Skip to comments.Pell-Mell to Hell
Posted on 06/08/2007 2:02:44 PM PDT by Alex Murphy
THE NICKNAME in this office of this Thursday self-indulgence column is hick Mick, on the basis that it frequently traverses the fact that I am of rural background, (partly) Irish stock, and a Catholic. I am fiercely proud of all three characteristics, but sometimes wonder whether I can, should or do belong to the same set of poor banished children of Eve as George Cardinal Pell. George is threatening anathemas against Catholic school principals, and, most recently, Catholic politicians in an effort to force not only conformity with formal church teachings, but formal submissions of the Church's and his own authority. Mercifully, his writ runs only in his own diocese, and, given that most Australian Catholic bishops do not much like George, agree with his personal and very authoritarian style, or even with his vision of the church militant and triumphant, his edicts are not binding on me, even if (as I doubt) they were capable of being were I within his domain. Our own Archbishop, Mark Coleridge, has said he will be imposing no such edicts here.
If one starts from where George starts from, which I would not, he has a logic on his side. The Catholic Church is an institution, human as well as divine. It is bound by a message and a body of belief and doctrine, which it believes to be divinely inspired. Its organisation and structures are adapted to the achievement of its divine mission, the care, teaching and nurture of souls as they travel weeping and wailing through this valley of tears towards God.
It's a club no one has to belong to, and, at least since some of George's predecessors stopped sending heretics to the civil authority for burning, there are no marked disadvantages in being outside the fold.
George's point is that if one wants to belong, one has to follow the rules, support the aims, and, certainly, do nothing to discredit, humiliate or diss the organisation. There may be room for manoeuvre or emphasis, and some rules may change over time, but those who cannot or will not agree with them should go. If one wants other rules, one should join another club, or form one's own. One cannot pretend that one's own perverse interpretation, at variance with what the records, time, authority and tradition says them to be, are the real rules.
Love it or leave it is the thrust of his message. As to what "it" is, well that is a matter to be determined by him, with the legal authority vested in him, within his diocese, to determine the body of teaching and learning of the church. For him, indeed, it's as much an authority thing, and those who reject his orthodoxy his determination of what it's all about are almost by definition wrong, since his own authority, by his definition, is a part of the tradition.
The love-it-or-leave-it bit goes particularly to selectivity. One cannot, he teaches, pick and choose, deciding, say, that one loves the stuff about Christ's compassion for the poor, but disagree with what He says (or the Church believes He would have thought) about married priests, or homosexuality, in vitro fertilisation, or stem cell research.
These have all been closely studied by men steeped in ways of Catholic thinking people a bit like George really. If you cannot understand them, or if they haven't persuaded you indeed even if you are honestly persuaded to the contrary it would be arrogant to prefer your view to theirs.
Catholics believe that their bishops are in a direct line of succession from the apostles, that their selection and appointment is inspired by the Holy Spirit. As a Catholic, I, of course believe this, but, seeing some of the anointed, cannot help thinking that the Lord either has a sense of humour or moves in mysterious ways, as with visitations of plagues, droughts and deaths of babies.
The function of a bishop, as canon law puts it, is to "nurture" his flock, and, as the apostle Peter put it, in one of his epistles, to "shepherd the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion, but voluntarily ... neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves examples to the flock ... gird yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble".
Or as John Paul II, the powerful patron of George put it, to relate to his charges "as a father and brother who loves them, listens to them, welcomes them, corrects them, supports them, seeks their cooperation and, as much as possible, is concerned for their human, spiritual, ministerial and financial well-being".
But that's the problem with George. He's a bully. He doesn't listen to people; he tells them. He does not seek to persuade; he simply insists that one takes him as authoritative. He does not chide; he threatens. He's no pastor, and has no emotion, no warmth. He grasps his crozier like a sergeant-major's baton, and leads arrogantly from the front expecting others to follow. He's not the shepherd using a staff to pick up the stragglers at the back.
One does not see him among the poor and the oppressed, or being their champion.
One hears instead of his implying that Aborigines at Redfern are a godless rabble, and of seeming to want to drive them from church premises, presumably for his new project, the University of Notre Dame. He is to be seen at fashionable dinner parties with rich lawyers and conservative columnists, condescending to High Court judges' wives, and, no doubt, laughing at the complaints by ex-Justice Roddy Meagher about a stifling political correctness (Roddy deplores the fact that one can't call an Aboriginal a "nigger" any more; not that he wants to, but he would like to be able to if he felt like it).
One does not see this publican's son sitting among the publicans, the prostitutes and the tax gatherers.
And George Pell, the champion of the unorthodox view that primacy of conscience is, ultimately, a nonsense can himself be a little selective about what parts of Catholic teaching one can publicly support, and which not. Or who he should chide, and who not.
He insists politicians who happen to be Catholics toe the line on church teachings about stem cell research. But I have not heard him publicly hectoring Tony Abbott, or Malcolm Turnbull, or Joe Hockey, or any of the other five Catholics in the Howard Cabinet, about adhering to the Vatican line about the fundamental immorality of coalition action in Iraq. Indeed, Cardinal Pell is not himself much noted for parroting the Vatican line on the subject.
Apart from all of this, he is no doubt a splendid chap, and kind to his dog. I bet it's a mastiff. He has his red hat, and, perhaps, it's now his club, in somewhat the same way a group can say it "owns" the Raiders after buying out the interests of previous owners. That doesn't stop a Raiders fan even a non-admirer of the management from seeing the Raiders as his club, or her club.
George Pell cannot stop me being what I am, or thinking what I think. He cannot strip from me my nationality, my family, my clan, my culture, or indeed, my religion and my beliefs and my moral code, all of which are anyway steeped in Catholic tradition, in Catholic learning, and in a Catholic community. He can lock me out of his building, but cannot say I am not a Catholic.
That's not to say I am a splendid example of Catholic thought, or teachings or action. Like anyone, perhaps even George himself, I am a miserable sinner who constantly fails to live up to my, and God's aspirations. In my Catholic church, priests and bishops get their authority from their charisma, their compassion, their understanding, and, if need be, by their chiding, but not by their chrism, their bluster, or by reference to the rich rings on their fingers.
A famous bishop was once challenged by a (non-Catholic) woman to explain how he could subscribe to a church whose history had so much wickedness, not least by popes and bishops. He said, "Yes, she's a whore, all right, but she's our mother."
She's my mother too, regardless of George Cardinal Pell. My mother church has more faith, more hope, and, I am afraid, more charity than his club.
You can learn a lot about a person from what his enemies say about him. Cardinal Pell is a dinkum Bishop!
A famous bishop was once challenged by a (non-Catholic) woman to explain how he could subscribe to a church whose history had so much wickedness, not least by popes and bishops. He said, “Yes, she’s a whore, all right, but she’s our mother.”
I tried to work up some sympathy for this guy, obviously a liberal, who has been most likely poorly catechized, and is excessively sentimental on political questions, and now all of a sudden is flummoxed by a pastor who believes in primacy of an objective truth and the necessity of Church authorities to authentically respond to it. but his last quote is disgusting. Why would he belong to such a Church if that is his judgment or even if he wishes to publish as someone else’s? He embarasses himself.
Maybe the “famous bishop” was Hunthausen or Mahoney.
Cardinal Pell is not even Hick Mick’s bishop. He(HM) is relying on hearsay for most of his observations.
Certainly a Catholic church without sinners would be like a hospital without patients. That is why the blunt instrument of excommunication has hardly ever been used in Australia, as we are a church of the imperfect, not a sect for the elite.
George Pell cannot stop me being what I am, or thinking what I think.
But all of us who wish to remain Catholics have to be measured against Catholic teaching.
A huge diversionary tactic has been mounted to focus attention on hypothetical punishments for Catholic politicians by authoritarian bishops, and away from the destruction of human life.
Human life is the issue at hand. Serious anti-lifers and publicity seekers have been trying to shoot the messenger, while they work to bury the message.
Hopefully Jack is just a publicity seeker.
A lot of verbiage but it can all be boiled down to one thing; the author has a problem with authority.
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