Cardinal Pell Calls on Vatican to Correct 2 Senior European Bishops for Rejecting Church’s Sexual Ethics

Jesuit Cardinal Hollerich of Luxembourg and Bishop Bätzing of Limburg have both called for changes to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality in recent interviews.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect emeritus of the Secretariat for the Economy, speaks during an interview with EWTN in Rome on Dec. 9, 2020.
Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect emeritus of the Secretariat for the Economy, speaks during an interview with EWTN in Rome on Dec. 9, 2020. (photo: Daniel Ibanez/CNA / EWTN)

VATICAN CITY — Cardinal George Pell has called on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to publicly reprimand two of Europe’s most senior bishops for what he said was their “wholesale and explicit rejection” of the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics.

In a statement released March 15, Cardinal Pell asked the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation to “intervene and pronounce judgment” on comments made by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the Vatican Synod on Synodality, and Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference. 

Cardinal Pell had made the appeal a few days earlier, in an interview given to the German Catholic television agency K-TV on March 11.

Jesuit Cardinal Hollerich of Luxembourg and Bishop Bätzing of Limburg have both called for changes to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality in recent interviews. 

Cardinal Hollerich, who presides over much of the Synod on Synodality that runs until October next year, claimed last month that the current teaching was “wrong” and that the “the sociological-scientific foundation” of that teaching, on what “one formerly condemned as sodomy,” was “no longer correct.” 

Bishop Bätzing argued in a March 4 interview that same-sex relationships were permissible and not a sin and that the Catechism should be partially changed to reflect this. 

The two prelates also vowed not to dismiss any homosexual priests or lay employees from their dioceses. “Nobody has to be afraid to lose his job” for reasons of homosexuality, said Bishop Bätzing. “How someone lives their personal intimacy is none of my business.”

Cardinal Pell said such teaching was “erroneous,” as it “not only rejects the ancient Judeo-Christian doctrines against homosexual activity, but undermines and rejects the teaching on monogamous marriage, the exclusive union of a man and a woman.”

The Australian cardinal said he recognized the challenges faced by declining numbers of faithful in German-speaking countries and elsewhere, but added that the only possible response should be to “rediscover the promises of Jesus” and embrace more closely the “undiminished deposit of faith.”

He stressed that the solution is “not to follow the changing dictates of contemporary secular culture,” adding that, “as Pope Paul VI pointed out many years ago, this is a path to self-destruction for the Church.” 

Synodal Rupture

The cardinal, who served as the first prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy from 2014 to 2017, also criticized the “Synodal Path” of the Church in Germany, where such controversial changes are being voted in by selected participants. 

A recent open letter from the Nordic bishops’ conference to Bishop Bätzing expressing deep concerns about the process was “excellent,” Cardinal Pell said, adding it was “one example of the almost unanimous rejection by bishops around the world of these innovations.” 

The Catholic Church, he said, is “not a loose federation where different national synods or gatherings and prominent leaders are able to reject essential elements of the Apostolic Tradition and remain undisturbed.” 

“This must not become a normal and tolerated situation,” he continued. “Catholic unity around Christ and His teaching requires unity on the major elements in the hierarchy of truths. 

“This rejection is a rupture, not compatible with the ancient teaching of Scripture and the Magisterium, not compatible with any legitimate doctrinal developments,” he said. 

Cardinal Hollerich, who is also president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU (COMECE), last year expressed openness to some kind of same-sex union blessing while ruling out a nuptial blessing, despite the CDF definitively ruling out such ceremonies a year ago. 

At the Vatican’s summit on sexual abuse in 2019, the cardinal also defended homosexual priests, rejecting any assertion that homosexuality might be a cause of abuse despite the vast majority of cases being exclusively male.

Cardinal Pell’s appeal also follows a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich “marking 20 years of queer worship and pastoral care.” In his homily, the former president of Germany’s bishops’ conference said he wanted “an inclusive Church,” a Church that “includes all who want to walk the way of Jesus.”


Cardinal Marx ‘Shocked’

A synodal Church, he said, is about questioning “what we have to say about sexuality and what we have to say about people’s relationships.” He also said he was “shocked” that Christians continued to discriminate against the homosexual community.

Cardinal Pell said in his statement that “not one of the Ten Commandments is optional,” that all are “to be followed, and by sinners,” and “we cannot have a special Australian or German version of the Ten Commandments.” 

“Nor can we follow Bertrand Russell, the English atheist philosopher, who suggested the Ten Commandments might be like an exam — where only six out of 10 questions need to be answered.”

“Christ welcomed and mixed with sinners, but He called us to repentance,” Cardinal Pell said. “So a Mass for special groups can be a good thing, provided Christ’s teaching is presented regularly, the need for repentance is preached, and the Sacrament of Penance, Reconciliation regularly available.” 

The cardinal concluded by reiterating his request for the Vatican to intervene. 

The Register contacted the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, to see if he would answer Cardinal Pell’s appeal, but he has not yet responded. The Register also contacted another senior CDF official, but he declined to comment.

Pope Francis (R) embraces new Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich after he appointed him during an Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new cardinals on October 5, 2019 at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

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