Cardinal George Pell has said in an interview that the situation of the Church in Germany appears “ominous,” underlining that the German bishops must fulfill their duty to uphold the teachings of Scripture.
“I think that there is a percentage of the German Church that seems to be resolutely heading in the wrong direction,” Pell said in an interview with Colm Flynn that aired on EWTN April 27.
“By that, I mean it is quite clear that a liberalized Christianity, whether it is a liberalized Catholicism or Protestantism, in a generation or so merges into agnosticism. … If you adopt the policies of the world and just go along so that they approve, nobody is going to be interested in that.”
Pell’s comments come as members of the Church in Germany are planning on May 10 to hold a day of blessings for same-sex partners, despite the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.
Record numbers of Catholics have left the Church in Germany in recent years with 272,771 people formally leaving in 2019.
Pell said: “The duty of the German bishops is to uphold the teachings of Scripture, to uphold the teachings of the Church. We stand under those teachings. They’ve got no power to change them -- none of us do.”
“What is important is what is in the Word of God, what is in the apostolic tradition. And I don’t think that when push comes to shove they’ll -- and I cross my metaphors -- cross the Rubicon.”
The cardinal followed the situation of the Church in Germany through news articles during his imprisonment in Australia, something he notes in his latest book, “Prison Journal, Volume 2: The State Court Rejects the Appeal,” published by Ignatius Press.
During his 404 days in prison before he was ultimately acquitted, Pell said he kept the diary as a “historical record of a strange time.”
The cardinal was imprisoned in 2019, the year in which the German bishops launched their controversial “Synodal Way.”
The “Synodal Way” is a process bringing together German lay people and bishops to discuss four major topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.
When the bishops launched the initiative, they initially said that the deliberations would be “binding” on the German Church, prompting a Vatican intervention.
Pell said: “The really important issue for the Church is: Do we teach publicly what Christ taught? Now some of those teachings are quite unpopular: forgiveness, people with no rights like the unborn, people at the bottom of the pile, like prisoners, and then you can move to more controversial areas of family and marriage.”
The cardinal added that all leaders in the Church must decide whether or not to speak up about Church teachings at times when that message may be unpopular.
“You have all sorts of voices who are trying to crowd us out of the public square and saying we shouldn’t be doing this and that. Well, one of the things I am saying now and to all my successors is: We just have to keep talking,” he said.
“And our society will be deeply diminished to the extent it moves radically away from the Christian teachings on love and service and forgiveness.”
“And we can already see that in society in the changes that are taking place. We are often concentrating on the losses to the Church of a decline of practice and the departure of believers. That is certainly true, but it has big consequences for society generally, especially when a majority of the people had been Christian."
Cardinal Pell will turn 80 on June 8, thus becoming ineligible to vote in a future conclave. Asked how he felt heading into his 80s, the cardinal said he was grateful for the many blessings in his life.
"My biggest consolation now is that whatever my imperfections and foolishness, I haven’t thrown my life away on some nonsense cause -- like just making money for yourself. I have devoted my life to Christ, to the Church, imperfectly and ineffectively, but I get some considerable consolation from that,” he said.