Michael W. Hannon

Poisoned Ivies: Sex and God at Yale

Michael W. Hannon
By Michael Hannon
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September 17, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - They say everyone is entitled to his fifteen minutes of fame. My mom had her brief moment in the spotlight a couple years back, when the New York Post called her for a comment about a new dorm policy at Columbia, where I was a sophomore at the time. As the article put it, “Columbia University students will soon be able to live in sin—on their parents’ dime. A new ‘gender-neutral’ housing policy . . . will allow boys and girls to shack up together in campus housing.”

My mom’s reaction was, I hope, the reaction most parents would have to such news. “I was shocked enough last year when we moved our son in and we saw that guys and girls shared a bathroom on the hall,” she told the Post. “If it had been our daughter, we would have turned around and walked straight out. As far as coed roommates go, that would be insane. If our child chose to do that, we would opt out.” Thankfully for my mom’s sanity, sharing a dorm room with a girl was never high on my college to-do list. But had she known what else Columbia had in store for us, I can guarantee she would have opted out anyway.

I don’t consider myself particularly puritanical. On the contrary, as I’ve indicated elsewhere, I have a very high view of human sexuality. But somehow I never found Columbia’s university-sponsored sexual culture all that sexy. Call me old-fashioned, but that giant, inflatable penis on the quad, Health Services’ guess-how-many-condoms-are-in-the-jelly-bean-jar game, and that mandatory freshman orientation skit on coping with roommate autoeroticism, just never fit my idea of sexually appealing.

Neither did Columbia’s annual Erotic Cake-Baking Contest, or the (in)famous “Sexhibition,” a university-sponsored event complete with a sex-toy show-and-tell and, wouldn’t you know it, more phallus-shaped baked goods. But not to worry: in true Columbia multiculturalist style, those genital cookies are kosher, lest anyone’s religious observance exclude him from this romping good time.

For better or worse, Columbia has been regarded as a trailblazer on issues of sexual “progressivism” since long before I entered its hallowed gates. Back in 1993, the university’s Health Promotion Program launched Go Ask Alice!—a Q&A-style website offering insight on such meaningful topics as sex with stuffed animals, breastfeeding one’s sexual partner, urine-drinking fetishes, and that annoying medical guideline about having to abstain from sex for three weeks after an abortion. The following year, Columbia became home to the nation’s first university-recognized sadomasochism club, Conversio Virium. (That’s Latin for “exchange of forces.” Glad to see those Classics majors putting their education to good use.)

Then in 2006, Columbia partnered with one of Soho’s notorious sex shops to bring its students “Sex Toys 101,” a workshop put on by the university’s own Health Services, which earned the school a glowing write-up in the New York Daily News.

You might reasonably think that it can’t get much worse than teddy bear masturbation and S&M clubs. How I wish you were right. But during my first term at the school, Columbia students found a way to one-up themselves yet again. In October of 2008, a group of my classmates released the first issue of a raunchy new (unofficial) campus publication, oh so cleverly titled C-Spot. Apparently it wasn’t enough for students to exhibit sex toys; from now on, they were going to be exhibiting themselves.

Like Playboy and similar magazines, the original C-Spot issue did feature a handful of articles, including a historical essay on the origins of the vibrator, and, for the more literary-minded student, a collection of pornographic poetry. But the bulk of the publication is devoted to more, let’s say, visual works of art.

As Fox News put it, “Columbia students trying to prove that scholarship can be sexy have launched a salacious magazine featuring strip-club reviews, Internet porn recommendations and nude pictures of students steamy enough to wilt ivy.” Now personally, I have never been able to figure out what would incline an Ivy League scholar to pose nude for C-Spot, often with other students and in all kinds of compromising sexual postures. But plenty do. And afterwards, sitting next to them in Symbolic Logic is never quite the same.

As I said, Columbia prides itself on being something of a trendsetter in the sexual arena. And there is certainly merit (or perhaps, more appropriately, demerit) to that claim. But while Columbia has indeed pushed the envelope on these issues of sexual obscenity, it is not the only groundbreaking force in the elite academic world. And if my brief highlight reel of Columbia’s exploits has come across as inappropriately scandalous, then I highly recommend steering clear of a new 300-page exposé about our Ivy League neighbors in New Haven. Don’t get me wrong—Nathan Harden’s Sex and God at Yale is a phenomenal book, and a timely and insightful addition to this conversation. But it definitely is not written for those with a weak stomach.

A recent graduate and a proud Yale Man himself, Harden writes not to slander the name of his alma mater, but to lovingly reprimand her for failing to live out her noble calling. It was the early fifties when William F. Buckley authored the now legendary God and Man at Yale, a book that similarly laments Yale’s abandonment of religion and its straying from its original academic mission. Harden sees his own Sex and God at Yale as “a continuation of the story [Buckley] began to tell” more than half a century ago. And yet, with the utmost respect for the late Mr. Buckley, Harden notes that Buckley’s complaints unfortunately “look quaint alongside the hard-core realities of today’s Yale.”

Chapter by chapter, Harden describes episodes in which these “hard-core realities” became particularly prominent in his own Yale experience. I will refrain from sharing here much of the graphic detail he supplies in the book, of which there is certainly plenty.

But in context, I actually found Harden’s illustrative descriptions effective in establishing a friendly tone, and a certain sense of ease between himself and the reader. True, Harden’s style of casual narrative makes it seem that he is speaking more to a young peer than to his elders at the university or in society writ large. But given the subject matter, this is the kind of book I would be more likely to pass along to a college friend than to my mother anyway.

Harden begins each chapter with a relevant quotation from a prominent Yale alumnus, effectively reinforcing the disconnect between the powerful noblemen Yale has formed in the past and the perverted juveniles it seems bent on producing today. My favorite quotation was the one he selected from Tom Wolfe, who received his Ph.D. from Yale in 1957, for Chapter 10, Hooking Up. Says Wolfe, “Today’s first base is kissing. . . . Second base is oral sex. Third base is going all the way. Home plate is learning each other’s names.” This line is obviously said a little tongue-in-cheek. But, I think, only a little.

It is presumably no secret that college is now dominated by the so-called “hook-up culture,” and that at many places anonymous or near-anonymous sexual encounters have become the norm rather than the exception on a typical Friday night. And depressingly, writes Harden, for “most college students, hooking up is the only way to carry on any kind of romantic relationship at all. Dating, in case you haven’t heard, is dead.” He goes so far as to say that actually “taking a girl to dinner is tantamount to a college marriage.” That may sound radical, but it is true to my own experience as well. Dating has become exceedingly rare among Columbia students, so much so that most students probably go all four years without ever going out on an official date.

And so, instead, college students “hook up.” Of course Yale is no different in that regard, and neither is Columbia. But at such elite institutions, and particularly at institutions as committed to the cause of women’s equality as these two are, there are special tensions that become particularly apparent. In one of the book’s more memorable passages, Harden writes,

When sex comes casually and with no relational strings attached, as it often does at Yale and on other college campuses, women are essentially commodified and objectified in the eyes of men. Here’s why: When no real relationship is involved, there is no need to treat one’s sexual partner like anything more than a functional object—a sex doll that breathes. … Under this arrangement women lose the respect they want and deserve. It’s hard to be a randy sexpot and a deobjectified feminist at the same time.

And unfortunately, as we will see, this is hardly the only respect in which the attitudes Yale fosters toward women are pathetically paradoxical.

The hook-up culture is, I’m told, fairly ubiquitous at this point, a common phenomenon nationwide. But thankfully for the rest of our country’s universities, most of the episodes in Sex and God at Yale are so over-the-top that they could only occur on a relatively few, particularly “progressed” college campuses.

Harden devotes one chapter to the tragically terrifying case of Aliza Shvarts, the Yale art major whose senior project centered around the “art” of abortion. Shvarts made national news back in 2008 for, allegedly, repeatedly artificially inseminating herself and then inducing her own abortions, as often as possible over the course of a nine-month period. She then used documentation from the process and the organic materials it produced in her final artistic display. While the media spectacle did eventually lead the university to try to distance itself from the project, up until then Shvarts had had the approval and supervision of the Yale Art Department for the entire exhibition.

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One of Yale’s most infamous events, and one that occupies about a hundred pages of Sex and God at Yale, is Sex Week. Held every other year, Sex Week features a ten-day series of activities, with varying levels of university involvement from one event to another. During Harden’s time, it featured such uplifting installments as: “Defiant Desires,” an S&M symposium; “Y-Couture Fetish Fashion Show,” with student models, of course; “Getting What You Really Want,” an anti-monogamy talk by a “polyamorist activist”; “Babeland’s Lip Tricks,” wherein a burlesque performer gave a 90-minute oral sex workshop to a packed auditorium of students; “Speed Dating—Give Some, Get Some!”, which is pretty pathetically self-explanatory; “Love Junkies,” a panel discussion in which a “clinical sexologist” described the group therapy he once gave to a grandfather, a grandmother, and their sex slave; “Erotic Piercings,” a section which I highly recommend skipping over in the book, as I’m still having nightmares about it; and “BDSM 101,” yet another sadomasochistic event, but this one including a demonstration in which the presenter, herself a porn star, got naked in a Yale classroom and became a human prop in the presentings. Once again, I sense some potential conflicts with the prevailing feminist ideologies of the Ivy League. Somehow, I don’t think this is quite what Gloria Steinem had in mind.

Harden’s book is incredibly graphic, and it should probably not be recommended reading for too general an audience. Nonetheless, his commentary on these obscene scenes is truly top-notch. In his discussion of the “Babeland’s Lip Tricks” event at Sex Week, Harden draws attention to the fact that many of the techniques recommended by the burlesque lecturer require latex gloves, to be performed safely. In a particularly gripping moment, he steals away from the action to offer the following gem, another of my favorites from the book:

This must be, I think to myself, the natural progression of the culture of clinical safe sex, taken to its banal extreme. It started with sex educators’ near-religious devotion to the condom—that miraculous wonder-sock that was supposed to cure AIDS, liberate women from the curse of motherhood, eliminate unwanted pregnancy, make abortion obsolete, and, above all, free mankind from so many lingering Victorian vestiges of fearful prudery. The all-powerful rubber gave us sex with no strings attached. But that wasn’t enough. Now our hands are also supposed to be covered with latex. Slowly but surely, our anonymous sex culture is becoming as devoid of physical contact as it is of emotional contact. Touchless, heartless, passionless sex is the inheritance of this porned-out, hooked-up generation.

In the fifth and final section of Sex and God at Yale, Harden ceases most of his narrative style, and in its place he offers a reflective analysis of what went wrong, of what led the ivy-covered university that produced presidents, Supreme Court justices, and movers and shakers the world over, to such a pathetic, pornified place. Squeamishness aside, this section really is worth everyone’s reading in its entirety.

Harden’s diagnosis is that Yale has lost its sense of moral and educational purpose, thereby losing any standard by which to discriminate worthy from unworthy classroom pursuits, and that the resulting relativism has inevitably given rise to the bizarre sexual dystopia one finds there today. Looking to the future, he prophesies,

Nihilism is, ultimately, where Yale is headed. Yale was built in order to nurture ideas that would elevate the soul and advance human understanding, but it now has no governing moral principle. As a result, the knowledge generated there is divorced from any larger human purpose. Apart from a kind of vague appreciation of certain concepts like tolerance and diversity, Yale is a moral vacuum. Therefore, almost anything goes.

One might wonder, given nude porn stars in the classroom, what that “almost” could still exclude.

Looking back on his expectations before moving to New Haven, Harden says, “I had thought of Yale as a modern-day equivalent of the Athenian agora; but all too often, I found myself sitting in the equivalent of an intellectual whorehouse.” And yet, he authored Sex and God at Yale not simply to draw attention to the university’s defects, but to hold Yale up to the standards that it once set for itself. In penning the present essay, I mean to do the same with regard to my own alma mater. Please do not misunderstand me; Yale and Columbia are fantastic institutions. I count myself blessed to have studied where I did, and Harden frequently conveys the same sense of gratitude to Yale throughout his book. But the greatness of these universities has come under fire, and their sexual obsession is compromising the virtues of the academy. So we write what we do, that they may be what they were. Our shared hope is that Columbia and Yale would once again flourish as the universities they were created to be—intellectual whorehouses no longer, and Athenian agoras once more.

Michael W. Hannon is a first-year law student at New York University and a graduate of Columbia University, where he triple-majored in Philosophy, Religion, and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. This article first appeared at Mercatornet.com and is reprinted under a Creative Commons License.

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Matt Fradd Matt Fradd

5 reasons it isn’t your wife’s fault that you use porn

Matt Fradd Matt Fradd
By Matt Fradd

As someone who used to watch a lot of porn, I have the utmost compassion for men who are really struggling to quit and can’t seem to find the willpower to do so. I love talking with and helping blokes like this.

That said, when I’m writing and speaking about the subject of pornography, I occasionally run into men who really believe their wives are the source of the problem.

These men, I have less respect for.

Please don’t misunderstand me. The struggle against objectification and lust is a fight most men face. If you are striving with all your heart to be a better man to your bride, I’m in the same boat as you.

But if you are more interested in justifying your porn use by shifting the blame, this article has been written to set you straight. I don’t write it as someone who thinks he’s in anyway above you. As Saint John Paul the Great wrote: “every man’s heart is a battlefield between love and lust.” The reason I’m going to be extremely frank in this article is because sometimes nothing less than unvarnished truth will wake us up to reality.

Are you ready? Good.

Now, in one sense, I get why some men think their wives are to blame. Pornography has the nagging habit of making a man feel like a man without requiring him to be one. Given enough time with porn, men can delude themselves into thinking if their wives were a little more _________, they wouldn’t touch porn.

I have five reasons for why this is a ridiculous argument.

1. Your wife’s so-called “frigidity” is not the catalyst for your habit. In fact, it might be the other way around.

Perhaps there are men today who don’t touch porn until after they are married, but I have never met one.

Most men start their porn habits long before they get married; so to blame a woman for the habit is clearly mistaken.

Furthermore, in nearly every case I’ve seen, what men interpret as a woman’s “frigidity” is actually a lack of initiative on the his part. A man might say, “But I ask my wife for sex all the time.” To which I reply, “When was the last time you really fostered an environment of romance in the home that would make your wife feel treasured and not just like a warm body?”

Unfortunately, porn trains this belief into us: sex should be on-demand—as quick to boot up as my web browser. Healthy intimacy, however, takes time, attention, and devotion to maintain.

2. Porn is cleverly edited, high-octane sex, and no woman can (or should) compete with this.

Everywhere women are told they need to be younger, prettier, and bustier. The last place they need to have that message reinforced is in their marriages. In the arms of their husbands they should feel beautiful—because they are.

But using porn not only communicates the opposite to a woman, it trains men to believe the opposite.

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Here’s an odd story to illustrate my point:

Back in the 1860s, Americans made the mistake of bringing the gypsy moth from Europe to Boston. Within 10 years, swarms of gypsy moths were devastating the forests and continued doing so for over a century. Attempts to eradicate this moth failed. But then in the 1960s scientists devised a new strategy. Biologists knew that the male gypsy moth found the female by following her scent—her pheromones. Scientists developed massive quantities of a synthetic version of this pheromone and then scattered small pellets of it from the air. The effect was overpowering for the males. Overwhelmed by the highly concentrated pheromone, they became confused and didn’t know which direction to turn to find the female, or they became desensitized to the lower levels of pheromones naturally given out by the female.

This is what porn is to men: a highly synthetic, industrial, commercial form of sexuality, pumped into our atmosphere and found in ultra-concentrated doses online. If overexposed to this high-octane sex, suddenly the subtleties of a woman’s natural mystique and beauty are lost.

This is why there are so many young, healthy men today who are experiencing what one Harvard professor calls, “porn-induced erectile dysfunction.” This is a real thing: young men, raised on porn from their teen years, have so hardwired their brains they can’t even get it up for a real woman when they want to.

Why porn causes this problem is dealt with in the next reason…

3. Porn is about sexual novelty and variety; marriage is about loving commitment.

The pornographic experience is one of constant novelty: multiple tabs open, endless clicking, browsing, and always searching for the next girl who will really send you over the edge.

It isn’t your wife’s fault she isn’t hundreds of two-dimensional Internet women. It isn’t your wife’s fault she isn’t as clickable and customizable as the endless parade of digital women. It isn’t your wife’s fault she doesn’t become sexually euphoric at the drop of a hat like the porn stars you frequent. She is a woman—a human being with sexual desires and feelings of her own.

A mind trained for constant sexual novelty and variety simply won’t take the time and effort to really connect with one woman in a truly intimate way.

4. Porn is objectifying and selfish; marriage celebrates your wife’s humanity.

Russell Brand is making waves right now with his recent video about pornography. After honesty admitting about his own struggles with porn, Brand says, “If I had total dominion over myself, I would never look at pornography again.” Why? Because he hates how porn is intricately linked to a culture of objectification. When we reduce sex to an extracted physical act, we allow ourselves to turn women into objects to be used rather than women to be loved and cherished.

Porn is consumer, Burger-King sex: your way, right away. You can handpick the exact women you want to see, down the smallest specification. The women in porn are dolled up to play to any stereotype or fetish you desire. All traces of humanity are stripped away until there is nothing left but misogynistic fantasy.

Porn is entirely selfish. By that I don’t mean that masturbation is a solo act—though that is true as well—I mean the whole point of porn is to play to a man’s desire for validation: the women are portrayed as sex goddesses that cater to the man’s every whim. They are objects to use for his pleasure.

A married man with a mind trained for objectification can only go one of three ways:

1. He will drag his wife into that objectification, not seeing sex as a giving act but as an opportunity to act out pornographic fantasies in real life.

2. He will ignore his wife to pursue more online objectification—or worse.

3. He will turn away from a culture of objectification and relearn what it means to make his wife his standard of beauty.

As my friend Luke Gilkerson wrote in his book Your Brain on Porn, “‘Free porn’ is a misnomer. Pornography always costs somebody something. And it’s the women and girls in our culture, surrounded by boys and men with porn expectations, who often end up paying the highest price.”

5. Porn is an insult to your marriage vows, so your wife has every right to feel betrayed.

When you stood before God and others, slipped that ring on your wife’s finger, and told her you would “forsake all others,” did you really think that sneaking off to masturbate to digital prostitutes would fit with the spirit of that vow?

Some men actually have the nerve to say, “I get my needs met with porn. At least I’m not going out sleeping with other women.”

Really? Is this what we’ve come to: the measure of your virtue as a husband is not sleeping around?

Deep down, despite all the excuses, this is not who a man really wants to be. Do you want to be the man who loves one woman well for the rest of your life, gladly sacrificing yourself for the good of another—experiencing an intimate sexual bond? Or do you want to be the guy who sneaks off to get a fix from your computer screen and your hand? Which one of these sounds closer to the wedding vows you spoke and the man you wish to become?

A Word to Wives

If your husband struggles with porn—and I mean that in the truest sense of the word…that he contends with porn like an adversary—then you can count yourself blessed. I wish that more men counted porn as an enemy.

However, if your husband is brazenly using porn despite your wishes, know this: you are not the problem. No matter what you have done or not done, no matter how you have contributed to marital strife, no matter how you look, your husband’s porn problem is his to own. No offense—real or imaginary—is license to sin again you.

Wives, We Need Your Help!

My friends at Covenant Eyes are getting ready to re-release their amazing book, Porn and Your Husband. They want to hear from you before they release it. Please fill out their one-question survey and let them know: What's the one big thing you hope they cover in the book, Porn and Your Husband?

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Lisa Bourne

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Alabama Supreme Court rebuffs federal court in ‘historic’ ruling: forbids marriage licenses for gay couples

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

MONTGOMERY, AL, March 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Alabama’s high court has upheld the state’s definition of marriage and ordered a halt to marriage licenses for homosexual couples in the state, while also criticizing its federal counterpart for striking down DOMA.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that “nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides” state judges’ duty to administer state law.

The all-Republican court also said the federal district court had employed a “judicial sleight of hand” in “conferring fundamental-right status upon a concept of marriage divorced from its traditional understanding.”

“Throughout the entirety of its history, Alabama has chosen the traditional definition of marriage,” the ruling said. “That fact does not change simply because the new definition of marriage has gained ascendancy in certain quarters of the country, even if one of those quarters is the federal judiciary.”

The ruling is significant in making Alabama the first state to directly resist federal imposition of marriage redefinition, with a great majority of the states having had their legal definition of marriage overturned by judicial order.

“The ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court is historic, and is one of the most researched and well-reasoned opinions on marriage to be issued by any court in the country,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Staver praised the order for upholding state’s rights and for resisting judicial tyranny.

“The legitimacy of the judiciary is undermined when a judge legislates from the bench or usurps the power reserved to the states regarding natural marriage,” he said. “This decision of the Alabama Supreme Court is very well reasoned, which is quite rare from today’s courts. The decision not only affirms natural marriage but also restores the rule of law.”

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade had struck down a constitutional amendment and an Alabama state law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman in a January 23 decision, saying the laws violate homosexuals’ due process and equal protection rights according to the U.S. Constitution. The ruling was on hold until the state’s appeal to the 11th Circuit.

Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore contested the judicial action to redefine marriage. He told the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples as it would violate state law. He also urged Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley in a January 27 letter to fight the federal decision. 

Moore wrote to all 50 of the nation’s governors in 2014 urging them to preserve marriage in the U.S. Constitution with an amendment. He was not part of the March 3 Alabama State Supreme Court ruling, and his absence was not explained, according to the SCOTUS blog.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined an application February 9 by the State of Alabama to stay the decision striking down the state's constitutional amendment and state law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, pending its ruling on whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex “marriage,” expected by the end of June.

The seven-to-one majority decision by the Alabama high court rebutted every argument made for same-sex “marriage” as a constitutional matter, the SCOTUS blog said, and “lambasted the Supreme Court for making a ‘moral judgment, not a legal judgment’ when it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor in June 2013.”

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The order to stop issuance of marriage licenses to homosexual couples extends to all sixty-eight Alabama probate judges, some of whom have been issuing such licenses after the district federal judge’s ruling. Most of the state judges, those not not named directly in the case, were given five days from Tuesday to answer the challenge and argue why they should not have to observe the statewide order against licenses for homosexual “marriages.” 

The SCOTUS blog said that because the state court’s ruling is an interpretation of the federal Constitution, it is likely subject to direct appeal to the Supreme Court, if any state judge wanted to take it there. What’s not clear, it said, is whether same-sex couples could appeal it because they were not parties in the case, but the couples could probably bring a new lawsuit against any state probate judge who refused them a license in accord with the order.

Marriage supporters praised the Alabama Supreme Court decision.

"I applaud the Alabama Justices in their wise decision respecting the freedom of Alabama's voters to uphold natural marriage,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement. “In a refreshing change, Alabama's Supreme Court is using the law to determine their actions -- not a politically motivated opinion of a lower court federal judge.”

He pointed to recent polling that found sixty-one percent of Americans oppose the U.S. Supreme Court forcing marriage redefinition on all 50 states.

“If Americans were truly on board with this effort to redefine marriage, governors, state attorneys general, and other elected officials wouldn't bother fighting it.” Perkins said. “Instead, the Alabama Supreme Court reflects where the American people really are on the issue --and it is respecting the freedom of the voters to uphold natural marriage.”

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The attack on Cardinal Pell: is someone trying to silence his voice for orthodoxy?

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By Hilary White

ROME, March 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Last week an Italian tabloid launched an attack on one of the most outspoken opponents of the so-called “Kasper Proposal” to abolish the Church’s discipline on refusing communion to Catholics in “irregular” unions. Based on leaked information from within the Vatican, the gossip magazine L’Espresso accused Cardinal George Pell of padding his expenses.

The Australian member of Pope Francis’ inner circle of nine cardinals serves as the head of the Secretariat of the Economy, charged with reorganizing the Vatican’s finances.

Some observers are saying the attack on Pell comes from opposition to his financial reforms. However, Pell was also a leading voice for doctrinal orthodoxy at last autumn’s Synod of Bishops, and some see that as a motivating factor as well.

L’Espresso published leaked documents that they said showed Pell spending money on refurbishing his apartment, on airline tickets, and on liturgical vestments from a high-end Roman ecclesiastical tailor. The story was picked up by the Sydney Morning Herald, a longtime opponent of Pell from his days as archbishop of Sydney, who accused him of “living it up at the Holy See’s expense.”

Father Federico Lombardi, the head of the Holy See Press Office, condemned the leak, saying, “Passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal.” The statement said that the Secretariat’s expenses, around 500,000 USD according to the leaked information, remain below its budget allotment.

Pell is said to be “ruffling the feathers” of a deeply entrenched, and largely Italian, bureaucratic culture that has hitherto operated largely without scrutiny or rules. Recently the cardinal announced that his office had “found” hundreds of millions of Euros “tucked away” that had never been recorded in the official books. 

America’s leading Vaticanist, John Allen, suggested that the motive for attacking Pell was his financial work. Allen says Pell’s “pugnacious” personality has rubbed Vatican officials the wrong way, but also cites his hard-hitting reforms of official financial practices.

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The UK’s Damian Thompson also took this tack, saying, “Cardinal Pell is embattled because, from now on, Curial officials will have to account for their spending. He’s brought an end to a culture of fiddling your exes which makes 20th-century Fleet Street look like a Presbyterian knitting circle.”

However, Thompson also suspects Pell’s stand for orthodoxy played a part. “I knew a hit job was coming; and I was doubly certain when he spoke up for orthodox cardinals when their views were being trashed by the liberal organisers of the chaotic ‘Carry On Synod’ on the Family,” he wrote.

Mainstream newspapers have downplayed the cardinal’s high-profile support at the Synod for the Catholic Church’s perennial teaching on the indissolubility of marriage in the face of the ongoing crisis over Cardinal Walter Kasper’s notorious “proposal.” Cardinal Kasper and his supporters see the year between Synods as a time of campaigning for their program, and they are giving interviews and lectures around the world.

Pell was among those Synod fathers who joined the now-famous rebellion of bishops against the “manipulation” of the Synod in October. It was widely reported in Rome during the Synod in October that Pell directly and forcefully confronted the Synod’s organizer, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, over the apparent push for a change in the Church’s “pastoral practice” of withholding Communion from divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

In a video interview, Pell said the bishops would not capitulate to the machinations of “radical elements” in the Church.

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