George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia since 2001, provides inspiring leadership defending Catholic teachings. He speaks out with uncompromising fearlessness in defense of the Truth, especially on moral issues. HLI and faithful Catholics around the world admire his valiance and cheerful willingness to stand firm in the face of calumny from liberals, especially in the press. This churchman, who charitably but adamantly refuses to compromise with secular humanism, richly deserves the HLI Cardinal von Galen Award.
Cardinal Pell came from a relatively modest background and gave up a potential career in professional sports to enter the seminary. He earned a PhD in Church History from Oxford University and a reputation for orthodoxy as the head of a major seminary, Corpus Christi College. Pell also served as principal of Aquinas College, now Australian Catholic University, before being made an auxiliary bishop and later Archbishop of Melbourne. He has shown a laudable concern for improving Catholic education in Australia, particularly eliminating the teaching of a “watered down” version of the faith. Given the shocking lack of faithfulness to the Church of many teachers, he will require all principals, deputy principals and religious education coordinators in the 167 Catholic schools of the archdiocese to take the oath of fidelity and profession of faith which is only required under Canon Law for bishops, priests and theology professors. Liberal criticism of this eminently reasonable rule borders on hysteria.
Our Cardinal von Galen Award recipient is not averse to causing controversy by his defense of what is right even if politically incorrect. In June 2007 he strongly condemned a bill proposing the legalization of human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. This provoked a violent reaction from “publicly Catholic” politicians who supported the bill and resented being rebuked by him. One unrepentant legislator remarked that he would rather go to Hell than vote against the bill. Homosexual activists failed to intimidate the cardinal who consistently refused to give Holy Communion to members of the “Rainbow Sash” movement that rejects church teaching on the grave immorality of homosexual acts.
The Church and HLI owe a debt of gratitude for Cardinal Pell’s courage and intellectual defense of life and the family. He wrote a book published by Oxford University Press, Issues of Faith and Morals, ably defending Catholic moral teachings. He has authored numerous influential articles on this subject. His speeches and interviews have played an invaluable role in educating the public in Australia and internationally of the importance of preventing abortion, contraception and other attacks on marriage and the family. In 2008 he shall have an opportunity to inspire the next generation with this message when the World Youth Days will be held in Sydney. As a member of the presidential committee of the Pontifical Council for the Family, he enthusiastically endorsed their landmark publication, Lexicon: Ambiguous and Debatable Terms Regarding Family Life and Ethical Questions, which HLI translated into English and published/distributes.