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Book and Media Reviews

The most recent Commentary items which review books and other media.

Renewal with God Behind Us: Man Determines All by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Monday

In the first section of Who Is a Christian?, Hans Urs von Balthasar discusses the difficult situation the Church finds herself in today (or, to be more precise, in 1983 when the book was published; for background, see the previous installment, Hans Urs von Balthasar on Renewal that Matters). He...

Hans Urs von Balthasar on Renewal that Matters by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Friday

The brilliant Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905 – 1988) was for a long time a controversial figure. Perhaps in some circles he still is. During his formation and education as a Jesuit, von Balthasar encountered Henri de Lubac and Jean Daniélou, and so found himself drawn...

Self-Esteem: Beyond Pop Psychology by Thomas Van - Wednesday

There are words and concepts in certain disciplines – philosophy, theology and psychology come to mind – which, as they enter the popular lexicon and become operative in daily life, lose their power to illuminate and require immediate clarification in order to retain their...

John Allen’s Take on the Catholic Church by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 3, 2014

Our readers have sometimes wondered why we make occasional references to the reports and insights of veteran Rome correspondent John Allen—considering that he was employed for so many years by that scurrilous rag, the National Catholic Reporter. Our excuse has always been the same: Allen is...

Ideology vs. individual: a novel of ideas by Thomas Van - May 29, 2014

One of the tragedies of World War II is that, as much as it was “the good war,” many of its winners never completely understood what they were fighting for. This is true even in an external sense – the British and Americans were simply unaware of much of what was going on in...

Ebook for Ordinary Time after Easter Released by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 26, 2014

We have just released the fifth volume in the 2013-2014 Liturgical Year series of ebooks. Volume five covers the first half of the long stretch of Ordinary Time between the close of the Easter Season on Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. Like all CatholicCulture.org ebooks, this volume is...

What’s Wrong with Historical Criticism of the Bible? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 19, 2014

When Pope Benedict XVI wrote his trilogy of works on Jesus of Nazareth, one of his purposes was to blend the useful aspects of historical criticism with a neglected tradition of Patristic exegesis. He wanted to suggest the limits of modern historical criticism and call new attention to the...

Making Gay Okay: Robert Reilly Explains How and Why by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 14, 2014

Ignatius Press has recently published an excellent book by Robert R. Reilly, entitled Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything. The focus is on the extraordinary rapidity of the change from social rejection to social affirmation of homosexuality. The author...

Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism by Thomas Van - Apr 24, 2014

For as long as atheism has existed as a significant intellectual movement, there have been attempts by atheists to psychoanalyze religious belief – to explain it or explain it away not with regards to its inherent truth or falsehood, but rather in terms of psychological needs, as...

Round Trip to the present moment: a Catholic jazz artist's latest offering by Thomas Van - Apr 22, 2014

“Art is not something that has ceased to be created.” Michael Levey began and ended his History of Western Art with these words, and what with the tendency of modern Catholics towards cultural pessimism, we could always do with a reminder. Of course, since a mere assertion will not be...

The Holy Spirit and Evangelization: A Primer by Thomas Van - Apr 16, 2014

One thing I have come to realize over the past few years, especially during the reign of Pope Francis, is that in a culture hostile to religious orthodoxy, it is easy for Catholics to fall into the trap of treating orthodoxy as an end in itself. When Francis warns us not to become a...

Journey to the Sun: A Strange Biography of Junípero Serra by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 16, 2014

Gregory Orfalea’s biography of the great missionary to California, Junípero Serra, is exceedingly strange. In the good sense of the word, it is genuinely foreign and fascinating. The author has a gift for telling an exotic story with plenty of intriguing detail, even when the evidence...

Noah: far from a natural disaster by Thomas Van - Mar 29, 2014

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah lets us know within the first thirty seconds that it isn’t a literal translation of the Biblical account. In the course of a text opening that quickly recounts the story of Eden, the fall of Adam and Eve, and Cain’s murder of Abel, we learn that Cain and...

Two great, chart-topping Benedictine chant albums by Thomas Van - Mar 29, 2014

Weeks ago, we reported the unusual phenomenon of two chant albums reaching the top of Billboard’s traditional classical music chart. I say this is unusual, but not unheard of, because it seems to happen every few years since the ‘90s chant craze was kicked off by the 1994 rerelease of...

Mother Teresa, the Enigma by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 26, 2014

Is David Scott’s biography of Mother Teresa of Calcutta a disaster or a smashing success? It’s published by Sophia Press, so there are no qualms there. It is spiritually sound, even illuminating, so there are no qualms there, either. But like every other study of Mother Teresa, it...

A Strange Case: The Clash’s drummer-turned-chiropractor on music, healing, and his return to Catholicism by Thomas Van - Mar 15, 2014

The Clash is one of those bands you’re almost guaranteed to have heard whether you know it or not. The seminal English punk act made a dent in the rock music scene in 1977 with their first, self-titled album, featuring a simple, aggressive style with political lyrics, exemplified by songs...

Cloistered: The Inside Story by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 10, 2014

It is very interesting to see how secular publishers deal with our contemporary cultural objection to serious religious engagement. An author cannot advocate Christianity, but he can do a study of somebody else’s theology. An author cannot urge fallen-away Catholics to return to the Church,...

Bought with a Price: The Gold Standard for Dealing with Pornography by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 4, 2014

Today, Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington released a new and expanded edition of his 2006 Pastoral Letter, Bought with a Price (see the original edition in our library). The new edition—available in a very attractive booklet or downloadable as a PDF file—is advance-dated to March...

An Aquinas Primer by Thomas Van - Feb 21, 2014

Sophia Institute Press has published a new popular presentation of the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas’s work defined Catholic theology for the greater part of the past millennium, guaranteeing that any properly catechized Catholic will have been influenced by the...

God, Character, and Literature: Paula Huston’s Land without Sin by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 20, 2014

As longtime readers may have noticed, I occasionally pick up and review newly published examples of what we loosely call “the Catholic novel”. Unfortunately, since Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy passed from the scene, there seems to have been a dearth of top-tier Catholic...

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