From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George

The Dean Recommends: Rebuild my house - Sermon to the General Synod of the Church of England

By Father Raniero Cantalamessa
November 25, 2015

Father Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, delivered the following sermon at a Eucharist in Westminster Abbey, London, on November 24, 2015, marking the inauguration of the 10th General Synod of the Church of England. Father Cantalamessa preached in Beeson's Andrew Gerow Hodges Chapel on February 21, 2012.

“Rebuild my house”
(Haggai 1:1-8)

Few prophetic oracles in the Old Testament can be dated so precisely as that of Haggai, which we have just heard in the first reading. We can place it between August and December in the year 520 BC. The exiles, after the deportation to Babylon, have come back to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. They set to work, but soon grow discouraged, each preferring to work on his own house instead. Into this situation comes the prophet Haggai, sent by God with the message we have heard.

The Word of God, once it is proclaimed, remains forever alive; it transcends situations and centuries, each time casting new light. The situation deplored by the prophet is renewed in history each time we are so absorbed in the problems and interests of our own parish, diocese, community – and even of our particular Christian denomination - that we lose sight of the one house of God, which is the Church.

The prophecy of Haggai begins with a reproof, but ends, as we heard, with an exhortation and a grandiose promise: “Go up into the hills, fetch timber and rebuild the House, and I shall take pleasure in it and manifest my glory there” - says the Lord”.

One circumstance makes this point particularly relevant. The Christian world is preparing to celebrate the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation. It is vital for the whole Church that this opportunity is not wasted by people remaining prisoners of the past, trying to establish each other’s rights and wrongs. Rather, let us take a qualitative leap forward, like what happens when the sluice gates of a river or a canal enable ships to continue to navigate at a higher water level. Read the rest at Anglican News.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Tuesday, December 1, 2015
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After Dinner, a Beheading

By Timothy George
November 30, 2015

November 2015 will be remembered as the month in which the world woke up. The year began with the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris on January 7 and 8, an atrocity which drew millions to the streets of the French capital to stand in solidarity on behalf of civil liberty and freedom of speech. Militant Islamic terrorists returned to Paris on November 13, this time leaving 130 dead and hundreds more wounded, some paralyzed for life. The Islamic State took credit for the Paris attacks just as it had for blowing a Russian airliner out of the sky over Egypt on October 31. ISIS also inspired, if it did not carry out directly, a murderous assault on a Radisson Hotel in Mali and numerous other “me-too” acts of carnage from Pakistan and Indonesia to Libya and Nigeria.

On June 10, 2014, ISIS seized the city of Mosul in Iraq and announced to the world the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate. The first Caliphate was established in the year 632 in the Arabian peninsula and was led by a series of “rightly guided” caliphs following the death of the prophet Muhammad. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, has named himself the new caliph. He has called on all Muslims to pledge allegiance to him and to support his building of a transnational Islamic empire, the success of which will usher in the end of the world.

Elected to bring to an end America’s military involvement in the Middle East, President Obama has found himself reluctantly drawn deeper and deeper into a shooting war with an enemy more virulent than anything faced by his predecessor. Only 23 percent of the American people think the president has anything like a clear plan to deal with ISIS—the putative “JV team”—and 83 percent fear imminent attacks on American soil. Lacking coherence and still seeking a viable strategy, the president has become petulant, blaming growing concerns about ISIS on the press, his political opponents, and mistakes made by his predecessor. Add to this the recent news that intelligence analysts were pressured by the Obama administration to play down the success of ISIS in order to support a more benign narrative. One thing is certain: If George W. Bush exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and the non-existent WMD, Barack Obama has greatly underestimated and misunderstood the dangers posed by ISIS. Obama has called it a “terrorist organization, pure and simple,” which “we will degrade and ultimately destroy.” But such a threat seems vacuous in the face of a sputtering incoherence that pleases no one. Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Monday, November 30, 2015
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The Dean Recommends: The New Dignity - Gnostic, Elitist, Self-Destructive Will-to-Power

By Roberta Green Ahmanson 
November 24, 2015

Planned Parenthood executives bargain to sell aborted body parts, Bruce Jenner strikes a pose across the cover of Vanity Fair, Justice Anthony Kennedy spews purple prose in Obergefell, and California Governor Jerry Brown signs a law allowing doctors to kill.

All in the name of dignity.

Underlying all of these events is a rapid and radical transformation in our culture’s understanding of what it means to be human, and, in particular, what it means to have dignity. Dignity apparently justifies abortion, transgenderism, the redefinition of marriage, and physician-assisted suicide.

But what exactly constitutes this New Dignity? The work of George Kateb, professor emeritus at Princeton, provides a clue. In a book titled Human Dignity, Kateb writes: “Since nature has no telos, the human species is at its greatest when it breaks out of nature.” Human dignity is grounded, according to Kateb, in our ability to defy nature—to go beyond natural limitations and thereby create ourselves anew. Kateb agrees with Sartre: the freedom to “become different through an upsurge of free creativity,” which “can never be conclusively defined or delimited,” is “the philosophical anthropology that underlies human dignity.” This is the meaning of human dignity in a world with no clear origin, no purposeful end, no intrinsic meaning, and nothing real beyond matter in motion.

The New Dignity demands new positive freedoms, freedoms to—to remake our gender, to marry someone without regard to sex or the procreative potential of the union, to choose our time to die and enlist the medical profession in ending our lives, to not only abort a child developing in the womb but also to harvest his or her body parts for commercial gain. It also calls for new negative freedom, freedoms from—from all unwanted pain or discomfort, from limitations on what I can do to or with my body, from language or ideas that offend me or that challenge decisions I have made.

Dignity is no longer so much about who or what we are; it is about what our unfettered will can do, and what it can forbid others to do. Read the rest at Public Discourse.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Tuesday, November 24, 2015
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