Pell’s posthumous complaints have diminished his legacy

Pell Catastrophically Failed Children

Title: Pell’s posthumous complaints have diminished his legacy
Author: Michael Sean Winters
Publisher: National Catholic Reporter
Date: 18JAN2023

Not since King Hamlet appeared to Bernardo, Marcellus and Horatio on the battlements of Elsinore Castle has a ghost caused so much trouble. The late Cardinal George Pell, speaking posthumously by means of a previously unpublished article and an anonymous text of which Pell is now known to be the author, has shown the face of the opposition to Pope Francis in all its overwrought self-absorption.

The grace with which the late cardinal handled his physical imprisonment, and about which I voiced admiration last week, now melts like a snowflake in the palm of one’s hand from the sin of pride. That pride had evidently imprisoned the cardinal spiritually.

Soon after the cardinal died, British journalist Damian Thompson published an article Pell had written shortly before he died voicing concerns about the synodal process. Then, Italian Vaticanista Sandro Magister revealed that the anonymous memo he published last year — detailing a list of items that afflict the church and, specifically, what kind of pope was needed — had been written by Pell.

None of the complaints Pell lodged against the synod were particularly new. You can hear similar whining almost any week on EWTN. Pell asserts that the synodal process is a “toxic nightmare” and its working document an “outpouring of New Age good will,” which “nowhere acknowledges the New Testament as the Word of God, normative for all teaching on faith and morals.” Pell observes that the “ex-Anglicans among us are right to identify the deepening confusion, the attack on traditional morals and the insertion into the dialogue of neo-Marxist jargon about exclusion, alienation, identity, marginalisation, the voiceless, LGBTQ as well as the displacement of Christian notions of forgiveness, sin, sacrifice, healing, redemption.”

Who knew that a churchman like Pell, who had been a priest since 1966, could be so easily confused? I wonder who suggested to him that exclusion and alienation were unknown until Karl Marx set quill to scroll? How is it that a pope who has returned the concept (and practice) of mercy to its proper and central place at the heart of the kerygma of the Gospels can be said to be overseeing a process that displaces “Christian notions of forgiveness, sin, sacrifice, healing and redemption”?

The previously anonymous memo is even worse, with direct attacks on Pope Francis. “Previously it was: ‘Roma locuta. Causa finita est.’ Today it is: ‘Roma loquitur. Confusio augetur,’ ” Pell wrote. Pope Francis is chided for being silent in the face of concerns Pell thinks should be dismissed as heretical, even while there is “active persecution of the Traditionalists and the contemplative convents.”

Pell frets that the Christocentrism of our teaching is being threatened, although one would be hard-pressed to think of a talk or text from this pope that was not meaningfully Christocentric. Alas, “Pachamama is idolatrous.” Evidently, inculturation is OK when it results in devotion to, say, the Infant of Prague but not when an image of a pregnant woman is seen as a sign of God’s providence, something St. Pope John Paul II recognized in 1985 during a homily in Cuzco.

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