On Graham Greene

As one grows older one notes the deaths of great figures with a mixture of pleasure and complacency. But Graham Greene’s death is more like the death of a member of one’s family or the loss of a rooted expectation, even like the loss of a skill or a habit.

The New Canadas

To pass from the United States to Canada or from Canada to the United States at any of the border crossings is certainly to enter a different world. But this is also true when one passes from Indiana to Kentucky, or Utah to Nevada; or, within Canada, from Ontario to …

The Trials of C.S. Lewis

It has been suggested that if our civilization were to fall to pieces, leaving only fragments of our literary culture, archaeologists would have to conclude that there may have been two Bertrand Russells, one the brilliant author of Principia Mathematica, the lectures on logical atomism, and other logical and philosophical …

Poet of the Great Massacre

The character of Paul Celan’s work raises the question how far poetry can be—is—a central human activity in our time. Even when Milton played with the thought of writing a poem “doctrinal to a nation,” at first having in mind an Arthuriad, such a project, in a lively form, was …

Winners

Zek, gulag…such terms are now familiar and they speak to us from an increasing number of works: histories, eyewitness accounts, memoirs. The landscape of the Soviet prisons and penal colonies is now become as familiar as that of the prisons and camps of the Hitler period. For a long time …

Prophet of Lubyanka

Western readers are familiar with the intellectual and moral journey made by those who broke with the Communist party after the Thirties. The Moscow show trials, the German-Soviet pact, the Czech coup d’état, the Soviet intervention to defeat Nagy’s revolution in Hungary, are leading moments in recent history and all …

The Lie in the Soul

Those of us who have been alive for seventy years or more are sometimes visited with a strange impulse: to take the middle-aged and the young in a firm grip and urge them to listen to the stories of our lives. We feel ourselves driven to interrupt wedding feasts and …

Is Nuclear Deterrence Moral?

“Common morality both requires the West to oppose the Soviets…and excludes the intent to kill innocents.” This is the dilemma Finnis, Boyle, and Grisez explore in their impressive book. About the authors themselves one need only say that they are all three Roman Catholics, that they are professional philosophers—one of …

Looking for Lucifer

Malachi Martin wants to make our flesh creep. He thinks there is a Jesuit world conspiracy. Many have thought this, just as many have thought there was a Masonic world conspiracy or a Jewish world conspiracy. Such fantasies feed our desires for a world more marvelous, and more coherent in …

A New New Testament

Thomas Sheehan has two topics. One is the development of historical criticism of the Bible, especially the New Testament and especially among Roman Catholic scholars in recent years. The other is the interpretation of the person and message of Jesus. The interpretation he advances is not implied by the results …

The Good Life

One can’t easily write about the lives of one’s parents without memorializing oneself, as for example Edmund Gosse does in Father and Son. Such a task is not at all like writing the life of a public figure, and this is true even if one or the other or both …

The Historical Jesus

In the thought of the Eastern Orthodox Church a distinction is made between the holy icons placed on the iconostasis—the screen separating the sanctuary from the rest of the church—and other pictures of precisely the same sacred subjects. It is as though the former are so thoroughly suffused by the …

Meeting the Lord in the Air

The other day, in a coffee shop, I overheard a conversation between two men evidently engaged in the insurance business. They were discussing, after they had dispatched some professional matters, “the Rapture.” At first I couldn’t think what this was about. But when the conversation moved on to the topic …

Nuclear Catholicism

Michael Novak proclaims himself a Democrat and is no doubt registered as one; but the policies he defends and advocates, in social and political matters, are largely those of the Reagan administration. One comes across his pieces in such doctrinaire conservative periodicals as Commentary and the National Review. His position …

Taking it on Faith

The articles constituting the League of Nations were called the Covenant of the League; Protestant piety was then more of a force in the world than it is now, and the history of “covenant” must have been present to many of those who took their seats as delegates in the …

Innocent at Home

From 1900 to the early Thirties Britain—Canada, Australia, and the United States were sometimes brought into it—was loud with the pronouncements, arguments, jokes, campaigns, novels, plays, poems of four men: Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, and H.G. Wells. Sometimes the novelist Arnold Bennett became a fifth member of the …

Sleepwalker

On only two things about Martin Luther is there general agreement. He was a man of immense personal force and great magnetism whose work was a necessary condition of the Reformation schism; and his translation of the Bible and the great chorales and hymns that he wrote are constituents of …

Speaking of the Unspeakable

Leszek Kolakowski’s book is occasionally concerned with describing religious behavior, drawing upon the observations of such writers of Rudolf Otto and Mircea Eliade, but it is for the most part critical and philosophical. Religion is spoken of as “the socially established worship of the eternal reality.” The term “eternal reality” …

A Good Read

Evans-Pritchard once wrote, having in mind the fog in which, so he thought, the discussion of primitive religion had been plunged by Frazer, Durkheim, Marett, and others, that anyone who wanted to do fieldwork on this topic ought to have “a poetic mind which moves easily in images and symbols.”[^1] …

Moses and Atheism

Some time ago I found myself writing: “Anti-Semitism circulates in the European bloodstream like a permanent infection.” This was first brought home to me with great force when a Catholic publicist explained Jacques Maritain’s refusal to support Franco’s cause in Spain by Maritain’s having a Jewish wife. That Raïssa Maritain, …

Can We Live the Good Life?

The elective system in most North American universities and colleges means that undergraduates may, within limits, make up their own combinations of subjects during their three or four years of study. In the better institutions there may be much guidance, even direction. But the ethos expressed in the system relies …

Dorothy Day (1897–1980)

Dorothy Day died on November 29 and this death will make a difference to many people, not all of them her co-religionists. She has spoken of her life in two autobiographical volumes, From Union Square to Rome (1938) and The Long Loneliness (1952). As a girl and as a young …