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Thursday, January 12, 2023

“This pontificate is a disaster…” The final testament of George Cardinal Pell (d. January 10, 2023)

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George Cardinal Pell prays before the body of Pope Benedict XVI lying in state, January 2023.

George Cardinal Pell is dead.

As a man, Cardinal Pell stood accused of grievous sins before several earthly tribunals. He was convicted of some of those crimes in secular courts, and as a result, spent over a year in prison—much of it in solitary confinement. He was later acquitted and released when the High Court of Australia unanimously overturned his convictions saying that the jury likely made its decision based on faulty evidence, and that there was a significant possibility that an innocent person had been convicted.
Was Cardinal Pell guilty of the crimes he was accused of? Or was he targeted for destruction by enemies who would stoop even so low as to manufacture false sins? In this world, we will never know.But now, Cardinal Pell has taken his stand before the Just Judge from whom nothing can be hidden. Whether his sins warranted mercy or damnation is in the hands of Christ, and all the faithful can do is pray that our gracious Lord will have mercy on him.

What is clear is that George Cardinal Pell did not go out with a whimper, but with a resounding bang.

Less than a week before he died, Cardinal Pell wrote an article in the UK Spectator that is nothing less than a clarion call. The title of the article says it all: The Catholic Church Must Free Itself from this “Toxic Nightmare.

What toxic nightmare is he referring to? That would be the so-called Synod on Synodality—that useless and wasteful meeting of bishops that seems to be the very embodiment of the unofficial motto of the current pontificate: “¡Hagan lío!” or “make a mess!” Regarding the 45-page document put out by the Vatican explaining the “listening” stage of the synod, Pell calls it: “one of the most incoherent documents ever sent out from Rome.”

After offering a point-by-point deconstruction of the document, Pell is left scratching his head:

What is one to make of this potpourri, this outpouring of New Age good will? It is not a summary of Catholic faith or New Testament teaching. 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.

This is a pretty harsh condemnation that should be taken very seriously by all serious Catholics.

But it gets better.

In the spring of 2022, an anonymous letter was said to be circulating among the Cardinals signed by someone called “Demos” or the Greek word for “the common people.” It was a sober reflection upon and harsh criticism of the numerous scandals which have proliferated over the past 10 years within the Church, with an unusually pointed critique of the Francis papacy. The opening sentence gives the reader a sense of what follows:

Commentators at every school, though for different reasons, with the possible exception of Father Spadaro SJ, agree that this pontificate is a disaster in many or more respects, a catastrophe.

It was revealed today that the author of this letter was none other than George Cardinal Pell.

This letter is not merely a litany of the failures of Pope Francis. It is a road map for his successor. Indeed, the second half of the letter reads more like avuncular advice from an experienced elder churchman to a man who will be faced with cleaning up a gigantic mess not of his doing.

The entire letter is well worth reading, but the following point seems to be the most important of all, encapsulating what has gone wrong and the attitude necessary to fix it:

The new pope must understand that the secret of Christian and Catholic vitality comes from fidelity to Christ’s teachings and Catholic practices. It doesn’t come from adapting to the world or money.

This point is followed immediately by another that lays out the steps necessary to return from the present chaos:

The first tasks of the new pope will be the restoration of normality, the restoration of doctrinal clarity in faith and morals, the restoration of just respect for the law, and the guarantee that the first criterion for the appointment of bishops is acceptance of apostolic tradition. Theological competence and culture are an advantage, not an obstacle for all bishops and especially for archbishops. These are necessary foundations for living and preaching the Gospel.

More than anything else, the faithful need doctrinal clarity. Indeed, we thirst for it, as one can not drink the muddy slurry churned up by “¡Hagan lío!”

Pell’s “Demos” letter reads like an encyclical letter written by one of the Church Fathers when faced with an ecclesiastical crisis.

Thank you, Cardinal Pell, for speaking like a believing Catholic, reminding us of our patrimony, and for standing up for the devout who have spent the past nine years taking abuse from those tasked to nurture them in faith and teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

With men like Benedict XVI and Cardinal Pell passing into eternity, ordinary devout Catholics pray that Christ will raise up other bishops and cardinals with the fortitude to keep the current mess from spreading and leading even more souls to perdition.

May the Holy Spirit, in His good time, bestow upon us a new pope who will come armed the charism of Saint Francis of Assisi who was commanded by God to “restore my Church which is falling down.”

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Greg

    Steve – thank you for this. Our Catholic Church is in need of more high profile lay Catholics to speak out. I have been saddened by silence on many laymen who who been gifted by God with a public forum but fail to publicly denounce the wolves amongst us. I can only think their fear of the hit to their wallets prevents them from speaking out. Why else would such educated people who have eloquently explained and defended our faith in public remain silent these past 10 years?

    STEVE RAY HERE: I agree. The silence has been deafening. You may appreciate my talk “How does a John Paul II Catholic Survive in a Pope Francis World?” JP II Video https://youtu.be/bu2EfKUxCW8

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