Is there a campaign to block Card. Pell’s appointment as Prefect for Bishops?

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.

TwitterIt 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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. dans0622 says:

    I’m sorry Father. I couldn’t make it past your first sentence “….made liberal blood run cold.” For some reason, I find that to be hilarious. I’m sure the rest of the post is not as amusing.


  2. Mike says:

    “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.”

    Ok, never thought of that before, but now that you mention it–it has the ring of being completely correct!

  3. Liz F says:

    Praying for Cardinal Pell. I may have to take this one on for myself. The children are starting to rebel (and timing our prayers.) I keep reading Fr. Z’s blog and then adding people to our prayers. How can we not pray for all of these people and especially the priests? They want to “God bless everyone” and leave it at that! LOL

  4. TNCath says:

    While I certainly believe Cardinal Pell is the best man for the job, I can understand the concern about the negative publicity the false allegation will create. Nonetheless, the press will find something wrong with whoever is appointed. At the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few currently influential members of the Congregation for Bishops who would not be happy with Cardinal Pell’s appointment and are doing whatever they can to stifle it.

  5. ejcmartin says:

    Perhaps B16 is learning to use “trial balloons”. By letting the rumour out now all the mud starts flying before an announcement is actually made. Then by the time the announcement is offically made all the “mud” against Cardinal Pell has already been flung and he can get down to business.

  6. I took that photo last year in Cobh Cathedral. I don’t think I even asked for his permission which was rather rude. I enjoy watching the liberals I know squirm at the thought the good Cardinal might become head of the Congregation for Bishops. Their blood doesn’t just run cold it positively coagulates.

  7. Jack Hughes says:

    not to be disrespectful but can someone please sort the English Bishops out, apart from + emeritus POD they all APPEAR (i do not know the inside of the chancery office) to be dragging their feet over every directive that comes from Rome.

  8. Thomas S says:

    “He’s healthier than many of his elderly critics, sitting in their dioceses doing absolutely nothing that might disturb their sleepy lifestyle.”

    Sounds exactly like what I read in St. Thomas More’s SADNESS OF CHRIST just last night. He reflected at length on the Apostles’ inability to stay awake in the Garden while Christ prayed and how their successors all too often fall into the same sin. Would these bishops who are smearing Cardinal Pell have second thoughts if they knew the echoes to the English bishops in Thomas More’s era? Would they even care?

  9. Lee says:

    As far as the pacemaker thing goes, there is a Cistercian priest of New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque that has had a pacemaker for years. As of last year at this time he was saying two Masses a day, had voluminous corresponce, and continued to counsel people by phone and in person. We will see Fr. Daniel again on the 27th of July, the day before his 103rd birthday and expect to find him pretty much the same as always…a joy to be with, an inspiration and a blessing.

    May Cardinal Pell have as long a life, and may the Lord use him abundantly…usque ad finem.

  10. AnnaTrad51 says:

    I hope he is appointed. The Bishops and the Church for that matter needs a good cleaning out and straitening up.Come Holy Spirit keep our Pope strong to appoint the right men to the right position at the right time.

  11. Jack Hughes says:

    there is a Cistercian priest who is 103 years old!! I know that the Cistercian’s are famous for their austerities, does he still observe them.

  12. HighMass says:


    Amen Amen and Amen! :)

  13. Jane says:

    I am tired of all the garbage thrown at Cardinal Pell. What suffering he has to endure. I asked Cardinal Pell to give me a blessing, because I was suffering from pain and inflammation in my hands and arms. He gave me the blessing and soon I was healed of the affliction.

  14. Charles E Flynn says:

    There is an interview with Cardinal Pell at:

  15. Neither Cardinal Pell nor Pope Benedict XVI are naive. Maybe I am, but I would highly doubt that a liberal propaganda campaign is going to be enough to derail this appointment if in fact it is the Holy Father’s desire to offer it and His Eminence’s desire to accept. I mean, seriously, both men are fully aware that Satan always rallies the troops in the face a major offensive. I see the entire mess as confirmation that this is exactly the appointment the Church needs. My hope (and my guess) is that the Holy Father does as well.

  16. VEXILLA REGIS says:

    I am sure Cardinal Pell’s health would be greatly IMPROVED by such an appointment as he would no longer have to endure the repeated long flights to and from Rome from Australia, which have been necessary as a member of the Sacred College, as Chairman of Vox Clara etc. The health suggestion is transparently a lie. The earlier allegations were shown to be a total lie and are not mentioned in the media here except “”THE AGE”which is as bitterly anti-Catholic as the NYT! Cardinal Pell’s no nonsense style would be a blessing to the Holy Father’s efforts at reform. Let us remember his recent mention of ” the rod ” and pray that he will appoint the Good Cardinal to his team. I am going to assist at Mass celebrated by H.E. in a parish church here in Brisbane on Saturday , followed by the local launch of his latest book “Test Everything”- he will get a great reception! Interestingly the launch is not being held in the Cathedral Hall. I wonder why? Or do I?

  17. markomalley says:

    And then Andrea Tornielli reports:

    Salvo improbabili – ma sempre possibili – sorprese dell’ultima ora, la scelta del Papa è caduta sul cardinale canadese Marc Ouellet, arcivescovo di Québec.

  18. Traductora says:

    Why in the world would he choose Quebec? It has about the most dismal religious situation in North America (virtually no Catholic practice anymore), and the Canadian Church has probably had even more unfortunate scandals than the US Church on a per-capita basis.

  19. robtbrown says:

    Perhaps B16 is learning to use “trial balloons”. By letting the rumour out now all the mud starts flying before an announcement is actually made. Then by the time the announcement is offically made all the “mud” against Cardinal Pell has already been flung and he can get down to business.
    Comment by ejcmartin

    I think you’re right about the strategy, but BXVI wouldn’t need to learn it. He has some Italiani furbi around him for such moves are second nature.

  20. Henry Edwards says:

    Rorate Coeli is quoting Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli:

    “The change at the helm of the Congregation for Bishops has finally been decided: in the next few weeks, the name of the successor of Brescian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, [who has been] at the leadership of the “factory” of Bishops for a decade. Unless there are improbable – though always possible – last minute surprises, the choice of the Pope is settled on Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Québec.”

    Would it have been the Roman way to use Card. Pell as a red herring to deflect opposition from Card. Oellet?

  21. Tom in NY says:

    There’s politics in papal appointments? Cf. Mt. 20:21 and its counterpart, Mark 10:37. De temporibus antiquis nihil mutatur.

    Salutationes omnibus. .

  22. Tom in NY says:

    Animadversio secunda: Eminentiae non nomine “harengus ruber” apellandae sunt.

    Salutationes omnibus.

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