I have yet to meet Cardinal Pell. He seems like a warm, cuddly, bear of a man, the kind of man you would love to wind away a quiet evening with beside a roaring fire and, later, after coffee and port, without any fuss, you would lean over, grab his robe and drag him into the coals.
What else could you so with such an astounding man, Australia’s leading Catholic, our only Cardinal, a man with a Pope’s ear, a Prime Minister’s ear, a few million Catholic ears, but arrange for him to burn? There is too much at stake.
And what has brought about the fire in this blogger?
Well, I woke one cold morning this week to find my morning papers full of the Pell, front pages splashed and ringing with Pell. There was Pell everywhere. And the Pell paled, bloated and stank.
One headline in the West Australian, Perth’s only and, thus, finest morning newspaper, screamed: Populate or Perish, warns Pell.
I read on. I should have gone back to bed.
“No Western country is producing enough babies to keep the population stable,” he said.
And he also said he was a “climate change sceptic”.
Cardinal Pell lives in a big house for big Catholic Cardinals. It is his right. He doesn’t read newspapers, listen to radio, or watch television. He has bishops do this for him and write him reports at the end of the week, the end of the month, the year, their lives, we are not sure when.
The bishops live in big houses for big Catholic bishops. They don’t read newspapers, listen to radio, or watch television. They have priests do this for them and write them reports, which they don’t read. They all need to get out more. They have not heard that the world is struggling under the weight of its human population, struggling to produce enough food to feed its hordes, to save its endangered creatures, its plants, its air, its very existence. Farmers are struggling to pay fuel costs, water costs, superphosphate costs, debt costs. Good food producing land is being sold to real estate developers everywhere from New Zealand to China, from Brazil to Durbin. Good food producing land is being given up to mining companies and forestry corporations in all Australian states.
The Church does nothing about this, because it is part of the great free-enterprise global world system, because the Church is about Rome, it is about power, and numbers, and competition with other leading global faiths. It is about winning and glory. It is not about the word of Jesus Christ, who would, I am sure, be none too pleased with the pomp, ceremony, glitter, tinsel, flag waving, the ritual, the secrecy and the stored wealth, that is the Church.
Oh, yes, there are good folk there. Even this same week I met an aging nun with a vibrant sense of humour, and reality, as she left a local coffee shop
“Did you have a coffee?” she asked.
“No,” I replied, “they don’t serve Protestants.”
She laughed. We all laughed. Then she blessed me.
Quick as a flash, she then said: “You can bless me too, but it won’t pay for the petrol.”
The coffee shop erupted. In that instant, that moment of utter realism, we all loved that nun.
Back to the men who lead her church.
And if they ever get out, the bishops should take the Pell for a walk, because Cardinal Pell has never heard of the Carteret Islands in the Western Pacific, the islands disappearing under a slow rising Pacific Ocean. He does not know the inhabitants of these islands will probably be the world’s first global warming refugees.
The Pell never listens to Bush Telegraph on ABC Radio National so he would not hear fourth and fifth generation Australian farmers, men and women who farm in the old and new ways, men and women with knowledge and wisdom. He would not know that they admit the country is in the middle of changes that are part of regular cycles but that there are other changes, deep changes, taking place and that these are about global warming.
Pell does not listen.
It is clear.
The man’s history is one of not hearing, or not reading, or misreading, or mishearing, or just missing.
And he is the spiritual leader of the dominant Christian Church in this country.