It’s no secret I have no love for the Catholic Church. But I’m not one to throw out the baby with the bath water. Some of my best friends are Catholics, and there’s no doubt that charitable work around the world makes a considerable contribution to the well-being of millions of unfortunates. There’s also the music, the art and architecture – all of which I adore and the loss of which would make the world a poorer place. It’s not all good – but it’s not all bad, either.
But in the grand scheme of things, some individual heads rise above others, and in the process, expose the rotting mass underneath. George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney is one such man.
In recent months, he’s made no secret of his fear of atheists, and his determination to discredit them at every opportunity. After the Global Atheist Convention earlier this year, Pell used his Easter Address to condemn atheists as making no contribution to society because they “sponsored no community services”. As David Swanton said in his post on Online Opinion, “I’m sure he [Pell] has heard of Oxfam, The Red Cross, UNICEF, the Fred Hollows Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, medical charities and The Gates Foundation, which are secular charities.” These are little facts men like Pell choose to ignore, because… well, because it would ruin the cut of their argument. Besides, ignoring facts is what he does best.
As a well-known and vociferous climate-change skeptic, Mr Pell has made some unintentionally ironic statements: “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.” Skeptical about climate change, but apparently not skeptical about imaginary friends, a talking snake or an Aussie nun performing a lousy couple of miracles (seriously, just the two miracles? That’s it? Where’s her Christian generosity? Surely there are more people out there deserving of a miracle or two?).
Skeptical enough to label as “hysterical” the climate change scientists who have done all the hard work – but not skeptical enough to actually read the science and understand what it is they’re talking about. Apparently, there are some things you shouldn’t ask questions about.
Another of my favourite Pell quotes: “Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense.”
Yes. Yes they should. Especially when he propounds on the sins of homosexuality. Sexuality is a choice, according to Pell. And if you’re gay, you just have to ignore it if you hope to receive communion and be part of god’s church. Pell rests on his academic laurels by referring only to religious teachings when it comes to his opinion here – as do so many religious leaders. In the process, he ignores another scientific fact: sexuality is determined physiologically. It’s not a choice, and god – or man – expecting a gay person to live their entire lives alone and without love or children is not only stupid, but morally corrupt. And yet, that’s exactly what Pell advocates.
And who can forget – indeed, we should all make a point of remembering – the Catholic Church’s official position on the use of condoms to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. Two successive popes have declared that condoms do not decrease the spread of disease, but actually make it worse. This is a position that Pell supports completely, and has resulted in the deaths of millions of Africans, all of whom trusted that the Church would look after them, and put their needs first. To the average rational human being, this is one of the greatest crimes against humanity in the history of the world – and yet, Pell thinks it’s all okay. Not because he’s an expert in the transmission of infectious and/or sexually transmitted diseases – but because he’s a good Catholic, and supports anything the pope says, on any subject.
There are many, many other examples of this man’s beliefs about his fellow human beings – in particular, his attitudes to women and his poor record with action over clerical child sex abuse. But I write about him today because of his recent attack on the Australian Greens political party, who never did the Church any harm. Pell has labelled the Greens as “anti-christian”, and “poisoned”. With an election brewing, it’s clear Pell wants to be firing on all thrusters, and do his best to get his boy, Tony Abbott in control of the country. Again, he does so by deliberately ignoring the facts and misrepresenting reality, all so he can serve his own purpose, manipulate opinion to his own ends. In some regions of the world, that’s just politics.
In my house however, that’s actually just called lying.