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God and Caesar: Selected Essays on Religion, Politics, and Society Paperback – September 26, 2007
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From the Back Cover
"Cardinal George Pell exemplifies what it means that bishops are ordained, first of all, to teach. His reflections on the Church's witness in modern democracies point us toward a deeper understanding of the gospel of Christ that can also revitalize a politics of principle."-- Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, Editor in Chief, First Things
"God and Caesar delights with its fresh, plain-speaking approach to the role of religion in politics and society. Cardinal Pell wears his immense learning lightly, but every essay in this remarkable collection shows a powerful intellect at work on the question of how we are to order our lives together on our increasingly interdependent, yet conflict-ridden planet."-- Mary Ann Glendon Professor of Law, Harvard University; President, Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences
"In this timely collection of essays Cardinal Pell challenges us to consider anew how Judaeo-Christian values can both inform and enrich free democratic societies. He identifies the enemy as aggressive secularization--with exaggerated emphasis on individual choice in the place of the common good. Beliefs informed by religious inspiration are barely tolerated. Pell speaks prophetically into this void, calling us back to a culture of love and life; a world which insists on the dignity of every person."-- David Alton, Lord Alton of Liverpool
"Cardinal Pell will surprise neither his critics nor his friends with this timely and important collection of essays. His robust and illuminating insights into the nature of responsible Christian freedom will confirm the opposition of the former and the enthusiastic approval of the latter. Thoughtfully conscious of the importance of custom and tradition in the Burkean `liberal descent,' he joins hands with Acton in believing that Catholicism is profoundly liberal rather than clerical and obscurantist and, most importantly, that it has nothing to fear from history or from politics."-- Claudio Veliz, Emeritus University Professor and Professor of History, Boston University
About the Author
Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, holds degrees in theology from the Urban University in Rome and a doctorate in church history from the University of Oxford in England. His previous publications include Be Not Afraid, Catholicism and the Architecture of Freedom, and Issues of Faith and Morals. Since 2001 he has written weekly for Sydney's Sunday Telegraph. M. A. Casey is permanent fellow in sociology and politics at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family in Melbourne, Australia, and private secretary to Cardinal Pell. He is the author of Meaninglessness: The Solutions of Nietzsche, Freud and Rorty.
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To use the good Cardinal’s own words, “The first five essays attempt to identity the Christian contributions to democratic life, those that are unrecognized as well as those that are identify, encouraged or resisted. “ He does so superbly. These essays are among the best I’ve read on the subject and alone would more than merit the book purchase. They’re accessible enough to recommend for Catholics taking an interest in the relationship of Church and State – I would highly recommend these to such Catholics – but they are rich enough to merit revisiting.
Cardinal Pell’s special contribution in these writings is to help redefine some of the terminology that’s been confused as it’s thrown around in national discussions of Catholic social teaching, as well as make important distinctions and fresh proposals about how the philosophy can work itself out in public policy. He really does an excellent job to bring the conversation back to the Magisterium’s foundation. This portion of the book would easily merit five out of five stars.
“The last five chapters outline something of the relationship between Christian truth and values in different areas of Western life.” In these essays Pell encourages Catholics to be not afraid of the public dialogue on ethics, science and God. Catholics have and should continue to make fruitful contributions in the marketplace of ideas and his outlines for the conversation should embolden the reader.
Though this doesn’t reach the status of classic, I’m confident those that read it will profit immensely and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to any and all Catholics…even any and all Christians.
The chapter on "God, Evolution, & Consilience" is an example. Pell acknowledges evolution as fact, and counters with the statement that "God ... is an answer to the question `why is there a universe?' ". Hence there is no conflict between evolution and religion and "God is not a scientific hypothesis that might rival evolution". This position is far removed from the biblical beliefs of many Christians (and all Muslims). It introduces newish questions and predicates a God which is very different from the personal creator relied on for the past two thousand years by Christian religions. Pell does not address the latter issues.
In 2008 many millions of Australian taxpayers dollars were donated to World Youth Day in Sydney. WYD was a week long Catholic Church event which included a visit by Pope Benedict XVI. The constitution of the Australia which is George Cardinal Pell's domain does not mandate separation of Church and State (as in the USA). Consequently, non religious persons, including a significant percentage of the population who actively disagree with organized religion of all types, are forced to pay taxes to support WYD, religious indoctrination of children and forego income tax on companies owned by religious entities as well as property taxes on vast real estate holdings. The scale of these abuses is enormous and the Catholic Church sets the pace. Hence it is ironic in the extreme that Pell's book is titled "God and Caesar". My impression is that one reason for publishing this volume in 2007 was to subtly reinforce the justification for this financial scam. For example, the first five chapters (eg. Law and Morality, Church and Politics, Catholicism and Democracy) are really just skilful special pleading to reinforce the status quo. In Australia there is much rendering to God national wealth that belongs to Caesar.
In conclusion: only for believers.