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Dissing Vatican II Down Under

On June 3, 2003, our friend from Australia, John Hosie, passed on a piece he had just read in the Sydney Morning Herald, featuring his Archbishop George Pell talking about Vatican II's mistakes.

Blessed are the Once Married

Kelly Burke

The Catholic Church's position on denying remarried divorcees Holy Communion is anachronistic and inconsistent, Sydney's Catholic Archbishop, George Pell, has been told.

Challenged at a Catholic function where the archbishop was the guest speaker, the NSW parliamentary librarian, Rob Brian, asked Dr Pell why the church persisted in denying divorcees participation in the Eucharist, while pedophile priests remained free to receive communion, in the belief their sins could be forgiven.

Mr. Brian, a practising Catholic, said he was prompted to challenge the archbishop during last Friday's Bishop's Forum after a participant asked why someone forced to flee an abusive first marriage was prevented from finding happiness by marrying again.

Dr Pell told the woman such people could only receive the church's blessing by agreeing to live as brother and sister.

"It's a pre-Vatican II view . . . and totally unrealistic," said Mr. Brian. "It's time for the church to re-examine its whole theology.

"Jesus said those who scandalise children should have millstones tied around their necks and be thrown into the sea [but] I don't recall him saying much about those who remarry."

Dr Pell touched on the child sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church, arguing that while abuse should not be ignored or underestimated, he believed it was "a personal sin and evil" and not evidence of widespread corruption in the church.

Most of his speech, however, was devoted to the legacy of the Second Vatican Council, which sought to modernise the Catholic Church in the 1960s.

Vatican II, he said, was guilty of "excessive optimism" and "over-confidence" and had directly contributed to declining church attendance, the collapse of priestly vocations and the "spread of doctrinal and moral confusion."

Catholics who, under the guise of being loyal dissenters, persisted in questioning the church's position on such issues as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, remarriage and contraception, were guilty of unacceptable disloyalty, he said.

"Those within the Christian churches, liberals or radicals, who are struggling to eliminate many important Christian moral teachings are damaging fellow Christians, something like friendly fire in a war," he said.

Dr Pell also criticised those who placed individual conscience above Christian truth, and called for the "mischievous" doctrine of the primacy of conscience to be publicly rejected.

The doctrine was being used to justify many un-Catholic teachings, he said, from denying the divinity of Christ to legitimising abortion and euthanasia.

Kelly Burke is Religious Affairs Writer for the Sydney Morning Herald.