Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cardinal Pell’s Shabby Interview On June 17 With Sunday Profile

This posting is a follow up to my previous post, entitled “Dear Pope Benedict, Cardinal Pell Needs Help. Please Send Archbishop Burke.”

It completes the picture of what Cardinal Pell has accomplished in Australia in recent weeks through his public statements about the “consequences” which Catholic politicians face for going contrary to Church doctrine.

Imagine picking a fight with a mean unreasonable bully and the whole world was watching. Imagine telling the bully that he would face “consequences” if he went ahead with his plans to hurt his neighbour. Suppose in a face-down you told him plainly to think twice for his own good before acting… and everyone’s eye was upon you.

Now imagine if the bully called you on it…and went ahead with his bullying anyway.

But instead of actually doing anything, you started to explain that you didn’t say that you were actually going to do anything about it. You didn’t mean that there was any particular action you were going to take. You were just, well, er, just talking.

In my opinion the foregoing metaphor is an appropriate one when evaluating Cardinal Pell’s recent performance as a Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia.

Pope Benedict XVI, while formerly heading up the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prepared a concise document entitled “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion,” which was issued to Bishops especially in the context of dealing with the unworthy reception of Holy Communion by Catholic politicians “who systematically campaign for abortion.” Nevertheless, the principles contained therein could apply equally well to any Catholic obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin.

The significance of this well known document cannot be over-estimated. At the time of its publication it created a great stir, particularly in the US Catholic community, because the document was first received by Cardinal McCarrick of Washington. This is certainly the most precise prescription in recent history regarding the question of discipline for Catholic politicians who support abortion laws, and a prescription personally filled by the current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

In any dispute or controversy dealing with Catholic politicians over this issue, one would be hard pressed to think that the clear guidelines contained in “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion” would not prove invaluable to all Bishops dealing in their respective nations with the same rampant pro-abortion agendas of Catholic politicians. In Australia, for example, the controversy stirred up by Cardinal Pell was one dealing with PRECISELY this question of Catholic politicians voting in favour of embryonic stem cell research, an activity purposefully aimed, in every instance, at the destruction of embryonic human beings. This is abortion in its most insidious strain and Cardinal Pell did an excellent job in pointing this out to Australians.

However, Cardinal Pell failed to take the necessary steps to stem the tide of this evil and after all was said and done, failed even to announce clear Catholic teaching on the matter of discipline for Catholic politicians who choose to obstinately defy their Church. In a report two days ago by LifeSiteNews, Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, said that America was losing the battle to protect traditional marriage in the US because of the Catholic hierarchy's failure to discipline Catholic politicians. It seems few Catholics realize the significance of a Bishops’ words to society on moral matters. I’m afraid that Cardinal Pell as well has lost a similar battle because he has failed miserably to even lay the groundwork for the discipline of Catholic politicians.

There are two very weighty paragraphs, #5 and #6, in “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion” which I wish to quote. From this point forward I shall refer to them simply as “THE PRINCIPLE.”

5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

6. When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it" (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration "Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics" [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

Having finished my introduction, let’s look at the Cardinal’s latest interview, one which I rate as a washout with respect to the issue of disciplining Catholic politicians. I have highlighted certain comments for easier reading. Be advised: the interview is quite lengthy but it deserves a full reading.


Defending his right to speak: Cardinal George Pell

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Hello and welcome to Sunday Profile.

Tonight an exclusive interview with the besieged Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell.

On Friday it was announced that his comments about a NSW bill on stem cell research would be investigated for contempt of parliament. The Cardinal had issued Catholic MP's a veiled threat -- that if they voted for the bill, they had to realize that it had consequences for their place in the life of the church.

Cardinal Pell is scathing in his response to the decision by the NSW Parliament to investigate his comments. We recorded an interview with Archbishop Pell on Wednesday. Late yesterday, he told us the proposed enquiry is a clumsy attempt to curb religious freedom and freedom of speech. He told us, and I quote: “I'm a long term public supporter of parliamentary democracy and the doctrine of the separation of the church and the state. In a free society, anti-Christians like the Green, Lee Rhiannon, have every right to express their views. However, there is a whiff of Stalinism or perhaps only of Henry the 8th in her attempt to use this referral as a ‘warning’ to me.

“I respect parliamentary procedures and would be privileged to appear before the committee if necessary, to resist this clumsy attempt to curb religious freedom and freedom of speech.”

MONICA ATTARD: The Human Cloning Amendment Bill currently before the NSW Parliament passed, might I say quite convincingly through the Lower House.

GEORGE PELL: Mmm. Too convincingly.

MONICA ATTARD: Too convincingly. We'll get to that in a moment. A Roy Morgan research survey into Australian attitudes about stem cell research has found that more than 80 per cent of Australians are in favour of embryonic stem cell research. Have you ever countenanced the thought that you might be out of step with general Australian community attitudes on this one?

GEORGE PELL: Well I think there's no doubt that that poll shows that I'm not in step with what is presently the majority opinion.

MONICA ATTARD: It doesn't bother you?

GEORGE PELL: Ah, well, it's of some concern because it shows how much we've got to do because there is a broad sympathy for human life in the Australian population. Many Australians really don't understand the issues involved. They've been told that they're likely to be cures and therefore the human life involved is so microscopic and destined to exist for so long that unfortunately they're not too much concerned by that.

So, the situation has got to be explained to them. This is a marker event. We are creating human life to be destroyed and...

MONICA ATTARD: But you, in essence, then - in order to pursue your argument - you're in essence challenging the scientific basis of the bill.

GEORGE PELL: No. I'm not. I'm the only one that's talking the science. Now, the science is this. There have been no cures brought from experiments on embryos.


GEORGE PELL: As yet. There have been many cures from adult stem cells. I think 1,422 trials, 72 claims actual for cures. I've set out these statistics before the federal legislation, before this legislation, they've never been refuted.

MONICA ATTARD: But the possible benefits of embryonic stem cell research are very different to those that might flow from adult stem cell research.

GEORGE PELL: Could you explain to me how that is the case?

MONICA ATTARD: Well they're targeting different diseases. They're targeting different problems.

GEORGE PELL: No. Well, you see, there are different, there are a variety of stem cells. Some, from some stem cells you can only produce a particular type of, say, a nose or an ear or a finger. Others are called pluripotent so that you can get a whole variety of developments from them. Others are totipotent.

Now, you can take stem cells, for example, from the umbilical cord. Some of us, the research we're sponsoring is stem cells from the nose. Now, in different areas some of these cells, as I said, are pluripotent, they can develop into many things, some are totipotent, they can be developed in any direction. The experimentation with the creation and the destruction of human embryos is unnecessary and I think it sets a very bad precedent for the future because undoubtedly these people will be back again and again and again to try to broaden the permissions to play with human life.

MONICA ATTARD: So you're problem is the thin edge of the wedge argument? You believe that it won't stop here. Because, at the end of the day, this bill is only for embryonic stem cell research for therapeutic purposes. It is not tampering with the issue of human life that most concerns you.

GEORGE PELL: No, no. You see, with due respect, that's playing with words. If you are destroying a human embryo, and that necessarily follows from their use, it's playing with words to suggest that somehow that's therapeutic. It's destructive and the hope is that it will be used to develop therapies.

[Good work, Cardinal Pell. You made the necessary distinction and clarified the issue.]

MONICA ATTARD: But it merely reproduces stem cells is my understanding.

GEORGE PELL: It destroys them in so doing.

MONICA ATTARD: And that's what, ultimately, bothers you?

GEORGE PELL: That's correct.

MONICA ATTARD: And the fact that the legislators may well come back and ask for more, or the scientists may well come back and ask the legislators for more?

GEORGE PELL: Almost inevitably. And there's such a level of misunderstanding and ignorance about this. There's so little cost benefit analysis being done on the work on the embryonic stem cells that we're... if you say that human life is almost irrelevant at this early stage, you're not well placed to draw the line anywhere.


GEORGE PELL: Because you're not acting from firm principles. It's just simply pragmatism.

[Yes, extremely important point Cardinal. We need firm principles on which to act. The Catholic Church provides them.]

MONICA ATTARD: But it's well documented that there is a vast distinction between the position of the Catholic Church on when life begins and where the general community would think that life begins.

GEORGE PELL: Well when, perhaps you can tell me when the general community thinks that life begins?

MONICA ATTARD: I think that most people would consider that life begins when an embryo forms a central nervous system that would begin to constitute, you know, the general makings of a human being.

GEORGE PELL: Yeah that is, that is one point of view. It's not the point of view that I share. I think that whatever the inconvenient consequences, I think our position is very logical, that human life begins from the moment of conception. It's not going to develop into anything else, not going to a magpie or an octopus, going to be human. I don't think it's appropriate to be creating human life to destroy it.

[Well said, Cardinal. That makes the case against embryonic stem cell research extremely clear.]

MONICA ATTARD: The human animal hybrids that are proposed in this bill, which is something I believe that you have a particular...

GEORGE PELL: Distaste for.

MONICA ATTARD: ...distaste for, and a lot of people probably would find that rather distasteful.

GEORGE PELL: I'd be very surprised if majority opinion wasn't with me on that particular issue.

MONICA ATTARD: I'd be very surprised too Cardinal, with all due respect, but I also think that that's not human life. Do you consider that human life?

GEORGE PELL: I'm not quite sure what the category is, it'd be something that, technically I suppose, we'd describe as a monster but it's certainly something that we shouldn't be encouraging.

MONICA ATTARD: But if it's not human life, what is the essence of your opposition to it?

GEORGE PELL: Because it involves humanity and just as we're not in favour of bestiality, so the conjoining of the human and animal is something I think is morally repulsive.

MONICA ATTARD: Even if it can, at the end of the day, help provide a cure for infertility?

GEORGE PELL: Yes, we happen to believe that the end doesn't justify the means. Now, in quite different circumstances a lot of interesting scientific experiments were done in Nazi death camps. We don't condone those for a minute but long journeys start with small steps.

MONICA ATTARD: The NSW Science Minister, Verity Firth, argued when she was arguing in favour of this bill, that the churches are entitled to their views as to what is moral and ethical in scientific research but so are the advocate groups and the sufferers of diseases, such as motor neurone's disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, spinal cord injury. No one group has a monopoly on morality.

Is that a statement you agree with?

GEORGE PELL: I think basically yes. What we have to do is to try to establish rational principles that will be recognized as such by people of little religion, no religion or plenty of religion.

[Pardon me, but the Cardinal said he agrees basically with the notion that “No one group has a monopoly on morality.” Is the Cardinal Catholic? Doesn’t the Church believe it has been commissioned by Christ to bring God’s truth [morals reflect the truth in human behaviour!] to the world? Of course others can have viewpoints but the Church carries God’s authority and speaks for Christ.

It is counter-productive to suggest the Church’s opinion is simply one of many possible opinions. The world may think such claims are extremely bigoted but they think what they want to anyway so why compromise the truth? The truth is always fashionable with God. The Cardinal missed another rare teaching moment. Was it because he was ashamed of Church teaching and thought the truth would be too much for his audience? If so, that makes him a people pleaser.]

MONICA ATTARD: Can we talk a little bit at what you did last week in relation to the Catholic MPs who intended to vote for this bill. You essentially laid down what they interpreted as a threat: vote for this bill and you do not stand as a Catholic with a right to receive Holy Communion.

[Perhaps this is a rough way to summarize the Cardinal’s statements over the last couple of weeks but go ahead and read the news reports. I’ve followed them quite closely and I think the interviewer’s question is a reasonably accurate way to put it.]

GEORGE PELL: No, no. That's a clear misrepresentation.

[The Cardinal is simply backing away from the truth here, in my opinion. Read the press reports, his interviews and his formal statements. If he wasn’t essentially saying that, why all the fuss? This is a disappointing response from the Cardinal.]

MONICA ATTARD: Tell me what you think you did.

GEORGE PELL: No. I'll tell you what I did, not what I think I did.

I set out the classic Catholic position, which is that if you violate Catholic moral principles, it has consequences for your relationship with God and the church. Now the church, in many, or most, cases doesn't take any official action on this apart from saying that such an activity is wrong.

[Again, the Cardinal’s statement doesn’t clear the air at all. It’s almost like pulling teeth to get a straight answer from him. He could have spared the journalist much grief by simply answering the question directly. The Cardinal makes it sound like the Church is all talk and rarely any action. “in most cases the Church takes no official action.” The moral principle in question is a politician’s support and advocacy for laws that will result in dead human beings. There’s no need to broaden the discussion at all. That’s precisely what the controversy is all about. So please, Cardinal Pell, why not simply state THE PRINCIPLE.

"Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist."]

But those consequences follow inevitably in the heart and the soul of the person who takes actions. That's what religion is about.

[Pleeease! How does such a statement help at this point? That’s what religion is all about? Surely we can expect a more helpful synopsis of faith from a Cardinal. But ok, enough said!]

MONICA ATTARD: But one of those consequences would be, as you outlined, not being able to receive Holy Communion.

[Monica appears to be more insightful here than the Cardinal. Yes, Monica, the Catholic Church does advocate denying Holy Communion to obstinate sinners. See THE PRINCIPLE.]

GEORGE PELL: No, no, I never outlined that except as a hypothetical possibility.

[Yikes! Now it appears the Cardinal has introduced a new Catholic principle—there are “possibilities” and then there are “hypothetical possibilities.” Sheesh! Why not cut the double talk and the bafflegab, Cardinal Pell, and tell her about THE PRINCIPLE.]

What I did say was that human actions and public actions have public consequences and that we would cross those bridges if and when we come to them. I never threatened anybody with a public ex-communication

[Now the Cardinal just shifted into a different gear altogether without using his clutch. We can be certain the Cardinal knows the difference between withholding Communion and excommunication. Why does he now seem to equate the two?

He still has not admitted to THE PRINCIPLE and has avoided stating it clearly in ANY manner. Now he brings up ex-communication, an entirely different matter, presumably in order to take the heat off himself and obfuscate the conversation.]

and I've stated quite publicly that that's a very blunt instrument and it's hardly ever been used in here in Australia.

MONICA ATTARD: But in relation to the receiving of Holy Communion, did you ever say that a Catholic MP who voted for this bill would not be worthy of receiving Holy Communion?

[Gotta give this girl points. She’s like a dog with a bone and she won’t let go. The Cardinal is making her work for every cent of her paycheck.]

GEORGE PELL: No, I don't think I did use that.

[Again, it’s not a direct quote from you Cardinal, but it surely approximates what everyone else assumed from your comments.]

What I did quote was what Pope Benedict said recently in response to a situation in Mexico and he said that a person who destroys innocent life should not go to communion and I would totally endorse that and I suppose

[Cardinal Pell, why use such an uncertain expression? Australia urgently needs unequivocal statements]

what I've also said was that those who voted for this legislation, which is not the same as performing an abortion

[The Cardinal has made a similar statement in one of his earlier official statements about those who perform abortions but this is not helpful at all. Of course we know that an unrepentant abortionist should not receive communion. But what does this statement by the Cardinal establish? Certainly there are few reading his statements who are practicing abortionists. Does that give a free pass then to everyone else who is not an unrepentant abortionist? Absolutely not! No Catholic living in unrepented mortal sin, be it masturbation, contraception, adultery, fornication, sodomy, divorce, pornography, should receive Communion. The Cardinal’s statement only confuses the present situation, instead of adding clarity. Like a healthy man trying to avoiding a leper, he still has not stated THE PRINCIPLE.]

and being unrepentant about it, have to weigh up in their own minds just how closely their situation approximates to what the Pope was describing.

[This is simply more bafflegab and double talk. It only frustrates and clouds the truth. And besides, doesn’t the Cardinal believe in objective moral wrong, or “the objective situation of sin?” I thought he was Catholic. And didn’t he write an excellent piece on Conscience? Now is he saying that if these politicians weighed up the situation “carefully” it was ok if their conscience said to go ahead and receive Holy Communion?]

MONICA ATTARD: And I take it in your view, the approximation is pretty close?

GEORGE PELL: I think that the destruction of any human life, even

[Very bad use of a word here, in my opinion. “Even,” used in this context implies embryonic life is something other than or less than ordinary human life. But ok. So the Cardinal slipped up and used the wrong word. That’s the problem when you’re dancing too much around a subject and won’t make a clear statement.]

incipient human life is regrettable and is wrong.

[Regrettable? Like the time when I ran over that squirrel when it crossed my path. That was regrettable too. What about a grave moral wrong? When will the Cardinal start talking like a Catholic?]

MONICA ATTARD: Can I ask you then Cardinal, if Morris Iemma had come before you last Sunday to receive Holy Communion, would you have given it to him?

[Ok, now Monica is pulling out all the stops. I can’t blame her. She just wants a clear answer, which the Cardinal has done everything to frustrate.]

GEORGE PELL: I think almost certainly I would have because I wouldn't have known what particular mode of reasoning he followed nor would I have been aware that if he had admitted that he was in error, whether he would have repented in the interim.

[So what exactly is all this fuss about then? The Cardinal makes it sound as though it’s really an impossible situation which he faces. But a much more important point comes up here.

Cardinal Pell, did I hear you just say that almost certainly you would have given the Body and Blood of Christ to a Catholic whom you knew to be in a state of objective grave sin and whom you suspected of being an obstinate sinner? I believe that’s what you just admitted to.

Yet you had plenty of time to meet with the Premier, talk with him, and to verify his spiritual state. Did you take due diligence to verify that the Premier was properly disposed to receive the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist? If not, you further endangered his soul because if he had received the sacrament unworthily he would have most surely been in a state of mortal sin.]

We don't, when people come to us to communion we don't say, you know, you in the state of grace, you doing the right thing, we presume that people have worked this out in their own conscience and so we give them communion.

[But as you said many times in your article, conscience must be properly informed. Is it wise to presume as you suggest in such a weighty matter, particularly if there are other steps not even taken?

Are you doing everything reasonably possible (due diligence) to see that Catholics do not damn themselves through sacrilegious communion? Is this what happens to Bishops when they get so used to handing over Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist to Catholics who are living in mortal sin, such as the mortal sin of contraception or fornication? What steps do they take to protect such sinners from themselves when those sinners regularly partake of the Body and Blood? Are the Bishops attentive to the spiritual state of those receiving? Do they make inquiries of these Catholics and do they meet with them to discuss their “objective” state of sin? Do they insist that priests in the confessionals watch carefully to help Catholics overcome such deadly sins? Do they warn (in confession and in homilies) these Catholics of the danger of living in such sin and the risks they run of receiving the Eucharist sacrilegiously?

Perhaps the answer to these questions goes a long way to explain why such politicians as Premier Iemma object to such scrutiny if the ordinary Catholic gets off scott free.]

MONICA ATTARD: But assuming that the Premier had stuck to the position that he had publicly stated was his position, that he was in favour of this legislation, that he intended to vote for it, had he come before you for Holy Communion, would you have, under those circumstances?

[What would anyone assume that Monica is asking here? It sounds to me that she is clearly asking the Cardinal whether, in the case of obstinate persistent defiance, the Premier should be denied Communion. Excellent! Given such a narrow and precise set of circumstances, a perfect opportunity to affirm the Church’s teaching! Just look at THE PRINCIPLE:

When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it"]

GEORGE PELL: We cross that bridge when we come to it.

[HELP! The Cardinal just lost the battle. What is one to think? He’s ashamed to say what the Church teaches. After probing and prodding the Cardinal a dozen different ways, we still don’t know what the Church teaches. Congratulations Cardinal! You have managed to keep this very sensitive information secret!]

MONICA ATTARD: Can I safely assume that you would have felt uncomfortable giving him Holy Communion?

GEORGE PELL: Um, I think what would have happened is that if he wanted to come to me to communion he would have suggested

[This is preposterous! So now we are to believe that the priest or Bishop is to wait for the sinner to suggest a “chat” before communion. I can just see PM Paul Martin doing exactly that. I didn’t see that anywhere in THE PRINCIPLE. In other words the Cardinal is saying everything EXCEPT what the Church teaches.]

we have a chat beforehand and I would have chatted privately with him and then we would have just seen which way we go.

[It all sounds so nice and polite and friendly doesn’t it? But it’s simply bafflegab again because we STILL DON”T KNOW what the teaching of the Church is.]

MONICA ATTARD: And if he hadn't, in your words, repented his position as publicly stated before the people of Australia, and he hadn't come to a position where he believed that his support for that bill was morally wrong...

[Monica is begging the Cardinal for clarification, and the last time I checked, the Popes have always said the Church has no secrets.]


[Please Cardinal, just answer the question. Quote Cardinal Ratzinger and THE PRINCIPLE.]

MONICA ATTARD: ...would you have felt comfortable?

GEORGE PELL: I would've said to him that he'd need to work that out with his God.

[Coming from Cardinal Pell, this surely is an outrageous response. If I had heard your average dissident Bishop say this I would have immediately written it off as a statement from someone who believed in the non-Catholic doctrine of “primacy of conscience.” But this is very curious language indeed from a man who said the following:

“…for some years I have spoken and written against the so-called “doctrine of the primacy of conscience”, arguing that this is incompatible with traditional Catholic teaching.


“Individual conscience cannot confer the right to reject or distort New Testament morality as affirmed or developed by the Church. To use the language of Veritatis Splendor , conscience is 'the proximate norm of personal morality' whose authority in its voice and judgment 'derives from the truth about moral good and evil'"]

MONICA ATTARD: And given him communion?

GEORGE PELL: We'd cross that bridge when we come to it.

[I repeat here what I said before: HELP! The Cardinal just lost the battle. What is one to think? He’s ashamed to say what the Church teaches. After probing and prodding the Cardinal a dozen different ways, we still don’t know what the Church teaches. Congratulations Cardinal! You have managed to keep this very sensitive information secret!]

MONICA ATTARD: This opposition to this bill has caused so much consternation it's been quite an incredible reaction and a lot of people have been raising their eyebrows. There have been calls that you be investigated for contempt of Parliament. Did you anticipate this reaction?

GEORGE PELL: I mean, a lot of the consternation is manufactured, certainly within the Parliament. I mean, the Australian life is conducted in a very robust style, as the Leader of the Opposition stated. A number of little notice politicians and even minister used this as an opportunity to gain a little publicity. That's a part of the rough and tumble of public life.

MONICA ATTARD: I'm wondering whether, in relation to this issue of Holy Communion, whether you'd tested the views of, for example, local parish priests?

GEORGE PELL: No, no, no. You, I didn't do that. We don't decide morality by a poll amongst bishops or clergy but from what follows logically from Catholic teaching and my task is to announce that Catholic teaching even if some people find it a bit uncomfortable.

MONICA ATTARD: But presumably, logical Catholic teaching comes about from logical, rational discussion with a variety of people, not just one source. I mean, I'm wondering whether, you know, in the course of your thought on this issue, this particular issue, whether you canvassed the views of some of the priests within the church? And what are their views, and if they held views that were different to yours, what would be your relationship to them?

GEORGE PELL: Well I, in substantial matters of morality, if they held views that were different to the official position of the church I would regret it.

[Better to say little if the answer is vague.]

MONICA ATTARD: Would you do any more than that?

GEORGE PELL: Once in a while I might. But generally we live in a fairly broad church.

[Better to say little if the answer is vague.]

MONICA ATTARD: Were you disappointed with the parish priest who gave holy communion to various Catholic MPs who voted for this bill?

GEORGE PELL: One learns not to be too easily disappointed.

MONICA ATTARD: Is it your view that politicians who voted ultimately for this bill simply are not good Catholics?

GEORGE PELL: No, no, I would never say that.

[Surely the Cardinal missed another opportunity, this time to clear up the term “good.” The issue is obedience. Is it asking too much for the Cardinal to keep the central issue in focus?]

I'd say they're mistake, they're mistake, clearly mistaken on this issue.

MONICA ATTARD: Now, the Federal Constitution Section 116, actually frees our politicians from any particular religious commitment.

GEORGE PELL: Yeah, well there's no state religion.

MONICA ATTARD: No. Do you think that you've paid appropriate respect to the rights of the office and to the Constitution in adopting the position that you have?

GEORGE PELL: Yeah, absolutely. Certainly.

MONICA ATTARD: You have no...

GEORGE PELL: We, in this country, one of the great blessings is we have religious freedom. Now there are voices who would suggest that in public discussion there's no room for the expression of opinions that derive from religious positions or are compatible with religious tradition. Australians don't believe that for a minute.

Nobody, or very few, are suggesting that the only view that can be expressed publicly have to be irreligious or anti-religious and I'm quite sure that all the religious leaders in Australia will continue to, on different issues and different occasions express their points of view quite vigorously.

MONICA ATTARD: I'm sure that's the case and I'm sure most people would agree that religious leaders have a right to do that, but I'm wondering though, in relation to Section 116 of the Constitution, whether you see that, you know, our politicians are Catholic politicians, are Australian first, or Catholic first? What comes first? What should the order of priority be?

GEORGE PELL: Well it all depends what area you're talking. In terms of national sovereignty, political life, they, like myself, are first of all Australians. If they choose to become and remain Catholics, they take upon themselves certain duties and if they choose to disregard those or to speak disparagingly of them, they can't expect a sympathetic nod from myself and they won't get it.

MONICA ATTARD: So what is your role, then, as Archbishop, in a pluralist, political democracy? What is your role?

[Isn’t this a question that every Bishop his whole life long waits to answer? Shouldn’t we expect an answer of some weight and clarity?]

GEORGE PELL: Is to state what is the Catholic position and

[Why not do it plainly then? This is quite an unbelievable thing for the Cardinal to say, considering the interviewer has tried unsuccessfully to pry out of the Cardinal the truth of what the Catholic position is. Even at this later point in the interview we still don’t know. THE PRINCIPLE still remains a secret.]

to explain the rational basis for that position so that people of no religion, or a lot of religion, or a little religion can at least understand what I'm saying and potentially agree with me.

MONICA ATTARD: So it's to act as an advocate for your particular position?

GEORGE PELL: Yes. I think Pope John Paul II used to say that the Catholic position proposes we're no longer in a position to impose requirements on the state.

MONICA ATTARD: And if your position is to advocate a particular position, should it stop short of pushing the moral buttons of a particular person, and in this case a Catholic MP?

GEORGE PELL: No, I would hope that we would press his moral buttons and I would hope in the population generally that the rational appeals we make for our positions, the arguments we make for a particular version of morality that will be found to be appealing by people.

[I’m not so sure about this answer at all. I wonder if that’s truly Catholic teaching. Didn’t Jesus warn often that people will reject the Gospel and the truth? Will Christ’s morality be found appealing? "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution."]

MONICA ATTARD: And you think that's legitimate?

GEORGE PELL: Oh, not only legitimate, it's absolutely required. You see, it's very interesting when I say, as I did, on the industrial relations legislation, that the removal of the no-disadvantage test was a big mistake, nobody said that this was an infringement of church-state relations.

MONICA ATTARD: But the Prime Minister, as I recall, wasn't very happy with the comment.

GEORGE PELL: Oh of course he wasn't happy. Politicians are never happy with you if you, when you disagree with them but...

MONICA ATTARD: Yet he supported...

GEORGE PELL: ...but the Prime Minister wasn't running around saying I didn't have a right to have a view.

MONICA ATTARD: So is it the fact that then that your views on some issues are welcomed and your views on other issues are not.

GEORGE PELL: Absolutely.

MONICA ATTARD: It's not...

GEORGE PELL: And by different people, by different people.

MONICA ATTARD: It's selective.


MONICA ATTARD: Politically selective.

GEORGE PELL: Yes. Yes. And then we have the strange variation, variant within the Catholic Church. We have, sometimes even clergy, who, on questions of public morality, you know, strut around like peacocks and would certainly never dream of mentioning that those who differ from them on issues of public morality have any right to a primacy of conscience, and then when they come to matters of personal morality, on sexuality, marriage, family, life, abortion, euthanasia, stem cells, immediately appeal to this chimerical primacy of conscience.

If you're a Christian, you accept basic Christian answers. Now, nobody is going to be drummed out because they don't accept the entire package.

[OUCH! Cardinal Pell, please be careful! This is not Catholic teaching. You must make these things clear when given such opportunities. A person can indeed be “drummed out” for any number of formal heresies.]

I perfectly understand that and people pick and choose.

[OUCH! Don’t you need to say here Cardinal that people may pick and choose, but not in the Catholic Church, and certainly not in the context of this interview? Clearly the Cardinal is sending imprecise, even wrong, signals here.]

That's... my task as a bishop is to remind

[Only to remind them? Again this is incomplete and misleading, especially in the current context of this interview.]

them of the obligation to follow the substantial issues...

[OUCH! Only the substantial issues? Which ones are they? Is the particular issue at hand one of those “substantial” issues? Is this terminology found in the Catechism?]

MONICA ATTARD: And if they don't...

GEORGE PELL: ...and also, and also to point out that in matters of faith and morals, if they deny enough substantial

[Cardinal, again, this is such vague and arbitrary terminology!]

teachings in faith and morals, the question must eventually arise as to well, what's the benefit of calling myself Catholic if, for example, I don't believe Christ is divine,

[Great example Cardinal Pell. As if the Church is presently having any problems whatever with Catholic politicians who do not believe Christ is divine!]

I don't accept the claims of the church for this or that and if, on the whole range of moral issues, such as abortion, euthanasia, I don't accept those, well what remains? Except the Catholic tag.

[But Cardinal, after coming this far please finish your statement. What happens if you deny “enough substantial teachings?” May we hear about THE [secret] PRINCIPLE now?]

MONICA ATTARD: Is that not the position that you've put those NSW MPs in last week?

GEORGE PELL: No not at all.

[Sheesh! Here we go again. As was pointed out before, of course it was the position he rightly put the MPs in.]

This is one particular moral issue.

[Yes, but one of grave matter and importance—enough to lose your soul over. Please Cardinal, spell it out clearly.]

Nobody ever suggested that it would undo their right to the label Catholic but...

[More bafflegab which explains and clarifies nothing.]

MONICA ATTARD: But it might undo their right to receive Holy Communion.

GEORGE PELL: Yeah well that's traditional Catholic teaching.

[And is that what you agree with Cardinal? Can’t you just say you do…that you’re all there for traditional Catholic teaching…you know, the Pope’s kind of teaching, especially THE PRINCIPLE.]

If you in a, you know, you're well educated as a girl, you're in a state of unrepented, what we used to call mortal sin, shouldn't go to communion.

[Is this a Cardinal of the Catholic Church speaking? What’s wrong?…is he afraid to speak the words? Well, at least he gave some indication that those in unrepented, mortal sin (whatever that is) shouldn’t go to Communion. However, there’s still no clarification on how this applies, if at all, to the present circumstances.]

MONICA ATTARD: Given the fallout, Cardinal Pell, do you think that the condemnation of you in some quarters and the extent of it, do you think that that may have something to do with the force of your personality? Because you are a very forceful personality.

GEORGE PELL: I suspect it, yes, there'd undoubtedly be some connection between what I say, the way I say it and my record of saying such things. I do think, and even one or two people who've disagreed with me expressed a gratitude to me for spelling out the situation in terms which they acknowledged as real, that the real hoo-ha here is not about a non-existent threat to ex-communicate, the real hoo-ha here is we have, again, gone over a line where we've said quite explicitly in legislation, it is okay to produce human life for it to be destroyed with the hope of cures.

What I do find particularly questionable is people trumpeting that they're Catholics and then publicly also trumpeting that they're disregarding the Catholic teaching. It's a little bit like trying to have your cake and eat it.


GEORGE PELL: A little bit of the reticence in one direction or the other would have been, I think, more appropriate in some of these latter-catch group.

MONICA ATTARD: Okay. So if, for example, Morris Iemma, had said, you know, I'm a Catholic and I do have trouble with this legislation, however, I believe that for therapeutic purposes it's necessary, would that have been acceptable to you?

GEORGE PELL: Not acceptable but I understand that and I think that's very close to his position. I don't agree with it but I think, given the mistake, I find that easier to understand than many other positions.

[A statement very much open to misunderstanding. Cardinals should not speak like politicians, but like successors of the apostles.]

MONICA ATTARD: Have you sought to meet with him about this?

[Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!]

GEORGE PELL: Um, no. I've spoken directly and indirectly to him about it but I haven't sought a meeting on this particular issue.

[“On this particular (little) issue.” Truly unbelievable! All this fuss and the Cardinal couldn’t find time to meet with the Premier. It would be laughable if not so tragic. Is the Cardinal concerned for the Premier’s soul or not? The optics alone are terrible here—more especially the spiritual reality.]

MONICA ATTARD: Since the comments of last week have you spoken to him?

GEORGE PELL: No, I don't think so, no.

[If I were the Cardinal, I’d be ashamed too to answer this question straightforwardly.]

MONICA ATTARD: Do you think that there's a chance that in the way you've opposed this bill you've possibly stacked the odds in favour of it becoming law?

GEORGE PELL: No I don't think the position is deteriorated as a result of what I've said. How much it's improved is another question.

MONICA ATTARD: Do you think you have improved it or not?

GEORGE PELL: I think I have improved it to this extent because I do think there is an increased public awareness of what the issues are and there's still a lot of work to be done on this but we are making some headway in informing the public of the issues that are at stake, and also informing the public that, to lapse into the vernacular, they're being sold a pup. That tens of millions of dollars are being put into embryonic stem cell research and there has not been one established cure so far. When are the economic rationalists, the hard heads, going to do a little bit of cost benefit analysis on this?

MONICA ATTARD: And that was Cardinal George Pell speaking exclusively to Sunday Profile.

Thanks to our Sunday Profile Producer, Lorna Knowles, and to Local Radio Producer, Dan Driscoll.


For the conclusion of the Vote Life, Canada! assessment please see this final posting.

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