LGBTQ+ Advocates Split Over Protest of Memorial Mass for Cardinal George Pell

Funeral for Cardinal George Pell in Rome, January 2023

LGBTQ+ equality supporters are planning to protest a liturgy for Australian Cardinal George Pell, who died earlier this month, but a Catholic LGBTQ+ advocate questions if this is a proper response.

Pell died on January 10th, and had his funeral celebrated at the Vatican shortly thereafter, which included a blessing from Pope Francis. Now, a memorial Mass and burial service are scheduled for February 2nd back in Australia. Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, one of Pell’s protégés, will celebrate the Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, where Pell will then be interred, according to The Star Observer

LGBTQ+ advocates are planning to rally outside the cathedral to protest Pell’s strident opposition to LGBTQ+ equality. April Holcombe, a member of Community Action for Rainbow Rights, hopes that the rally will show support for LGBTQ+ people, as a way of responding to Pell’s anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and actions. In addition, she believes that the rally is also a way to protest all those who support Pell, especially Australian politicians and the press. She stated that it is “important that progressive forces, forces for justice, make their voices heard” during this time.

Because Pell was also a key figure in Australia’s clerical sex abuse crisis, community members in Australia are also being asked to tie colored ribbons on the fence of St. Mary’s Cathedral. According to advocate Simon Hunt, the ribbons are to “remember the victims, not the enabler of clergy abuse.”

Robert Shine, associate director of New Ways Ministry, commented on the planned LGBTQ+ protest:

“A prominent figure’s death is an appropriate moment to respectfully assess and even critique their record, as many have been doing with Cardinal Pell. The harm he caused to LGBTQ+ Australians and others is sadly part of his legacy. The key, however, is to critique his record do so respectfully. Disrupting a memorial Mass is not respectful to for those who mourn Pell’s death. They must be allowed space to grieve.”

In response to the rally’s title, “Pell Go to Hell,” Shine stated:

“Organizers should reconsider their crassly-named protest as it does not advance reconciliation, but rather foments division and hard feelings—and mirrors the combative behaviors for which so many people rightly criticized the cardinal. The institutional Catholic Church’s full recognition ofly recognizing LGBTQ+ people’s dignity will never be attained by denigrating another person or community, even those like Cardinal Pell who are at times have been so harsh.

Pell was a polarizing figure known for his open opposition to marriage equality and women’s equality. He campaigned against LGBTQ+ reforms, once stating that same-gender relationships are a “greater health hazard than smoking.” In 2022Pell made the unusual move of asking  the Vatican to chastise Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg and Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg for expressing support for a re-evaluation of the church’s teachings on homosexuality.  More recently, it was revealed after his death that he authored a diatribe against Pope Francis released under a pseudonym last year. An essay by him criticizing the Synod on Synodality in harsh terms was published the day after his death.

New Ways Ministry’s Shine concluded his comments on this controversy with:

“I pray now that, as theologian Jason Steidl suggested of Benedict XVI on this blog a few weeks ago, Cardinal Pell is surrounded by a company of LGBTQ+ saints in heaven with ‘an eternity to discover God’s beautiful work in queer lives.'”

Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, January 25, 2023

6 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Whatever Pell may have known, obscured or ignored, his Memorial Mass should be off the table for a protest opportunity. He is dead. Allow his family and friends some peace.

    THOMAS M DEELY says:

    Robert, thanks so very much for your well measured and compassionate comments on the planned protest for Cardinal George Pell’s funeral. As a most recent straight ally of New Ways and one who is learning and growing each day on the sadness of ALL kinds of exclusion I am most grateful for your words. And, reading all the New Ways I will, as my now 3 years deceased gay brother Dan encouraged me as he died: “Don’t SAY you’ll grow!!. Just GROW!! I will and I am

  3. Barbara P. Cotter
    Barbara P. Cotter says:

    I think this is a chance to show prayers and empathy for people who don’t undestand the LGBT community. I would go and try to participate in the Service, showing care for all as Jesus would have done. Not show any disruption.

  4. Brian McNeill
    Brian McNeill says:

    I think it is fine for New Ways Ministry to publish an editorial on its Bondings 2.0 Blog, but it should title it as such. This “article” about “LGBTQ Advocates” is a thinly disguised editorial by Robert Shine, whose work and judgement I admire. Why are you pretending to be objective when you are clearly siding with Shine and pushing his viewpoint?

  5. Rebecca White
    Rebecca White says:

    I’m with Robert Shine on this matter. There is no need to harm those who are grieving by having a “Pell Go to Hell” protest. The title of the protest seems hate-filled rather reaching out in love to others harmed by him.

  6. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    Protesting at a funeral liturgy is not only inappropriate because it is a funeral liturgy, but also misguided because it is God who will judge Pell now. Pell has been silenced. Let that be.

    I think because Robert Shine is the editor of this blog he is writing the title and article himself. Respectfully. I don’t sense anyone hiding here.


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