Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney since 2001, has been summoned to the Vatican by Pope Francis to be the new Prefect for the Economy for the Holy See and the Vatican, a senior role within the Catholic Church. This would put him in charge of “financial and administrative matters” and is the first time an Australian has held such a high-ranking office within the Vatican.
Pell has been an outspoken voice in Australia for many years, writing often for The Sydney Morning Herald and other publications on a variety of topics such as education and politics, while also taking part in interfaith dialogues. He is also known to be outspoken against the LGBTQ community, with particular controversy around this in 2002 after he refused gay parishioners communion.
“Homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law, they close the sexual act to the gift of life,” Pell said at the time.
In 2012, the Royal Commission for Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was established by the Australian government. Though Pell supported it, he said that the confessional seal was “inviolable”.
“If the priest knows beforehand about such a situation, the priest should refuse to hear the confession,” was Pell’s argument.
“That would be my advice, and I would never hear the confession of a priest who is suspected of such a thing.”
In 2013, Pell confessed that false documents had been created to cover up child sexual abuse by priests. He expressed that he was “absolutely sorry” and went on to say that the Church had dealt with the issue “imperfectly”.
He also sided with previous pope, Pope Benedict XVI, about the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa.
“The idea that you can solve a great spiritual and health crisis like AIDS with a few mechanical contraptions like condoms is ridiculous,” he argued.
“Condoms are encouraging promiscuity. They are encouraging irresponsibility.”
Recently, he has been spending an increasing amount of time in Rome and even clarified some of the Pope’s remarks on the Church’s stance on social issues, such as abortion.
Maybe it will be good for him to be out of Australian public life for awhile as his comments seem seldom to echo public opinion.