Catholic News - Catholic Telecommunications, a devision of Catholic Resources





Pell defends church authority in US keynote address

Sydney's Cardinal-designate George Pell has mounted a rigorous philosophical defence of Catholic orthodoxy, and hailed the "extraordinary achievements" of Pope John Paul II, in his first major speech since he was appointed cardinal.

The Weekend Australian reports that Dr Pell "stepped up his attack on the doctrine of the primacy of conscience" in an lecture titled Human dignity, human rights and moral Responsibility, at a seminar in Philadelphia last weekend.

The symposium was organised by the Archdiocese of Philadephia to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. The 4 October event was sponsored by St Charles Borromeo Seminary and the John Cardinal Krol Chair of Moral Theology.

Dr Pell gave the keynote address, while other speakers included Archbishop Angelo Amato, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

According to The Weekend Australian, he said the teaching that elevated individual conscience above truth, or the word of God, is having a disastrous effect on the faithful. He cited the example of a theologian who told a man to "obey your conscience" when the man asked if it was wrong to receive holy communion while regularly sleeping with his girlfriend.

"Does it mean there are no moral absolutes or authorities? Is it sufficient to follow one's own feelings? Or was Charlie Brown correct 40 years ago to claim, `It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere'."

Breaking new ground, Pell argued for a fresh dialogue between Christianity and human rights. He rejected the stance of theologians who argue that Catholic teaching is incompatible with the secular language of rights, and democracy itself.

He travels to Rome later this week for the papal consistory, or formal installation of the 31 new cardinals named last month by Pope John Paul II.

The Weekend Australian (payment required)

Archdiocese of Sydney | Human dignity, human rights and moral Responsibility (text of address)
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
St Charles Seminary | "The Brook"

13 Oct 2003