Cardinal Pell declared that Pope Francis is not a Modernist—but does the cardinal know what Modernism is?
Cardinal George Pell of Sydney (and one of the cardinals appointed to the Holy See’s “internal affairs” commission) replied in the direct fashion for which Aussies are world-renowned when asked to comment on Bishop Fellay’s recent statements about Pope Francis (namely, that the pope is “a genuine modernist” who has made the “disaster” of the Church crisis “10,000 times worse”):
To put it politely, I think that’s absolute rubbish! Francis said he’s a loyal son of the Church, and his record shows that. He’s very, very concerned for the day-to-day life of the people, and for those who are suffering, those not well off and those in difficult situations. He’s a completely faithful exponent of Christ’s teaching and the Church’s tradition."
Cardinal Pell’s supportive words for Pope Francis are both interesting and contradictory. For it reveals that His Eminence does not grasp what Modernism truly is, nor recognizes that he is also infected with its errors.
A public example of this occurred during a 2012 televised debate with the evolutionist-atheist, Richard Dawkins. The debate’s moderator, Tony Jones, asked Cardinal Pell to elaborate on a scriptural point related to the question of creation versus evolution:
Tony Jones: So are you talking about a kind of Garden of Eden scenario with an actual Adam and Eve?
George Pell: Well, Adam and Eve are terms—what do they mean: life and earth. It’s like every man. That’s a beautiful, sophisticated, mythological account. It’s not science but it’s there to tell us two or three things. First of all that God created the world and the universe. Secondly, that the key to the whole of universe, the really significant thing, are humans and, thirdly, it is a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and suffering in the world.
Tony Jones: But it isn’t a literal truth. You shouldn't see it in any way as being an historical or literal truth?
George Pell: It’s certainly not a scientific truth and it’s a religious story told for religious purposes.
Tony Jones: I’m just going to bring Richard Dawkins back in here because we’ve moved from evolution obviously to the biblical versions of it. Your response.
Richard Dawkins: Well, I’m curious to know if Adam and Eve never existed where did original sin come from?
Dawkins nails the obvious, but His Eminence has given an erroneous statement straight out of the Modernists’ school of critical-biblical exegesis. The logical conclusion of which is that while arguing against an atheistic-evolutionary, Cardinal Pell himself is espousing a false interpretation of Holy Writ that will ultimately conclude with Richard Dawkins position, as St. Pius X elaborated in Pascendi (1907):
The philosopher leads the way, the historian follows, and then in due order come the internal and textual critics. And since it is characteristic of the primary cause to communicate its virtue to causes which are secondary, it is quite clear that the criticism with which We are concerned is not any kind of criticism, but that which is rightly called agnostic, immanentist, and evolutionist criticism. Hence anyone who adopts it and employs it… places himself in opposition to Catholic teaching."
Cardinal Pell’s comments about our First Parents also contradicts the teachings found in Pope St. Pius X’s encyclical, Lamentabili, against the Modernists’ view and application of Sacred Scripture, which as described in the excellent resource, 100 Years of Modernism:
Lamentabili defends the three pillars on which all of Holy Scripture is founded: its divine inspiration, together with its absolute inerrancy and its historicity. It was no simple task in these complex matters to find precisely the mot juste, capable of pinpointing the error without infringing on what must remain open to opinion.
The decree met the challenge with rare felicity, saying what needed to be said and nothing more. By its clarity and discretion, it offers the Catholic exegete light and direction, as well as encouragement.
Rome did not issue a categorical condemnation of historical exegesis. What is targeted is a certain independent exegesis which would dismiss the supernatural realm, the magisterium of the Church, and dogma in general. The Church is the divinely appointed guardian of the divine Revelation which is the Holy Bible, and she cannot suffer it to be snatched from her hands in the name of science."
Even more precisely condemning Cardinal Pell’s comments as erroneous is the Vatican’s Biblical Commission’s response given concerning “The Historical Character of the Earlier Chapters of Genesis” and published in Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma:
§2122; Question 2: Whether, when the nature and historical form of the Book of Genesis does not oppose, because of the peculiar connections of the three first chapters with each other and with the following chapters, because of the manifold testimony of the Old and of the New Testaments; because of the almost unanimous opinion of the Holy Fathers, and because of the traditional sense which, transmitted from the Israelite people, the Church always held, it can be taught that the three aforesaid chapters of Genesis do not contain the stories of events which really happened, that is, which correspond with objective reality and historical truth; but are either accounts celebrated in fable drawn from the mythologies and cosmogonies of ancient peoples and adapted by a holy writer to monotheistic doctrine, after expurgating any error of polytheism; or allegories and symbols, devoid of a basis of objective reality, set forth under the guise of history to inculcate religious and philosophical truths; or, finally, legends, historical in part and fictitious in part, composed freely for the instruction and edification of souls.
Reply: In the negative to both parts.
§2123; Question 3: Whether in particular the literal and historical sense can be called into question, where it is a matter of facts related in the same chapters, which pertain to the foundations of the Christian religion; for example, among others, the creation of all things wrought by God in the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the oneness of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the command given to man by God to prove his obedience; the transgression of the divine command through the devil's persuasion under the guise of a serpent; the casting of our first parents out of that first state of innocence; and also the promise of a future restoration.
Reply: In the negative.
For those who think that this singular scriptural example is being stressed too much and is exemplar of the “SSPX’s nit-picking”, there is unfortunately an even graver example of Cardinal Pell’s Modernism—and from the same interview—this in regards to the direct question of the salvation of souls:
Tony Jones: So atheism is not an evil act?
George Pell: No, not—well, no, in most cases it’s not.
Tony Jones: So I guess to get to the point of the question, I suppose—I mean he may be having a little wager here but is it possible for an atheist to go to heaven?
George Pell: Well, it’s not my business.
Tony Jones: You’re the only authority we have here.
George Pell: I would say certainly.
Tony Jones: Yeah.
George Pell: Certainly.
So according to Cardinal Pell an avowed atheist can go to Heaven—yet this completely contradicts what the Church has taught through the dogma, “no salvation outside the Catholic Church”. This should not come as a surprise though, since this teaching on salvation is at the root of the post-conciliar crisis and the errors of ecumenism and religious liberty.
In conclusion and response to Cardinal Pell’s affirmation that Pope Francis is not a Modernist and is being entirely faithful to the Church’s Sacred Deposit of the Faith, we must wonder if Cardinal Mercier’s words about St. Pius X could be applied to the current Supreme Pontiff in relation to our own age’s “silent apostasy”:
If the Church had been led by pontiffs of Pius X's caliber when Luther and Calvin raised their heads, would the Reformation have torn a third of Christian Europe away from Rome? Pius X saved Christendom from the tremendous threat of modernism, that is, not from a heresy but from all the heresies put together."
1 “Pell dismisses traditionalist leader’s attack on Pope”, published in the Vatican Insider on 10-28-2013.
2 During a live debate occurred on Questions and Answers on ABC-TV, April 9, 2012.
4 Given on June 30, 1909.