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Cardinal Pell: ‘The duty of the German bishops is to uphold the teachings of Scripture’

By Courtney Mares for CNA

Australian Cardinal George Pell holds a copy of his book, "Prison Journal," during an interview with Catholic News Service at his residence in Rome Dec. 18, 2020. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

Cardinal George Pell has said in an interview that the situation of the Church in Germany appears “ominous,” underlining that the German bishops must fulfill their duty to uphold the teachings of Scripture.

“I think that there is a percentage of the German Church that seems to be resolutely heading in the wrong direction,” Pell said in an interview with Colm Flynn that aired on EWTN April 27.

“By that, I mean it is quite clear that a liberalized Christianity, whether it is a liberalized Catholicism or Protestantism, in a generation or so merges into agnosticism. … If you adopt the policies of the world and just go along so that they approve, nobody is going to be interested in that.”

Pell’s comments come as members of the Church in Germany are planning on May 10 to hold a day of blessings for same-sex partners, despite the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.

Record numbers of Catholics have left the Church in Germany in recent years with 272,771 people formally leaving in 2019.

Pell said: “The duty of the German bishops is to uphold the teachings of Scripture, to uphold the teachings of the Church. We stand under those teachings. They’ve got no power to change them — none of us do.”

“What is important is what is in the Word of God, what is in the apostolic tradition. And I don’t think that when push comes to shove they’ll — and I cross my metaphors — cross the Rubicon.”

The cardinal followed the situation of the Church in Germany through news articles during his imprisonment in Australia, something he notes in his latest book, “Prison Journal, Volume 2: The State Court Rejects the Appeal,” published by Ignatius Press.

During his 404 days in prison before he was ultimately acquitted, Pell said he kept the diary as a “historical record of a strange time.”

The cardinal was imprisoned in 2019, the year in which the German bishops launched their controversial “Synodal Way.”

The “Synodal Way” is a process bringing together German lay people and bishops to discuss four major topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

When the bishops launched the initiative, they initially said that the deliberations would be “binding” on the German Church, prompting a Vatican intervention.

Pell said: “The really important issue for the Church is: Do we teach publicly what Christ taught? Now some of those teachings are quite unpopular: forgiveness, people with no rights like the unborn, people at the bottom of the pile, like prisoners, and then you can move to more controversial areas of family and marriage.”

The cardinal added that all leaders in the Church must decide whether or not to speak up about Church teachings at times when that message may be unpopular.

“You have all sorts of voices who are trying to crowd us out of the public square and saying we shouldn’t be doing this and that. Well, one of the things I am saying now and to all my successors is: We just have to keep talking,” he said.

“And our society will be deeply diminished to the extent it moves radically away from the Christian teachings on love and service and forgiveness.”

“And we can already see that in society in the changes that are taking place. We are often concentrating on the losses to the Church of a decline of practice and the departure of believers. That is certainly true, but it has big consequences for society generally, especially when a majority of the people had been Christian.”

Cardinal Pell will turn 80 on June 8, thus becoming ineligible to vote in a future conclave. Asked how he felt heading into his 80s, the cardinal said he was grateful for the many blessings in his life.

“My biggest consolation now is that whatever my imperfections and foolishness, I haven’t thrown my life away on some nonsense cause — like just making money for yourself. I have devoted my life to Christ, to the Church, imperfectly and ineffectively, but I get some considerable consolation from that,” he said.


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18 Comments

  1. We read: “Record numbers of Catholics have left the Church in Germany in recent years with 272,771 people formally leaving in 2019.”

    Did they leave the Church, or did the Church leave them?

    • In Germany, according to a friend of mine who lives there, you are required to state your religious affiliation on your tax return so that each officially recognized religious institution gets a pro rata share of the funds collected for the support of religion. It’s a big complaint of people who belong to unrecognized bodies that they get no funds even though they pay taxes for it. Changing your affiliation is considered an official declaration that you are no longer a member of a particular religion.

      • Worse than that. To not declare on the tax return is regarded as “apostasy” and punished with excommunication. Emeritus pope Benedict said in one of his published interviews that, given European history, the tax might make sense but that the punishment was “indefensible.”

        • Wow your excommunicated for not allowing tax funds to be designated to the Church, but its okay for Catholoic politicians to support abortions. What’s wrong with that?

  2. This is what happens when the Church gets in bed with the government. The German system of the government collecting taxes for support of churches is one of the worst concepts every created. It has created some very wealthy bishops. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26746110 It is my understanding that if you formally “opt out” of your faith community you don’t pay the tax; however, the churches can refuse you sacraments such as marriage. Yea, who could have predicted what is happening … well, just about anyone!

  3. A number of German Catholics including some very high officials have said that ” it cannot be that German Bishops are talking about homosexuality ” day and night “.
    This is certainly the impression many of the faithful have; their number one favourite theme is homosexuality and to legitimize sodomy.
    Shocking seems a soft vocable to express what’s now taking place. And they don’t seem in any way to be ashamed of their open support and love for practised homosexuality.
    Many are wondering; ” why this obsession with homosexuality?”.
    Where is Christ in their vision? New evangelization?
    The Church is already plagued by massive homosexual abuse ( 86 – 90 percent of all the victims are of male sex).Ans these Bishops want to persuade the faithful and the victims that more practised homosexuality in and outside of the Church is the medicine!

  4. God bless Cardinal Pell! Praying foe him every day since over two years.
    I strongly recommend reading his diaries from prison.

  5. My lament for Germany relates to memories three years as a young infantryman Aschaffenburg life impacting friendships years after. Forest shrines Christ crucified hidden chapels the amazing honesty of children purchasing bread beer cheese for us when on field maneuvers churches packed on Sundays. Years later a seminarian friend, former German airman Battle of Britain whose tragic personal life found a decent, gentle person a rarity among his peers. Years later the priest rector of the German College the only Angelicum lecturer willing to direct my Aquinas thesis considered too radical. I don’t like the insults directed at Germans and Germany similar to contemptuous remarks about Italian Americans. Pell a survivor of, perhaps Vatican chicanery has a right to lament German Catholicism. Suffering can elicit our best sentiments. We can endlessly discuss why German Catholicism is fast dissolving into pre Christian amorality. Sexual disorder, moral complacency, exodus within a German Church groomed for decades in Darkness has found catalyst beneath the paginal depths of a certain Apostolic exhortation.

  6. It would appear that the Pope is planning to do nothing about this situation until it is past the point of no return.Schism is what they are clearly aiming for .It would be best if this situation were handled NOW before this high stakes game gets even worse, and the Germans have too much invested to back away from their position. The Pope should call in these German Bishops and inform them without equivocation that if they take their positions ( like the gay blessings on May 10th) to it’s proposed conclusion, they will be excommunicated from the Catholic church. And then, whoever and whatever they pretend to be, they will NOT be Catholics. The church has for decades spent far too much time pussyfooting around various issues for fear of public reaction or of people leaving the Church. Be more concerned about preserving the truth. That is true even if the number of believers is smaller. Truth exists, or it does not. If it does, it must be defended in no uncertain terms. Being “nice” is a secular value, not an expression of religious belief, and does not trump dogma and church teachings. Hoping for the best and trying to convince by “niceness”, while allowing them to possibly distribute communion like so much free candy and condone homosexual behavior will not help defend the church and her teachings. What is Francis waiting for??

  7. In which other European countries does the government tax system also exist? Belgium’s bishop Bonny seems to be pretty preoccupied with homosexuality like the German-language bishops.

  8. I so admire Cardinal Pell. He is still practicing the forthright honesty and strong love of the truth that got him unjustly charged and imprisoned in Australia. He must be a great comfort and hope for however many good priests and laity in Germany. I am sure that the painful price he paid for following Christ and His Churches teachings is not lost on them and for that matter even me. It engenders courage, that one virtue which God gives immediately when the faithful ask for it. Take heart, even though we endure suffering, in the end all will be well. As Mother Teresa said, “The only thing left to do is to remain faithful”

    • Well, Pell was charged because of false allegations and corruption within the Victorian legal system, and following a long defamatory campaign in the media about him doing little to take action against abusers while remarking, unfortunately, re the Ballarat scourge, to the Royal Commission that it wasn’t of much interest to him.

  9. The true Catholic Church interprets Holy Scripture which is a Catholic book. Neglecting to mention this is bordering on support for Protestants. Yes, I know that Pell also said “to uphold the teachings of the Church,” but that didn’t make it into the headline.

  10. Personally, I think that this is a very good turn of events. No more pretense. No more faking it. Now we know the lines are drawn: the side of the Shepherd or the side of the wolves. The wolves have now dropped the mask. Now they are easily identifiable for the wolves that they are.

  11. It would be helpful to know the form and content of the proposed blessing. Is it a blessing of intentions to commit what used delicately to be called ‘irregular motions of the flesh’ of various kinds? Or is it proposed to ask God to bless some stable human companionships? Or something in between? I think clarity is needed before we start talking in terms of schism and excommunication.

  12. I humbly say that the German Bishops should listen to eminent persons like cardinal Burk, Cardinal Pell . There is no credit for rebellion against the Catholic Church. Jesus is our leader and not any secular experts who preach sex or gender equality, this and that. The Catholic Church is depository of truth. I am sorry to enquire whether these Bishops have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. For that one has to be Huber and converse with Jesus daily for a long time. Simply by seeing the sinful secular world some priests and bishops tread on wrong path.

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