Cardinal Pell: On divorce, I'm sticking with Jesus

Cardinal Pell: On divorce, I’m sticking with Jesus

By Michael O’Loughlin
National reporter October 8, 2014

ROME — Two prominent Catholic cardinals participating in the synod on the family spoke about the need for Catholics to be involved in the public square and Pope Francis’s vision for the Church during a special panel discussion at the North American College Wednesday.

Cardinal George Pell of Australia and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York both said that while changes in teaching weren’t up for debate, they agreed with the necessity to soften some of the Church’s rhetoric related to homosexuality and other family issues. They also said they were troubled by the level of family disruption that exists around the world.

But Dolan said he found bishops to be surprisingly optimistic about their ability to deal with those family issues. And he admitted to being surprised that Pope Francis has turned out to be such a charismatic rock star.

In his opening remarks, Dolan said that Francis wants bishops to evangelize the Church not by starting out talking about rules and doctrine, but rather by first talking about Jesus and demonstrating what the Church is all about.

“What Pope Francis is telling us to do … is to lead with a person, not to lead with that person’s teaching, or moral standards,” he said. “Our ability to teach faith and morals will be much more effective if we don’t lead with them, but lead with a person.”

Pell, now the pope’s chief financial czar, said Catholics, especially clergy, must be involved in the public square.

“I hope you’re not going to be one of those priests or bishops whose primary mission is to keep out of the press,” he told the audience. “If we are silent, we can’t complain that we’re not being heard.”

“Our society desperately needs what we Catholics and what we Christians have to offer,” he said, praising the United States as “one of the most religious societies in history.”

In the question-and-answer portion of the event, both cardinals were asked for their reaction to the first few days of the Synod. Pell said he was quite worried “about the level of trouble we’re in with marriage and the family. There are very few societies [around the world] where the trend is running in the direction of a stronger family life.”

In the weeks leading up to the synod, several cardinals have engaged in at times pointed debate about divorce and annulments, and Pell made no effort to hide which side he is on.

“As Christians, we follow Christ,” he said. “Some may wish Jesus might have been a little softer on divorce, but he wasn’t. And I’m sticking with him.”

Although Dolan said he found the talks by members of the laity at the start of each day’s Synod session “refreshing,” comments by bishops of the world “at times can move me to tears because they are pastors — they know their people well, and they are speaking with immense love and tenderness about their people,” especially those who are outside the Church.

And yet a sense of optimism still permeates the synod, he said. “Even though there is this gritty realism and bluntness about the pastoral challenges we have, you don’t detect much hand wringing or gloom. We trust God’s wisdom. There is a candor about the challenges we face, but there’s not a sense of panic or pessimism.”

Dolan acknowledged that the bishops are debating how to soften their rhetoric when discussing homosexuality and other topics affecting families.

“When we talk about some time of renewal and reform of our vocabulary, we don’t mean to soften or to dilute our teaching, but to make it more credible and cogent,” he said. “It’s not a code word for sidestepping tough things; it’s more a methodology.“

Pell agreed, but warned that the bishops cannot take the language revision too far. “We’ve got to be intellectually coherent and consistent.” he said. “Catholics are people of tradition, and we believe in the development of doctrine, but not doctrinal backflips.”

When asked whether Francis had turned out to be the kind of pope he thought the Church was getting when he was elected 13 months ago, Pell said that in the pre-conclave meetings, “the cardinals made it clear they wanted improvements in the management of the money here. They wanted the public scandals cleaned up. I was pretty certain that Pope Francis would back that, and he has magnificently.”

But Dolan admitted to being surprised by the Pope’s magnetism. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio “was a very retiring, behind-the-scenes man. In no way did I think of him as charismatic, someone who would electrify the crowd,” Dolan said. “But that gets back to his simplicity.”

The event marked the Rome launch of Crux, a new website covering the Vatican and the Catholic Church, a project of The Boston Globe. Each cardinal spoke for about 15 minutes, and then a panel of Crux journalists — John L. Allen Jr., Ines San Martin, and Michael O’Loughlin — asked questions. The United States debut event was held at Boston College last month, featuring Cardinal Sean O’Malley.

Another article on Card. Pell from two days ago:

Cardinal Pell: Allowing Communion for ‘remarried’ Catholics would be ‘disastrous’

Australian Cardinal George Pell said the removal of the ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion “would be disastrous,” at a press conference held just as Pope Francis’ heralded Synod on the Family begins.

Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney who was appointed this year as prefect of the secretariat on the economy, a kind of Vatican finance minister, is one of at least eight cardinals who openly oppose German Cardinal Walter Kasper’s push to admit civilly remarried Catholics to Communion.

The news conference was held to launch a book Pell wrote the foreword for, revealingly titled The Gospel of the Family: Going Beyond Cardinal Kasper’s Proposal in the Debate on Marriage, Civil Re-Marriage and Communion.

In his foreword and at the news conference, he continued to deplore the thrust of Cardinal Kasper’s keynote address to February’s consistory of cardinals that served as a “warmup” to the Oct. 5-19 Extraordinary Synod on the Family.

In the book Pell notes that the number of faithful Catholics in Kasper’s church is tiny and the number of divorced and remarried faithful Catholics who want Communion even tinier. The issue is being used, he warned, by enemies of the Church to divide and destroy it.

At the news conference Pell called the admission of remarried Catholics to Communion a “radical change in discipline,” whose long-term consequences “would, I suspect, be disastrous for marriage and for children.”

Pell also responded to two of Kasper’s key points, that mercy should trump judgmentalism on the issue and that an attack on Kasper’s position was an attack on Pope Francis.

“Pope Francis is like myself,” Pell told reporters. “We’re Catholics and we start from the teachings of Christ and follow the teachings of Christ. Sometimes these teachings appear severe. All of them are based on love and fidelity. All of them are based on mercy.”

Pell’s comments support a chorus of cautionary voices urging the Synod to continue to support marriage and discourage divorce, including five cardinals who co-authored a different book, and a long list of American Catholic and Protestant lay and clerical leaders and academics who signed an open letter to that effect, including Protestant best-selling author and pastor Rick Warren.

I fear this whole Synod will deteriorate into a linguistic debate on rhetoric. The Church cannot aspire to accommodate the gay lobby or the Catholic divorced under secular law without moving against the clear words of our Saviour and the Tradition of the Church held sanctified for centuries.
Cardinal Pell is right and there is need for pray that this Synod is inspired by the Holy Spirit and develops a position honouring the great traditions of truth held by previous councils.
Capitulation to the zeitgeist is not on the agenda, it should not be added as a special item of business.

If they try to do that I’m afraid it will likely mean a teaching that is less clear and more ambiguous and confusing.

I’ve been a Roman Catholic for 70 years, and nothing could persuade me to leave the Church. But I would like to encourage divorced Catholics to at least investigate the option of getting an annulment from the Church. I did, and was ultimately granted one. I have no intention of getting remarried but, if I chose to, I could be married in the Church. It was a lengthy and intensive process to do the required paperwork, but it was well worth it. To clear up one of the misconceptions of an annulment: it does NOT mean that you weren’t legally married and that any children born of that union are therefore illegitimate. It means that the marriage did not meet the requirements/standards of a sacramental marriage. If you have considered doing this and haven’t already done so, talk with a priest about this option. I’m very glad that I did.

“What Pope Francis is telling us to do … is to lead with a person, not to lead with that person’s teaching, or moral standards,” he said. “Our ability to teach faith and morals will be much more effective if we don’t lead with them, but lead with a person.”
This is great! There is a catechism talk by Archbishop Fulton Sheen about the difference between Catholicism and Communism, and he says that in Communism, people follow and idea, but in Catholicism, people follow a Man Who loves them.

This has clarified a lot for me; thank you for posting it!

What concerns me is that the Holy Father is a servant of the Church. He is not a guru. A wise priest once told me that not everything a priest, bishop all the way up to and including the Holy Father says is from the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke much about sin, satan and hell…I guess we just ignore that?

as FYI - Pope Francis speaks about sin, the devil & hell a lot; especially sin.

I know…but that part of him is ignored.

Isn’t Cardinal Timothy Dolan the one who Michael Voris of Church is very much against because he supported gays marching for their cause at the St Patrice’s parade (or was it another parade?)

Just today, there is a headline on Drudge Report saying: Pope Says the Decil is Dividing Christians.

So, yes, I see your point, but the thingI think he’s trying to say is that if *all *that people know about Catholicism is that they’re against a lot of what people see as normal, then we won’t get anywhere. What people need to know, and which is lost amidst the clamor, is that Catholicism is people following Christ, Who loves them.

For instance, I didn’t return to the Church because rhe Church teaches against X, Y, and Z. I returned to the Church because God lovingly led me here so I could see that the Church was there *because God loves us. *

Basically, I think what he’s trying to say is *not *let’s loosen everything up so people won’t feel uncomfortable, but instead he’s saying, in this day of decency having become politicized and a reproach to people and not at all the norm, if *all *we are seen to be talking about is that people are really bad, without ever squeezing in that God really actually loves us! or any mention that we tol are sinners, that we are not going to be able to evangelize well.

It’s a question of *balance *not accomodation. If you say, if you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, well, we’re sort of shooing the horse away from the water.

Michael Voris seems to be against everybody who’s name isn’t Michael Voris.

Card. Dolan disn’t support the permission for a homosexual group to be in the parade, but he did not back out if being Grand Marshall in protest, either.


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