The National Catholic Review

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  • January 23, 2017

    After decades of books that described presidential campaigns as thrill rides, in which any bold move or gaffe could prove decisive, political scientists have begun to push back. The fundamentals are what count, they say: debate performances mean little next to the state of the economy and whether voters are tired of the party in power. Audacity , a brisk assessment of Barack Obama’s tenure as president, comes off as a similar exercise in reframing. Jonathan Chait, a columnist for New York...

  • January 23, 2017

    Nations, like people, fight over many basic things like money, power, ideas and land—especially land. No matter how big or small the land is, if it’s worth something, it’s worth fighting for. This has been the case with Crimea, the underbelly of Russia. It has been noted that Crimea is a place difficult to leave, physically as well as emotionally. The Tartars considered it Yesil Ada , “the Green Isle.” No bigger than Massachusetts, it has historically captured the imaginations of people as...

  • January 23, 2017

    Sin Bravely, by Maggie Rowe, is a memoir about a young evangelical Christian in desperate need of a good spiritual director. The narrator and heroine is an aspiring actress who cannot be sure she has been saved, even though she has accepted Jesus as her personal savior not once, but many, many times. Hers is a spiritual journey in reverse, one that starts from a position of belief but then slowly seems to back away from it.

    The catchy title comes from Martin Luther: “Sin bravely so...

  • January 23, 2017

    The true ordeal of the Teton Lakota, the warrior tribe that whipped the U.S. Cavalry in several notable fights in the 1870s, began after the shooting stopped. Worse than the persistent hunger was the federal effort to “civilize” the Indians by stages into hat- and trouser-wearing farmers with one wife, Christian first names, fixed last names and children who learned English in school. But the authorities had one aim above all others—to end the ancient practice of smoking a traditional pipe...

  • The Irish scribe James Joyce spent thousands of hours with the Jesuits, who educated him as a youth and who figure prominently in his debut novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man , which just saw the 100th anniversary of its initial publication on Dec. 29, 1916. Though Portrait wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of his educators, they permanently influenced the author, who once remarked to a friend, “You allude to me as a Catholic. Now for the sake of precision and to get the...

  • January 2, 2017

    Overused in contemporary parlance, the word martyr has perhaps lost its power to move us. It is either rendered ridiculous through misapplication to minor situations or seems so sublime that our paltry mortal minds cannot grasp its meaning. In her book A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura , the investigative journalist Eileen Markey sets about reclaiming one such martyr from the remoteness of the pedestal: Maura Clarke, who along with two other nuns,...

  • January 2, 2017

    This is one of the best books I have read all year: moving, inspiring, beautifully written. It offers a valuable look into the work of a hospice chaplain, but also, and perhaps more important, it will be of use to people who put off visiting a friend who’s in hospice because they feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say. According to Kerry Egan, you don’t have to say much. The important thing is to listen and make room for dying people to talk, to say whatever...

  • January 2, 2017

    In popular lore, the impression that most likely comes to mind regarding the Romanovs is one of failure: a dynasty that came crashing down in the maelstrom of war and revolution in the early 20th century. In the longer view of historical perspective, however, the Romanovs were arguably one of the most successful of ruling dynasties, not only in European history but in world history, in terms of both the length and breadth of their hegemony. This dynasty not only...

  • December 19-26, 2016

    The Salvador Option: The United States in El Salvador, 1977-1992 takes its name from a debate 10 years ago about how to stop the Sunni insurgency from gaining the upper hand in Iraq. American generals, politicians and pundits, following well-trod tradition, dusted off manuals from the “last war” to find solutions.

    El Salvador was the largest U.S. counterinsurgency effort before the current conflicts and after Vietnam. For 12 years,...

  • December 19-26, 2016

    Cathleen Kaveny is one of this country’s most renowned public intellectuals focusing on the intersection of religion, law and morality. Kaveny’s work as an ethicist is interdisciplinary. She connects the dots between history and political theory, law and jurisprudence, philosophy and theology. She is a prolific scholar with a keen aptitude for knowing what to focus on and when to speak. She also understands the duty of writing for a wider public than those fortunate...