I always tried to give Cardinal George Pell the benefit of the doubt, which is why it is so disappointing to find out that the Australian prelate, who died Jan. 10, was the author of a memorandum attacking Pope Francis.
The memo, published on a Vatican blog last March under the pseudonym “Demos,” was circulated to members of the College of Cardinals in anticipation of the next conclave. After the cardinal’s death it was revealed as Pell’s work by the Italian journalist Sandro Magister.
Pell first came on my radar screen when Francis put him in charge of Vatican finances. My friends Down Under, where he had been archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, were happy to see him go to Rome because he had been more pugnacious than pastoral. A former Australian rules football player, he was always ready for a brawl with anyone who opposed him.
Although these are not the qualities you look for in a bishop, they were exactly the qualities needed for someone reforming Vatican finances. The pope needed someone who would not be intimidated by high-ranking clerics with fancy titles, someone willing to take on an entrenched bureaucracy.
I thought the appointment was brilliant. It got him out of Sydney and put him where his talents fit the job. I did not care about his theological views as long as he rooted out corruption and inefficiency in the Vatican.
Pell was attacked by insiders for not understanding the culture of the Vatican, for not understanding how things work. But Pell did not come to Rome to make friends. He came to upset the status quo, and I cheered him on.
When he was accused of abusing an altar boy, I neither condemned him nor defended him. I was willing to let the Australian justice system do its job. Australia’s highest court eventually ruled in his favor.
Pell did not hide the fact that he was a doctrinal conservative who opposed modifications that made the church more pastorally sensitive to people in complex situations, such as LGBTQ and divorced Catholics. Since Francis had urged members of the synod of bishops to speak boldly and not be afraid of disagreeing with him, I cannot criticize Pell for speaking his mind.
But in authoring an anonymous memorandum attacking Francis, Pell crossed a line….
Compare this memo to the writings of Cardinal Walter Kasper and Archbishop John Quinn. Both of those prelates were known to have disagreements with Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but they wrote in a fraternal and scholarly tone that respected the papal office. Pell, on the other hand, joined Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò in mudslinging. What a disgrace….
Full story by Father Thomas Reese at Religion News Service.
We don’t know Cardinal Pell was the author. Regardless, the author of the memo was defending Catholic orthodoxy, which is more than can be said for America magazine under Reese’s tenure as editor: Reese promoted heterodoxy then and still does now. It is Fr. Reese who is the disgrace. Jesuit, by the way. No wonder.
Fr. Reese, a Jesuit, has led a life of lies and dishonesty to the Catholic Faith! Cdl. Pell was honest about his Catholic Faith. We will never know for sure, the author of that memo– but it was very truthful, and well-written. If the author was Cdl. Pell, that’s fine. We do not know the history surrounding the “Demos” signature. There may be some things we do not know. “Demos” may be a code name, a nickname, or a shorthand for something in the Vatican office, or even part of an office joke that we don’t know of. No problem. For me, this memo, if written by Pell, is just fine. I know he had the best intentions.
I like that you took the spotlight off the authorship and looked at the memo. I disagree with you that it was truthful. My take on “Demos” is that is was one letter away from ‘demon”.
If I had read it without any context, I would have thought it was someone making fun of people like the blogger who posted it or the other Internet Catholics who play that kind of stuff up.
You didn’t get it. The Vatican of today needs a purge of corruption and those who are dishonest about the Catholic Faith. Either you stand with Christ and His religion– or you don’t. Be honest.
I stand with Christ and His Church, the entire faith including the virtues.
I wish whoever wrote the memo had been truthful instead of snarky. I wish whoever wrote the memo had followed the teaching of the Lord as shown in Scripture, Tradition and the Apostolic Fathers and the teachings of the Saints.
Aren’t you the same person who was on another comment board idealizing Muslims?
Again–the Vatican needs to be purged of corruption and sin. That is just common sense. Don’t expect clerics in charge to be “sweet as sugar” about sin and corruption. You have to be realistic, manly, strong, and courageous– like Christ, rebuking the Pharisees, and taking a big whip and driving the money-changers out of the Temple. Christ was the Son of God, not a babyish, modern liberal-lefty, afraid to call a spade a spade. He never avoided conflict. He always fearlessly told the Truth. So did St. John the Baptist. For our own good– we all must hear the Truth. All glory be to God.
By not taking responsibility for the memo, Pell for the first time in his life showed himself a coward. He was not willing to publicly stand behind his words. This was totally against character for a man who never avoided a fight. What a disappointment.
Second, Pell seemed to have forgotten that Francis was the one who called him to Rome to be part of his team. Francis encouraged open discussion and debate but expected his team to support his decisions.
It is one thing to argue with the pope behind closed doors; it is another thing to stab him in the back. In his memo, Pell refers to the Francis papacy as a “disaster” and a “catastrophe.” You don’t do that to your boss, especially when he had stood by you when you were indicted. Shame.
Third, Pell forgot that he was a bishop, not an op-ed writer. His memorandum is a diatribe of indictments, not a reasoned argument.
One lefty journalist’s accusation after Pell is dead does not reality make. It was in fact the pope who after assigning him to a dirty job did not have the courage to support him when grifter prelates started complaining about the good old fashion Anglo-Saxon transparency that Pell was insisting on. Bad form on the part of His holiness
Please, people, some charity is called for as well as prudent withholding of judgment. You do not have evidence to back up your assertions. The lack of respect for Pope Francis is appalling.
” You do not have evidence to back up your assertions. ” jon, I assume you have directed this at Fr. Wliliam Kernan. So I have to ask, how do you know this priest lacks the requisite evidence? Did you cross examine him beforehand? If F. Kernan is correct in his assessment, I would say he has pulled his punches by merely stating “bad form.”
Just for the record: I did not write the comment above from “ion.” There may be fakes out there pretending to be the real me. Don’t be fooled. The real me can never be replicated. Just beware. I do not intend to comment on this article. I choose which articles to comment on, and which commentators to correct or praise (which has been few, which is to be expected from this lot). Carry on folks.
During the papacies of John Paul and Benedict, conservatives accused anyone who disagreed with them of being heretics or of being “cafeteria Catholics,” who picked and chose which teachings they would accept. Many of these conservatives were themselves cafeteria Catholics, for that matter, because they ignored John Paul’s and Benedict’s teaching on economic justice, peace and the environment. Their hypocrisy became even more evident with their rejection of Francis.
In a Sept. 27, 2021, column, I offered five rules for disagreeing with the pope. They are worth repeating:
First, be respectful.
Second, if you disagree with a pope, be sure to emphasize the positive things that he has done.
Third, describe the pope’s position accurately and completely; do not create a straw man that can be easily knocked down.
Fourth, never speak or write when you are emotionally upset.
Fifth, ask yourself, would you speak this way to a parent or someone you love?
Our internal church discussions should follow the same rules as our ecumenical dialogue: Disagreements should lead to fuller knowledge and improvements and ultimately consensus.
That way, as the old song goes, “They will know that we are Christians by our love,” rather than knowing we are Catholics by our fights.
Does your list count for progressives as well? You only mention ‘conservatives’.
It is Father Reese’s list and of course, it would apply to anyone.
In the last paragraph of this edit, he compares it to those who, in my opinion, wrongly criticized Pope John Paul II. and Pope Benedict XVI.
Compare this memo to the writings of Cardinal Walter Kasper and Archbishop John Quinn. Both of those prelates were known to have disagreements with Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but they wrote in a fraternal and scholarly tone that respected the papal office. Pell, on the other hand, joined Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò in mudslinging. What a disgrace.
Christ was always very manly, courageous, and straightforward about the Truth. So was His cousin, St. John the Baptist. That is why they both were killed. The Truth is hated by many. You have to be strong, stand by Christ, say the truth, abd love God– not the world, and the sinful world’s false “approvals” of you.
This is part of the above article that this website chose to omit.
So, IF Cardinal Pell was critical of Pope Francis in a letter circulated only to bishops and anonymously, the Cardinal was wrong and a mudslinger. Yet, this is coming from a celebrity/media priest who publicly criticized Pope Benedict and said that he forgave him and hoped others could too. Is there not a clear double-standard, if not hypocrisy, in that?
Thank you for saying that IF and for saying it was wrong.
I am truly sorry that memo is now Cardinal Pell’s legacy.
If he did not write it, it is unjust.
First Reese took pot shots at Pope Benedict XVI. Now he’s speaking ill of the dead regarding Cardinal Pell.
You know who you can thank for that.
The rot calling the mettle black.
Well done, sir: worthy of Evelyn Waugh.
“The Plot” would have worked too. 😊 Cheers.
Why do Jesuits like Reese and James Martin have such a problem with Catholic orthodoxy? I mean, now James Martin is promoting St. Sebastian as a gay icon. These men obviously have deep-seated issues with Catholicism and with God that they need to resolve in private with a spiritual director. They should not have the public forums that they do because they are misleading many Catholics and encouraging sin. This website has the series “Churches worth driving to”. Maybe it should start a series titled “Catholics not worth paying any attention to”.
So Fr. Reese thinks the Demos memo was authentically written by Pell? Does Fr. Reese think that Hunter Biden’s laptop is authentic? The authorship of the Demos memo is hearsay. Hunter’s laptop is fact.
“By not taking responsibility for the memo, Pell for the first time in his life showed himself a coward.” I for one do not know what strategy C. Pell was exercising as “Demos.” In his judgment he may have considered anonymity the best option perhaps so as not to overplay his hand. Whatever the reason which anyway is unknown to me, I cannot label him a coward, nor, contra the anonymous clergyman, a mudslinger, since in the memo I see no defamation, libel, misrepresentation or smearing. Well, one could argue calling Francis’ pontificate a catastrophe fits the definition of mudslinging, however C Pell takes pains to justify this conclusion. Also I see no evidence that C Pell created a straw-man argument, contra whyeditthis. As to the charge of a lack of charity, I go back to the proverb: better the wounds of a friend than the kisses of an enemy. That wound, I am certain, was not a “stab in the back.” I feel C Pell meant to motivate P. Francis to find a way out of the mess that Pell thought Francis had created. Just a note: it is my understanding that the Vatican was AWOL with regards to C Pell’s outrageous kangaroo proceedings down under. Someone correct me if I am wrong.
Reese says Pell attacked Francis. I missed the name “Francis” in the wording, but i did see the word ‘pontificate’. Making an observation is not an attack, for one. He is criticizing the actions of many who have been allowed to operate in the large system that churns away. Cardinal Muller says that Francis is surrounded by a ‘magic circle” that he attributes much to.
“I did not care about his theological views as long as he rooted out corruption and inefficiency in the Vatican”. It’s always about the money… Martin didn’t care about the theological views, only ruling out the “money corruption” in the Vatican.
To the producers of this website — I am not able to do up or down votes. Can you fix this, please??
I am no fan of Father Reese’s writings but a broken clock is right twice a day.
If Cardinal Pell wrote that memo and was happy about it being published on the Internet, he was not the person I thought he was.
I agree that Fr Reese is broken, but he never was a clock and never was right.
Thank you Father Reese for your excellent writing on this matter. If the Demos memo was truly written by Cardinal Pell, RIP, then he acted like a Judas to the Holy Father. It is truly astonishing to me, a simple layman who does not have the philosophical or theological education these princes of the Church have, that these leaders in the Church so often stray from the path of Our Lord in their relationships with one another. Just another of the many scandals disgracing the face of the Church and the most Holy Name of our Savior. Jesus must be weeping!
Reese is a SJ: Society of Judas.
I’m home today doing a little self-care, and watching a bunch of YouTube’s and one I watched was an interview with Cardinal Pell shortly before turning 80, and he was asked about a comment he had made about hoping to be able to address the next (ie post Francis) pre-conclave consistory to tell them what he thought we needed in a Pope. I’m trying to remember exactly what he said but it was a statement of regret, something like it was indiscreet, or something along those lines. In as much as I disagreed with Pell on many of his conclusions during his life, he always was steadfast on two things: His willingness to say that he was not perfect not always said things the right way or with the right humility, and the other was his insistence that we teach what Jesus taught not what we wish Jesus taught. And especially in that latter part, he would actually be considered quite liberal to many American conservative catholics.
“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. .
Pope Francis asked the pro-LGBT English Dominican priest, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, to lead the Synod on Synodality bishops in a 3-day retreat, prior to their next big Synod meeting, Oct.4-29, next Fall. I think there is too much LGBT interest and influence, in this Synod.
I too find Francis’ choice of Fr. Radcliffe most disturbing. Even more so is the choice of Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J. as the relator general of the Synod. Hollerich, a Francis favorite, is a force to be reckoned with. Cardinal Hollerich is not only the synod’s relator general, he is the president of the European Union’s episcopal conference. He has suggested that the Church’s teaching related to same-sex acts — and, by extension, its teaching that human sexuality is ordered toward conjugal love between husband and wife, an image of Trinitarian life — is fundamentally flawed. He thus criticized a moral doctrine that has been held by the Church quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus (always, everywhere, by everyone), siding with secularized culture on the contentious topic over orthodox teaching.
From the NC Register:
“On this analysis, Cardinal Hollerich wasn’t just attacking a discrete set of moral and anthropological doctrines. Instead, he was undermining the notion of doctrinal integrity itself, destabilizing the entirety of the Church’s body of teachings and calling into question the Church’s capacity to teach anything with authority, to communicate anything about Divine Revelation with accuracy.”
Hollerich and Radcliffe provide a clear indication IMO of the direction Francis wants the synod to go.
Cdl. Hollerich is dishonest. He has had some shocking interviews with journalists, in which he has clearly stated his views, in plain English. He should have been removed and excommunicated years ago. Not a true Catholic. Dishonest, corrupt.
No LGBT stuff in this. But what he proposes in his questions of why someone thinks differently is, according to the Gingerbread person article on CCD, micro aggressions.
And I think you would not like it if I asked you what you were afraid of, but it you want to tell us you can.
This announcement came from the Luxembourgian cardinal, who is the relator general of the upcoming Synod on Synodality, who has called into question not only foundational Church teachings on sexuality but the integrity of doctrine itself, according to Jonathan Liedl in the NCRegister. Quo Vadis, Pope Francis?
Egads, I forgot to mention the cardinal’s name: Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg
Asked, “How do you get around the Church’s teaching that homosexuality is sin?”, he replied:
I believe that this is false. But I also believe that here we are thinking further about the teaching. So, as the Pope has said in the past, this can lead to a change in teaching.
So I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct. What one formerly condemned was sodomy. One thought at that time that in the sperm of the man, the whole child was kept. And one has simply transferred this to homosexual men.
But there is no homosexuality at all in the New Testament. There is only discussion of homosexual acts, which were to some extent pagan cultic acts. That was naturally forbidden. I believe it is time for us to make a revision in the foundation [Grundrevision: “ground revision,” or “foundation revision”] of the teaching.”
Cardinal Hollerich is correct. The Catholic Church does not teach that homosexuality is sin. Sodomy is sin.
If thinking the whole baby is in sperm is the foundation of the teaching (I don’t think that it is) then yes, you would need to revise the foundation.
The foundation is really God’s purpose for the sex act. Therefore, all sex outside of a man-woman sacramental marriage is sin.
Tell that to the gay sex clubs in major American seminaries. Or should we refer to them as semenaries? Pope Benedict’s post-mortem tell-all book condemns the semenary sex clubs.
When Thomas Reese calls any Catholic a disgrace one can only marvel and laugh at his audacity.
In all probability the Demos Memo had several contributors, with Cardinal Pell as the main author or the collator of different expressions of opinion. He may not have felt it was justified to put his name to it if it was a collective work or if other contributors preferred to omit their names – possibly for the entirely justified reason that what mattered were the points raised not the identity of the author or authors.
Cardinal Pell was a faithful Son of the Church and, what’s for sure, he couldn’t give a rat’s behind what a flaky Jesuit thought about him.
IF Pope Francis permit the priests to bow to pachamama, , might be ok to bring in the myriad HIndu gods to church and bow down to them too. This what Jesus taught ?