ROME (CNS) – Australian Cardinal George Pell, who died in Rome on January 10, never made a secret of his staunch adherence to established Catholic moral teaching and his concern about fellow cardinals and bishops he saw as willing to abandon that teaching.
But in interviews he always was respectful of Pope Francis and argued repeatedly over the past 10 years that Catholics should not be attacking each other in the media, but calmly discussing their differences with each other.
Shortly after Cardinal Pell’s death, Damian Thompson, associate editor of the British magazine The Spectator, published what he said was a recent submission to the magazine by Cardinal Pell criticising the current process for the Synod of Bishops as “a toxic nightmare”.
Cardinal Pell’s secretary, Father Joseph Hamilton, confirmed Cardinal Pell wrote the article for The Spectator.
The article took particular aim at the working document for the synod’s continental stage. Titled “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent”, it attempted to present the most common hopes, dreams and concerns raised by Catholics in the local and national listening sessions. It was to be the basis of regional discussions being held from December to March.
In The Spectator article, Cardinal Pell described it as “this potpourri, this outpouring of New Age good will”.
“It is not a summary of Catholic faith or New Testament teaching,” he said. “It is incomplete, hostile in significant ways to the apostolic tradition and nowhere acknowledges the New Testament as the Word of God, normative for all teaching on faith and morals. The Old Testament is ignored, patriarchy rejected and the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, is not acknowledged.”
Also, an Italian blogger Sandro Magister, claimed on January 11 that Cardinal Pell was the author of a “A Memorandum on the Next Conclave”, which Magister published on his blog in March last year under the pseudonym “Demos”. Among other things, the piece was critical of Pope Francis’ pontificate.
In a September 2021 interview streamed live and uploaded by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Cardinal Pell had said Pope Francis has “a great gift of empathy and sympathy”, and a great capacity to show closeness to people who are suffering and those who care for them.
Asked why there is so much opposition to Pope Francis among conservative Catholics, Cardinal Pell said, “I think a lot of conservative Catholics feel a little bit confused, a little bit uncertain, they wonder just what is being taught”.
Pope Francis, he said, has “a great gift, like Jesus did, of reaching out to those on the peripheries and ‘sinners’, and categories that are not always seen in the front row at church, and that can and has confused people”.
Photo: Australian Cardinal George Pell gestures as he leaves a session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican in this 2014 file photo (CNS photo/Paul Haring)