Cardinal Pell and squirming Catholics

George Weigel

According to the movie Love Story, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Typical Hollywood fluff, you might say. Yet the best answer to that asininity was given by a Hollywood all-star, the late, great Charlton Heston. Asked the secret of what would eventually become his 64-year long marriage to Lydia, Chuck Heston replied, “Learning to say five words: ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong.’”  

It’s a lesson that seems especially hard to digest these days, at all points along the polarized spectrums of political and ecclesiastical opinion. One gang that finds it impossible to admit error is the Australian Left, which is still conducting a war of calumny against Cardinal George Pell even after his acquittal by Australia’s High Court of spurious charges the Aussie Left may well have had a hand in concocting. That stubbornness extends to the Catholic subdivision of the Aussie Left, as a recent review in The Australian of the cardinal’s prison diary by Gerard Windsor, a longtime campaigner for Catholic Lite, suggests.

Mr. Windsor gracefully admits that, in Prison Journal: Volume I – The Cardinal Makes His Appeal (Ignatius Press), “there is no self-pity, just the assumption that the wrong eventually will be righted, that God knows what he’s doing, and that the suffering involved can be put to fruitful use.” Windsor admires the cardinal’s heroic resolve in jail, which he rightly attributes to the depth of George Pell’s faith. The first volume of what will be a multi-volume work centers on the cardinal’s hope, eventually frustrated, for vindication by a state appellate court; Mr. Windsor seems to have shared that hope, for he notes that he was one of two people not “on the conservative wavelength” whose supportive letter the cardinal discusses in his diary. 

Full marks, then, to Gerard Windsor for discerning what he describes in his review as a “miscarriage of justice.” We can assume that Mr. Windsor was pleased when justice was finally done and the Australian High Court did what that state appellate court inexplicably failed to do, given the emptiness of the prosecution’s case against the cardinal: quash the trial court’s guilty verdict, effectively reprimand the trial jury and the majority of the appellate court, and enter a verdict of acquittal. 

But then (to riff on Love Story), the maxim “Being Left means never having to say you’re sorry” kicks in, and Mr. Windsor’s review skids off the road into a rant about Pell the “warrior Prince” who continues to “wage war” from jail. That war is fought against the “militant secularists” the cardinal believes conspired against him, and “against his fellow Catholics:” an ecclesiastical vendetta conducted, according to Mr. Windsor, “with even greater determination.” Windsor is thus offended by the cardinal’s description of the Catholic Lite Brigade as “the bland leading the bland,” which Windsor regards as a “vacuous slur” from “the mike-hogging uncle in the family.”  

Australian public life is a contact sport, and it ill behooves Mr. Windsor (evidently an eager entrant in the Epithet Derby) to complain when Cardinal Pell speaks his mind robustly, as he was and is wont to do. That, Mr. Windsor says, makes “liberal Catholics squirm.” But isn’t that Catholic Lite squirming a form of surrender to the shibboleths of the secular Left and its culture of lifestyle libertinism? There are honorable exceptions, of course, but “liberal Catholics” have been notably absent in Australia (and elsewhere) from the battle against the Left’s determination to establish, with the force of law, what amounts to a new religion: the religion of the Self, in which the human person is reduced to a bundle of morally equivalent desires, the satisfaction of which is the primary function of government. 

That ersatz religion – which underwrites everything from the abortion license to legalized euthanasia and physician assisted suicide to the LGBT political agenda – will eventually settle for nothing less than criminalizing the biblical and Christian idea of the human person. Indeed, that effort is already underway in the Australian state of Victoria (where Cardinal Pell was maliciously prosecuted) and it’s implicit in the Biden administration’s promotion of gender ideology and the Newspeak-redolent “Equality Act.”  

Mr. Windsor admits that “secular animosity” toward the Church and the Catholic idea of what makes for human flourishing “does exist.” But he doesn’t seem to grasp the virulence embedded in that animosity or the need for courageous bishops to fight it. One wonders if that blind spot is a result of too much squirming about truth-telling, and too little willingness to reconsider and then say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”

Featured image by Catholic News Agency

COMING UP: From rare books to online resources, archdiocesan library has long history of service to students

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National Library Week, observed this year from April 4 to April 10, is the perfect occasion to highlight the essential role of libraries and library staff in strengthening our communities – and our very own Cardinal Stafford Library at the Archdiocese of Denver is no exception.  

Since 1932, the library has served as a religious, intellectual, and cultural resource for seminarians and students at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

As the library of the seminary, we are always responsible for the four dimensions of the priestly formation of our seminarians. The library is charged with being responsible to all the divisions of the Seminary: the Lay Division (Catholic Biblical School and Catholic Catechetical School), the Permanent Deacon Formation Division, and the Priestly Formation Division, said Stephen Sweeney, Library Director. 

In addition to being one of the main resources to the seminary, the Cardinal Stafford Library serves the needs of other educational programs in the Archdiocese of Denver, including the St. Francis School for Deacons, the Biblical School, the Catechetical School and the Augustine Institute. While the library is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was previously open to anyone, giving people access to more than 150,000 books, audios, and videos. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library was named after Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, Apostolic Penitentiary at the Vatican and former Archbishop of Denver from 1986 to 1996. He was a dedicated advocate of the library and of Catholic education.

In 1932, the library was established by two seminarians, Maurice Helmann and Barry Wogan. While they were not the first seminarians to conceive the idea of establishing a library, they are considered the founders for undertaking its organization.  

Since its founding, the library has grown and compiled a fine collection of resources on Catholic theology, Church history, biblical studies, liturgy, canon law, religious art, philosophy, and literature. Special collections include over 500 rare books dating back to the early 16th century and many periodicals dating back to the 1800s. The oldest publication in the library is a book on excommunication published in 1510. The Cardinal Stafford Library is also home to various relics and holds bills personally written by some of those saints.  

Over the past few years, the library has undergone a process of beautification through various renovations that include improvements in lighting, flooring, and even furniture restoration. During these difficult times, libraries are doing their best to adapt to our changing world by expanding their digital resources to reach those who don’t have access to them from home. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library provides a community space; we subscribe to about 200 print journals and have access to literally thousands more through online resources available on campus computers, Sweeney added. “I have been the Library Director for almost 11 years. I absolutely love my work, especially participating in the intellectual formation of the faithful from all of the dioceses we serve”.  

For more information on the Cardinal Stafford Library, visit: 

Featured photo by Andrew Wright