On Cardinal George Pell

April 15, 2012 by  
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I viewed the interactive public affairs program Q & A hosted by Tony Jones last night (9.35 p.m. Monday, 9th April)…writes…Liat-Kirby-Nagar.

There were only two panelists, as it departed from its usual format to host a debate on Science vs. God between the atheist Richard Dawkins and Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell.  The comments Cardinal Pell made on the Jewish people, which were numerous and both disproportionate and out of context in regard to the subject matter, need to be followed up and discussed as publicly as possible.  I know fully that when a Jewish person accuses someone of anti-semitism they are often howled down, but if George Pell’s comments did not stem from anti-semitic thoughts and feelings, then I should like to know where indeed they came from.

I regret that I did not make notes during this program.  His comments took me by surprise and I kept watching, almost in disbelief, feeling more and more uncomfortable, and at the end somewhat sullied at having given this man my distanced and unknown company as a viewer.  It must be said at the outset that Tony Jones did a great job as host and interlocutor, pulling Pell up a number of times and very specifically posing questions to cut through his assertions, particularly relating to the Holocaust and the 1940s era when Pell had said that ‘the Germans had suffered more than anyone else’ – Jones countered with, ‘Surely, the Jews suffered more than the Germans.’.

When speaking of ancient biblical times, Pell said words to the effect that it was difficult to understand why God chose the Jews through whom to spread his words, as at the time the Egyptians showed their intellectual excellence with their great sophisticated civilisation, whereas the Jews were ‘a small people’, only shepherds.  Tony Jones asked if it was not possible for shepherds to be intelligent and Pell went on to say that yes, of course, it was possible for shepherds to be intelligent, but that the Jews had not developed from that kind of intelligence to a higher intellectual state. Jones then said, “Well, what about Jesus … he was a Jew, does that mean he wasn’t up to it?”  Of course, Pell then went on to pontificate on all the ideal features that made up Jesus.  He also went on to say during this discussion, but didn’t finish his thought process/sentence, ‘… and look at where they are today.’ (meaning the Jewish people).  That last comment didn’t get taken up, as questions from the floor and via video, were of urgent nature to be included in the program.


Inverloch  VIC

There were other comments that I now can’t recall as vividly as those I’ve mentioned here.  The programme needs to be looked at fully, then George Pell brought to account for the malevolent nature of his comments, sometimes in the form of innuendo, on the Jewish people.  It is astounding that someone with his supposed stature as a religious leader and public figure could feel so comfortable as to arrogantly talk of Jews in the way that he did.  It is also peculiar when considering the subject of the debate that so much time was taken up in referring to Jews.   If Pell himself is an intelligent man, last night’s performance showed an intellectually lazy man, more interested in inflicting snide remarks on those who didn’t automatically accept his axioms, and professing false Christian compassion in platitudes rather than wisdom and compassion from the heart.


22 Responses to “On Cardinal George Pell”
  1. Marie says:

    I began to watch Q&A with George Pell and Richard Dawkins. After perhaps ten minutes I switched off. George Pell could not answer a question put to him by Richard Dawkins, about where did Jesus go after he was crucified.
    But I want to say this.
    Father Adam and Mother Eve were our first parents on this earth. They had children and grandchildren and eventually Abraham, Issac and Jacob were born. Jacob became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. All his children, of all tribes, were intelligent, just like we are now. Jesus was born through the tribe of Judah, his mother was Mary, a descendant of King David and his earthly father, his step father, Joseph was also a descendant of King David. Had the Kingdom of the Jewish tribe continued, Joseph and Mary would have been a king and queen of the Jews. Pilot had the words’ King of the Jews’ placed on the cross, and that was a literal meaning, Jesus was the King of the Jews. But Jesus was also the Saviour of the whole world, to every man, woman and child that has ever lived, is living and who will yet live. The comments that the Jews were shepherds, these shepherds,yes they were Jews, but their living was being a shepherd. That did not stigmatise them to being ‘idiots’. They were very special people to be told and to hear the choir of Heaven singing, announcing the birth of the Saviour and Redeemer of the World. Coming ahead, there is going to be a huge third world war and it is that time that most countries of the world will be out to finally destroy the Jews, and a lot will be annilated, but then the promise that Jesus Christ is going to stand on the Mount of Olives, a huge earthquake will happen and the remaining Jews will see that Him, recognise Him by the wounds in his hands and feet, accept Him as their Saviour, and they will escape in the valley the earthquake has made for them. And then, it is going to be on for the end fight for the Saviour’s Millenial reign.
    We are all God’s children. For those that hate, they will want to look hell in the eyes rather than the steady gaze of the all knowing Saviour as we stand at the Judgement Bar. As He said, the greatest commandment is to love Him and the second is to love all men- and women.

  2. Bill says:

    Very disappointed with George Pell’s comments….I did not watch the programme but I can imagine the humiliation he caused himself amongst the viewers of Q & A and the catholic church.Deserves a full investigation if this is his prophecy.

  3. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Ben,
    I am sorry for your sadness and hope that you can find some solace in the fact that so many years after the tragic and heinous event that was the Holocaust, there are those who will firmly challenge anti-semitism and not allow it its way. For in doing that we can prevent another Holocaust and we can also prevent all the other acts that have been perpetrated against Jews because they were Jews.
    Sincerely, Liat.

  4. Ben says:

    I feel so terribly saddened and hurt. I too am suffering daily almost 70 years after the war! My parents were Holocaust survivors, 2 very broken and dejected souls who were traumatised for the rest of their lives from the end of the war to their untimely deaths 25 years ago. My father was unable to work in his profession as a doctor after the war because he was so mentally affected by losing his parents who were burnt alive in their wooden synagogue by the Nazis, and the murder of 3 of his siblings, not to mention the affects of the Holocaust on the children of survivors such as myself. Yet, George Pell says the Germans suffered more than the Jews! I am reminded of the oft quoted line , “some of my best friends are Jews”, by people accused of making anti-semitic remarks. The Cardinal`s remarks about his feelings for Jews being on the public record need to be re-examined in the light of his remarks. Has Cardinal Pell ever visited the Sydney Jewish Museum or Yad Vashem or spoken to a Holocaust survivor? If his apology is sincere, he will need to do some of these latter things to show he is genuine. We are a small people numerically, it is true, with sadly having had few friends during the Holocaust, and, regretfully, few friends today! I am reminded of the bystanders who did little to nothing to help us then. With tears in my eyes, I am so saddened to think of the bystanders who are still with us today. Cardinal Pell needs to clarify himself and tell us truthfully where he stands in relation to the Jews!

  5. Liat Nagar says:

    re the ‘Jewish News’, obviously the main issue for them was the remarks Cardinal Pell made about the Jewish people; they wouldn’t have bothered reporting on the show at all if not for that. I haven’t seen the AJN issue yet, but think it would have been more professional to at least mention the programme format and the participants by name before going on to their subject of interest – surely they at least did that? I can’t actually recall Richard Dawkins making any retorts to Pell’s comments on Jews; Tony Jones supplied the interaction there.

    • Steve says:

      Liat, I agree that the Jewish News has a perfect right, even a duty, to report on the Pell kerfuffle, and this they did. But there was not a word about the context of Pell’s thoughtless remarks – mainly the kind of programme he appeared in and who he was up against. The programme’s organizers clearly aimed at a sort of genteel confrontation, and they chose well. So your “surely at least” remains hanging in the air!

  6. Liat Nagar says:

    I think your story of yourself as a child innocently drawing six-pointed stars is compelling and evocative, and, as a professional writer, would encourage you to write your book using the title you have already chosen so well. This experience must indeed have been traumatic, which is why it’s printed so indelibly on your brain and in your heart.

    Your astute questions relating to the Jews in biblical times are most pertinent to the discussion and it’s a shame they could not have been put to Cardinal Pell. It’s true that he spent an inordinate amount of time speaking of the Greeks and Romans, the former in particular, in relation to the subject matter. Again, it would have been interesting to explore further where this was coming from. Possibly further evidence of civilisations other than Egyptian that towered over the Jews intellectually? Pell needs to read ‘The Gifts of the Jews: How a tribe of desert nomads changed the way everyone thinks and feels’, by Thomas Cahill, an Irish author who is not Jewish. Cahill commences by saying, “The Jews started it all – and by “it” I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and gentile, believer and atheist, tick. Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings. …// Our history is replete with examples of those who have refused to see what the Jews are really about, who – through intellectual blindness, racial chauvinism, xenophobia, or just plain evil – have been unable to give this oddball tribe, this raggle-taggle band, this race of wanderers who are the progenitors of the Western world, their due. Indeed, at the end of this bloodiest of centuries, we can all too easily look back on scenes of unthinkable horror perpetrated by those who would do anything rather than give the Jews their due.” Well, Cardinal Pell replaced the description ‘raggle-taggle band’ with ‘shepherds’ or ‘this little or small people’ – trouble is he left it at that!
    Cahill goes on to elaborate these ‘gifts of the Jews’, and validate his elaboration. The book is a Doubleday publication (imprint: Nan A. Talese), New York, 1998.

  7. Ellen says:

    Same George Pell he’s always been, speaking Catholic doctrine, seemingly void of any human emotion. I think the Vatican, as one of the “two great powers”, has plans in Jerusalem that this double-talk is the base for.

  8. Clive says:

    The “mis-statements” uttered by His Eminence Cardinal Pell simply prove, yet again, one thing: that it is far easier to change people’s opinions (those things or ideas that they think, or decide to imagine that they think) and much harder to change their underlying attitudes (which are deeply ingrained matters of character deriving from early experience and protracted “education”). Under pressure, the attitudes deriving from “character” come out, and “trump” or override mere opinions and “elective” or optional convictions, those nice ideas that we like to think that we hold and maintain.

  9. Shirlee says:

    In reply to …..

    “The total disregard of the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust, when the Catholic Church knew full well of the systematic murder of the Jews, and said nothing and did nothing to save the Jews. ”

    The same can be said for the good old US of A during WW2, who knew full well what was happening in Europe to the Jews. They were too busy making money selling armaments, they wouldn’t join the war effort, though Britain asked them repeatedly. Britain had broken the Japanese code and chose not to tell them, knowing full well this would bring them into the war.

    Where’s the condemnation for them? Yet you attack an elderly man, who most clearly has an issue and was brow beaten by Dawkins and who also has been clearly misunderstood.

    I suggest that you watch again and LISTEN carefully this time to what Cardinal Pell says. http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/program/921568

  10. Richard says:

    Nothing has changed. The antisemitism of the Catholic Church over the centuries. The total disregard of the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust, when the Catholic Church knew full well of the systematic murder of the Jews, and said nothing and did nothing to save the Jews. I have total disrespect for the institution right up to now including the massive cover up of the sexual abuse of young boys under their care. The institution acts evil, rather than good. The world would have and would be better off without such a “church.”

    • Lionel says:

      It’s not true to say ‘nothing has changed’.
      The late Pope John Paul went to Yad Vashem.
      i wish my late Father z’l could have seen the live telecast – he would not have believed his eyes, but it happened. And by doing this John Paul de-legitimised centuries of Polish Catholic anti-semitism that had inflicted so much pain on my ancestors.
      i wrote to Pell when Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication of bishops who were members of the Society of St Pius X, and mentioend the anti-Semitic remarks of one of those bishops, Richard Williamson.

      Pell wrote [& i copy this without his permission]:

      Like you, I was deeply dismayed to learn of Bishop Williamson’s comments, which attempted to deny or minimise the horror and magnitude of the Shoah. Anti-Semitism is always repugnant and offensive, and Holocaust denial is one of the more particularly vile forms it takes. It has no place in the Catholic church, or in the heart of Christians.

      The Society of St Pius X is a schismatic group not in communion with the Catholic church. Its bishops were appointed by its founder in contravention of Church law and in defiance of Pope John Paul II. For this reason they were automatically excommunicated, and it is this penalty which has now been lifted by Pope Benedict XVI in an effort to re-open dialogue with the members of the Society.

      The lifting of the excommunication does not reconcile the Society of Pope Pius X to the Catholic Church, or legitimise the appointment of its bishops. I would anticipate that if there was to be a formal reconciliation with the Society of St Pius X, those returning would be required to accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, including the teaching on religious freedom and the condemnation of anti-Semitism.

      On January 28, Pope Benedict spoke of the evil of the Holocaust, which saw “the brutal massacre of millions of Jews, innocent victims of a blind racial and religious hate.”

      As the Zenit news service (http://www.zenit.org/article-24940?l=english ) reported:

      The Pope expressed his “hope that the memory of the Shoah moves humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart,” and that the Holocaust “be for everyone a warning against forgetting, against negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one human being is violence against all.”

      “No man is an island,” Benedict XVI continued, referring to the English Poet John Donne (1571-1631).

      “May the Shoah teach especially, as much the old generations as the new ones, that only the tiring path of listening and dialogue, of love and pardon, leads peoples, cultures and religions of the world to the desired encounter of fraternity and peace in the world,” he said. “May violence never again humiliate the dignity of man!”
      Pope Benedict speaks for all Catholics with these words.

      yours sincerely,

      +George Cardinal Pell

      • Lynne Newington says:

        Let me say this, It was only John XX111, who opened his heart and his hands to the Jews with no reservations or ulterior motives, long before the Holocaust. He later played a pivotal role in saving thousands of lives.
        His pro Jewish statements causing all manner of theological implications.
        It was he who had the 1960 Good Friday prayer with the offending word ‘perfidious’ removed.
        During his Papacy, his pro Jewish statements causing all manner of theological implactions.
        He is one unequaled, much loved and mourned at his death by his Jewish brothers and sisters.
        His Prayer of Repentance is never recognised either, many Catholics unaware of it’s existance.
        Here it is, for those still not familiar with it.
        ‘We recognise today, that many centuries of blindness have veiled our eyes, so that we no longer see the beauty of Your chosen people and no longer recognise the features of our first born brother.
        We now know, that the mark of Cain is on our forehead.
        Over the course of centuries, our brother Abel has lain in the blood we have spilled and has wept tears which we have caused, because we forgot Your love.
        Forgive us for this curse, which we unjustly placed on the name of the Jews.
        Forgive us, for crucifying You a second time.
        For we knew not what we were doing.
        Their lies our true inheritance.

  11. michael says:

    If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck George Pell -Mel Gibson have a lot in common..

  12. Vicki says:

    Is Christianity antisemetic? Of course it is; to the core. I shall tell you a tale.

    I recall an incident from my youth that remains vivid in my memory, as if it only happened yesterday. I was about 7 years-old and attending Year One or Two at a Catholic school. These details are a bit sketching, but the rest is perfectly clear. We were given a sheet of paper and asked to draw our home, together with our family and pets. I had drawn the typical square house with a triangle roof, and stick figures of my mother and father and brothers standing alongside. I had also drawn a tree and a blazing yellow sun in the top corner and had begun to draw some stars. I had drawn one or two stars and was in the process of drawing another when my teacher, a nun, who I had suddenly become aware was standing behind me and looking at my drawing, screeched in horror. She snatched my hand away, telling me that I wasn’t allowed to draw stars like that!

    Not being of a steady hand, I had drawn my stars by making two triangles, one upside down on top of the other. You get the picture. But I didn’t get what she was screeching about. I had no idea what her problem was as she carried on for a good five minutes about how I wasn’t allowed to draw stars with six points: only five. She took my beautiful drawing away, that I had worked so hard on, and brought a fresh piece of paper and instructed me to practice drawing stars with five points. This was my “penance” for the remainder of the lesson. Later that day, I was taken to the Principals office – another nun – who placed my drawing in front of me and asked why I had chosen to insult G-d by drawing a Star of David. I just looked puzzled at her and asked “A star of, … what?” With that, she turned to my teacher and said “Oh, she doesn’t know what a Star of David is.” And to be sure, I did not. They then had a brief discussion about not bothering to call my parents in. I was then taken back to class. The whole traumatic experience I delegated to that part of the brain for unexplained happenings and pondered about it for years to come.

    This was not an isolated incident: perhaps one day I will write a book called Talk of Stars and Things: the journey from innocence to antisemitism! For some of us – the lucky ones – we see this socialisation for what it is: a raging hatred, borne of jealously. You see, you can’t be the original and the best if all you are is a schism borne out of a denial of your very validity. We might well ask why George Pell went to enormous lengths to downplay the significance of Judaism in Christianity, not only dismissing the Jews as uncivilised, but punctuating his rhetoric with frequent ascertains that Christianity is more about Roman and Greek intellect than ancient Jewish wisdom? This is all a part of the propaganda: not laziness. And please do not be deceived by the thought that he was taken out of context: he knew exactly what he was saying, and it was grossly insulting.

    No doubt, Christianity did evolve to become a hybrid of different cultures and civilisations, but there is no denying that it had its roots in ancient Jewish wisdom. Perhaps he should read the Old Testament, again. If the Jews were just a bunch of uncivilised peasants, living amongst their more intelligent Egyptian neighbours, what does he attribute the Passover to? Sorcery? – or perhaps dietary and hygiene customs that proved to be of a superior nature. And who does he think Moses was? – an Egyptian pagan? Who does he think wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? And he really didn’t answer the all-important question of how it is that the most important man to walk the earth – according to him: Jesus – just happened to be the son of a Jewish shepherd, and was nurtured within the synagogue. Here is the irony of my poor little star with which I was accused of insulting G-d: Jesus, the son of G-d, died on the cross believing that he was the Messiah of Judaism: he did not think of himself as being a Christian; he was not influenced by Roman, Greek or Egyptian thought; he merely tried to reform Judaism. He was, no doubt, a remarkable person, and he was 100 per cent Jewish. So, it would appear that not even the Christian G-d would see my star as an insult. But Christianity, for what it became, well … !

    Judy, my darling, you are far too forgiving – and perhaps, hopeful. The terrifying thing about antisemitism today is that it is not disappearing, or even abating. It masks itself in pro-Palestinianism and anti-Zionism; and worse, it is the catchcry of the Left – who could have imagined that a movement that prides itself on its humanitarianism would see antisemitism as a form of political correctness. The fact is that we are not moving in the right direction, and if charming old gentlemen cannot refrain from allowing their contempt of the Jewish people to spring forth in a national broadcast for which they must have given considerable forethought to, then they should refrain from saying anything at all.

    • Lynne Newington says:

      Vicki, thank you for that reinforcement.
      I was reared as a child by the wonderful timbrel playing Sally’s, and as I have mentioned elsewhere, on becoming a Catholic, it was my introduction to anti-semitism, damnation of the Masons, who were so good to us, and the issues of women in the church.
      I was also shocked at the roll the Franciscans played in the withholding of whatever was due to the Holocaust survivors, not withstanding the few who assisted them in escaping from the Nazi’s and rememered as Righteous among the Nations.

  13. Liat Nagar says:

    Judy, If Cardinal Pell was in the enfeebled state you perceive him to be, he would never have been invited by the ABC to take part in this programme, indeed he wouldn’t be fit for the current position he holds. I’m sure he is in no need of your sympathy or your protection. He is accountable for what he says as an individual and the fact that he also happens to be the most senior representative of the Catholic Church in Australia makes his comments all the more offensive, and fraught.
    I don’t know about positive developments within the Church, but I do know what I saw and heard last Monday night. His explanation written after the event is far removed from the words uttered on the night, their tonality, and the attitude and body language accompanying them. I see no good purpose in pretending otherwise and hiding behind generalities.

  14. Steve says:

    I agree with others that Cardinal George Pell was well out of his depth in the confrontation with Richard Dawkins. I don’t know too many who would not be. What was astonishing was how the Jewish News dealt with the matter. Not once did they mention that Dawkins was even there, let alone his replies to the Cardinal. Can anyone explain this?

  15. Judy says:

    Poor Cardinal Pell. I really felt sorry for him. What I saw was not an anti-semite but an old man showing signs of cognitive deterioration who was barely able to speak coherently on any question. Being intuitive, and not looking for an anti-semite behind every bush, I had no trouble figuring out what he wanted to say, and it’s pretty much what his subsequent written explanation confirmed. What his statements did reveal though, was that however good the intention, when the conscious mind relaxes its hold, what wells up from the collective Western/Christian/Catholic unconscious shows there’s still a long way to go. But let’s not hold one old man to account for a historical process in which Catholicism itself is evolving in a more progressive direction. We should support positive developments in the church and not rush to embrace the joys of taking offence.

  16. Lynne Newington says:

    I’m sorry you were placed in this light.
    In between reading this, I have watching ‘Exodus’, I don’t know how close to reality the film is, but how can the well educated most senior Catholic representative, be so thoughtless.
    I have to wonder if his views would be any different without the ingrained mentality Catholics have been reared with.
    What amazes me though, he sought the cream of Jewish legal counsel to represent him in an inquirey into accusations of sexual-abuse, irrespective of placing the counsellor in the position of conflict of interest, having represented the complainaint several years before.
    Thankfully the counsellor was rescued by being raised to the Bar.
    Historically, it proves the brilliant mind of the Jewish race, used for expediency as a means to and end.
    Remember this.

    • Shirlee says:

      He wasn’t thoughtless at all. He was completely outclassed by a very self opinionated man, who loves the sound of his own voice.

      It’s now very obvious to me that Pell is in the early stages of dementia and was brow beaten by Dawkins

  17. Shirlee says:

    After managing to sit through about 20 minutes watching TV, a rarity for me, from what I heard, I can ascertain Pell that has been taken out of context.

    Pell was intellectually outsmarted by Dawkins and most definitely nowhere near as eloquent as him. He was stuttering, self conscious and unsure of himself.

    The question posed was “ Why would G-d choose to prove his existence to a small group of Jews 2,000 years ago?”

    I can fully understand where he was coming from with his answer .

    He said “You don’t randomly ask anyone and for some extra ordinary reason G-d chose the Jews, who were not intellectually the equal of the Romans or the Egyptians.”

    Which was true at the time, we are speaking here of two great civilisations.

    Tony Jones asked him how did he know that.

    He replied “ You can see from the fruits of their civilisations. Egypt was a great power thousands of years before Christianity. Persia was also a great power. The Jewish people were shepherds, who were stuck between great powers”

    As to further comments about other things, someone else can dissect that. I suspect they too have been taken out of context.

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