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

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Lund and the Quest for Christian Unity

By Timothy George
September 19, 2016

Next month, on October 31, the eve of All Saints Day, Pope Francis will visit Lund, Sweden, to participate with Lutheran church leaders in a joint ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation. October 31 is Reformation Day on Protestant church calendars, and this year it will mark the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the Castle Church door at Wittenberg. The Pope’s presence at the prayer service in Lund Cathedral (Domkyrka), a church where Christians have worshiped for more than one thousand years, will be followed by a larger gathering at nearby Malmö. This historic occasion, which will launch a full year of Reformation remembrances, will doubtless be the most talked about ecumenical event of 2016.

But why Lund? Luther was German, not Swedish, and the case might have been made for holding this event in Augsburg, where the Joint Declaration on Justification was unveiled in 1999, or in Erfurt, where the Augustinian friary Luther entered still stands and where Pope Benedict XVI preached in 2011. Even more attention-getting would have been the iconic Wartburg near Eisenach, where Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into German, working furiously for ten weeks in 1522. But Sweden has claims of its own, including the fact that it was one of the first nation-states to adopt the Reformation in the sixteenth century—even though, as in England, there were reasons of state as well as reasons of faith behind this decision. Olaus Petri is called the “Martin Luther of Sweden.” Petri, who became a pastor in Stockholm in 1524, had studied with Luther in Wittenberg, as had his brother Laurentius Petri. Through their work and that of other early reformers, the New Testament was translated into Swedish in 1526, followed by the complete Swedish Bible in 1541.

But more to the point, perhaps, is the fact that the Lutheran World Federation, a global communion of churches in the Lutheran tradition, was founded in Lund in 1947. For the past fifty years, the LWF and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have conducted serious theological discussions, culminating in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1999) and the recent report From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017 (2013). Three notes resound through the liturgy planned for the Lund commemoration: gratitude, repentance, and common witness. All are found in this prayer:

Jesus Christ, Lord of the church, send your Holy Spirit! Illumine our hearts and heal our memories. O Holy Spirit: help us to rejoice in the gifts that have come to the church through the Reformation, prepare us to repent for the dividing walls that we, and our forebears have built, and equip us for common witness and service in the world. Amen. Read the rest at First Things.
Posted by Kristen Padilla at Monday, September 19, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Rock-ribbed vs. Faint-hearted Liberalism

By Francis J. Beckwith
September 1, 2016

I miss liberalism. Real liberalism. Not this namby-pamby, afraid-of-your-own-shadow faint-hearted liberalism. What I miss is the rock-ribbed, truth-seeking, justice-pursuing, rights-defending, I-don’t-agree-with-you-but-I’ll-defend-your-right-to-say-it liberalism. It was the liberalism that defeated Nazism and Communism.

It was your daddy’s liberalism, the sort whose champions would say something like this:

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. (John Stuart Mill, 1859)

Or this:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us. (Justice Robert Jackson, 1943)

Or even this:

But what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition. (Senator Barack Obama, 2006)

Driving this liberalism was true tolerance, not the faux tolerance that is really just the old moralistic intolerance with a better marketing team, anti-religious inclinations, and far more political and bureaucratic power. (Is it a coincidence that the Moral Majority and Media Matters have the same abbreviation, MM? I don’t think so.) Read the rest at The Catholic Thing.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Friday, September 16, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: My Same-Sex Attraction and My Brother’s Disease - On Suffering and Serenity

By Jean C. Lloyd
September 1, 2016

My brother and I are as different as night and day. He has an olive complexion with deep brown eyes, while I have lighter tones and eyes of blue. Whereas I am passionate and can be easily ignitable, he has a calm and even keel to his demeanor that I’ve come to admire. These and countless other differences I could list should come as no surprise because we are not biologically related. My brother was adopted as an infant, and sixteen months later, I was welcomed into the same family.

Our parents were generous and loving, and they provided a stable home for us. We grew up in an idyllic middle-class neighborhood in a 1950s-era two-story house. We walked to our elementary school, memories of which I cherish to this day. While we both had experienced the tragedy of being separated from our birth families, our adoption was a beautiful redemption. My brother and I are forever grateful for the gift of our wonderful mom and dad. But tragedies, no matter how lovingly responded to, can still produce wounds that eventually must be attended to. Both my brother and I were thus wounded from the beginning. As with most other things, we dealt with our wounds very differently. I began asking questions in search of my birth mother as soon as I understood what being adopted meant. These were questions my brother resented and would not himself ask for twenty more years.

My brother was also born with a physical deformity. A surgery performed in early childhood only served to provide painful memories and later complications. Whereas I was physically healthy, my brother always seemed to have health struggles. While this wasn’t “fair,” we didn’t think about it. We simply lived our lives, walking to school together, teasing and fighting with each other, and spending more time in our backyard pool than out of it during the summer. This continued until one summer when I went for an extended stay with relatives, including a sexually predatory uncle. Never to be the same, I returned home and withdrew into my room. I did not laugh with my brother any more, and my strong propensity toward depression began to manifest itself. I was ten. Read the rest at Public Discourse.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Tuesday, September 13, 2016
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