Was Cardinal Pell a holy Church leader and did he strongly opposed Pope Francis?
After his death, many persons have begun to use Pell’s name and his reputation as a conservative Cardinal to bolster their own positions on a range of issues and to oppose Pope Francis. When Pell was alive, he did not join those few Church prelates who strongly opposed Pope Francis. And while some criticisms may be faithfully expressed about any Pope, Pell was not among those prelates who openly oppose or resist Pope Francis. So it is dishonest to use Pell’s name to attack the Pope.
Now it is claimed that Cardinal Pell was the author of a memo published in 2022 on the blog Settimo Cielo under the pseudonym of “Demos”, which labelled Francis’ pontificate as “a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe” [Wikipedia]. And while the Wikipedia article (currently 1/21/23) claims that “it was revealed” that Pell wrote the memo, there is no proof of that authorship. In addition, many new and exaggerated claims have been made about the words and positions of Pell and Benedict, claims made only after their deaths, when they obviously cannot reply. Such assertions by opponents of Pope Francis are self-serving and, at best, dubious.
Also, after the death of Cardinal Pell, many opponents of Pope Francis have begun to speak as if Pell were one of the holiest and most faithful Church leaders. In fact, Cardinal Pell has been repeatedly accused of child sexual abuse across multiple different years and accusers. One of these accusations resulted in a conviction that was later overturned.
“On 11 December 2018, Pell was convicted on five counts of child sexual abuse of two boys in the 1990s.”
“The sentencing hearing on 13 March 2019 was broadcast live to the public, with Chief Judge Kidd sentencing Pell to serve six years in jail with a non-parole period of three years and eight months. Pell was also registered as a sex offender. He served 404 days in prison, much of it in solitary confinement, before being acquitted.” [Wikipedia]
In the initial appeal of his case to the Australian Court of Appeal, the conviction against Pell was upheld.
A subsequent appeal to the High Court of Australia, the final court of appeal, “found that the jury should have had doubt as to the guilt of Pell; the verdict was changed to acquittal.” [Ibid.]
Despite the acquittal upon appeal, faithful Catholics ought to have doubts as to the innocence of Pell, given that he has been accused of the same offense by multiple persons across almost his entire time in the clergy, from the seminary to the Cardinalate. Those who speak as if Pell were particularly holy and faithful, and as if he supported particular ideas that he himself is not known to have expressed in his lifetime is highly dishonest. If your main basis for opposing the Vicar of Christ and successor of Peter is Cardinal Pell, maybe you should rethink your opposition.
The main criticism being discussed among Catholics today, which is actually known to have been stated by Pell, is specific to the synod of synods, which is a consultation with the dioceses and parishes of the world. No matter what one thinks of that Synod, it is not a teaching and not a continuous institution. If this approach succeeds or fails, it matter little to the evaluation of Francis’ Pontificate. Also, we do not know the result of that consultation; nothing has been decided, except that the Shepherd is listening to his flock. What a thing to oppose!
The opponents of Pope Francis do not accept his authority and decisions over doctrine and discipline. They do not want the Pope to run the Church. But they also criticize the body of Bishops as well as Vatican I and II. They level accusations against other Popes, even against the recent Pope Saints. And then they do not want the Pope and Bishops to consult with the parishes (priests, deacons, religious, laity). So who do they want to run the Church? Sadly, the answer is that they will never be satisfied with leadership in the Church unless they, the accusers of Popes and Councils, are the only leaders. They will not think the Church to be holy, unless they have their way on every issue of doctrine and discipline, down to the finest point of liturgical form. And that is not faith in Christ, but faith in oneself and in a rebellious subculture among conservative and traditionalist Catholics.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.