|Cardinal, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy|
Pell in 2012
|Appointed||24 February 2014|
16 December 1966|
by Gregorio Pietro Agagianian
21 May 1987|
by Frank Little
21 October 2003|
by John Paul II
8 June 1941|
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Be not afraid
|Reference style||His Eminence|
|Spoken style||Your Eminence or My Lord Cardinal|
George Pell AC (born 8 June 1941) is an Australian prelate of the Catholic Church. He became the inaugural Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014. He previously served as the eighth Archbishop of Sydney (2001–2014), the seventh Archbishop of Melbourne (1996–2001), and Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne (1987–1996). He was created a cardinal in 2003. Ordained in 1966, he has also been an author, columnist, public speaker and sportsman, having been signed by the Richmond Football Club, an Australian rules football team, in 1959. Since becoming Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, he has maintained a high public profile on a wide range of issues, while retaining a strict adherence to Catholic orthodoxy.
Pell studied in Rome, Oxford, and at Monash University and has been a visiting scholar at Oxford and at Cambridge. He worked as a priest in regional Victoria and in Melbourne and has since worked widely in education, in seminaries and the charity sector, chairing the aid organisation Caritas Australia from 1988 to 1997. He has written widely on religious subjects, authoring several books and writing a weekly column in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph. He received a number of international appointments during the papacy of John Paul II, and was brought to Rome by Pope Francis to advise on Vatican City finance and governance issues. He was appointed as a delegate to the Australian Constitutional Convention in 1998, received the Centenary Medal from the Australian government in 2003, and was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2005.
Upon becoming Archbishop of Melbourne, Pell set up the "Melbourne Response" diocesan protocol to investigate and deal with complaints of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. The protocol was the first of its kind in the world, but has been subject to a variety of criticisms. Australia's wide-ranging 2013–2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse called Pell three times to give evidence about the Melbourne Response, handling of abuse in the Ballarat and Melbourne Dioceses, and Case Study 8 regarding the John Ellis complaint. Pell was also called to testify at a 2013 Victorian government Inquiry. Amid anger at the church's handling of abuse claims, Pell's appearances were subject to criticism and controversy. These inquiries discred a number of widely reported claims against Pell regarding his purported knowledge of events as a young priest, but also criticised some aspects of the procedures he later established for handling abuse claims. Pell himself used the platforms to both condemn past failings of his Church and to defend his own efforts to combat child abuse in the church and care for victims.
On 29 June 2017, Pell was charged in Victoria, Australia, with multiple historical sexual assault offences, and denied all charges. The Pope granted him leave to return to Australia to defend himself. The most serious charges were thrown out for "fundamental defects in evidence" and credibility issues over witnesses, but Pell was committed to stand trial on the lesser charges, pleading not guilty. As Vatican Prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy, Pell is reported to be the most senior Catholic cleric in the world to face such charges.
Pell was born in Ballarat, Victoria, to George Arthur and Margaret Lillian (née Burke) Pell. His father, a non-practising Anglican whose ancestors were from Leicestershire in England, was a heavyweight boxing champion; his mother was a devout Catholic of Irish descent. During World War II, his father served in the Australian Defence Force.[page needed] His sister, Margaret, became a violinist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. As a child, he underwent 24 operations to remove an abscess in his throat.[page needed]
Pell received his early education at Loreto Convent and later at St Patrick's College, where he matriculated. Both schools are in his native Ballarat. At St Patrick's, Pell played as a ruckman on the first XVIII from 1956 to 1959. He even signed to play with the Richmond Football Club. However, his ambitions later turned to the priesthood. Speaking of his decision to become a priest, Pell once said, "To put it crudely, I feared and suspected and eventually became convinced that God wanted me to do His work, and I was never able to successfully escape that conviction."
In 1960, he began his priestly studies at Corpus Christi College, then located in Werribee. One of his fellow seminarians at Corpus Christi was Denis Hart, Pell's future successor as Archbishop of Melbourne.[page needed] Pell continued to play football and served as class prefect in his second and third years. In 1963, he was assigned to continue his studies at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. He was ordained to the diaconate on 15 August 1966.
On 16 December 1966, Pell was ordained a priest by Cardinal Gregorio Pietro Agagianian at St. Peter's Basilica. He received a Licentiate of Sacred Theology degree from the Pontificia Università Urbaniana in 1967 and continued his studies at the University of Oxford where he earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in church history in 1971 with a thesis entitled The exercise of authority in early Christianity from about 170 to about 270. During his studies at Oxford, he also served as a chaplain to Catholic students at Eton College, where he celebrated the first Roman Catholic Mass since the English Reformation.
In 1971, he returned to Australia and was assigned to serve as an assistant priest in Swan Hill, where he remained for two years. He then served at a parish in Ballarat East from 1973 to 1983, becoming administrator of the parish of Bungaree in 1984. In 1982, he earned a Master of Education degree from Monash University in Melbourne. During his tenure in Ballarat East and Bungaree, he also served as Episcopal Vicar for Education (1973–84), director of the Aquinas campus of the Institute of Catholic Education (1974–84) and principal of the Institute of Catholic Education (1981–84). He was also or of Light, the newspaper of the Diocese of Ballarat, from 1979 to 1984.
Pell was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne and Titular Bishop of Scala on 30 March 1987. He received his episcopal consecration on 21 May 1987 from Archbishop Frank Little, with bishops Ronald Mulkearns and Joseph O'Connell serving as co-consecrators. He served as Bishop for the Southern Region of Melbourne (1987–1996). During this time, he was a parish priest in Mentone.
Pell was named seventh Archbishop of Melbourne on 16 July 1996, receiving the pallium from Pope John Paul II on 29 June 1997. He was later appointed eighth Archbishop of Sydney on 26 March 2001 and again received the pallium from John Paul on 29 June 2001.
Pell was a consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 1990 to 1995 and a member from 2002. From 1990 to 2000 he was a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In April 2002, John Paul II named him President of the Vox Clara commission to advise the Congregation for Divine Worship on English translations of liturgical texts. In December 2002 he was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, having previously served as a consultor to the council. On 22 September 2012, Pell was appointed a member of the Congregation for Bishops.
Since Pell's appointment as Archbishop of Melbourne he has maintained a high public profile on a wide range of issues, while retaining a strict adherence to Catholic orthodoxy; with some dispute over the issue of Catholics and "primacy of conscience".
Pell worked co-operatively with his Anglican counterpart in Sydney, Peter Jensen, on political issues while avoiding theological controversies. In defending the importance of religious belief in building a just society, Pell worked with representatives of non-Christian faiths, arguing in 2001 that "the most significant religious change in Australia over the past 50 years is the increase of people without religion, now about one fifth of the population. All monotheists, Christians and Jews, Muslims and Sikhs, must labour to reverse this. We must not allow the situation to deteriorate as it had in Elijah's time, 850 years before Christ, where monotheism was nearly swamped by the aggressive paganism of the followers of Baal."
On 28 September 2003, Pope John Paul II announced that he would appoint Pell and 28 others to the College of Cardinals. In the consistory of 21 October he was created and proclaimed Cardinal-Priest of S. Maria Domenica Mazzarello. For the first time ever, from Pell's elevation to the cardinalate in 2003 until Edward Bede Clancy's 80th birthday on 13 December 2003, there were three Australian cardinal electors (had a papal election become necessary), including Clancy and Edward Idris Cassidy, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Pell was one of the electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. It has been speculated that Pell served as a type of "campaign manager" behind Benedict's election. While there was a little speculation in the Australian media that he had an outside chance of becoming Pope himself, international commentary on the papal succession (aside from one Italian source) did not mention Pell as a contender. However, Pell was mentioned as a possible successor to Benedict XVI as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This position was given to William Levada, former Archbishop of San Francisco. Pell remains eligible to participate in any future papal conclaves that begin before his 80th birthday on 8 June 2021.
In 2006, Pell made a successful bid for Sydney to host the 2008 World Youth Day, one of the largest regular international gatherings of young people in the world, often attracting crowds of millions. The 2008 event brought Benedict XVI on his first papal visit to Australia. "We take it for granted that people will always give to the poor and be concerned about social justice", Pell said soon after winning the bid, in remarks which spelled out his pastoral priorities. "But this doesn't just happen by itself. Many great civilisations have shown no regard for these values at all and have even considered them weaknesses ... Every society requires a goodly percentage of active believers to ensure that the values of a fair go and respect for others are promoted, and passed on the next generation. World Youth Day will make a powerful contribution to this vital work".
In February 2007, Pell instituted new guidelines for family members speaking at funerals. He said that, "on not a few occasions, inappropriate remarks glossing over the deceased's proclivities (drinking prowess, romantic conquests etc) or about the Church (attacking its moral teachings) have been made at funeral Masses." Pell's guidelines make it clear that the eulogy must never replace the celebrant's homily, which should focus on the scripture readings selected, God's compassion, and the resurrection of Jesus.
On 18 September 2012, Pell was named by Benedict XVI to be one of the papally appointed Synod Fathers for the October 2012 Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.
Pell was the only cardinal from Oceania to take part in the 2013 papal conclave. Following the election of Pope Francis, Pell was one of eight members appointed to advise the Pope on how to reform the Catholic Church.
In February 2014, Pell was appointed to be the first prefect of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy. In this role, Pell is responsible for the annual budget of the Holy See and the Vatican. As a result of his appointment, the see of Sydney fell vacant.
In July 2014 it was announced that Pell, with the consent of Pope Francis, had the Ordinary Section of Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) transferred to the Secretariat for the Economy and claimed that this was an important step to enable the Secretariat for the Economy to exercise its responsibilities of economic control and vigilance over the agencies of the Holy See. It was also announced that remaining staff of APSA would begin to focus exclusively on its role as a treasury for the Holy See and the Vatican City State.
Following the confirmation of the Institute for the Works of Religion's mission by the Pope on 7 April 2014 the IOR announced plans for the next stage of development. The Council of Cardinals, the Secretariat for the Economy, the Supervisory Commission of Cardinals and the current IOR Board of Superintendence have agreed that this plan will be carried out by a new executive team led by Jean-Baptiste de Franssu.
Pell was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in September 2014.
It was reported in November 2014 that the Secretariat for the Economy has distributed a new handbook to all Vatican offices outlining financial management policies that would go into effect on 1 January 2015. The manual was endorsed by the Council for the Economy and approved by the Pope in forma specifica. "The purpose of the manual is very simple", said Pell, "it brings Financial Management practices in line with international standards and will help all Entities and Administrations of the Holy See and the Vatican City State prepare financial reports in a consistent and transparent manner." The Secretariat for the Economy will provide training and support to the Vatican/Holy See offices to help implement the new policies.
In 2015, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio questioned the scope of the authority given to the Secretariat for the Economy and to Pell himself. These questions involved not the demand for transparency in all financial operations, but the consolidation of management under the Secretariat for the Economy.
In February 2010, it was reported that Pell "had a heart turn in Rome recently and that he's in hospital there or has been in hospital there". It is thought Pell was taken to hospital when he first arrived in Rome after he collapsed due to ill health and exhaustion. He was released from hospital the same day and sources close to Pell said he had been in good health since.
Pell's heart condition was again in the news in late 2015 when it was judged serious enough to prevent air travel from Italy to Australia to appear before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. He was expected to be well enough to travel in February 2016. However, in the end he testified from a hotel in Rome through a video link up. Ballarat based state MP Sharon Knight said, after hearing that Pell would not return to Australia to appear before the commission due to an undisclosed heart condition by saying "if we do ever see you back in this country, then we will know that everything you have said about your health – everything that you have said to avoid personally appearing at the hearings – is an absolute sham.”
In the Australian context, Pell is regarded as progressive on many social issues but a conservative on matters of faith and morals. He has often been wary of what he calls the "callousness" of unrestrained capitalism. He has written that a Catholic is someone who is not only a person of personal conscience but "is someone who believes Christ is Son of God, accepts His teachings and lives a life of worship, service and duty in the community. Catholics are not created by the accident of birth to remain only because their tribe has an interesting history."
Pell supports, in the abstract but not as a proposal for immediate application, mandatory celebration of the Canon of the Mass with the orientation of the priest ad orientem, facing in the same direction as the congregation. "There's nothing like a consensus in favour of that at the moment", he said. "I think I would be in favour of it because it makes it patently clear that the priest is not the centre of the show, that this is an act of worship of the one true God, and the people are joining with the priest for that."
Adam and Eve are terms – what do they mean: life and earth. It’s like every man. That’s a beautiful, sophisticated, mythological account. It’s not science but it’s there to tell us two or three things. First of all that God created the world and the universe. Secondly, that the key to the whole of universe, the really significant thing, are humans and, thirdly, it is a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and suffering in the world.
[I]n some sense we will be there as continuing persons. In some with a new heaven and a new earth with all the good things that we've done will be incorporated into the new heaven and new earth. How it will work out I don't know because, I think, physically and morally and intellectually we're at our peak at different stages in our life. How it will work out I've got no idea but that is the general outline of Christian teaching.
Asked about the subject of hell, Pell said that he used the example of Hitler to explain the notion of a need for hell: "You think Hitler might be in hell? Started the Second World War, caused the death of 50 million or would you prefer a system where Hitler got away with it for free?"
We Catholics generally believe that there is a hell. I hope nobody is there. I certainly believe in a place of purification. I think it will be like getting up in the morning and you throw the curtains back and the light is just too much. God's light would be too much for us. But I believe on behalf of the innocent victims in history that the scales of justice should work out. And if they don't, life is radically unjust, the law of the jungle prevails.
Pell supported Pope John Paul II's view that the ordination of women as priests is impossible according to the church's divine constitution and has also expressed his opinion that abandoning the tradition of clerical celibacy would be a "serious blunder".
Pell has expressed agreement with the lifting of the excommunication of the four bishops of the Traditionalist Catholic Society of St Pius X (SSPX). He has said "I think it is certainly a worthy goal to try to reconcile that wing of the Church", but also insisted that the SSPX must accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council before it can be fully reconciled with the Holy See, saying: "I think it would be quite incongruous wanting to be formally reconciled with the Church if you are explicitly disavowing key elements of Vatican II", among which he mentioned the teaching that "the state cannot coerce belief" and the council's "condemnation of anti-semitism".
Pell commented publicly that the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to retire in 2013 could set a precedent which may be a problem for future leaders. He said Benedict's decision to step down had destabilised the church and some of those surrounding the Pope had failed to support him in his ministry. "He was well aware that this is a break with tradition [and] slightly destabilising", Pell said. According to him, the Pope was a better theologian than he was a leader.
In response to the claim that he had criticised Benedict XVI, Pell confirmed he was stating what the Pope already mentioned himself, and his comments were "not breaking any ground".
During a youth conference in Parramatta, Bishop Anthony Fisher confirmed that Pell was merely "stating the pros and cons of the Pope's decision" and those who claimed his comments were critical were taking him out of context.
Pell has criticised the bipartisan policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers in Australia and called for "empathy and compassion" towards displaced peoples. Pell said that while a policy of deterrence was justifiable, the practice of the policy was coming at too great a "moral cost". Describing conditions in some of Australia's mandatory detention camps in 2001 as "pretty tight and miserable" and "no place for women and children", Pell called for investigation of any maltreatment of detainees and said that, while Australia has the right to regulate the number of refugees it accepts, as a rich and prosperous country, it can "afford to be generous" and must treat humanely those refugees who reach Australia.
Pell was appointed a delegate to the Australian Constitutional Convention 1998 which considered the issue of Australia becoming a republic. Pell supported change, and called on Australia's political leaders to embrace the republic, noting "Without support from most of the front benches of both sides of the parliament, it would be wasteful to go to a referendum." Towards the end of proceedings, he called on conservatives to support change.
When John Howard departed the office of Prime Minister of Australia following the 2007 Australian federal election, Pell wrote that, along with Bob Hawke, Howard had been the outstanding figure of Australian life since Robert Menzies and that he had brought 11 years of prosperity and "changed Australian life for the better". Pell wrote that Howard "understood that traditional families are the cement which hold society together and he was generally supportive of Christian values". Pell said that Howard went a step too far on industrial relations policy and that the Iraq War did not go well, but that the "biggest blot on his record will remain the treatment of the refugees".
Following the 2008 election of Barack Obama as US President, Pell wrote for The Sunday Telegraph that "Obama is a superb orator with a gift for language and a capacity to inspire loyalty and hope" and that the "importance of a black President for the U.S.A. and the world cannot be underestimated; especially a black President with a Muslim father. No country in Europe could produce such a result." Pell expressed a need for universal health care in the United States, but criticised Obama's support for abortion, saying that he had the "most anti-life voting record of any contemporary senator" which, Pell wrote, "contrasts strongly with his humanitarianism in many other areas". Pell said that Obama would have to move beyond the "radical left" if he wanted to "win over the middle ground in the fight for healing and prosperity". In a 2009 interview with The Catholic Herald, Pell said of Obama, "[H]is record on life issues is very, very bad indeed" and expressed his opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act.
When the Australian Labor Party replaced Kevin Rudd as its leader in 2010 and Julia Gillard became the Prime Minister of Australia, Pell wrote that "As leaders Rudd and Opposition leader Tony Abbott are historically unusual by Australian standards because both worship regularly and have publicly acknowledged the huge Christian contribution to Australia. The rise and fall of Kevin Rudd has no parallel nationally. While he talked himself out of his job with his inflated rhetoric, he had many virtues and Australia avoided recession. John Howard was voted out by the Australian public; Rudd's departure will leave a nasty taste in many mouths."
Pell is known as a climate change denier, and aroused criticism from Australian Senator Christine Milne of the Greens political party with the following comment in his 2006 Legatus Summit speech:
Some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be benign. In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
In a 2007 article for the Sydney Sunday Telegraph, Pell wrote that while climate had changed, he was '"certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes, because the evidence is insufficient".
Responding to the Anglican bishop and environmentalist George Browning, who told the Anglican Church of Australia's general synod that Pell was out of touch with the Catholic Church as well as with the general community, Pell stated:
Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don't need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness. Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense..... I am certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. Uncertainties on climate change abound ... my task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people's minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes.
Pell has written of a need to "deepen friendship and understanding" with Muslims in the post–September 11 environment and has said that though there is a continuing struggle throughout the Muslim world between moderates and men of violence, he believes that, in Australia, "the moderates are in control".
In 2004, speaking to the Acton Institute on the problems of "secular democracy", Pell drew a parallel between Islam and communism: "Islam may provide in the 21st century, the attraction that communism provided in the 20th, both for those that are alienated and embittered on the one hand and for those who seek order or justice on the other."
In 2006, at the Legatus Summit in Naples, Florida, Pell stated: "Considered strictly on its own terms, Islam is not a tolerant religion and its capacity for far-reaching renovation is severely limited."
However, he added that the human factor of many Muslims being uncomfortable with the violence and harsh intolerance of traditional Islamic practices provides hope for positive change as has occurred in more moderate Muslim nations. He continued by "denouncing the blithe encouragement of large scale Islamic migration into Western nations" and saying it had a "detrimental impact on economic and cultural development at certain times and in certain places".
In 2012 and 2013, Pell hosted Iftar dinners to mark the end of the Islamic celebration of Ramadan. The Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, expressed his gratitude and appreciation to Pell on behalf of Muslims for hosting the dinner. Pell said during the 2012 dinner that such gatherings are one of the fruits of tolerance that flourishes in Australian society and is a sign of respect for diversity, stating:
We are all called to be instruments of peace and harmony among aggressors and those who practice terrorism although we worship the one God in different ways... We gather united in our plans for respect and friendship.
Pell has participated in many interfaith dialogues and celebrations involving Jewish people. In 2001, he told one such audience at Mandelbaum House that he had come from a strongly pro-Jewish family and of being saddened during his studies of history to find Christian ill-treatment of Jews. Pell spoke of the need to remember the Holocaust and of his visits to concentration camps and of his support for the right of the state of Israel to exist. He praised the role of Vatican II and of Pope John Paul II in advancing the cause of Christian-Jewish dialogue and co-operation. Pell also spoke in praise of the Jewish psalms as "a body of prayerful literature" unequalled in any other tradition and singled out the Jewish prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel as authors for whom he has a deep love and Elijah as one whom he views as highly significant. Pell called on Christian and Jewish leaders alike to speak together and respectfully listen to each other, saying of the Christian-Jewish relationship:
During the last 30 or 40 years there has been a significant reduction in the amount of Christian anti-Semitism. We thank God for that. To adapt to our circumstances the word of Martin Luther King "we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly". Our fortunes, as brothers, are inextricably linked.
During a 2012 televised panel discussion including himself and Richard Dawkins on the Australian TV programme Q&A, Pell stated that he had "a great admiration for the Jews" and repeatedly condemned Adolf Hitler. During the course of the discussion, ABC moderator Tony Jones sought to imply anti-Semitism in Pell's remarks regarding the relative intellectual development of ancient Jewish society with that of great powers like Egypt, as well as in Pell's comment that Germany was punished for its role in the Second World War.
In responding to a series of questions by Jones as to why God would "randomly decide to provide proof of his existence to a small group of Jews 2,000 years ago", Pell said that, while the intellectual life of the ancient Jews was not the equal of the surrounding great powers like Egypt, Persia and Chaldea, "Jesus came not as a philosopher to the elite. He came to the poor and the battlers". Jones cross examined Pell over his use of the word "intellectual" and Pell said (in reference to Biblical times) that "the little Jewish people, they were originally shepherds. They were stuck. They're still stuck between these great powers."
- Pell: That's a mighty question. He helped probably through secondary causes for the Jews to escape and continue. It is interesting through these secondary causes probably no people in history have been punished the way the Germans were. It is a terrible mystery.
- Moderator: There would be a very strong argument saying that the Jews of Europe suffered worse than the Germans.
- Pell: Yes, that might be right. Certainly the suffering in both I mean the Jews there was no reason why they should suffer.
Pell's remarks were widely misreported and misinterpreted, leading to a clarification from his office – reported by The Times of Israel as an apology. Pell said, "My commitment to friendship with the Jewish community, and my esteem for the Jewish faith is a matter of public record, and the last thing I would want to do is give offence to either" and that the Holocaust was "a crime unique in history for the death and suffering it caused and its diabolical attempt to wipe out an entire people."
Pell has received much attention for his attitudes to sexuality issues, particularly homosexuality. He has said that "Christian teaching on sexuality is only one part of the Ten Commandments, of the virtues and vices, but it is essential for human wellbeing and especially for the proper flourishing of marriages and families, for the continuity of the human race." Upon becoming Archbishop of Sydney, he stated: "Any genuine religion has two important moral tasks; firstly, to present norms and ideals, goals for our striving; and secondly, to offer aids for our weakness, forgiveness and healing for every wrong doer and sinner who repents and seeks forgiveness."
Pell says that, outside exceptional circumstances such as relationships involving physical abuse, it is better for individuals and for society if couples do not divorce, particularly where children are involved.
In 2001, ABC radio's The World Today reported that Pell wanted a return to a divorce system based on the fault of one spouse. Pell told the program that, in an effort to "focus attention on the damage, personal and financial, that unfortunately often follows from divorce" he had prepared a list for public consideration of possible penalties to discourage divorce (particularly where fault by one party was involved); as well as benefits to support couples who stayed together.
In 2009, Pell supported the comments made by Pope Benedict XVI in Africa in relation to controlling the spread of AIDS, in which the Pope reiterated the Catholic teaching that the solution to the AIDS epidemic lay not in the distribution of condoms, but in the practice of sexual abstinence and monogamy within marriage. The Pope said that AIDS could not be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which "can even increase the problem". In response to global coverage of these remarks, Pell said that AIDS was a "great spiritual and health crisis" and a huge challenge, but that "Condoms are encouraging promiscuity. They are encouraging irresponsibility."
The idea that you can solve a great spiritual and health crisis like AIDS with a few mechanical contraptions like condoms is ridiculous. If you look at the Philippines you'll see the incidence of AIDS is much lower than it is in Thailand, which is awash with condoms. There are condoms everywhere and the rate of infection is enormous.
The president of the AIDS Council of NSW, Marc Orr, said Pell's comments were "irresponsible" and "contradicted all evidence" that condoms reduced the transmission of HIV: Mike Toole (Burnet Institute) and Rob Moodie (Nossal Institute for Global Health) wrote in The Age that Pell had said a health worker from an African country told him that "people in remote areas are too poor to afford condoms and the ones that are available are often of very poor quality and weren't used effectively". Both professors argue that "this is not an argument against promoting condoms – it is an argument that we need to ensure that good quality condoms are affordable for everyone and are widely distributed with information about how to use them effectively" and concluded "the sexual abstinence message is clearly not working."
In 2010, in Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, a book-length interview by German journalist Peter Seewald, Benedict said that while the church did not consider condoms as a "real or moral solution", there were times where the "intention of reducing the risk of infection" made condom use "a first step" towards a better way. Pell released a statement saying this did not signal a major new shift in Vatican thinking.
Pell supports research on the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells but opposes embryonic stem cell research on the basis that the church cannot support anything which involves "the destruction of human life at any stage after conception". Under Pell, the Sydney archdiocese has provided funding for adult stem cell research but has actively opposed moves by the Parliament of New South Wales to liberalise laws pertaining to use of embryonic stem cells.
In remarks made at a media conference, in June 2007 on a conscience vote overturning the state ban on therapeutic cloning, Pell said that "Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation must realise that their voting has consequences for their place in the life of the church." Some members of parliament, including ministers such as Kristina Keneally and Nathan Rees, condemned Pell's comments, calling them hypocritical; Rees drew comparisons with comments made earlier in the year by Sheik Hilali. Australian Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon referred Pell's remarks to the New South Wales parliamentary privileges committee for allegedly being in contempt of parliament. Pell described this move as a "clumsy attempt to curb religious freedom and freedom of speech". In September the committee tabled a report clearing him of this charge and recommending that no further action be taken.
The legal scholar and theologian Cathleen Kaveny wrote that "In every possible respect, Pell's statement backfired" as, following backlash from elected officials and the general public, the bill passed the lower house with what she describes as "an overwhelming 65–26 vote" and passed the upper house with a 27–13 vote.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney takes the role of visitor of St John's College, a residential college within the University of Sydney. This is a largely ceremonial role but he can also be called upon to give guidance and resolve internal disputes. Under the direction of the archbishop the college associates itself with the interests of the church and its mission, particularly by the fostering of appropriate academic directions in education, charity, social justice, ethics and the environment.
Pell is a regular contributor of articles for the Australian media, including regular columns for Sydney's The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
Pell is a former Fellow of the Australian College of Education.
Pell's tenure as Archbishop of Melbourne began when the issue of handling of child sex abuse allegations by institutions was coming to the fore in public debate. Launching his pioneering Melbourne Response protocol in 1996, Pell said: "It's a matter of regret that the Catholic Church has taken some time to come to grips with the sex abuse issue adequately." In his final sermon as Archbishop of Sydney in 2014 before departing Australia for Rome, Pell told the congregation "I apologise once again to the victims and their families for the terrible suffering that has been brought to bear by these crimes". He said procedural improvements could still be made to the church's efforts against abuse, and then he added that he "looked forward" to the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which he said was providing a "public service" in allowing victims to air their experiences. His choice of words drew wide criticism as they were perceived as being inappropriately blithe & unempathetic to the victims of the abuse. 
After being installed as Archbishop of Melbourne in August 1996, Pell announced the establishment of the "Melbourne Response" protocol in October of that year. Victims were publicly encouraged to come forward. When Pell was appointed a Cardinal in 2003, the ABC noted that he had established Australia’s first independent commissioner to handle sexual abuse complaints against clergy. In 2017, it reported that the Melbourne Response was "widely criticised as being legalistic and offering inadequate support to victims".
After his elevation to the archiepiscopacy in 1996, Pell discussed the issue of child abuse with the Victorian Premier, Governor and retired judge Richard McGarvie, who all recommended swift action. Pell pre-empted the national Church response, known as "Towards Healing" which the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference approved in November, and which began operating in March. He engaged the law firm Corrs to draft a scheme which would be funded by but operate independently of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. A public forum was held on 19 October, and the Melbourne Response was announced on 30 October 1996.
The Melbourne Response was the subject of Case Study 16 in the 2013–2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and was also examined in the 2013 Victorian government Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Organisations. Pell was called to testify at both inquiries.
According to the royal commission, the Melbourne Response set its goals as "truth, humility, healing for the victims, assistance to other persons affected, an adequate response to those accused and to offenders and the prevention of any such offences in the future". Its key features were the appointment of Independent Commissioners to inquire into allegations and make recommendations; a counselling and support service (Carelink); and the establishment of a Compensation Panel to advise on making "ex-gratia" payments to victims of abuse. The ex gratia payments are made without the church recognising any liability to victims and were initially capped at $50,000. It was increased to $55,000 in 2000 and to $75,000 in 2008. Peter O'Callaghan was appointed the first Independent Commissioner. He went on to investigate 351 complaints of child abuse, and upheld 97% of those.
On 27 May 2013, Pell gave evidence before Victoria's Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Organisations. Pell told the inquiry he was "fully apologetic and absolutely sorry". The parliamentarians questioned Pell over allegations from the parents of a victim that he had not shown them empathy. Pell said he had in fact fully understood the suffering. Pell agreed with the inquiry that his predecessor had "covered up" matters for fear of scandal. The Cardinal was heckled from the gallery.
Pell critic David Marr wrote that "He [Pell] admitted his church had covered up abuse for fear of scandal; that his predecessor Archbishop Little had destroyed records, moved paedophile priests from parish to parish and facilitated appalling crimes."
During the course of the Inquiry, a victim of a paedophile Christian Brother at St Alipius Primary School claimed that in 1969 Pell heard him pleading for help a few weeks after he had been raped. Pell denied the claim, which was later discred when Pell produced his passport to confirm that he was not living in Australia that year. In 2015, the complainant's story received wide publicity prior to Pell producing his passport.
During Pell's time as Archbishop of Sydney, allegations of sexual abuse were made against around 55 priests in the archdiocese. These were largely related to incidents that occurred prior to his arrival as archbishop. The allegations resulted in just under $8 million in reparation payments.
In late 2012, the Australian federal government announced the establishment of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The royal commission hearings were conducted between 2013 and 2017. Pell gave evidence on three occasions to the royal commission beginning in March 2014 in Sydney and via video link from the Vatican in August 2014 and in February/March 2016.
In a televised media conference after the announcement of the royal commission in 2012, Pell welcomed the inquiry and said "We think this is an opportunity to help the victims, it's an opportunity to clear the air and separate fact from fiction." He said there had been a persistent "press campaign against the Catholic Church". At this conference he also made comments about upholding the Seal of the Confessional which received negative press (see below).
Pell used his 2012 Christmas address as Archbishop of Sydney to express his "shock and shame" at revelations of crime and wrongdoing by Christians, which he called "disasters", completely contrary to Christ's teaching. He said he was "deeply sorry this has happened" and told his listeners to "help those who have been hurt".
The announcement of the royal commission was accompanied by calls from some quarters for the relaxing of the requirement of confidentiality in confessions, which has been upheld by the Catholic Church since the fifth century, and is protected under Australian law in such statutes as the Evidence Act 1995 (which also provides protections for lawyers, journalists and spouses). At his press conference regarding the announcement of the royal commission, Pell was asked whether he thought that priests who hear confessions from people who commit child sex abuse must remain bound by the Seal of Confession. Pell replied:
If that is done outside the confessional (it can be reported to the police)... (But) the Seal of Confession is inviolable. If the priest knows beforehand about such a situation, the priest should refuse to hear the confession... That would be my advice, and I would never hear the confession of a priest who is suspected of such a thing.
A number of criticisms of Pell's conduct and manner towards victims and perpetrators have been aired in the Australian media and considered at the royal commission. His appearances before the royal commission were met with intense public interest in Australia. He was heckled from the public galleries, and the musician Tim Minchin called him "scum" and a "coward" in a song released on Network Ten's The Project. Pell has complained of unfair treatment from the media and "relentless character assassination".
An SBS article by Debi Marshall included suggestions Pell had ignored accounts of physical and sexual abuse and covered up such abuse. Marshall raised the allegation that Pell had attempted to "bribe" a victim. However, Pell was cross-examined by Counsel Assisting Gael Furness over the widely publicised claim that in 1993, he attempted to bribe David Ridsdale into silence, when David Ridsdale called him about the historical misconduct of his pedophile-priest uncle Gerald Ridsdale. In her final submission, Furness conceded that the allegation was unlikely to be an accurate interpretation of Pell's intent, as it was already known that Gerald Ridsdale was under investigation by police, and David Ridsdale was requesting a private process and not suggesting he wanted to go to police.
The royal commission also considered evidence of Pell's "knowledge of rumours, allegations or complaints of Dowlan's sexual abuse of children in Ballarat", also raised in Marshall's article. One witness said he'd gone to "Pell's presbytery" in Ballarat to warn him about Dowlan. Pell submitted evidence that he did not live in Ballarat or in that presbytery at the time, and the Counsel-Assisting noted in her final submission that "Cardinal Pell's evidence about his living arrangements and duties in 1973 and 1974 make it less likely that he was at St Patrick's presbytery late in the afternoon on a week day."
In 2014, the royal commission was told how lawyers representing Pell and the Archdiocese of Sydney incurred costs of A$1.5 million against a victim of sexual abuse. The lawyers, acting on the church's instructions, "vigorously" fought John Ellis through the courts despite warnings of his "fragile psychological state". The resulting NSW Court of Appeal ruling established the controversial "Ellis Defence", which confirmed that the church could not be sued as a legal entity and held liable for abuse committed by a priest in such matters. Eventually, Ellis received $568,000 from the church. In a statement to the royal commission in March 2014, Pell reversed his earlier stance in support of the defence, saying: "My own view is that the Church in Australia should be able to be sued in cases of this kind."
In his 2014 appearance, Pell likened the Catholic Church to a trucking company: "If the truck driver picks up some lady and then molests her, I don't think it's appropriate, because it is contrary to the policy, for the ownership, the leadership of that company to be held responsible." He was widely criticised for this remark. The president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse, Cathy Kezelman, called his comments "outrageous", saying that they denied the experience of victims. Nicky Davis, from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said that Pell had made a "highly offensive" comparison. Michael Bradley, writing in his weekly column for ABC News, said "Yes, it was mind-blowingly insensitive to draw that analogy and to so blithely refer to 'some lady'. But there was a much bigger hole. In the world according to Pell, if the Catholic Church has a policy that tells its priests not to rape children then, if they still do so, the Church cannot be held accountable."
Appearing before the royal commission in February and March 2016 by video link from a hotel in Rome unable to travel to Australia due to his heart condition, Pell gave evidence in front of 15 victims of abuse who had travelled from Australia to Rome to witness his testimony. The hearing in Sydney was open to the media. Having sworn on the Bible, Pell stated that he did not think the problems with abuse were with the institutional structure of the Catholic Church. "The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those", he said. "The Church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down. I'm not here to defend the indefensible." Counsel assisting the royal commission alleged that there were also wider problems with the church's hierarchy in Australia and Rome and beyond, which they thought he understated or sidestepped. Regarding the allegations of children, he said that "the predisposition was not to believe" and that the instinct was to protect the church. He continued, saying, "Too many of them certainly were dismissed and sometimes they were dismissed in absolutely scandalous circumstances ... They were very, very, very plausible allegations made by responsible people that were not followed up sufficiently."
Pell also stated that the way Gerald Ridsdale was dealt with was "a catastrophe for the victims and a catastrophe for the church". But referring to rumours of abuse per se, "in those days", he said, "if a priest denied such activity, I was very strongly inclined to accept the denial".
Following Pell's inability to travel in 2016, a GoFundMe campaign entitled "Send Ballarat Survivors to Rome" was launched to enable 15 victims of abuse to travel to Rome and see him give evidence in person. It reached its target of A$55,000 in one day, doubled that the following day and trebled it the day after. The musician Tim Minchin released the song "Come Home (Cardinal Pell)", with all proceeds to go to the GoFundMe campaign. The song attacked Pell as "scum" and "coward" who should go to hell. Uploaded to YouTube, within 24 hours it had over 400,000 views and reached the number one position on the iTunes song chart in Australia.
In June 2016 the Holy See Press Office director Federico Lombardi announced that Pell would continue in his role as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, despite being obliged to submit his resignation on turning 75. Lombardi reminded reporters that Pope Francis had previously expressed his full confidence in Pell, and that Francis wished him to continue as prefect.
Pell served as an assistant priest at St Alipius' Church in Ballarat East and, in 1973, shared a house with Gerald Ridsdale, a priest who was later defrocked and jailed for child sex crimes. Ridsdale was convicted between 1993 and 2017 of a very large number of child sexual abuse and indecent assault charges against children aged as young as four years during the 1970s and 1980s, the total number of known victims standing at 79, but that is thought to be a small proportion of his victims. Pell was part of a leadership group of Catholic priests in the Diocese of Ballarat that met during 1982 and discussed moving Ridsdale from the parish at Mortlake and sending him to Sydney. Pell denied knowing about any of Ridsdale's actions. Journalist and former priest Paul Bongiorno, who also lived in a presbytery with Ridsdale told ABC radio that Ridsdale concealed his activities: "They hide it. It was certainly hidden from me. And when it came out, after I’d left the priesthood, I was shocked and I was ashamed."
In March 2016, when asked by the Royal Commission why he had agreed to walk Ridsdale into the courthouse in Melbourne during his 1993 criminal trial, Pell responded, “I had some status as an auxiliary bishop and I was asked to appear with the ambition that this would lessen the term of punishment, lessen his time in jail.” Peter Saunders, the victims' advocate and a former Catholic priest, said that this Pell response “... demonstrates once again the callousness, the coldheartedness and the contempt that George Pell appears to display for this whole issue and particularly for the victims of these dreadful crimes.”
In 2002 on 60 Minutes, Pell was accused by David Ridsdale, a victim of child sex abuse in Ballarat and the nephew of Gerald Ridsdale, of attempting to bribe him in 1993 in order to prevent the abuse being made public. Minchin's anti-Pell song "Come Home (Cardinal Pell)" repeated the inference. The allegation was examined at the royal commission and received further wide publicity. However, Counsel-Assisting Gael Furness conceded in her final submission to the royal commission that, given it was already known to Pell that Gerald Ridsdale was subject to police investigation, and David Ridsdale had requested a "private" rather than police process "it is not likely that Bishop Pell would then have thought it necessary to offer Mr Ridsdale an inducement to prevent him from going to the police or public with his allegations", and Ridsdale could have "misinterpreted Bishop Pell’s offer of assistance".
In June 2002, Pell was accused by a Melbourne man of having sexually abused a 12-year-old boy at a Catholic youth camp in 1961, whilst he was a young seminarian. Pell denied the accusations and stood aside while the inquiry continued. The complainant agreed to pursue his allegations through the church's own process for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct, the National Committee for Professional Standards. Retired Victorian Supreme Court Justice Alec Southwell, appointed Commissioner by the church to investigate the matter, found that the complainant, despite his long criminal record, had mostly given the impression of "speaking honestly from actual recollection" but concluded as follows: "bearing in mind the forensic difficulties of the defence occasioned by the very long delay, some valid criticism of the complainant's credibility, the lack of corroborative evidence and the sworn denial of the respondent, I find I am not 'satisfied that the complaint has been established'". Pell said he been exonerated, while the complainant's solicitor said his client had been vindicated.
In March 2013, Victoria Police launched "Operation Tethering", to investigate whether Pell had committed unreported crimes. On 20 February 2016, the Herald Sun newspaper reported that Pell had been under investigation for the past year by detectives from the Victoria Police SANO Taskforce over sexual abuse allegations involving between five and ten boys that occurred between 1978 and 2001 when he was a priest in Ballarat and when archbishop of Melbourne. His office issued a public statement denying the allegations calling them "utterly false" and asked for an inquiry into the leaking of information by Victoria Police officers to the media. Victoria Police remained silent on whether Pell was being investigated. The SANO Taskforce was established in 2012 to investigate allegations arising from the Victorian Government Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Organisations and the subsequent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
On 28 July 2016, the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Graham Ashton, confirmed that there was an investigation into alleged child sexual abuse by Pell following a report by the ABC's 7.30 program the previous day and stated that he was awaiting advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). On 17 August 2016, Victoria Police confirmed a response had been received from the DPP, but would not disclose the DPP's recommendations.
In October 2016, three Victoria Police officers from the SANO Task Force flew to Rome to interview Pell, who voluntarily participated, regarding allegations of sexual assault. In February 2017, Victoria Police advised that the brief of evidence against Pell for sexual assault allegations had been returned to the Office of Public Prosecutions for review with advice subsequently provided to Victoria Police in May 2017.
On 29 June 2017, Victoria Police charged Pell with sexual assault offences with several counts and several victims. In a press conference, Pell stated that he would return to Australia and that "I'm looking forward, finally, to having my day in court" and "I'm innocent of those charges. They are false". On 26 July 2017, whilst not required to attend in person, he appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court for a filing hearing represented by barrister Robert Richter QC and, although not required at this stage of the court committal process, he entered a plea of not guilty. An application by the media seeking the public disclosure of the details of the charges was refused by the Magistrate.
At a procedural hearing on 22 November 2017, Pell's lawyers requested documents from ABC News journalist Louise Milligan and Melbourne University Press relating to a book named Cardinal: the Rise and Fall of George Pell which was published in early 2017.
In January 2018, a man who had accused Pell of sexual abuse died after a long illness. Nicholas Papas QC stated that the man's death would affect the structure of Pell's court case, and stated that in a case of historical sexual abuse it can "seriously affect the case" due to a lack of witnesses. That charge was withdrawn on the Friday before the committal hearing was due to begin. Pell's lawyers requested and were denied the personal medical information of the complainants. Pell's defence was reported to be based on questioning the timing of allegations. Some other charges were dropped after a complainant was ruled medically unfit to give evidence.
The committal hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence to commit him to stand trial, commenced on 5 March 2018. The committal hearing allowed for approximately fifty witnesses to give evidence, including former choirboys. The Magistrate allowed Pell's barrister Robert Richter QC to cross-examine all but five witnesses. As a result, the hearing was scheduled to allow for four weeks of testimony and cross-examination. Pell's barrister said the matter would go to trial and that some of the allegations, those involving St Patrick's Cathedral, were impossible.
On 1 May 2018, Pell was committed to stand trial on several historical sexual offence charges. Magistrate Belinda Wallington concluded that there was enough evidence for the case to proceed on about half of the charges. Allegations that Pell committed sexual assault in a Ballarat cinema during the screening of a film was among the charges dismissed. Pell entered pleas of not guilty to the remaining charges. As a bail condition, Pell surrendered his Vatican passport and is not permitted to leave Australia.
On 2 May 2018, Pell appeared in the County Court of Victoria for a directions hearing before Judge Sue Pullen and it was agreed that he would undergo two separate trials with two separate juries and that the charges would be heard separately for each trial. The two trials are for allegations in a Ballarat swimming pool in the 1970s and St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in the 1990s. The Catholic Weekly, a publication by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, is running ads seeking donations for Pell's legal fund, and has written an article promoting the appeal for funding. It is unknown who is responsible for the ads or the donation drive. Prosecutors have sought a media ban on reporting of proceedings until the beginning of a final trial, including suppression of reporting an initial trial and no further reporting on earlier trials until completion of the final one.
Pell has written widely in religious and secular magazines, learned journals and newspapers in Australia and overseas. He regularly speaks on television and radio. His other publications include The Sisters of St Joseph in Swan Hill 1922–72 (1972), Catholicism in Australia (1988), Rerum Novarum – One Hundred Years Later (1992), Catholicism and the Architecture of Freedom.
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