George Pell

George Pell AC (born 8 June 1941) is an Australian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the eighth and current Archbishop of Sydney, serving since 2001. He previously served as auxiliary bishop (1987–96) and archbishop (1996–2001) of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. He was created a cardinal in 2003.

Political issues

Afghanistan and Iraq Wars

Pell has written that he supported the Afghanistan War but believed that the Iraq War was “not morally justified”.

Asylum seekers and refugees

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 refugees who reach Australia humanely.

John Howard

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”.

John F. Kennedy

Pell describes himself as “an old Kennedy groupie” – referring to John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic President of the United States.

Barack Obama

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.

Kevin Rudd

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.”

Environmental concerns

Pell aroused criticism from 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 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.

Australian republicanism

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.

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