Apocalypse Now

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 24, 2003

Culturally speaking, Sydney is Australia's San Francisco: sybaritic, prosperous, fashionably depraved. In ecclesial terms, Sydney was Australia's Chicago: like Chicago, its soft slide into bernardinism was presided over by a bland cardinal-apparatchik with a Mona Lisa smile and a cabinet of clergymen dressed a little bit too well. Then came Archbishop Pell.

BISHOPS FEAR PURGE OF LIBERALS, screams the headline in the Sydney Morning News. Two new auxiliary bishops were appointed to Sydney this month, both accomplished scholars, both exceptionally gracious and well-spoken, and -- here's the rub -- both orthodox. Listen to the squeals:

Catholic bishops will confront the Sydney Archbishop, George Pell, tomorrow over the appointment of two new bishops which some fear is part of a Vatican campaign to purge the Sydney archdiocese of its liberal streak.


Dr Pell is also planning a "Life Office", which will look at topics such as birth control, abortion, euthanasia and stem-cell research. It is being likened to a "Ministry of Vice and Virtue" by nervous insiders.


Senior clergy say they will confront Dr Pell over the manner of the appointments - announced by John Paul II - at a meeting of bishops in Sydney tomorrow. One senior church source said local priests feared it was part of a campaign to convert Sydney to "neo-orthodoxy"


Another insider said there was an "atmosphere of tyranny" which was effectively preventing clergy and bishops from talking openly to the media. "[The Sydney priests] are in shock ... although they probably saw it coming in their worst nightmares," said another.

It gets better. Compare the following to Cardinal Maida's criteria in the earlier post:

Dr Pell also appears not to have followed the usual practice of consulting widely or drawing on a list of suitable candidates provided annually by all NSW bishops. The level of shock among clergy and bishops suggests that little if any attention was paid to the consultation process. Others believe Dr Pell bypassed the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Francesco Canalini, and sent his choice of bishops directly to Rome.

Let's pause while our friends breathe into a paper bag for a few minutes and regain their composure. Anyone with news sense will recognize that the writer was spoon-fed the paragraph above by her source. No journalist is going to deduce from "the level of shock" in Aussie clergy a failure to follow the sacrosanct "consultation process." My oath, mate. But back to the calm, objective, even-handed reporting:

Some Sydney clergy appear particularly concerned over the appointment of the Melbourne-based Father Fisher, a close ally of Dr Pell who shares the archbishop's passion for strictly upholding the church's traditional teachings on contraception, abortion and euthanasia. Ordained just 12 years ago, he was the founding director of Melbourne's John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, an ultra-conservative pro-life organisation with rumoured links to Opus Dei.

You know, folks, it doesn't get any better than this.

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