ROME (CNS) — Australian Cardinal George Pell, who died in Rome Jan. 10, never made a secret of his staunch adherence to established Catholic moral teaching and his concern about fellow cardinals and bishops he saw as willing to abandon that teaching.
But in interviews he always was respectful of Pope Francis and argued repeatedly over the past 10 years that Catholics should not be attacking each other in the media, but calmly discussing their differences with each other.
However, the Italian blogger Sandro Magister, claimed Jan. 11 that Cardinal Pell was the author of a “A Memorandum on the Next Conclave,” which Magister published on his blog in March under the pseudonym “Demos.” The author of the memo begins by saying, “this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe.”
The text complained about Germany’s Synodal Path and its discussions about “homosexuality, women priests and communion for the divorced” while “the papacy is silent.”
But it went even deeper into specifics about Vatican finances and the ongoing need for financial reform, a subject Cardinal Pell was fully informed about since he had served as prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.
Also, shortly after Cardinal Pell’s death, Damian Thompson, associate editor of the British magazine The Spectator, published what he said was a recent submission to the magazine by Cardinal Pell criticizing the current process for the Synod of Bishops as “a toxic nightmare.”
Cardinal Pell’s secretary, Father Joseph Hamilton, confirmed Cardinal Pell wrote the article for The Spectator.
The article took particular aim at the working document for the synod’s continental stage. Titled “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent,” it attempted to present the most common hopes, dreams and concerns raised by Catholics in the local and national listening sessions. It was to be the basis of regional discussions being held from December to March.
In The Spectator article, Cardinal Pell described it as “this potpourri, this outpouring of New Age good will.”
“It is not a summary of Catholic faith or New Testament teaching,” he said. “It is incomplete, hostile in significant ways to the apostolic tradition and nowhere acknowledges the New Testament as the Word of God, normative for all teaching on faith and morals. The Old Testament is ignored, patriarchy rejected and the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, is not acknowledged.”
In a September 2021 interview streamed live and uploaded by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Cardinal Pell had said Pope Francis has “a great gift of empathy and sympathy” and a great capacity to show closeness to people who are suffering and those who care for them.
Asked why there is so much opposition to Pope Francis among conservative Catholics, Cardinal Pell said, “I think a lot of conservative Catholics feel a little bit confused, a little bit uncertain, they wonder just what is being taught.”
Pope Francis, he said, has “a great gift, like Jesus did, of reaching out to those on the peripheries and ‘sinners,’ and categories that are not always seen in the front row at church and that can and has confused people.”