May 30, 2005

Vol. 192 No. 19Whole No. 4694

Editorials

Drawing Lines
In its decision in the case of Zorach v. Clauson in 1952, the U.S.

Articles

Little Gray Cells
James J. DiGiacomo

From 2005, a popular article about faith and the intellect by the late James J. DiGiacomo, S.J.

The Shield of Achilles
Drew Christiansen
For me, growing up in the years after World War II, Memorial Day meant a civic service of remembrance at a neighborhood monument with a heart-stopping rifle salute to the dead; followed by a parade down Staten Island’s Victory Boulevard, where columns of veterans, active military units and martial bands passed in review; and finally a family visit to St. Peter’s Cemetery to lay a wreath on my Uncle Joe’s grave, where the American Legion had already stopped to plant an American flag.

Today my rituals are more private, pensive and mournful: a small Mass in community where, as we do on most days, we pray for all today’s war dead; a mournful remembrance of the service personnel killed in Iraq, whose photos I survey each month in The New York Times, and the scores of faceless Iraqi civilians daily slaughtered by terrorist insurgents; and finally reading war poetry, for a poem captures better than news reports the ambiguity, the pain and, most of all, the evil of war.

This year I settled on W. H. Auden’s Shield of Achilles, a favorite I read often in times like these, of low-intensity, low-profile warfare. Published in 1955, the poem draws on a passage of Homer’s Iliad, where the lame blacksmith god Hephaestus, at the request of Thetis, Achilles’ mother, fashions a magnificent shield for the hero celebrating scenes of Greek pastoral and civic life. As if to contrast the heroic ideal with the modern reality, Auden alternates short, lyric depictions of the Homeric shield with elegiac descriptions of modern war.

The second modern stanza is typical:

Out of the air a voice without a face

Fog Over Iraq
John F. Kavanaugh
As May 2005 approached, the country noted a painful anniversary. In the spring of 1975 Saigon fell to the Viet Cong. The images still horrify. The memory remains too sad.
No to Abortion:Posture, Not Policy
Dennis O
It is clear that the Catholic Church has a moral position on abortion. It is not clear that it has a political policy on the issue. Moral positions do not automatically create public policies.
What the Pope Needs to Know
Kathleen McChesney
The sympathetic response of Americans to the death of Pope John Paul II might suggest that the sexual abuse crisis in the United States has not harmed the reputation of the church, and that trust in i
Sing a New Song
Jim McDermott

It is hard today to appreciate the significance of the St. Louis Jesuits.

Books and Culture

Books
Communio
Thomas P. Rausch
Cardinal Walter Kasper, prefect of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was well established as a theologian l
Books
To the Bitter End
Tim Davis
The newest book from Stephen Koch, the celebrated author of Double Lives: Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War Against the West
Books
Music's New World Order
Roger Evans
This capacious, impressive, often enjoyable book takes as its point of departure the late 19th-century orchestral cultures of New York and B
Film
Once More, Without Feeling
Richard A. Blake
It’s hard.

Columns and Departments

The Word
Love Makes the World Go Round
Dianne Bergant
Of Many Things
Of Many Things
James T. Keane
Letters
Letters