You can bet even the hint that Australia’s Cardinal Pell might be the next Prefect for the Congregation for Bishops made liberal blood run cold.
Lately we have read rumors that Cardinal Pell is ill, that Cardinal Pell did this, that Cardinal Pell did that… all with the aim of knocking him out of the eligibility box for the Prefect position.
Damian Thompson has this:
Cardinal Pell is the victim of a smear campaign designed to stop him reforming the world’s bishops
I write this with some urgency. For the last week, Catholic sources have been insisting that Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, will not take up his appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Two reasons are given – one connected to his health, the other to utterly false sex abuse allegations he faced years ago.
I now have good reason to believe that Cardinal Pell – a man of towering presence and intellect, utterly faithful to Pope Benedict’s vision for renewing the Church – is the victim of a smear campaign endorsed by certain bishops, especially Italian ones, who are desperate to stop Pell cleaning up what are in effect the “rotten boroughs” of their dioceses. We must pray that the Holy Father ignores the campaign.
Reason number one: Pell is “in poor health”. True, he has a pacemaker. Otherwise, he’s is reasonably good shape – certainly well enough to take up his position. [My father has had a pacemaker for years to make sure his resting heartbeat does not drop too far. He has been running and biking daily, and intensely, with this gizmo for years. The fact of a pacemaker means very little.] He’s healthier than many of his elderly critics, sitting in their dioceses doing absolutely nothing that might disturb their sleepy lifestyle. [It might be helpful to know who the critics are and what they are saying.]
Reason number two: Cardinal Pell is tainted by sex abuse allegations. This is garbage. The Age newspaper in Australia carries this very revealing report:
Cardinal George Pell, whose promotion to a top Vatican job was expected this month, has been dropped from consideration because of former abuse allegations against him, according to informed sources in Rome.
Cardinal Pell stood down as Archbishop of Sydney in 2002 after he was accused of abusing a teenager at a church camp in the 1960s, but an independent investigation by a retired non-Catholic judge cleared him.
Vatican watchers now say important officials have worked to undermine Cardinal Pell as the next head of the Congregation of Bishops, partly from concerns over negative publicity about the abuse allegations and partly for internal political reasons, including the desire for an Italian to take the job.
But these officials aren’t really concerned about “negative publicity” over allegations that turned out to be lies: they are exploiting those lies to protect themselves. My question: why should this campaign of black propaganda succeed? Not since the election of Benedict XVI has an appointment so horrified the smug, lazy, liberal establishment in the Vatican and the dioceses. That’s because Cardinal Pell has detailed knowledge of the situation not only in Italy, where many bishops do about as much to earn their positions as British MPs did before the Reform Act of 1832, but also in Latin America and Asia.
Cardinal Pell’s message to the bishops woud be: “Sorry, gentleman, but this is not a job for life. You must exhibit evangelical dynamism and obedience to the Holy Father – and, if you don’t, then there are holy priests ready to take your place.” Hence this foul campaign.
It seems to me that at some point during his pontificate, John Paul II decided that the world’s episcopate had to be shaped up. Given the huge battle that would entail, he had to move slowly, in such a way as not to raise alarms and provoke even a schism by the liberals.
He also determined that the most important group to reform were the bishops of the Anglophone world. And among those, he would focus first on the middle section of the USA. Eventually – over many years – there would a shift in the sort of bishop occupying major sees.
It seems to me that the Anglophone world still deserves some priority.
In the USA the state of affairs has become far more positive, due to both the inevitability of the biological solution and better selection of candidates for the terribly difficult role of diocesan bishop.
But a great deal still has to be done, especially in the UK and Australia, not to mention Ireland.
Cardinal Pell knows what’s going on in those regions.
I think one of the reasons why we had English speaking prelates at the top of the Congregation for Divine Worship for quite a while was precisely because of the preparation of the English translation. The enemies of the translation dragged their feet until the tops slots changed around a bit, but English had to be a major concern because English is without a doubt the most important vernacular language in liturgy now, with Spanish to follow. And now there is a Spanish speaking Prefect and Sottosegretario.
I think the main reason we have an American Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is because of the clerical sexual abuse crisis. There were loads of cases in English that needed attention and efficient action. Thus, an American was brought in, knowing that he would get the work done, that he would not need translations of nuances, and that he couldn’t be easily lied to.
For similar reasons, I believe that Card. Pell’s name was at the top of the heap for Prefect for Bishops precisely along the same lines.
Furthermore, for these reasons some groups will try nearly anything to block even the suggestion that Card. Pell might wind up being appointed Prefect for the Congregation for Bishop.