'Catastrophe': Cardinal Pell's Secret Memo Attacks Francis

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VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis bids farewell to Cardinal George Pell during a funeral mass on Saturday, the Vatican said, as revelations emerge about the Australian prelate’s growing concern over what he considers the “disaster” and “catastrophe” of the papacy under Francis.

The Vatican said on Thursday that the dean of the college of cardinals, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, would celebrate Pell’s funeral mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. As is customary at cardinal funerals, Francis will offer a final eulogy and salute.

Pell, who served as Francis’ first finance minister for three years before returning to Australia to face allegations of child sex abuse, died on Tuesday in a Rome hospital of heart complications following hip surgery. He was 81 years old.

He had been splitting his time between Rome and Sydney after being cleared in 2020 of charges that he molested two choirboys while he was archbishop of Melbourne. The High Court of Australia overturned a previous court conviction and Pell was released after serving 404 days in solitary confinement.

Pell repeatedly clashed with the Vatican’s Italian bureaucracy during his 2014-2017 tenure as prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy, which Francis created to try to rein in the Vatican’s opaque finances. In his telegram of condolences, Francis credited Pell with laying the groundwork for the reforms. underway, which included imposing international budgeting and accounting standards on Vatican offices.

But Pell, a staunch conservative, has grown increasingly disillusioned with Francis’ direction of the papacy, including his emphasis on including and probing the laity about the church’s future.

He wrote a remarkable memo outlining his concerns and recommendations for the next pope in a future conclave, which began circulating last spring and was published under the pseudonym “Demos” on the Vatican blog Settimo Cielo.

Blogger Sandro Magister revealed on Wednesday that Pell actually authored the memo, which is an extraordinary indictment of the current pontificate by a former close associate of Francis.

The memorandum is divided into two parts – “The Vatican today” and “The next conclave” – and lists a series of points ranging from the “weakened” preaching of the Gospel by Francis to the precariousness of the Holy See’s finances and the “lack of of respect for the law” in the city-state, including in the current ongoing financial corruption trial that Pell himself had defended.

“Commentators of all schools, if for different reasons … agree that this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe,” wrote Pell.

Also on Wednesday, the conservative magazine The Spectator published what it said was a signed article Pell wrote days before he died. In the article, Pell described as a “toxic nightmare” Francis’ two-year probe of lay Catholics on issues such as church teaching on sexuality and the role of women, which is expected to come to a head at an October meeting of bishops. .

Referring to the Vatican’s summary of the vote-making effort, Pell complained of “deepening confusion, the attack on traditional morals and the insertion into the dialogue of neo-Marxist jargon about exclusion, alienation, identity, marginalization, the homeless”. voice, LGBTQ, as well as the displacement of Christian notions of forgiveness, sin, sacrifice, healing, redemption”.

Pell’s anonymous memo, however, is even harsher and particularly targets Francis himself. While other conservatives criticized Francis’ crackdown on traditionalists and priorities of mercy over morals, Pell went further and devoted an entire section to the pope’s involvement in a major financial fraud investigation that resulted in the prosecution of 10 people, including the former enemy of Pell. , Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

Pell initially applauded the accusation, which stemmed from the Vatican’s €350 million investment in a London property deal, as it vindicated his years-long effort to uncover financial mismanagement and corruption in the Holy See. But throughout the trial, nagging questions were raised about the rights of the defense in a legal system where Francis has absolute power and has exercised it.

Pell noted that Francis had issued four secret decrees during the course of the investigation “to aid the prosecution” without the right for those affected to appeal. The defense contested the decrees violated the human rights of the suspects.

Pell has also come to the defense of Becciu, whom Francis removed in September 2020. even before he was under investigation. “He has not been given due process. Everyone is entitled to due process,” wrote Pell, for whom the issue is particularly important given his own experiences.

“The Vatican’s lack of respect for law risks becoming an international scandal,” Pell wrote.

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