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Coming out of Cardinal Pell's shadow


George Pell speaking, hand raised for emphasisWhen it was announced in 2001 that Melbourne Archbishop George Pell was to be made Archbishop of Sydney, the incumbent, Cardinal Edward Clancy, said Pell was 'a controversial figure, and controversial figures generally create a few enemies as well as friends along the way'.

Pell's latest promotion, to head an important new office in Rome with authority over all financial matters within the Vatican, is proof of the powerful friends he has made. Pell's appointment as Cardinal Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy was approved by Pope Francis — the third pontiff to have demonstrated extraordinary confidence in Pell's abilities since he was made Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne at the comparatively young age of 46 years in 1987.

As for enemies, it is not hard to compile a list of those who will be glad to see Pell go. It would include most liberal Catholics, many priests who have served under him (one of whom once described him as 'a memory of all those silly stereotypes of authority that used to haunt us as children'), and many of his fellow bishops, who saw him as too eager to please Rome and too prone to do his own thing without acting in concert with them.

Aside from a few extremely conservative Catholic groups that he has favoured, one group that is likely to regret Pell's departure are those journalists and commentators for whom he has loomed large as a figure of ridicule, especially over the issue of clerical sexual abuse. The reason for this has nothing to do with any proven remiss on Pell's part and everything to do with what attracts media attention to him.

By any standards, Pell is the kind of tall poppy people in the media love to cut down. He is the highest profile leader of any church in Australia. He is not shy of media attention. He never takes a step backwards in defending traditional Church teachings and legitimate Church interests. And, publicly at least, he stands his ground in the kind of imperious way that easily invites the charge that he is out of touch, arrogant, and a bully.

Yet Pell has not actually achieved much in terms of his ambition to restore unity to the Church and restore the confidence of 'rattled' Catholics. His star has risen in an age when Australian Catholics ceased to be a tightly-knit community of largely Irish working-class migrants and their offspring dependent on Church resources such as schools to climb the social ladder; when weekly Mass attendance collapsed to around 12 per cent of the nominal faithful; when Church appeals to authority attract derision where they are not entirely ignored. These are not circumstances in which anyone, much less Pell, was likely to turn things around.

As for Sydney, prior to Pell it had a reputation for a pragmatic approach to Catholicism befitting the nation's oldest, largest and most diverse city. This expressed itself in a degree of tolerance for the innovations of its clergy, for a benign acknowledgement (in practical terms if not official pronouncements) that homosexuals are part of the fabric of the city's Catholic community, and in a lack of enthusiasm for the old Catholic tribal displays of more sectarian times. Much has changed in 13 years and it is unlikely this approach can be retrieved.

In this sense, Pell's departure is unlikely to make too much immediate difference to the complexion of the Church in Australia. Out of his shadow, other bishops individually — and collectively — may breathe a little easier, may feel a little less pressured to toe Rome's line, may show a greater unity in managing the Church's affairs nationally than they have done for almost 20 years.

But let's not forget that key members of the hierarchy are former Pell offsiders — among them Archbishop Dennis Hart of Melbourne, Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart, Bishop Anthony Fisher of Parramatta — and that even if Pope Francis is more inclined than his predecessors to take the advice of the local hierarchy in selecting Pell's replacement, the ranks of the available talent from which to choose him are limited. Pell may soon be gone but his impact on the Church in Australia is likely to linger.

Chris McGillion headshotChris McGillion is a former religious affairs editor for the Sydney Morning Herald and has written several books on US foreign policy and religious sociology. He is a senior lecturer in journalism at Charles Sturt University and co-author of the forthcoming book Reckoning: The Catholic Church and Child Sexual Abuse.

Topic tags: Chris McGillion, George Pell, Vatican Bank, Pope Francis



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Existing comments

I think Cardinal Pell has found his niche, dealing with cold and calulating finances. So long as he doesn't interfere with other issues pertaining to Australia as in the importance of fathers providing they are clerics.

Lynne Newington | 25 February 2014  

Forget the McGillion predictables! I know from experience His Eminence IS a highly pastoral priest who visited me in hospital and oft in rehab,listening patiently to my tales of woe after haemoplaegic stroke and laterbowel cancer,even bringing Caedinal Ouillet[prefect of Cong of Bishops to meet me and be regaled with my near death experiences Cdl Pell is not just Pastoral but has revived our seminary,enhanced intellectual life with ND University

Father John George | 25 February 2014  

"And, publicly at least, he stands his ground in the kind of imperious way that easily invites the charge that he is out of touch, arrogant, and a bully." See if you think the wording of this sentence needs changing after reading Foster, Chrissie. 2010. Hell on the Way to Heaven. Sydney. Bantam. pp157-163. Here's a little section: "Anthony was pleading again but also demanding: 'This will go on forever. Now will the Church come to the aid of Emma?' 'I don't know,' the archbishop muttered. 'You don't know? Almost all the emotional problems Emma will have for the rest of her life will stem from this,' said Anthony. I was anxious, feeling almost claustrophobic, but couldn't work out why. I wriggled again in my seat. Archbishop Pell, like a tradesman who comes to fix a leaky roof, arrived at that meeting with a handful of trusted verbal tools. He used phrases such as: 'I hope that you can prove what you are saying in court. . .' and'. . . take your evidence to court'. He used them to attack, deflect and interrupt. Meanwhile, we tried to defend the innocence of our daughter. The archbishop's tools were very effective, for they eventually exhausted Anthony. The man of the Church was used to confrontation and we were not. Truth and justice were what we wanted from him, but did his views of right and wrong match our moral standards? We felt like we'd been hit on the head and bullied into submission. The archbishop's threatening words ended all avenues of conversation. I believe this was his aim." Does he merely 'invite the charge' or is this really the kind of man he is? And what sort of 'manhood' is this anyway?

Ed | 26 February 2014  

Pell has been a loyal son of the church and done his best in difficult circumstances. I think to keep going in times like these is actually an extraordinary achievement. He has a tone of low key pragmatism and simple common sense telling it as it is, which could be emulated by others to help them survive this period of virulent attack on the church.

Skye | 26 February 2014  

Its sad to see Cardinal Pell being the subject of a hate - fest on the nominally-Catholic Eureka Street website. Hopefully in the coming week and months there might be some more measured and thoughtful reflections on Cardinal Pell's contribution of the life of the Catholic Church in Australia.

Michael T. | 26 February 2014  

I agree with Fr John George. I have known George Pell for well over thirty years, and seeing his commitment from caring for AIDS patients to the Homeless makes me privy to a side of this man and Priest who gives a lot more to the people of the Church and our Community than the Press admits or cares to see. One only has to read his weekly homilies to assess the true man. I admire him.

Richard Divall | 26 February 2014  

One take on the situation. I think that sometimes one gets a better perspective from a distance: http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2014/02/25/financial-reform-shows-crafty-political-side-pope/PeipxfhuftqKNvUIGO7mKK/story.html

Terry | 26 February 2014  

Farewell to a man of many talents. Chris

Chris | 26 February 2014  

Skye, you are being ironic, aren't you? "Simple common touch" - wonderful! As is the image of all those victims of clergy abuse making a "virulent attack on the church". A "loyal son of the church", indeed. If ever a man left the church in a better state than he found it...

Frank Golding | 26 February 2014  

Francis (aged 77) appoints George (aged 72). What are most men of sound mind doing at this stage in their lives? What does it say to the laity about our church? Look at the recent appointments of 19 new cardinals! Most news reports from around the world wrote: "Sixteen of the new appointees are under 80." As if this is "Good News"!!! I might add that five appointees are Italian! Bottom line: Cronyism is alive and well in the Holy See and George (God Bless his cotton socks!) is one rung closer to his Holy Grail.

Andrew | 26 February 2014  

Whoa! McGillion didn't express a personal view of Pell record in this article. He was surveying reaction to the cardinal's new posting. There wasn't really much room to assess Pell's achievements, but he did report what others think. It's absurd to deny his grounds for doing so.

Clodius | 26 February 2014  

Cardinal Pell may have some who disagree with him but he is a man whose belief does not waver in the face of much controversy. He is steadfast. The article states the media like to lop tall poppies - and this article is a balanced effort at the same. There is an undercurrent of highlighting the headlines and ignoring the man whose priestly ministry is of high concern for all individuals. Hard to please everyone I guess but all the best to Cardinal Pell and to his replacement who will then be a target for a media who like to bash the Catholic Church at every turn while never admitting to the good that it has achieved. I love the Church - with all its faults and failings - it is my way to the God who has made me. I often feel that the Church I love is now on its very own Calvary

Jackie | 26 February 2014  

Claudius the article's gratuitous outbursts and grim hypotheticals are no substitute for scientific surveys bereft of prejudicial variables. After all,his is 'Eureka Street' not 'Back Alley Whispers' http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/files/2013/02/gossip.jpg

Father John George | 26 February 2014  

Chris McGillion mentions the possibility that ("even if . . . ") Pope Francis be more inclined than his predecessors to take "the advice of the local hierarchy in selecting Pell's replacement". That is not sufficient. The traditions of the Church demand that the people of the Church, the faithful, be involved in the selection of their bishop. Pope Francis in an interview last year supported consultation, not “token consultations, but real consultations" and the selection of bishops to reflect the Vatican II emphasis on collegiality, co-responsibility, and dialogue. Pope Francis also wants bishops who will be "pastors, close to the people, fathers and brothers, with great gentleness, patient, and merciful...not having the psychology of princes", and ‘able to support the movements of God among their people.’ The selection and appointment of a new Archbishop of Sydney presents a valuable opportunity for the people of the Church in Sydney to think carefully about the qualities they want in a new pastor, and to claim a rightful role in the selection process. This is critically important at a time when the Church is facing a crisis of governance and dwindling attendances. Catholics for Renewal (http://www.catholicsforrenewal.org ) has encouraged the Apostolic Nuncio in Australia, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, to consult closely with the people of the archdiocese in identifying outstanding candidates for the Pope’s consideration.

Peter Johnstone | 26 February 2014  

Pell treated the sex abuse victims of the church appallingly. He was unchristian in his attitude and rightly criticised by the Victorian Parliamentary Committee.

Angela | 26 February 2014  

Cardinal Pell displayed many fine qualities, such as Father George points out, pastoral care for fellow clergy. However to be true virtue, the same concern needed to extend also to abused parishioners. Cardinal Pell also had the courage of his convictions, which is a virtue only when the convictions are not restricted by out-dated traditions. Many of Cardinal Pell's convictions belong to mind set of the Church of the 19th Century, and some even back as far as the Council of Trent, which anathematised anyone who does not "confess" that we are all descended from Adam and Eve.

Robert Liddy | 26 February 2014  

Unfortunately my comment shoud have read......the importance of fathers providing they aren't clerics..... I'm sure someone would've picked that up after Chris's book Our Fathers.......

Lynne Newington | 26 February 2014  

I'd have to be one of the dislikers. The 'Big George' hearing and Judge Southwell's deliberations, Pell's determination to take the humanity out of Catholic funerals (no mementoes, etc) but most of all the disgrace surrounding the child abuse handling (no credit on previous popes either) have hardened my opinion of him. Also he was extremely boring on Q & A discussing the existence of god with Richard Dawkins. Book a return ticket though as you will be required at the Royal Commission.

Joe Logan | 26 February 2014  

One oblique comment. Me-thinks that the state, composition, sources and uses of the Vatican's finances and especially of its bank or banks is a toxic can of worms. The details of which will never ever be aired in public.

Frederick | 26 February 2014  

When Archbishop George Pell was appointed to be the new Archbishop of Sydney Archdiocese in March 2001, St Mary's Cathedral was full and it was a beautiful ceremony, except outside the Cathedral an army of homosexuals were yelling and making a nuisance of themselves. So, I understand that Pell's enemy are furious to hear that Cardinal Pell has been appointed to a high position in the Vatican. Together with Catholics that I mix with, we have the greatest respect, admiration and love for Cardinal George Pell. AMDG

Ron Cini | 26 February 2014  

Kristina Keneally has said it best: "Cardinal Pell is a gift the Australian Catholic Church is happy to give our new Pope."

Russell | 26 February 2014  

Mr Logan,as a former chaplain to Rookwood cemetery for 5 years . I have sat through myriad 'human' eulogies that turned into ad hoc canonisations despite some well known 'heroic vices' of deceased [truly they were getting way out of hand] Thank you your Eminence! [traditionally canonisations take centuries of scrutiny and examination plus miracles-all light on the ground at Rookwood!!] Still nothing competed with presiding at the burial of a bikie, with heavy metal blaring from car directly behind me during obsequies.

Father John George | 26 February 2014  

McGillion's deeply unpleasant attack on Cardinal Pell is disgraceful enough. That you have published it, Eureka Street, is surprising to me and does you little credit. T!!he malice and deep seated prejudice displayed in this article is clear to any fair minded reader. Shame!

Father John Fleming | 26 February 2014  

Did you say "promotion" for Cardinal George Pell? I have to smile at that one! Just to let your readers' know that the catholic bureaucracy has a long history in this exercise of "demotion through promotion!" As a student for four years in Rome and the Vatican (1964 - 1968) I remember seeing and hearing about the cardinals and arch-bishops "elevated" to live in close quarters at the Vatican! Most were there for disciplinary reasons - "praying for the intentions of the Holy Father" often given elaborate titles - but historically, most would be judged guilty of various offences that ultimately had led to their Vatican "promotion!" Given the scandals embroiling the Catholic Church in Australia and the many instances of poor judgment in Cardinal Pell's tenure as the Archbishop of Sydney, one should not be surprised at his "elevation to ecclesial greatness" within the Vatican bureaucracy. Time will tell whether this is a genuine meritorious promotion, or a Vatican obfuscation. I'm betting on the second.

Yuri Koszarycz | 26 February 2014  

I wish Cardinal Pell all the best in his new job. I hope that his successor will show the compassion and pastoral care that was seldom shown publicly to his flock.

Cathyroe | 26 February 2014  

You made this statement in your article Chris: "Aside from a few extremely conservative Catholic groups that he has favoured, one group that is likely to regret Pell's departure are those journalists and commentators for whom he has loomed large as a figure of ridicule, especially over the issue of clerical sexual abuse. " I must say I think this trivialises the man and the issues. Tess Livingstone's article in the Australian today "Our Man in the Vatican" (Commentary p9) gives a good account of his achievements including important ones in the fields of education and church renewal. Certainly his approach to victims of paedophilia in the Church left a lot to be desired and is, sadly, probably indicative of a past age where those in authority anywhere - not just the Church - seemed almost constitutionally incapable of believing this could happen. Like anyone Pell has his flaws as well as his virtues. His new appointment in Rome will cater to his abilities and strengths and not need the gentler human touch with victims of paedophilia which someone like Bill Morris, former Archbishop of Toowoomba, had. The Church desperately needs both sorts of men.

Edward F | 26 February 2014  

Seems to me a win-win for all concerned. A multi-faceted, bigger than life individual without doubt; a Cardinal Cameleon perhaps? I truly wish him and the Church well.

Eugene | 26 February 2014  

The contributions to Chris McGillon's article reveal Pell's divisive role in the church but it is not his history on these matters that his appointment should be assessed. He has been appointed to 'Cardinal Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy' not for doctrinal matters. His appointment to this position by some one outside the Vatican Curia is important. Because it has been dominated by a clique that led to the Vatican Bank being dominated by rogue elements that included elements of the mafia. This history has been well documented. The last pope to attempt this reform was John Paul 1 whose reign was cut short in controversial circumstances . A recent Italian newspaper pointed out that the Calabrian mafia has money in the Vatican bank and warned Pope Francis he could be targeted. It is this that should occupy the appointment of Pell by Pope Francis, not his divisive record,

Reg Wilding | 26 February 2014  

Can the laity have any say in Cardinal Pell's successor? How about the Bishop of Brisbane, or is a lay opinion the death knell for the candidate/

Ann Long | 26 February 2014  

Well, Angela, I have read the transcripts and final report of the Victorian inquiry and I'm appalled. There is no understanding of the Church, even from those who were brought up Catholic, and the questions along the lines of 'when did you stop beating your wife?' shocked me. The abuse of any child is terrible, but the revelation that Catholic clergy, religious and prelates are implicated does not justify the sort of treatment meted out to Pell. The committee of the Vic. Parlt. just refused to believe Pell or any other witnesses who denied that there was a culture of abuse and cover up. I can't wait to read McGillion's book on this. We don't have the full story on Pell, but to claim he treated abuse victims badly is a calumny until we do.

Clodius | 26 February 2014  

Father Fleming, you jump like others to the conclusion that McGillion is hostile to Pell. I didn't read his article in that light. McGillion is a very experienced journalist and author of one of a great book on priests - a great antidote to the image presented in the popular media - and I've read nothing of his which attacks Pell. Don't shoot the messenger.

Clodius | 26 February 2014  

One has to expect claims of shame, by John Fleming, he and Cardinal Pell go back a long way...

Lynne Newington | 26 February 2014  

Kristina Keneally's article on Pell in the Fairfax media was, well to speak plainly, awful. He didn't appreciate her sense of humour. Oh dear! He will be better with the Vatican Bank (an institution notably excluded from the announcement of his elevation) than with people? Once Keneally was on a roll, she just kept going. Error piled on personal animus. I wouldn't mention her article in the same breath as McGillion's thoughtful, albeit brief, piece.

Clodius | 26 February 2014  

But Richard, there's another side to him too as many have experienced. As far as his treatment to those with Aids.....God forbid considering how his comrades in arms at the Vatican have treated them.....just ask Richard Sipe....and he is "one of the boys" and a man of many seasons.

Lynne Newington | 26 February 2014  

Well there is an outpouring of Christian love Catholic style he says cynically.

Tony Knight | 26 February 2014  

Aggiornamento! Open the windows quick and get rid of the bad smell ASAP!

Val | 26 February 2014  

Well Chris you certainly brought them out of the woodwork, each barracking for one or other side of a splitting personality. The criteria for greatness are many, varied fascinating and personal depending on the viewpoint.I love Yuri Koszarycz, analysis that the Vatican is skilful with promotion as demotion, or maybe the Pope in all fairness believes Australia needs a break. If Pell was such a good reformer, why didn't he do it in Sydney? From the article and the Boston Globe piece it looks as if Pell is getting the job because he is a tough guy. But criteria I did not see canvassed were, Christlikeness, man of prayer, humble or up to date theologically.

Michael D. Breen | 26 February 2014  

I am sorry that Eureka st. had to lower it's standards , in my opinion,and print Chris McGillion's most un-christian article on Cardinal Pell. Everyone has their . good and bad attributes, but I didn't think Eureka St. was in the business of being so negative.

bernie introna | 26 February 2014  

Is it too much to hope that Francis might find jobs for Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison too? Or is that too big an ask.

Ginger Meggs | 26 February 2014  

I agree with other comments that this could be a win-win situation. Cardinal Pell isn't naturally a man who excels in the essential pastoral aspect of his role as bishop, to put it mildly. However, he is apparently a very skilled and effective administrator, and can be of service to the Church in that role. It's not a promotion, just the right man for the job.

Joan Seymour | 26 February 2014  

Yuri Koszarycz, I agree with you on Cardinal Pell's conduct here but not on the reason for his 'promotion'. Pope Francis and Cardinal Pell are 'in bed together' on both minimisation of insurance costs and exemption from taxation in oligopsonic buying and selling of low quality Catholic education and pastoral care.

Oliver Clark | 26 February 2014  

My appreciation of Cardinal Pell's teaching is informed by my reading of his 9 Non 2011 ABC Religion and Ethics article, "Can our Babel succeed? Questioning the moral dimension of climate change" (http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2011/11/09/3360589.htm), in which Cardinal Pell justified his 'sceptical' stance by enumerating several misrepresentations of science. In my comment, I ask "Moral? ... Moral dimension of climate change? In what way can morality have any bearing or any relevance to what is perfectly straightforward physics?" I then summarise the perfectly straightforward physics that lead unavoidably to current and future climate warming being an inevitable consequence of rapacious and irresponsible resource use: "Historic fossil fuel use and cement production data (Oak Ridge National (US) Laboratory Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center) shows sufficient CO2 emission from 1800 to raise atmospheric CO2 from 280 ppm to 430 ppm. Dissolution of CO2 in oceans has limited atmospheric CO2 to about 390 ppm, and decreased ocean pH." Heat thus accumulates at the surface. Over 90% of retained heat warms oceans, accelerating ice melting (sea level rise) and water evaporation (increasing rain and storms). We can choose to ignore all this. How moral would that be?

David Arthur | 27 February 2014  

Another negative commentary from a negative, agenda biased person, the church will become richer and better with the new appointment

Mark Newman | 27 February 2014  

This article is pleasingly informative, thank you. But I was saddened to read the words: Pell's latest promotion. What would Pope Francis think if he read such words in a Jesuit publication. Are we not all servants of God. Promotion is relevant to the ways of the consumer culture, the market economy and not to the Church.

John Pettit | 27 February 2014  

Bernie, I suggest you read Chris's book, he's no fool and hasn't been hauled over the coals...and as far as any comment of mine is concerned re aids, homosexual inferences and Cardinal Pell...Anglican Archbishop John Hepworth lifted the lid on that from experiences he endured in the seminary, as with Richard Sipe and those he supported whether we like it or not.

Lynne Newington | 27 February 2014  

#Until Caedinal Pell, no hierarch ever invited me to tea and bikkies, rather my public traditional stands on faith and morals attracted "leper treatment" aka 'persona non grata #'[NB.the biscuits were very ordinary not monte carlo standard, but the gesture was breathtaking for a papist priest in the trenches and boondoks before felled by stroke and cancer-both now beaten!

Father John George | 27 February 2014  

Lynne Newington. I attended pre and postconciliar seminaries. There was never a suggestion of gay or lavender activity-tragically one from all those seminarians in later years was a notorious alleged pedophile[now deceased] -never a hint of it in seminary of course,in fact a pleasant and likeable fellow-most ex seminarians married and are grandpas! Forget Sipe and his guerrilla research, [extrapolating generalisations from case studies,then projected on usa priests; versus scientific research of across the board 45000 USA priests!]

Father John George | 27 February 2014  

You must have been one of the 90% who tried to remain chaste. Good for you. You say: versus scientific research of across the board 45000 USA priests!] And what research would that be, pray tell? Would love to read it. What? There isn't any? Oh, the figures / cases are there all right; just got to find them. Oh for a lot more transparency.

Stephen | 27 February 2014  

Fr JG, you may have slipped through the cracks, or not a preference fortunately for you. But my arguement is, Cardinal Pell should have been out there marching side by side with guys of this orientation when seeking their rights considering those who were introduced to the lifestyle under the church umbrella in seminaries. Remember how he hypocritically refused them Communion? Now he's quietly serving them or likewise who are suffering, that's not character it's guilty conscience.

Lynne Newington | 27 February 2014  

Well, I can't fault Pope Francis. He is a 'true blue' follower of Christ, imho. There might well be a very good reason for +Pell to count money for the Vatican, especially as Pope Francis will soon travel to the troubled middle east. Best imo to have +Pell well and truly away from those Australians who want to live and breath Vatican 11.

Marie | 27 February 2014  

What a scurrilous attack from the liberalist clique that makes up the Jesuits. Pell has stood up to them, and the other neo-agnostic groups that claim to be Catholic, yet bag the Church’s teaching and the institution at every opportunity, a.k.a Frank Brennan. This is clearly not a Catholic publication, just as the Jesuits are no longer a faithful Catholic order. The sooner they both shut-up shop and ship-out better. The damage the Jesuits have done to young Catholics souls at institutions like Xavier and Newman College is enormous, with very few young practicing Catholics leaving these Jesuit run facilities. Yet these men have never been held to account for the damage they have done to so many immortal souls. So they attack Pell, who has been the only senior cleric holding this seriously damaged Post Vatican II church together. Brennan and Co, and their scurrilous magazine Eureka Street should go start their own cult and stop claiming to be Catholic Priests, and speaking for the Catholic Church.

Paul Hickey | 27 February 2014  

A masterful move that creates real opportunity. If I had a hand in choosing the next Archbishop of Sydney I would choose a Jesuit. One who really strikes me as fitting the role is a previous Australian Provincial Free Mark Raper. He is someone who is past pastoral and a competent administrator. And in relation to sexual abuse his 7.30 report interview with Terry OBrian many years ago was a game changer. Maybe too much to hope for. Who though would have thought that a man Like Francis would become Pope.

john | 27 February 2014  

The dialogue here is really dealing with the big picture of existential crisis that we all go through personally at some stage (if we are conscientious enough) and that the church is going through. Talk of someone being a "good pastoral person" or a good administrator and a bit like dealing with mental health - the good pysch practitioner will ask questions, talk, analyse sympathise - the good administrator will prescribe a pill. The pill works better in the short term and creates an illusion of solution. Good church administration, building, expansion, prosperity is just a pill to quell our existentional anxiety and to shut most of us up when we sense fear and doubt. Paul Hickey would probably prefer us all just to pop a pill and shut up.

AURELIUS | 28 February 2014  

For my opponents now in total dissaray: The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the independent research organization out of Georgetown University,[versus Sipe guerrilla DIY patho research] has been tracking abuse data regarding United States Catholic clergy for several years. CARA issues annual reports through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). According to CARA, here are the numbers of accusations involving a current minor that were even deemed "credible" each year from 2005 to 2011: Year / # of accusations 2012 6 2011 7 2010 8 2009 6 2008 10 2007 4 2006 14 2005 9 Meanwhile, according to government numbers, in the single year of 2010 alone, there were some 63,527 reported cases of child sexual abuse in the United States – an alarming societal problem that has received very little media attention.

Father John George | 28 February 2014  

Great JG. Now how about the figures/scientific data I was asking about - about priests/clergy that become involved with other clergy/seminarians/adults?

Stephen | 28 February 2014  

I would like to nominate Father Michael Whelan as a worthy candidate for Archbishop of Sydney

John Casey | 28 February 2014  

Congratulations Cardinal Pell.. A great c omplimentr to the Church in Australia and to this country as a nation. All of my friends and acquaintances who are critical of His Eminence share a bitter disappointfment that he would not bend or break the rules to suit their lifestyle. Same goes to attitude of writers of critical articles in Eureka Street

Bill Barry | 28 February 2014  

#Mr Stephen you and Ms Newington rest your gung ho allegations upon Sipe whose data has been derived from psycho case studies of his, and absurdly and gratuitously generalised on clergy at large, #Show me any scientific studies that supports his bizarre gratuitous projections on fine dedicated priests in USA and extended on ES by gullible neo-Sipites [just to dump his Eminence] - # I gratuitously reject absolutely what you and Ms Lynne gratuitously project, and unscientifically generalise from Mr Sipe's paid up clergy nut cases! #The 80 year old crank R.S. asserted in his 1995 book that celibacy caused the HOLOCAUST "I cannot forget that the people and forces that generated Nazism and the Holocaust were all products of one Christian culture and the celibate/sexual power system." 'Sex, Priests, And Power: Anatomy Of A Crisis'.(pp. 179-180) R.Sipe #No doubt he blames celibacy for the present ongoing Ukraine/Crimea tragedies

Father John George | 28 February 2014  

The Jesuits are no longer a Catholic Order.....just because they haven't been brought to heel by this new pope who chose to take on the name of Francis of Assisi for expediency than the founder of his own order. Before democracy was restored in his homeland he was alright aligned with the dictaorship of the day, who by the way was financing the church and choosing the bishops.

Lynne Newington | 28 February 2014  

Lynne Newington, thankfully being Catholic is a result of baptism/confirmation/conversion rather than entirely being a result of virtue and free will. God still does have some say in things. Us mere mortals don't control everything, as much as we may like to think we do.

AURELIUS | 01 March 2014  

My prayers go wit the man as he takes on a very difficult task I also pray for his replacement.

john keane | 02 March 2014  

Aurelius, being a Catholic is all you mentioned.....and more. For instance, having a conscience, many losing it by listening to men of God who have lost theirs and allegiance's lay elsewhere. We never hear of the truth setting one free anymore from the pulpits haven't you noticed?

Lynne Newungton | 02 March 2014  

I am young, tertiary educated, and I humbly hope to always be compassionate and tolerant. And - wait for it- I fully support Cardinal George Pell. He has been a great leader who has strived to pass on and live, the Catholic Faith. Catholics in Australia need start doing the same. If politicians like Christina Keneally, or other regular lay Catholics don't like the authority of Peter, or Church teaching on life and fertility, or don't believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, or don't accept the other parts of the Faith, well then don't hide behind the name Catholic Christian- have the guts, leave the Church and join another religion- become a Protestant Christian where you formulate your own religion, where the final rule of faith is one's own interpretation of the Bible (with 7 Books removed). You are free to leave. No one is stopping you! Sincerely, Doug McIntyre

Doug McIntyre | 03 March 2014  

Good one Doug!! NB American King James Version: "So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth".

Father John George | 04 March 2014  

Tony B, one needs to be wary of slipping into Fideism A term applied to various theories that claim that faith is the only or ultimate source of all knowledge of God and spiritual things. The name was originally coined by followers of Kant (1724-1804) and Schleiermacher (1768 -1834), both of whom denied the capacity of reason to know God or the moral law with certainty. Vatican Council I decreed, that man is capable of knowing with certainty, by natural reason, God's existence and the credibility of divine revelation through external signs, and not only through a subjective experience or inspiration

Father John George | 04 March 2014  

F JG, without knowing anything about Vatican 1, and never seeing eye to eye on much, it's only right to publicly concur when I do.

Lynne Newington | 05 March 2014  

I must admit Lynne - I have kept my faith despite the follies of men of the cloth. But I haven't sat in front of a pulpit for quite a while now.

AURELIUS | 05 March 2014  

Rest assured Aurelius, God knows the heart and he would prefer us not to sit there and choke on the overwhelming contradictions.

Lynne Newington | 05 March 2014  

Well as Pell departs for the lofty heights of the Vatican, attention will turn to his successor. It seems that it will boil down to prob two candidates, namely Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Bishop Anthony Fisher. I have to say personally i think Bishop Anthony isn't quite ready for such a role as Archbishop of Sydney. Give him a few more years then i think he'll be spot on for the top job. So i wouldn't be surprised to see Coleridge get it, simply because of his years of Episcopal experience. There is a poss outsider in Denis Hart, but i don't think he'll get it, simply because of his age.

Rob Suttie | 14 March 2014  

Every time I hear the likes of George Pell it reinforces my decision to leave the church after 55 years as a catholic. To continue to belong and support financially this organisation, was for me, to be complicit in the criminal cover-ups of the hierarchy of the church all the way to the vatican - including the last two popes - of the appalling rape and sexual abuse of children worldwide. Pell is only the tip of the iceberg in an organisation that is arrogant, unaccountable to anyone and practices misogyny and homophobia. This organisation will only change if/when Catholics and current Clergy demand accountability, decency, fairness, justice and withdraw their contributions and support. Over to you the largely silent/sleeping "sheep"!

Frederick Prins | 24 March 2014  

Am so glad Cardinal Pell has been sent to Rome so Pope Francis, like a good teacher, can keep a close eye on him.

Annabel | 17 April 2014  

Can we have an article where Cardinal Pell's many achievements are discussed for the sake of balance? God bless Cardinal Pell and thankyou to him for representing God and being His ambassador in very secular Sydney.

Joe | 05 January 2015  

It is arguable as to whether Pell's promotion was due to friends in high places or whether the opportunity was taken to send him away from where he can do most harm.

Many Catholics no longer accept blindly the authority of the clergy, especially those who are autocratic and conservative.

For Pell himself, he feels he has a promotion and he will have many opportunities to wear his beloved princely garments.

It's all good.

Anna | 05 January 2015  

Cardinal Pell’s greatest talent as an administrator has been a huge blessing for the Sydney Archdiocese. Before he left for Rome his strategic movements enabled the Catholic Church to own considerable land in Manly’s Eastern Hill. According to the Manly Daily (March 18, 2014) as well as the International College of Hotel Management — a former seminary ? and St Paul’s Catholic College ? a boys high school ? much of Bower St, College St, Montpelier Place, Cerreti Cres and Fairy Bower Rd is owned by the church and leased long-term to ¬homeowners. Spring Cove at the end of Osborne Rd, which is a harbourside development made up of 17?house-and-land packages, five townhouses and 16 units has contributed millions to the church wealthy status. The genius is evident again in Rome where Cardinal Pell has found billions of dollars that until now had been unaccounted for by the Vatican Bank.

Trish Martin | 07 January 2015  

Well that was a sour grapes article. From people away from Sydney Pell represents a Catholicism that resounds as real.

Mary | 09 January 2015  

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