A once-leading cardinal has called for the Vatican to correct two fellow prelates who have expressed support for changing church teaching regarding homosexuality.
Cardinal George Pell, formerly a top advisor to Pope Francis and also the former head of Australia’s Sydney Archdiocese, told a Catholic media outlet that the church must reject society’s “changing dictats (sic).” He then called for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to chastise two European bishops. Crux reported:
“Pell was referring to recent comments about sexuality by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, the president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, and [Limburg’s Bishop Georg Bätzing,] the head of the German bishops’ conference that have arisen as part of the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ of debate and dialogue with the laity. . .
“Pell, who was the Vatican’s top finance minister before he left in 2017 to stand trial in Australia [for alleged sexual abuse, for which he was acquitted], called for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to intervene and pronounce judgement on the ‘wholesale and explicit rejection’ of the church’s teachings on homosexuality and monogamous marriage, in an unusual dressing down of a fellow cardinal and bishop. . .
“‘The Catholic Church is not a loose federation where different national synods or gatherings and prominent leaders are able to reject essential elements of the apostolic tradition and remain undisturbed,’ a statement summarizing Pell’s points said. ‘This must not become a normal and tolerated situation.'”
Bondings 2.0 reported previously on the two bishops’ comments.
Cardinal Hollerich stated his openness to changing the teachings on homosexuality “because I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct.” He called therefore for a “fundamental revision of the doctrine.”
Bishop Bätzing said he favored “changing part of the catechism” because “sexuality is a gift from God, not a sin,” and the church must recognize that LGBTQ couples “living in fidelity and responsibility” were in good standing. Bätzing has been a vocal proponent of Germany’s Synodal Way which has presented increasingly LGBTQ-positive proposals.
Related to Pell’s comments, the Nordic Bishops’ Conference, which represents the roughly dozen Catholic bishops in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland, wrote an open letter to the German episcopate with their own concerns about the Synodal Way.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, the letter said the process must not touch “unchangeable parts of the church teaching” and the church must not be turned “into a project, into an object of our actions, through process-oriented thinking and structural change.”
There has been no response from the Vatican, Hollerich, or Bätzing to Pell’s criticism . Batzing did respond to the Nordic bishops saying “open letters irritate me,” and there would be a response “in an objective way.”
Preceding his trial for sexual abuse, Cardinal Pell had been a strong voice against LGBTQ equality. He has remained quieter on such matters until this interview, which makes clear he still desires the church of Francis’ immediate two predecessors. Fortunately, that church is fading away. The cardinal must realize that in the years between his leaving the Vatican and today, much has changed. From Pope Francis on down, there is a new openness to open discussions of gender and sexuality, as well as more acknowledgement that doctrine develops. Instead of condemning, he should now try listening and learning.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, March 22, 2022