For ages, the boat of Peter had to row amidst heavy storms. Pope Francis has exhorted us “to row with him in the storm”. Since the Pope set out to reform the Church and the Vatican Bank and to sort out the Curia finances he has had to face many a storm. All the opposition he faces worries him, though he looks serene and determined to overcome the storms. When one touches money in the Vatican, there will be opposition. Quite rightly a Vatican journalist recently described the situation as “an open war”.
The camp is divided in two fronts. On one side we have the Pope, Cardinal George Pell, the Council of Cardinal Advisers and the Secretariat for the Economy. The secretary of the latter is the Gozitan Mgr Alfred Xuereb and the co-ordinator is Joseph F.X. Zahra, who both enjoy the confidence of the Pope.
On the other side we have some cardinals and bishops from within and outside the Curia. Some have been ousted from power and from the management of the Vatican finances. This is quite a strong group, which also opposes any changes with regard to marriage and divorcees in the forthcoming Synod on the Family. They are not rowing with the Pope.
These include Cardinal Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation of Christian Doctrine, or as known in the past, the Holy Office. Very vociferous is the American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was removed for the Apostolic Signatura to be the patron of the Order of the Knights of Malta.
A strong ally of Pope Francis is Cardinal Walter Kasper, who was selected by the Pontiff to address last year’s extraordinary consistory on the family. Another heavyweight is German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and head of Vatican financial control. Zahra is a close advisor to him.
Pell, who is a former archbishop of Sydney and known by the Pope as ‘the ranger’, is the head of the financial reforms of the Curia and the bank. He is the target of the opposition and some of the media. Some time ago he affirmed that the real target was the Pope.
Cardinal George Pell is under attack from all sides
Pell is under attack from all sides. The first attacks came from the media, which seems to be the mouthpiece of the opposition. These attacks were about over spending and mismanagement by the cardinal. They also transferred the Economic Secretariat to the Apostolic Palace, though the cardinal and his secretary remained in the Torrione San Giovanni.
Pell overcame these initial personal attacks and he continues his mission with the approval of the Pope and the Council of Cardinal Advisers. He and his team are making very deep inroads in the process of financial reform.
When all the attacks against the financial management were nipped in the bud, the Australian press started evil accusations against the cardinal about the time when he was still archbishop in Sydney. It was reported that while he was archbishop he did not report child molestation charges made against a priest.
Twice the cardinal appeared before the Royal Commission to respond to the charges. Recently he said he was prepared to go back to Australia if need be to tell the truth to the commission.
The Pope must be sad about the bitter attack launched by Peter Saunders against Pell on Australian television. Saunders supported a witness who was an abuse victim and who claimed that Pell tried to bribe him to buy his silence.
It’s not a new accusation, described by the cardinal as a “false and misleading claim”. In fact, the cardinal’s office stated that legal steps were being taken by Pell. The Australian bishops all came out in support of their cardinal who has “always responded carefully and thoroughly to the accusations and questions posed” twice by the commission.
Saunders was appointed by the Pope as a surviving member of the Commission for the Protection of Minors. Because of his record, some had criticised his appointment and others were not surprised that he came out against Pell. If the Pope moves him out the media would label him a hero and victim of the Church.
An open war is being waged against Pell. At first, nobody believed that an Australian cardinal could clean up the past scandals of the Vatican Bank. Italians, like the ex-president Gotti Tedeschi, had tried, but he was fired. So-called ‘dark hands’ of the masonry, the mafia and others interesting in laundering money, backed by some left-wing media, have joined forces to attack the cardinal and eventually the Pope.
Even Jesus had to suffer, and while on the boat in the storm, he said: “Do not be afraid. I will be with you till the end of times.”
Mgr Charles Vella is the founder of the Cana Movement.