The National Catholic Review

Culture

October 2014

  • October 29, 2014

    On May 17, 1918, the 28-year-old Eddie Rickenbacker and his friend Reed Chambers took off in their French-made Nieuports in search of German targets in the early morning skies of war-torn France. Rickenbacker had made his first kill just a few weeks before and he was gaining confidence, a quality he kept in good supply. But at 20,000 feet, oxygen flow to the blood and brain slows, judgment is impaired, and the open cockpit is freezing cold. Following Chambers, Eddie turned back toward the base; but he spotted three German Albatrosses far below.

  • October 29, 2014

    The weekend on which the church’s Synod on the Family began deliberations coincided, by chance, with the opening weekend of Gone Girl, one of the most provocative and disturbing films about marriage, gender and family to be mounted in the United States in recent memory

  • October 29, 2014

    Simone Campbell, S.S.S., became semi-famous a few years ago, just when the self-identified progressive Catholic movement most needed an articulate, telegenic, activist nun who could “do” 21st-century-style media—especially television—and hold her own in a noisy, partisan realm where irony and mockery often act as news values.

  • October 29, 2014

    There are lives so fraught with moral significance that each generation must be reintroduced to them in order to preserve the health of civilization and hope for the future. For pacifists or, more aptly, for those seeking a stronger receptivity to nonviolence, these icons include Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King and, less familiarly for American Catholics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

  • October 29, 2014

    Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., has long been known as a major voice in liberation theology in general and in the particular role of education in promoting human liberation. In this present book, whose publication coincides more or less with the 25th anniversary of the violent death of Ellacuría, his Jesuit brothers and their two lay colleagues, he appears with far greater definition than heretofore in English-language publications.

  • October 23, 2014

    William Egan Colby was born in 1920. Both his parents were devoted Roman Catholics and supporters of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and internationalist foreign policy. He graduated from Princeton University in 1940 and after the Pearl Harbor attack, Bill left Columbia Law School and joined the Army.

  • October 23, 2014

    Blood is often thicker than politics.

    In the spring of 1915, former President Theodore Roosevelt, his political career in tatters, was sued for libel for claiming in a speech that New York’s state Republican boss pushed “corrupt and machine-ruled government” as much as the Democratic bosses of Tammany Hall.

  • October 23, 2014

    When I first saw the gothic chapel at Princeton University many years ago, I was quite taken aback. It was large, beautiful inside and out with a spectacular stained glass window over the altar, and seemed surprisingly Catholic for a university that I had always taken to be professionally secular, neutral and mainly disinterested in religious matters. Margaret Grubiak’s book offers a great deal of enlightenment on the unusual circumstances and controversies over chapel construction and gives intriguing thoughts on the reasons for their decline.

  • October 23, 2014

    Fifteen years after the premiere of “The West Wing,” there are more television shows about politics than ever before, with “Scandal” among the biggest hits on broadcast television and a half-dozen others in production on various platforms. But the trend is not likely to boost interest in this fall’s real-life elections.

  • October 15, 2014

    My colleague from up the road, Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, has written an accessible, useful, intelligent book on a topic that concerns many of us in higher education and about which there has been much discussion of late.

  • October 15, 2014

    In Finnegan’s Wake, James Joyce famously described the Catholic Church as, “Here comes everybody,” a pithy tip of the cap to what the author believed was one of Catholicism’s defining traits: its inclusive, big-tent embrace of all the faithful. This metaphysical melting-pot, a mystical body we Catholics refer to as the communion of saints, includes not only those who have been canonized, but those who are works in progress.

  • October 15, 2014

    In 2007, a major secret in Jesuit education was revealed. When the wife of the late Hugh Grant, Jr., Lucie Mackey Grant, died, the fact that the Grant family had been almost single-handedly supporting Regis High School became public. Upon the death of her husband in 1910, Mrs. Julia Grant inherited $9,000,000 (roughly $200,000,000 today). Mrs. Grant purchased the land on 84th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan, paid for the construction of Regis High School and endowed the school sufficiently to provide a quality education for Catholic boys.

  • October 15, 2014

    As The National Catholic Reporter marks the 50th anniversary of its founding this October, it’s worth considering how long the odds were against the paper’s success. From the start, the editors had small budgets to finance their big dreams. Despite meager resources, the founders set out to create an independent newspaper that circulated nationally. They focused coverage on a set of self- described progressive issues, hardly the stuff of long-term, mass-market appeal.

  • October 8, 2014

    Historian George Marsden, an influential expert on Protestant fundamentalism and also on secularization in the academy, chooses in this book to critique two ways of conceiving America that he claims prevailed about three-score years ago. That was the zenith time of public Protestantism and “consensus-based” reliance on aspects of the 18th century Enlightenment. In Marsden’s image for the change, “twilight” is now here. Over against the darkness which would naturally follow dusk, he envisions a kind of wan possibility of dawn.

  • October 8, 2014

    A word of warning to book reviewers, especially for Catholic periodicals like this one: what you say about what Catholic authors are saying about our current cultural reality may someday become fodder for a critical construction of what is not being said, or more precisely, what is forbidden to be said, about the same in more theological and ecclesial circles. In other words, whether you know it or not, you’re more than simply commenting about what’s going on in Catholic books.

  • October 8, 2014

    In July of last year, aboard a plane returning to Rome from the World Youth Day celebration in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis made clear to the world that he was pontificating in a new key. He walked back to the press compartment and stood in the aisle for 81 minutes, answering every question in a spontaneous exchange with reporters and uttering his now-emblematic “Who am I to judge?” remark about gays. Scarcely noted was another comment by this product of the Society of Jesus: “I think like a Jesuit.”

  • October 2, 2014

    There’s no place better suited for supermen than long distance cycling. Take the Tour de France, the sport’s greatest race. This year’s event covers 3,656 km over 21 days (think Detroit to Los Angeles with the Alps standing in for the Rockies and the Pyrenees for the Sierras). As one 1924 rider put it, the (then shorter) tour “is like martyrdom.

  • October 2, 2014

    I’ve heard it said: hurt people hurt. If anyone was ever hurt as a child, not physically but emotionally, it was Tennessee Williams. His mother Edwina’s denial did the hurting, denial she turned into an art form, which her son turned into art. And John Lahr, senior drama critic of The New Yorker for over 20 years, has written a beautiful biography of the artist.

  • October 2, 2014

    The African novel has come of age in the early 21st century North American diaspora. Straddling homelands, histories, myths, looking for values and identity somewhere in between—those are the grand topics of the African novel.

  • October 2, 2014

    Few works deliver on the promise of their title with such success as Mary Christine Athans’s book on Mary. The scholarship is solid, the prose accessible and her personal reflections engaging. The book can also be provocative, since discussions of Mary lead to questions about the contested role of women in the church.

  • October 2, 2014

    When I was in doctoral studies in philosophy, a Jesuit professor in another discipline asked me what my dissertation topic was. “Plato!” he chafed, “What could you possibly have to say about Plato that hasn’t already been said?” His remark provided me with ample motivation to finish my dissertation. From the standpoint of academic scholarship, Rebecca Goldstein doesn’t offer much that is new about Plato. Instead, in Plato at the Googleplex, she does something better: Goldstein brings Plato back to life.