The National Catholic Review

Culture

Monday, September 1, 2014

  • September 24, 2014

    In the late 1950s, Broadway and Off Broadway theater had become a bit grim. The major hits of the era presented a rather pessimistic view of life, especially of the family: the home as prison (“A Raisin in the Sun,” “The Miracle Worker”), monster parents (“Gypsy”) and rebellious adolescents (“West Side Story”). Even musicals fell into this pattern. But on May 3, 1960, a modest little musical called The Fantasticks opened Off Broadway at a tiny theater in Greenwich Village.

  • September 24, 2014

    This book is a dry, almost too careful, yet important inquiry into the nature of Muslim participation in American society, particularly in the political and juridical realm. It is written by an accomplished Sudanese-American law professor at Emory University in Atlanta, dedicated to young Muslims in the United States. Despite this hortatory stance (and to some extent because of it), Abdullahi An-Na’im makes a true contribution to the woefully underrepresented literature on Americans of Muslim faith.

  • September 24, 2014

    With the ongoing concerns of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops over the contraceptive mandate and the upcoming 2014 Synod of Bishops on challenges facing the family, which will include discussions on contraception, Aline Kalbian’s book is a timely and insightful contribution to this issue. It begins with a methodological explanation of the project (ch. 1), presents an historical overview of the justificatory strategies of Catholic teaching against contraception (ch.

  • September 24, 2014

    Among the many plotlines chased by the media before and after the Super Bowl this past February was the news that quarterback Peyton Manning, of the Denver Broncos, didn’t arrange tickets for his own family and friends. That job was given to his younger brother and fellow quarterback Eli, whose New York Giants had lost their first six games on the way to a 7-9 record. Call it brotherly loyalty with just a touch of rub-your-nose-in-it malice.

  • September 23, 2014

    My memories of reading The Giver in middle school are vivid, although not because of any particular effect the novel had on me. Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel has a famously ambiguous ending, and our assignment in 7th grade was to write a satisfying conclusion and share it with the class. Ms. Butler—who was as close as a woman can get to being a nun without actually putting on a habit—listened to each piece in turn, making notes as we progressed down the class roster in alphabetical order. And everything was going well, until it was Robert’s turn.

  • September 17, 2014

    Promises made in good faith, promises broken. People being hurt because we “couldn’t get our act together.” The whole execution of the war being summed up, quite rightly, by the chaos and ineptitude of its last act. And no, we are not talking about the Middle East.

  • September 17, 2014

    When reading Israeli history, one cannot but be affected by the tremendous costs the establishment and survival of the Jewish homeland have exacted from generations of “other” people. The daily headlines about the latest settlement construction or the shooting of unarmed protesters tell us the price it continues to exact from Palestinians.

  • September 17, 2014

    In recent presidential elections, it has become obligatory for the candidates to talk about their religious beliefs. This was highlighted in the 2008 interview Barack Obama and John McCain did with the evangelical pastor Rev. Rick Warren, an important moment in that campaign. Obama confessed that selfishness was his greatest moral fault, while McCain acknowledged the failure of his first marriage.

  • September 17, 2014

    In 1999, 350 years after the destruction of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, an extraordinary event took place in Ontario. At sites near the original Jesuit mission remnants of the Huron (Wendat, sometimes written Wyandot) Confederacy from Quebec, Oklahoma, Kansas and Michigan met to rebury their ancestors and rebuild their confederacy.

  • September 10, 2014

    In this erudite, thoughtful, carefully translated but sometimes turgid book, Fabrizio Amerini reviews Thomas Aquinas’s doctrine of the human fetus’s successive ensoulments, in order to “dialogue with the contemporary bioethical debate on abortion.” When, if ever, is a fetus developed enough to be regarded as a “human being” or “human person” with moral dignity, integral and perhaps inviolable rights?

  • September 10, 2014

    In his masterful novel In the Wolf’s Mouth, set in the waning days of World War II, the British novelist and poet Adam Foulds shuns the tropes of historical fiction to pare his story to its essence. You will not learn the military details of the battles fought in North Africa or Sicily. There are no cameo walk-ons by famous military leaders. Instead, through his plain, precise language, Foulds creates a powerful sense of intimacy with his characters as they experience the physical and psychological devastation of war.

  • September 10, 2014

    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Catholic intellectuals sought to reconcile their faith with questions posed by modernity that challenged the church’s understanding of the Bible, its history and its relationship with society. These efforts did not sit well with authorities in Rome, who viewed these intellectual endeavors as threatening the foundations of the Catholic faith. Their answer was the encyclical “Pascendi Dominici Gregis,” issued on Sept. 8, 1907, in which Pope Saint Pius X condemned a series of errors labeled Modernism.

  • September 10, 2014

    This month Friends turns 20. When I was that age, 20 years ago, I lay on the hardwood floor of my first apartment on Chicago’s North Side with my own group of friends and cynically watched NBC’s newest collection of beautiful people trying to be funny. As we made sarcastic comments to one another about how improbable it was that the characters were able to pay rent on such a large apartment while working as a line cook and a waitress in New York City, we caught ourselves genuinely laughing more than we expected. A lot more.

  • September 5, 2014

    The history of the Jesuits in America is largely a story of movement—one of crossing first an ocean, then lakes and rivers and ultimately traversing ethnic, linguistic and ideological boundaries. Those journeys ended with a series of dwelling places where both the mind and spirit could expand. It is a story exquisitely told in a new exhibit at the Loyola University Museum of Art in Chicago called "Crossings and Dwellings."

  • September 2, 2014

    Robert Bartlett titles and commences his magisterial work on saints and worshippers with a quote from St. Augustine’s City of God: “Why can the dead do such great things?” For 21st-century readers, living in a time in which David Hume’s skeptical critique of miracles may speak more convincingly than does Augustine’s affirmatory exclamation, Bartlett’s study will be a fascinating and illuminating read. Even for some Catholics, the practices and beliefs that Bartlett describes might seem outside the scope of contemporary experience.

  • September 2, 2014

    The rise of the Tea Party and ongoing Republican efforts to define their national platform make this an opportune time to explore the roots and contours of American conservatism. Drew Maciag’s Edmund Burke in America: The Contested Career of the Father of Modern Conservatism employs Burke to investigate wider themes in American political culture, arguing that Burke—unlike John Locke—is not important because of the substance of his ideas.

  • September 2, 2014

    When HBO first announced that it had greenlit a television series about the Rapture, one would have been forgiven for assuming we were in for yet another twist on Hollywood’s seemingly endless obsession with the post-apocalyptic. Given the popularity of recent “scripturally inspired” projects like “Noah” or “The Bible,” some sort of high-profile, supposedly Christian pseudo-science fiction was inevitable. If anything, the only surprise was that it had taken the industry this long to get there.

  • September 2, 2014

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 31, though not feeling well, was hard at work composing the opera “Don Giovanni” when he was asked to listen to a 16-year-old pianist from Bonn who had traveled to Vienna in the hope of studying with him. The teenager played a prepared song, then improvised at the keyboard. The improvisation impressed Mozart. “Watch out for that boy,” he told the people in the next room. “One day he will give the world something to talk about.” Four years later Mozart lay in a pauper’s grave.