Terrence Malick's Openness to Life

Terrence Malick has baffled many of the film critics who once championed him. His detractors call his latest film, Knight of Cups, an “indecipherable mess” or “hard to parse.” A.O. Scott of the New York Times admired Malick’s Tree of Life, but now sounds as if he feels betrayed: “The deployment of beauty strikes me as more evasive than evocative.” Continue Reading »

A Sordid Anniversary, To Be Remembered

On September 24, 1949, Georgii Karpov, chairman of the agency that provided “liaison” to the Russian Orthodox Church for the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, wrote Josef Stalin and his chief henchmen a confidential letter reeking with self-congratulation. The “government’s instruction on the . . . . Continue Reading »

The Excess of Stephen H. Webb

In the fall of 2010, Stephen Webb challenged me to a footrace at Wabash College. I accepted. We lined up on a sidewalk crack. Before the signal came, Webb bolted off. As I ran to pass him, he pushed me into the road. He tried to grab my shirt to stop me from passing him again. He laughed with . . . . Continue Reading »

​By Any Other Name

“And the knowledge of names,” Socrates explains to Hermogenes in the Cratylus, “is a great part of knowledge.” An important concomitant of Cratylus’s naturalist account of naming that goes unnoticed in Plato’s dialogue but upon which Scripture fixes attention is that a change in nature seems to suggest, even demand, a change in name. Continue Reading »

Fatima

My first sustained interfaith dialogue was with Mary Jane, when we were both in eighth grade in a public school in a town near Albany, New York. I had a mild crush on Mary Jane, a very smart Italian Catholic. Our romance—in so far as it was carried on outside of school activities—consisted of . . . . Continue Reading »

Spotlight on Francis

When Spotlight, the critically acclaimed film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into clergy sexual abuse, won best picture at this year’s Oscars, producer Michael Sugar accepted the award with a message:This film gave a voice to survivors and this Oscar amplifies that voice which we hope . . . . Continue Reading »

Dignity v. Freedom

Justice Kennedy concluded his majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges with this summary: Gay couples “ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” “Dignity” appears several other times in the opinion. Prior to the twentieth century, Kennedy . . . . Continue Reading »

Embodying Mysticism

Jonathan Robinson has written a book that interlaces a biography of St. Philip Neri with classical teachings of Catholic spiritual life. What emerges is a well-informed history of sixteenth century Florence and Rome, a lucid theological biography of Neri, and a study of mysticism in its Catholic context. Continue Reading »

Social Sins in Lent

The season of Lent is a time of meditation and self-denial, as Christians join with Jesus in his journey toward the cross. Most often, the penitential disciplines of Lent focus on personal sins of greed and indulgence, with an emphasis on abstaining from some private luxuries and exercising a . . . . Continue Reading »

What the Church Does Not Believe

This Lent has me digging through the Apostle’s Creed. Viewed in a certain direction, it not only says what we believe; it lets us in on what we do not believe. The first article of the Creed, my last column, says Christians believe in one God and this one God is the Father who made both heaven and . . . . Continue Reading »