Cardinal George Pell’s fraught legacy: Pope Francis critic and financial czar
Cardinal George Pell, an Australian prelate who served as the Vatican's first financial overlord, has died. The cardinal was also intimately involved with the present revision of the English translation of the Mass and had been the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted and imprisoned for child sexual abuse. The judgment was later unanimously overturned by a full bench of Australia's high court, but only after he served more than 400 days in maximum-security prisons.
On “Inside the Vatican” this week, hosts Ricardo da Silva, S.J., and Gerard O’Connell, delve into Cardinal Pell’s legacy dealing with sexual abuse—not only the charges of which he was exonerated, but also the controversial approach he took in dealing with the clerical sexual abuse of minors when he was the archbishop of Melbourne, which some people argue, Ricardo says, “was much more reform to protect the abusers than those abused.” They also look at his stealthy and much-praised reforms to Vatican finances, when he served as the first prefect for the then-Secretariat of the Economy under Pope Francis, with whom he “was not exactly 100 percent on the same theological vision of church as,” says Gerry. “One of the first things the pope aimed at was the reform of Vatican finances—he knew that that really was a jungle,” Gerry adds. “And so he chose what he called the ranger, the Australian ranger. And he said, ‘You take charge.’”
Cardinal Joseph Zen Zi-kiun, the 90-year-old prelate from Hong Kong, who was arrested on suspicious charges last year, was given special permission to travel to the Vatican to attend the funeral of his friend, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. While in Rome, Cardinal Zen also met with Pope Francis. The meeting sparked questions about what many have thought to be an adversarial relationship between the two. Gerry and Ricardo parse the meeting, which Gerry judges to have been “something great; a healing event, a moment of reconciliation.” For Ricardo, the meeting between the two reveals how “complex these issues are,” he says. And it also reveals a larger move “by certain religious media—Catholic media—to put Pope Francis in opposition to others, or others in opposition to Pope Francis,” he argues. “This is a simplification that doesn’t tell half of the story.”
On “Inside the Vatican” this week, hosts Ricardo da Silva, S.J., and Gerard O’Connell, delve into Cardinal Pell’s legacy dealing with sexual abuse.
In the second half of the show, Ricardo and Gerry dig into the news surrounding Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s closest aide and confidant as well as his personal secretary. Gänswein is releasing a tell-all book that he says will answer long-held questions about, among others, the complicated relationship between Pope Francis and the pope emeritus; the drama surrounding the butler responsible for the “Vatileaks” scandal—which sought to expose the Vatican's dirty finances; and the 30-year-old missing person case of Emanuela Orlandi or “Vatican Girl,” as she has come to be known in the title of a Netflix documentary. Ricardo and Gerry address some of the questions the book raises, and whether the book will further compromise the archbishop’s already tenuous relationship with the present pope.
Gerry has read an advanced copy of the book, and with it, he says that “Gänswein has shot himself in the foot.”
Links from the show:
- Australia’s Cardinal Pell dies suddenly at 81
- Pope Francis meets with Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen the day after Benedict XVI’s funeral
- Pope Benedict XVI’s secretary, advocate and confidant: What you need to know about Georg Gänswein
- Pope Francis has private audience with longtime Benedict aide amid tell-all book fallout
- Cardinal Pell blasts Pope Francis in secret memo: ‘This pontificate is a disaster’
- ‘Vatican Girl’: subject of Netflix’s true-crime show has case reopened by Holy See