Movie and Book Reviews

You can read movie reviews from the Catholic News Service on its website here.

A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, by Robert Royal (Ignatius 2015).

I don’t know exactly what Robert Royal’s background is, but he is amazingly knowledgeable about the Catholic Church and Catholic theology.  This big old chunk of a book (588 pages) proves it.  The first part of the book focuses on the trends and trendsetters in Catholic theology in the twentieth century, with special emphasis on Vatican II and the Church’s gradual embrace of modern techniques of Scripture study.  That’s a lot of ground to cover in 357 pages, but it didn’t feel too superficial to me, and I found the discussion of Vatican II particularly interesting.  The second part of the book is about Catholic writers of the twentieth century, mainly British and French.  Most of the British folks were at least somewhat familiar to me—G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Graham Greene—but the French fellows were mostly unknown to me.  Anyway, the book is not light reading, but if you have an interest in the topic, I think you will find it an excellent and well-written resource.


The Gospel of the Family: Going Beyond Cardinal Kasper’s Proposal in the Debate of Marriage, Civil Re-Marriage, and Communion in the Church, by Juan Jose Perez-Soba and Stephan Kampowski (Ignatius 2014).

According to the authors of this book, German Cardinal Walter Kasper has proposed that the Church should modify its long-standing practice and allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion after a penitential period.  Cardinal Kasper cites the modern practice of the Eastern Orthodox Church and certain very old Christian texts in support. The authors of this book argue that Cardinal Kasper does not treat the evidence of ancient Christian practice fairly, and that an objective reading of the evidence leads to the conclusion that the Church’s present and long-standing practice goes back to the beginning of Christianity.  They also argue that the Catholic teaching of the indissolubility of marriage is firmly rooted in good Christian theology.  Finally, they argue that the Church has been terribly slow to build on Pope St. John Paul II’s extensive writings on the family.  The crisis of the family in the modern world, they argue, is much deeper and broader than the narrow problem of the divorced-and-remarried.  In their view, the Church is failing in its mission to teach the truth about love and marriage, to prepare engaged couples adequately for marriage, and to help newly married couples negotiate the crucial first several years of their marriage.  They offer this book in the hope of influencing the upcoming Synod on the Family that is coming up later this year—next month, in fact.

Calvary  (2014)

This independent movie starring Brendan Gleeson as a good Catholic priest in modern-day Ireland is hard to categorize.  A West coast review published in the Dallas Morning News described it as “a serious-minded, lightly comic rumination on life, death, faith and community.”  Perhaps I’m a bit squeamish, but I could not appreciate the alleged lightly comic aspect of the film.  In the opening scene of the movie, Father James (Gleeson) is hearing confessions when an unseen man enters the confessional, tells Father James that as a child he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest, and wraps up by telling Father James that he intends to murder Father James the following Sunday.  This is dark enough, but then we follow Father James through his rounds over the next seven days, and we see that the Irish village he serves is truly a nest of vipers, brimming over with every sort of sin and full of contempt and loathing for the Church.  I found it hard to watch.  But others have found merit in the film.  None other than Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia has written a favorable review, which you can access here.  But do exercise discretion before going to see it; the R rating is well deserved.  (CNS review here.)

Noah (2014)

You might find Father Robert Barron’s review of this movie interesting.  You can find it on YouTube by clicking this link.  (CNS review here.)


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