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The Vatican’s financial chief, Cardinal George Pell, has taken the unusual step of criticizing Pope Francis’ groundbreaking environmental encyclical, arguing the Catholic Church has “no particular expertise in science.”

Nearly 18 months after Pell was brought to the Vatican by Pope Francis and given a mandate to reform the city-state’s banking affairs, the Australian cardinal gave an interview to the Financial Times, whacking his boss’ landmark document.

“It’s got many, many interesting elements. There are parts of it which are beautiful,” he said. “But the church has no particular expertise in science … the church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters. We believe in the autonomy of science,” Pell told the Financial Times on July 16.

In the papal letter, released last month, Francis called for global action on climate change and criticized world leaders for not addressing the issue urgently enough. While the pope won praise from environmental activists, others have argued the pope should not be wading into the political and scientific debate.

Until now, Pell had remained quiet on the contents of the encyclical, despite gaining a reputation in Australia as a climate change denier. In 2011, he clashed with the then-head of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, Greg Ayers, who said Pell was “misled” in his climate change views.

Despite the cardinal’s criticism of the pope’s environmental stance, Pell noted the encyclical had been “very well received” and said Francis had “beautifully set out our obligations to future generations and our obligations to the environment.”

Since the document’s release the Vatican has hosted a high-level meeting on the environment, while Francis has taken his message on the road throughout Latin America.

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Michael Malak
8 years 9 months ago
St. Paul was accustomed to writing letters to errant churchmen. Francis should write one to Cardinal George Pell that says "Ignorance has no place in the Church. You're fired."
Mark Brumley
8 years 9 months ago
And the criticism? The statement of fact regarding magisterial competency? Or is the claim here that the Church does have particular competency in scientific matters, that Pope Francis claimed as much, and that Cardinal Pell disagreed? Did Cardinal Pell state that the encyclical should not have mentioned matters of science? If so, why is that statement not included in this report? Unfortunately, this news piece seems contrived in order to characterize Pell's comments as criticisms of the encyclical. Maybe Pell did criticize it, but that conclusion is not demonstrated from this article.
Alan Mitchell
8 years 9 months ago
Pell has shown himself many times before to be ignorant of the most basic matters. He is nothing but a wing nut ideologue. It is time for Pope Francis to kick him from the inner cabinet.
Voltaire Alferez
8 years 9 months ago
I am amazed at how Cardinal Pell glossed over the fact that the Church has always made a stand on scientific matters. Now, he espouses that the Church must not interfere. He might as well propose that we get out of life sciences including reproductive sciences as well as astronomy! The Church is not forbidden to use everything at its disposal to speak to the world about the issues confronting the majority and not go back to the sanctuary of theology. If that were so, let us therefore abandon the Gregorian calendar and the discoveries of clerical scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, Georges Lemaître, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Pierre Gassendi, Roger Joseph Boscovich, Marin Mersenne, Bernard Bolzano, Francesco Maria Grimaldi, Nicole Oresme, Jean Buridan, Robert Grosseteste, Christopher Clavius, Nicolas Steno, Athanasius Kircher, Giovanni Battista Riccioli, William of Ockham!
Ronald Myers
8 years 9 months ago
While one may argue that Pope Francis (the named author of the encyclical) may not have the scientific credentials to independently have the credibility on many scientific issues, the Pope has over 80 individuals in the Papal Academy of Sciences which do have the credibility. The majority of these individuals are Nobel Laureates and there are six with expertise in Earth and Environmental Sciences. In addition to the named individuals in his Academy, the Pope has the scientific (and some would say the basic faith in the independence's of true scientists) understanding to discern those cadre of evidence, the individuals that collect the information and interpret that information. My interpretation of the encyclical is that there is only a recognition that the credibility of the scientific data and the interpretation of the scientists which have not been overly influenced by those that see short term profits in the status quo. One would question why the Church would ignore an overwhelming (over 95%) number of practicing and publishing climate scientists and believe the three to five percent of the climate scientists that disagree to some small interpretation of the data (and much fewer that have opinions that differ substantially from the published IPPC opinion). I would question the basis of Cardinal Pell's basis of his disagreement with the published opinion of the Papal Academy of Sciences, the WHO IPPC committee, the Academy of Sciences of almost every nation, and the stated opinions of the majority of national and international scientific associations.

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