Quick Hits: Coming to Cardinal Pell’s defense, Still waiting for Vatican reform
- Cardinal George Pell, the prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, is suffering through an extended trial-by-media in his native Australia, and a few fair-minded observers recognize that the process has become grotesque. Amanda Vanstone—who has quarreled with the cardinal on many public issues— recognizes the attacks against him as “the lowest point in civil discourse in my lifetime.” As she sees it, “The public arena is being used to trash a reputation and probably prevent a fair trial.” She cites the repeated leaks from police investigators—allowing for multiple reports that they might, someday, maybe, bring criminal charges. Each leak prompts another round of stories based on the assumption that all charges against Cardinal Pell are true, although none has been sustained by solid evidence. Vanstone recognizes that what’s happening is a bid to issue “a social death warrant for the one with the least popular views.”
Writing in First Things, Philippa Martyr agrees that Cardinal Pell is being punished for his views and for his failure to placate the liberal media. “those who know how to play the game are never treated in this way,” she observes. The implacable hostility of his attackers, she suggests, is evidence that Cardinal Pell is seen by them as a dangerous enemy, a man who must be silenced. This nasty treatment, she concludes, shows that “George Pell is more important than any of us realize.”
- Cardinal Pell should be recognized as one of the most important prelates at the Vatican. But after creating the Secretariat for the Economy and granting the new office sweeping powers, Pope Francis chose to take most of those power away, leaving the new secretariat without the authority to carry out its mandate, which had been the quest to bring financial transparency and accountability to the Vatican. The rise and fall of the Secretariat for the Economy is just one of several tales of thwarted reforms, as Italian Vatican-watcher Marco Tosatti remarks in another First Things report. Tosatti reminds readers that Pope Francis was elected by a conclave anxious for reform in the Roman Curia, and the new Pope addressed that topic early and often. “But four years on, the results remain unimpressive,” writes Tosatti. “Not to say disappointing.” Pope Francis has created two new dicasteries—one for integral human development, the other for laity, family, and life. But those offices are not yet fully staffed and even the prelates who head them seem to have no clear idea of exactly what they should do. It’s significant that they are still called “dicasteries”—a generic term for Vatican offices—because it has not yet been resolved where they fit in the Vatican’s organizational chart.
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