in the play that won this year’s Tony Award for Best Play and earned her a Tony for Best Supporting Actress. “The Humans,” written by Stephen Karam, has just transferred to a larger Broadway house for the upcoming theater season.

    In “The Humans,” Ms. Houdyshell combines the humor and sarcasm typical of...

  • September 22, 2016

    In an interview the African-American artist Alma Thomas gave in the last year of her life, she described light sifting through a holly tree outside the bay window of her home in Washington, D.C., as the inspiration for her commitment to abstraction. Her color harmonies, she explained, were based on her flower beds—especially as imagined from above. In a late-blooming career, she had moved beyond polemics about the “mainstream” of art for art’s sake and the “blackstream” art...

  • September 22, 2016

    Each time I attend Mass at my parish church, I struggle to discern: Am I about to encounter my risen Lord, who welcomes and loves me as I am, or am I about to commit a serious sin?

    My fellow divorced and remarried Catholics will recognize this quandary. Our circumstances vary, but we share the knowledge that according to church law, many of us are no longer welcome at the eucharistic table.

    Two new...

  • September 22, 2016

    Andrew Bacevich is clear about what he hopes to accomplish in America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History . He will link “aims to actions to consequences” regarding the role of the U.S. military from 1980 to the present. Bacevich, a 1969 graduate of West Point who served 23 years before retiring as a colonel, and who recently retired from teaching diplomatic history at Boston University, does not shy away from expressing his own conclusions about...

  • September 22, 2016

    Service has become more and more important to Catholic parishes, schools and universities. Many people take it for granted that service is a matter of good people helping the needy. This paternalistic understanding of charity is reinforced by stereotypes perpetuated by the mass media but also by philanthropic organizations and churches. It reinforces rather than resists the division of the world into “haves” and “have nots.” It tacitly justifies the arrogance of the...

  • September 19, 2016

    Oliver Stone’s Snowden is an abysmal movie in almost all the ways by which we usually judge cinema. The acting is mannered; the actors are smirking; the music presumes an emotional grandeur the storytelling has not earned; the visuals include the now-standard-issue technological eye candy by which we are “transported” inside the high-speed circuitry of the National Security Agency’s computers and data mining—a.k.a., C.G.I. blather. The movie also swaggers, oblivious to the fact...

  • September 15, 2016

    Amid the apocalyptic wreckage of Nazi-occupied Warsaw in 1944, Czesław Miłosz composed “A Song of the End of the World,” a poem that poses the disappointment of “those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps” against the quiet resolve of a wise old man, diligently tying up his tomato plants and calmly repeating: “There will be no other end of the world./ There will be no other end of the world.” In Zero K , which takes place in contemporary Manhattan and...

  • September 15, 2016

    In the searing and timely play Sinners , by the Israeli playwright Joshua Sobol, a man piles up rocks for the stoning of a woman. She was convicted of adultery. He was her lover. She is next to him, covered in a white cloth and buried in the ground up to her chest.

    The setting is an unnamed Muslim country; both characters are punished for their affair. She is sentenced to execution. He is condemned with preparing...

  • September 15, 2016

    The central insight of David Walsh’s book is that “...the person is transcendence, not only as an aspiration, but also as his or her very reality. Nothing is higher. That is what this book strives to acknowledge.” Walsh, professor of politics at Catholic University of America, proposes that the change that overcame philosophy around the time Descartes declared his “I think therefore I am”—the shift from metaphysics, or the study of being as being, to...

  • September 15, 2016

    In February, when President Barack Obama submitted his plan to Congress to finally shutter the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, he reiterated his basic motivation: national security. He said the prison is used as a recruiting tool for terrorists, harms our relationships with allies and “drains military resources.” Based on the 2015 expenses of running the prison camps, the current cost to imprison a man for one year in Guantánamo Bay is $5.6 million...

  • September 8, 2016

    A Polish television crew is interviewing the head of a Warsaw elementary school, who boasts that yes, his children get free milk each day at recess.

    But the milk is bad, the interviewer tells him: The students pour it down the toilet.

    “Oh no,” he says. “We always lock the restrooms at recess.”

    Krzysztof Kieslowski was hardly a comedian, but there was always a vein of black wit running through the late Polish filmmaker’s work, which included the acclaimed “Three Colors...

  • September 8, 2016

    Americans like the big picture of their heroes—the big, simple picture. This especially applies to presidents. George Washington, the father of his country, was a little boy who could not tell a lie and grew up to be a great soldier whose men loved him and whose ragtag army defeated the British. Abraham Lincoln, the youth who chopped wood, walked miles to school every day and studied many hours by firelight, grew up to be the great soul who freed the slaves...

  • September 8, 2016

    In the academic world, it sometimes seems untoward for religion scholars to be enthusiastic about religion. It’s fine for specialists in the social sciences or arts to revel in some particular school of thought. But, it seems to me, a certain distance is expected from the religious studies expert—to view the subject of the transcendent as an entirely human construct.

    In his new book, History and Presence, the historian Robert...

  • September 1, 2016

    I knew that Francis, Bishop of Rome, the slim new volume of reflections about Pope Francis by Allan Figueroa Deck, S.J., was going to be something special three pages into the Introduction. Deck, who has spent his life working in the fields of Latino theology and ministry and currently serves as the rector of the Jesuit community at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles (where I live), is describing his travels to meet people who knew the young Jorge Bergoglio—...

  • September 1, 2016

    You can tell this book by its cover! The cover shows five empty boxes under symbols for Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. A large red check mark fills the space outside all the boxes.

    Elizabeth Drescher, a professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University in California, writes with amiable skepticism in this book, subtitled, “The Spiritual Lives of America’s Nones,” a group that now makes up nearly 25 percent...

  • September 1, 2016

    Last September, Pope Francis descended into the 9/11 Memorial Museum and presided over a multifaith prayer ceremony of great breadth and resolve. “We can and must build unity on the basis of our diversity of languages, cultures and religions,” he said. “Together we are called to say ‘no’ to every attempt to impose uniformity and ‘yes’ to a diversity accepted and reconciled.” Alongside leaders from many faith traditions, he prayed before the raw...