- The case for mercy
The leading proponent of relaxing the ban on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics tells Christopher Lamb that the Church too often appears rule-bound
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- Pope condemns religious violence as he praises Albania for peaceful interfaith coexistence after decades of persecution
- Scotland's Catholic bishops salute ‘outstanding’ Alex Salmond after post-referendum resignation
- Vatican outlines plan to streamline annulment process as debate over treatment of remarried divorcees intensifies
- Brighton parish launches urgent appeal for bone marrow donor
“Religion is the cause of today’s most vexing social problems, not least the plague of deadly violence gripping the planet.”
In an interview with an Italian newspaper in 2003, Muriel Spark observed: “It is my aim always to give pleasure.” And she did: is there anyone who isn’t captivated by her first (and best) novel, The Comforters?
Although Rowan Williams is sometimes accused of being “never knowingly understood”, this introduction to the basics of Christianity, drawn from talks given during Holy Week 2013 in Canterbury Cathedral, is crisp and lucid.
Even his staunchest admirers would concede that Martin Amis has dropped some clangers over the years. But Time’s Arrow, his novel exploring the Final Solution, wasn’t one of them.
It is hard to deny that the Christian community’s view of itself as “Christendom”, now transformed into “Europe”, altered radically between the appearance of Luther in 1517 and the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648.
Feminism, ah, there you have me. Hydra-headed, it can seem that it has as many manifestations as there are commentators about it, or women who live it.
“I was never going to get out on my own,” says the narrator in Hanne Ørstavik’s searing portrait of a young woman’s sexual awakening. “
During the Darwin-mania of 2009, the think tank Theos (for which I work) conducted research into anti-evolutionary beliefs.
In his earlier two books, Rivers of Gold: the rise of the Spanish empire and The Golden Age: the Spanish empire of Charles V, Hugh Thomas staked a claim to match Fernand Braudel for narrative drive, detail, breadth and ambition.
Tom Mcleish relishes the earlier name for science, “natural philosphy” – in other words, “loving wisdom about nature”. In this fascinating book McLeish, professor of physics at Durham University, presents a rich and positive alternative to the sterile thesis of the “New Atheists” that science and faith are in perpetual conflict.
The defining moment in Harry Bucknall’s 1,411-mile walk to Rome came three weeks in, when he was suddenly confronted with Laon Cathedral. He had seen it growing larger on its hilltop as he snaked his way through the countryside on foot, then he turned a corner and was “assaulted by its sheer size … its beauty stopping me in my tracks”.
Novels about families in the stranglehold of religion have a way of ending badly. Madness, dysfunction, and apostasy are often followed by death. In Carys Bray’s touching first novel the usual order is reversed. A death precedes the collapse of a family, bringing in its wake madness, dysfunction and so forth.
Chesterton’s Father Brown holds an unexamined but stubborn place among the Great Detectives; the reissue of the five collections of stories featuring him is a chance to ask the embarrassing question, Is he, are they, any good?
Psychology, the science of the mind, only really began to coalesce into a respectable discipline towards the end of the Victorian era. It aimed to free our understanding of the mind from the shackles of superstition, and bring tidy scientific methodology to mystical speculation.
ONCE AGAIN Patricia Ferguson has set a novel in Cornwall. Many of the characters from her last book, The Midwife’s Daughter, reappear here, along with plenty of new ones, as Ferguson continues to trace the changing lives of women between the two world wars.
If you were a fan of pop music in the Sixties, you will remember Dusty Springfield. Born Mary O’Brien, a Catholic girl born in West Hampstead, her haunting voice was often to be heard on transistor radios, while her striking peroxide blonde hair and heavy eye make-up made her a symbol of Swinging London.
Very few people have singlehandedly translated the whole Bible into English. Even William Tyndale did not manage to complete the task. So Nicholas King’s translation is a remarkable achievement. It is also distinctive in that the Old Testament (which includes the “deuterocanonical” books) is translated from the ancient Greek version (the Septuagint), rather than from the Hebrew.
We live in the age of the selfie. Everybody can do it, and everybody does. It is hardly, however, the “examined life”. James Hall’s cultural history examines a different kind of looking at our selves, that of the professional visual narrator of both the inner and the outer life.
Mystery surrounds the Basques, their language and their history. Much of this is because their tongue is older than the Indo-European from which all the other languages of Europe descended, and because the earliest Basque written texts do not emerge till the late Middle Ages, having been passed on orally from successive generations for millennia.
Of all the qualities required to write a novel, confidence is one of the most vital. Philip Hensher has confidence in spades, not only in his reach but in his readers’ stamina. His self-assurance and brio invests The Emperor Waltz with quasi-Victorian breadth and length, and with stylish authority.