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Cardinal Pell warns against ‘low-quality’ Amazon Synod working document in prison letter

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MELBOURNE, Australia, August 13, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― Cardinal George Pell believes there is “reason to be disturbed” by the working document for the Amazonian Synod. 

On August 1, the cardinal wrote a letter from Melbourne Assessment Prison, where he was incarcerated after a controversial conviction for sexual abuse, to a pro-life activist and the “Support Cardinal Pell” group. In the handwritten note, Pell implied that the Instrumentum Laboris for October’s Synod is a “low-quality document.” 

“I agree that we have reason to be disturbed by the Instrumentum Laboris of the Amazonian Synod,” he wrote. 

“This is not the first low-quality document the Synod secretariat has produced.”

He added that Cardinal Gerhard Müller, formerly the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had written “an excellent critique.”

Pell comforted his correspondents, however, with the suggestion that the Amazon region itself is not synonymous with heterodoxy. 

“I am no expert on the region, but I have been to Iquitos in Amazonian Peru, where a Sydney priest, Fr John Anderson, runs a parish of exemplary piety, pastoral activity and orthodoxy,” he wrote. 

“As in the Amazon, a lot of water has yet to run before the Synod.”

The cardinal was firm on one point, however: the Apostolic Tradition must be preserved. 

“One point is fundamental,” he wrote. 

“The Apostolic Tradition, the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, taken from the New Testament and taught by Popes and Councils by the Magisterium, is the only criterion doctrinally for all teaching on doctrine and practice,” he continued.  

“Amazon or no Amazon, in every land, the Church cannot allow any confusion, much less any contrary teaching, to damage the Apostolic Tradition.” (Full letter below.) 

Another prelate who has found fault with the working document for the Amazonian Synod is Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, who deemed it “heretical” and “apostasy” and called upon Church leaders to reject it. 

Thanks to this Instrumentum Laboris, the Synod on the Amazon, which will take place in Rome, is expected to present arguments to end the celibacy requirement for Roman Catholic priests, to advocate for women deacons, and to extol the pagan spirituality of the Amazon region.   

Pell began his letter by thanking his supporters and explaining that he had not yet written to them because he had received “between 1500-2000” letters and had first responded to letters from fellow prisoners and a few other “special cases.” He intends to reply to every letter. 

The cardinal was handed a six-year jail sentence in March on five convictions for sexual abuse of minors. He was accused of having molested two choir boys in the late 1990s.

The trial was riddled with controversy, not only for the publication ban slapped on the Australian media but because the case against Pell was weak. The testimony presented by the only complainant to appear at the trial resembled a story about another priest published in an issue of Rolling Stone magazine. 

Cardinal Pell has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and an appeal is underway.  

Judge Peter Kidd ruled Pell could not be paroled for three years and eight months, telling the 77-year-old prelate he may die in jail.

“Facing jail at your age in these circumstances must be an awful state of affairs for you,” the judge said.  

Kidd also suggested that the cardinal "may not live to be released from prison."  

Pell wrote to his supporters that he had joined his own sufferings to the greater sufferings of Christ and suggested that they could be used for good in this way. 

“My faith in Our Lord, like yours, is a source of strength,” he stated. 

“The knowledge that my small suffering can be used for good purposes through being joined to Jesus’ suffering gives me purpose and direction,” he continued.  

“Challenges and problems in Church life should be confronted in a similar spirit of faith.”

The letter was subsequently posted to Facebook and other social media. This has created a new controversy because it is unlawful for prisoners in Australia to use social media. They are permitted to write letters but not to direct others to publish them online. However, there is no evidence that Pell asked his supporters to publish his letter. 

Pastoral Letter from George Cardinal Pell

[***** *****] · Friday, 9 August 2019 ·

Melbourne Assessment Prison

1/8/19

Dear [*****] and brothers and sisters in Christ of the Support Cardinal Pell group,

First of all, let me thank you for your prayers and messages of support. These bring immense consolation, humanly and spiritually.

A word of explanation. I have received between 1500-2000 letters and all will be answered. So far, I have only responded to letters from my fellow prisoners (to nearly all of those who wrote) and a few other special cases. Your kindness is not forgotten and will always be fondly remembered.

My faith in Our Lord, like yours, is a source of strength. The knowledge that my small suffering can be used for good purposes through being joined to Jesus’ suffering gives me purpose and direction. Challenges and problems in Church life should be confronted in a similar spirit of faith.

We must always remember that the Church is one, not just in the sense that good families stick together whatever their differences, but because the Church of Christ is based in the Catholic Church, which constitutes the Body of Christ. One ancient saying teaches that there must be unity in essentials (Jesus’ essentials), while there can be diversity in non-essentials. But everywhere and in everything, we must have charity.

I agree that we have reason to be disturbed by the Instrumentum Laboris of the Amazonian Synod. This is not the first low-quality document the Synod secretariat has produced. Cardinal G. Muller, formerly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has written an excellent critique. I am no expert on the region, but I have been to Iquitos in Amazonian Peru, where a Sydney priest, Fr John Anderson runs a parish of exemplary piety, pastoral activity and orthodoxy. As in the Amazon, a lot of water has yet to run before the Synod.

One point is fundamental. The Apostolic Tradition, the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, taken from the New Testament and taught by Popes and Councils by the Magisterium, is the only criterion doctrinally for all teaching on doctrine and practice. Amazon or no Amazon, in every land, the Church cannot allow any confusion, much less any contrary teaching, to damage the Apostolic Tradition.

The Spirit continues to be with the Church. You have every right to make your voices heard, reasonably and in charity. We need not expect the worst.

Your grateful brother,

+ George Card. Pell 

 

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