Cardinal Pell embarrasses himself

Cardinal Pell's response to the Greg Ayers dissection of Pell's parroting of Plimer is telling -- he is unable to offer any sort of scientific argument and just blusters:

"Ayers, when he spoke to the House, was obviously a hot-air specialist. I've rarely heard such an unscientific contribution."

"I regret when a discussion of these things is not based on scientific fact," Cardinal Pell said. "I spend a lot of time studying this stuff."

Cardinal Pell told the Herald statements by Dr Ayers to the hearing were "all abuse and waffle about poor old Plimer", before defending the geologist as a man who "deals in many, many facts".

You only have to glance at Ayers' testimony to see how wrong that is.

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Nothing Pell has done is half so embarrassing as taking him seriously should be.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 14 Mar 2011 #permalink

Agreed, D.C. Sessions.

Clive James, Nick Minchin, Pell et al. are angry old men, bewildered by the future, appalled that the world has not turned out to be the way TV, comics and magazines of the '60s said it would, unable to comprehend that the programme of their lives and careers is leading to disaster.

They will never change their minds and debating with them is futile.

I guess this also means that God has lied to Cardinal Pell, else why did God allow the Cardinal to say what he did. Shouldn't being a guy that God lies to get one kicked out of the church?

By anthrosciguy (not verified) on 14 Mar 2011 #permalink

Pell still hasn't, to my knowledge, "confessed" that he was wrong to say Nitrogen is a greenhouse gas.

I (and I'm sure all of us here at Deltoid) hear the most idiotic, stupid, dumbass, and moronic statements every day regarding global warming/climate change. Cardinal Pell is doing his damned best to top the list of these.

These are somewhat harsh words I concede, but sometimes you just have to call it as it is.

Sounds like Pell has not taken up Dr Ayers offer/challenge that "... he comes with me and visits a range of climate change science establishments in Australia and has a look at the science directly, not through this book but through the lens of what men and women in Australia are doing in scientific institutions that is valid, that is published and that has real credibility."

I'm not sure that a mind as apparently closed as Pell's can easily be changed but I'm sure Ayers offer was genuine. The belief that scientists are incompetent, biased, manipulators of data has to be harder to sustain when, rather than repeat slanders at a distance, he has to look them in the eye.

By Ken Fabos (not verified) on 14 Mar 2011 #permalink

It gives me a headache just imagining the personality defects someone with no scientific training or experience would have to be inflicted with in order to have the hubris to tell the director of a major national scientific organisation what is and isn't science.

Although they tried to be subtle about it with that last paragraph

Cardinal Pell had earlier told the 200-strong crowd about the value of the ''years of study and professional devotion'' undertaken by Sir Thomas More, who was executed for treason in 1535. "There's no substitute for knowing what you're talking about,'' he said.

The SMH fell back into the he said, she said balancing mode with this, when, what was needed was a straight out statement that the Cardinal was bloviating

Notice that the SMH never allows comments on stories about/from Cardinal Pell.

Perhaps the public eviscerations would be too messy.

I wouldn't be surprised if a few Catholics weren't writing to the Vatican about Pell's deviations from the Pope's public statements on this. I know that parishioners at one of our local churches were pretty hot on complaining to the Vatican about obscure issues about liturgy or hiring non-Catholics at the parish school or whatever else got their juices running.

> The SMH fell back into the he said, she said balancing mode with this, when, what was needed was a straight out statement that the Cardinal was bloviating

I read it as subtly hanging the Cardinal with his own rope - at least to those who understand what the science actually says. The SMH probably has a higher proportion of readers who do than some of our ... other media.

By Lotharsson (not verified) on 14 Mar 2011 #permalink

Pell is a classic example of an ignorant, deluded, vicious old theocratic thug with far too much influence over the world, who genuinely thinks he speaks for God, reality, morality, and the human race.

He and the equally repulsive, obnoxious and delusional [Tony Abbott]( make a 'nice' pair.

(Abbott, for those who do not follow Aussie politics, is the current leader of our federal opposition party. He is also a hard right, conservative Catholic bully and corporate whore, who takes his morality direct from people like Pell, and his climate science direct from people like Ian Plimer â he contemptuously and publicly dismissed real climate science as "a bunch of crap". He does not hesitate to use US Repub style gutter-level fear-and-smear tactics and hyperbolic lies to create hatred and division over the most important and sensitive of issues if he thinks he can gain any political advantage from it â all the while, of course, denying he is doing so and loudly preaching the need for civility and rationality and restraint in public debate. A cynical, atavistic, authoritarian hypocrite, who can barely restrain himself from reflexively drooling at a whiff of serious power in his nostrils, let alone consistently exhibit genuinely constructive statesman-like behaviour.)

And that is the polite version.

Religious figures have no place in scientific argument, just like the facts have no place in organised religion.

By savemejeebus (not verified) on 14 Mar 2011 #permalink

careful with those quotation marks there WotWot - I believe the expression was "Absolute crap"

Which of course makes all the difference ;-)

George Pell: "I regret when a discussion of these things is not based on scientific fact. ... I spend a lot of time studying this stuff"
In 2009, Andrew Bolt tells Annabel Crabb: "At least I study it. You donât. So perhaps you let me finish my point until you know something about it."
Raises the question: Did they both get their degrees from the University of East Bumcrack?

By savemejeebus (not verified) on 14 Mar 2011 #permalink

Er, foram @ 13.

"I spend a lot of time studying this stuff."

Pell is a liar as well as a fool.

You'd think a man in his position would have included the Vatican's pronouncements at the top of his reading list. Pell would also have no problem ringing them up and asking them for copies of the material they used to come to the church's stated conclusions on the matter. He doesn't seem to have done so, because there's no hesitation in his statements that directly contradict the Pope.

Getting the word straight from the Vatican is what he'd do on just about every other topic you can think of. So why not this one?

Interesting that the story in the SMH was written by the religious affairs writer. I guess that's a function of where the Abbott/Pell crowd are coming from.

The Victoria ABC 7pm news showed Abbott speaking in Perth yesterday as reported in [today's SMH](…)

Mr Abbott on Monday told a community forum in Perth that the science wasn't settled yet.
"Whether carbon dioxide is quite the environmental villain that some people make it out to be is not yet proven," he said.

They followed that up with Abbott speaking at a press conference today where he said.

Climate Change is real. Mankind contributes to it. Its important to have a strong and effective policy to limit C02 emissions...

The fact that Abbott is a bare faced liar and opportunist is hardly news - WotWot at 11 describes him well.

Wot WotWot said.

By SockPuppet (not verified) on 15 Mar 2011 #permalink

MikeH, Abbott's real argument is that yes, Co2 contributes to warming, but barely at all. This way he can pander to deniers and those who might want to entrust leadership upon Turnbull.

The Bishop and the Abbott are good mates. Maybe Pell thinks Abbott is really an abbot.

If Pell can't stay out of politics (and yes, politics is what he's playing) then he ought at least check with his head honcho at the Vatican before making such a fool of himself. The Vatican and the Pope (and the Catholic bishops in the USA) all agree with the science and urge people to do something about climate change.

The Catholic Bishops want people to "Write to your Senators and Representatives in Congress and let them know that you care about climate change..."

I found these statements after Tim's post and the SMH article:…

Pell is an idiot for holding onto Plimer's book as some kind of counterweight to the climate science evidence. He is a very public idiot for doing so as part of a committee submission on the subject. But to deliver the "rebuttal" he did in answer to the Chief of BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) Dr Greg Ayers evidence against the Plimer bullet points Pell gave at the committee? Man, that is one Hell of an epic fail. The church should keep him much busier so he has no time to waste on failed endeavours like denying climate science. Surely there are some priests he should be writing letters of apology for or some christenings to abuse babies with?

By Donald Oats (not verified) on 15 Mar 2011 #permalink

The title of this post assumes that Pell is capable of embarrassing himself.

By Ezzthetic (not verified) on 15 Mar 2011 #permalink

Sou@26: ...Pell's bad Abbot?

Cardinal Pell tells us âI regret when a discussion of these things (AGW) is not based on scientific factâ. The problem for Pell is that he can not recognize scientific fact when it is presented to him by those with impeccable scientific qualifications. For Pell, impeccable science is the decidedly dodgy conclusions and âfindingsâ expressed by Ian Plimer in a book he wrote. â a book which has never been peer-reviewed but has been roundly criticized for its many factual errors.

âI spend a lot of time studying this stuff,â says Pell referring to the many branches of science associated with climate change. If that were true, how come he has not found it odd that not one reputable climate scientist supports any of the salient conclusions reached by Plimer? Machiavelli sagely cautioned âPut not thy faith in Pricesâ. He might have added â¦âAnd that includes Princes of the Churchâ

Stick to providing spiritual advice George. That is at least a subject where your qualifications are likely to go unchallenged. But when it comes to global warming and climate change, please defer to those who know what they are talking about. Espousing the views of Plimer and Monckton is just soooo uncool, particularly when one is a geologist, not a climate scientist and the other is a fool. It will do nothing to enhance your reputation or your authority.

By Mike Pope (not verified) on 15 Mar 2011 #permalink

Pell probably likes Plimer's book because it not only support's Pell's denialism, but because it has the nice eclesiastical title 'Heaven and Earth'.

If only Pell could remember that Plimer had learned a lesson from his previous foray into publishing, 'Telling Lies for God', wherein he criticises and deconstructs just about every last tenet that Pell holds dear.

Unfortunately for Plimer he was rather stung with some public antics following the release of this book, and his lesson learned from the experience seems to have been "if you can't beat the denialists of scientific reason, join 'em - that's where the money is...".

Pell seems happy enough to live with the cognitive dissonance of barracking for an author whose previous work lambasts Pell's world view. But then, given that Pell is a fellow who believes in a sky fairy who created the world in 7 days 6000 years ago, who wears scarlet dresses, who denies himself the pleasure of ever experiencing the intimate contact of another person in order to please his sky fairy, and who thinks that every week he eats the body and blood of the earthly son of his sky fairy, such a cognitive dissonance is a small thing in the overall scheme of things...

Then there's the cognitive dissonce pertaining to the fact that Pell thinks he is also sufficiently scientifically literate to contradict the world's professional scientists.

And this is the man who would be Pope...

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 15 Mar 2011 #permalink

> But then, given that Pell is a fellow who believes in a sky fairy who created the world in 7 days 6000 years ago...

To be fair, and IIRC, this is not a highly prevalent view amongst Catholics - although it's quite common amongst "evangelical" or fundamentalist branches of Christianity. But the rest of your paragraph certainly stands.

Pell may be suffering from an ignorant and ill-advised application of his worldview to the scientific domain. This view is heavily reliant on notions of authority of those in the power hierarchy and (although it is generally not discussed with the plebs) of the flexibility (where needed, and where applied by a suitable power wielder in said hierarchy) of interpretation of axiomatically presumed "authoritative" texts. Such mechanisms may be useful in discovering manufacturing and promoting "truth" (where "truth" primarily means what the hierarchy says it is) but they are terrible at improving understanding of how the universe works.

And given that he's spent his life steeped in that worldview, he may be entirely ignorant of its limits. Or there may be other reasons...

By Lotharsson (not verified) on 15 Mar 2011 #permalink

lotharsson "...promoting "truth" (where "truth" primarily means what the hierarchy says it is)... he may be entirely ignorant of its limits. Or there may be other reasons..."

I'm not so sure about him. If he adhered to the hierarchical authority of his church, he would be advancing the views expressed by the Vatican. He's not.

These are his personal views and he's advancing them in opposition to his church. Considering how authoritarian (bossy) he can be about Catholics, and others, not acting in accord with other pronouncements of the church, it really is a bit surprising who he's willing to take advice from.

If he really, truly believed in the authority of the Pope and the Vatican, he'd be obliged to keep quiet when he disagrees with such things. He's not keeping quiet.

By reading heaven and earth, Pell doubled the number of books he's ever read

If the implications of this report are accurate - noting that key direct quotes are not reported - then [Tony Abbott has been taking comprehension lessons from Pell](…). A comment by Gillard:

> "Neither of the extremes in Australian politics can deliver this reform..."

is apparently responded to via a similar word with a very different meaning:

> ...the Opposition said yesterday that if Julia Gillard really meant what she said about the Greens, she should call another election rather than continue to govern with the support of "extremists".


> The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said if Ms Gillard regarded the Greens as extremists, "Why has she formed government with them?"

No direct quote of Abbott using the word "extremist" though, so take it with a grain of salt.

By Lotharsson (not verified) on 17 Mar 2011 #permalink

Meanwhile, Pell and a number of Catholic bishops warn against voting Green

There's nothing surprising about this. It's simply a case of one of the most conservative and reactionary organizations making known their opposition to a progressive political party. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the Greens still had their minimal population growth policy that they dropped in the 80s. This, of course, is directly contradictory to the mad Roman Catholic ideology of laissez faire population growth. In spite of their mad ideologies, the Roman Catholic Church still sucks in a lot of people.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 17 Mar 2011 #permalink

Lotharsson @ 36 and Chris O'Neill @ 38

By taking up political advocacy don't you think the Catholic church in Australia should lose its tax exemption for being a purely religious organisation?

By Think Big (not verified) on 17 Mar 2011 #permalink

> By taking up political advocacy don't you think the Catholic church in Australia should lose its tax exemption for being a purely religious organisation?

It's a tricky issue. Howard tried to use similar logic to stop (secular) charities from political lobbying and/or messaging (when many were coming out against some of his policies). If those are the two choices I think it's better to have religions politicking than to ban political speech by charities on behalf of their chosen issues.

By Lotharsson (not verified) on 17 Mar 2011 #permalink

> If those are the two choices I think it's better to have religions politicking than to ban political speech by charities on behalf of their chosen issues.

But religions that choose to politic should note that their politicking is fair game for political comment from others. The posture some take that "you aren't allowed to criticise my religion in any way because that's disrespectful" is (a) bulldust anyway - respect may be demanded but is certainly not required from others and disrespect for your beliefs in no way means you are being oppressed or suffering from lack of religious freedom, and (b) doubly off the table once you use your religious beliefs to justify political positions.

By Lotharsson (not verified) on 17 Mar 2011 #permalink

Think Big @ 39

By taking up political advocacy don't you think the Catholic church in Australia should lose its tax exemption for being a purely religious organisation?

I think the Catholic Church may have dabbled in politics in the past

By taking up political advocacy don't you think the Catholic church in Australia should lose its tax exemption for being a purely religious organisation?

I've long believed that religion is one of the original forms of politics, i.e. it's used to control people.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 18 Mar 2011 #permalink

> It's a tricky issue. Howard tried to use similar logic to stop (secular) charities from political lobbying and/or messaging (when many were coming out against some of his policies).

Could a useful distinction be made between political statements or statements about political moves that affect the charity are fair game but comments outside that from a charitable organisation are evidence that the organisation is not charitable but, in fact, a lobbying organisation.

If Cardinal Pell want's to talk as Mr Pell about AGW or something else political, then as Mr Pell this is OK (or, rather, I can't see any way of stopping this, despite the reason why people would listen to Mr Pell is that he's a Cardinal).

What SHOULD happen is that the papacy should give an open letter in warning to Pell for his apostasy (the Pope speaks for God according to RCC dogma, and Pell here is gainsaying God's word) and abuse of position (what would be for a government official "bringing the service into disrepute").

Thanks for all the responses. Yes I realise that the church has been active in politics in the past but in the last few decades at least they have had the good sense to make their political opinions less explicit.

It's one thing for them to comment on specific policies such as those where humanitarian considerations are involved (in-fact I'd expect no less from them). It's quite another, however, for them to become advocates of one political party over another.

By Think Big (not verified) on 20 Mar 2011 #permalink

Cardinal George Pell To Deliver 2011 Annual GWPF Lecture

This has been another exercise in absurdist oxymoronic Duning-Kruger irony, brought to you by yet another cognitively dissonated pseudoscientific lobby group defending nonsensical claims founded in self-serving superstitious, political, and/or profit-driven ideology.


...have to have the public service notification that should always follow such headlines.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 28 Mar 2011 #permalink

Cardinal, I was wondering what the carbon footprint of burning in hell actually is?

Handing out an "About the Greens" info sheet to students at Catholic Schools prior to the NSW election probably has influenced parents of those students; fears of higher school fees, like all fears of rising costs can overwhelm concerns like the fate of the planet with unconstrained fossil fuel use.

By Ken Fabos (not verified) on 28 Mar 2011 #permalink

As a parent of children in a Catholic School, I received some "Don't vote Greens" literature, too.
It is true that the Greens are ideologically inclined to authoritarianism and want to unfund all non-government schools, the issue being that they don't control the curricula in these schools.

As far as the environment goes, there is considerable emphasis in my children's schools on environmental issues and humans' obligations for responsible stewardship of the environment is asserted as a given. I haven't caught a whiff of any anti-science, and as far as I know, the Vatican has issued denunciations of creationists and so forth.
I have been wondering if there is a way I can express my disatisfaction with Pells' idiotic political meddling through the Catholic hierarchy.

By Vince whirlwind (not verified) on 28 Mar 2011 #permalink

Write a letter to the pope pointing out the embarrassment that Pell is causing?

>*It is true that the Greens are ideologically inclined to authoritarianism...*

FWIW my experience is the oppose to what Vince claims. Greens I've discussed school funding concernces with are apposed to the authoritarian alliance of church and state. (As well the the inequity of less funds going to more needy schools.)

Vince, you can certainly write to the Vatican. Get yourself a copy of the last couple of statements from the Pope and the Vatican on related topics and a few of Pell's masterpieces and go from there.

No need to castigate Pell for apostasy or anything - though that doesn't stop a lot of ordinary parishioners complaining about the liturgy at their local churches talking about the priest or the choir or the gardener not weeding around the statue of their favourite saint (I made that up, but I'm not sure it hasn't happened.) Just line up the discordance between what he says and what they say.

He doesn't have to publicly humiliate himself. He just has to keep quiet in public about contradicting the Pope. He'd come down hard on parish priests for like offences on other matters. The church hierarchy has plenty of avenues for internal debate about such matters - just as it does for parish priests on liturgy and everything else.

Sorry, I should say.

I sound as though I'm telling Vince to do something I could do myself. But I'm not catholic and my husband and I no longer attend Mass as we did when the children were at home.

I have no standing.

Vince, I too am a little puzzled by the "authoritarian" label for the Greens.

In my experience of them in ecological policy contexts, they are consensus sorts - the type of consensus where more than 95% of those voting need to agree with a proposal, and where anything less than that leads them to renegotiate a proposal until there's 95% agreement.

This is not really authoritarian.

Are you sure that the "authoritarian" label isn't one that is applied to the Greens from the outside, for propaganda purposes?

Of course, when speaking generally about the need for things such as a price on carbon, it is much easier to frame them as "authoritarian" because they do not have a wholely non-pricing alternative. However, that might be a result of the fact that in the real world no absolute emissions reductions can be achieved without a price on carbon; not until it is far too late for the health of the planet.

But then, this is hardly an authoritarian stance - if it were, then there are authoritarian stances in all flavours of political inclination, including anarchy.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 28 Mar 2011 #permalink

BJ, you made me think of the book [The Authoritarians]( by Bob Altemeyer.

>*Authoritarianism is something authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders cook up between themselves. It happens when the followers submit too much to the leaders, trust them too much, and give them too much leeway to do whatever they want*
>*The psychological mystery has always been, why would someone prefer a dictatorship to freedom? So social scientists have focused on the followers, who are seen as the main, underlying problem.*

So itâs the **followers, who are seen as the main, underlying problem**

So on this scale Vince is much like the Greens I associate with. Both seem repulsed by the tendency to follow authoritarian rule.

Who does Altemeyer find are attracted to supporting Authoritiarians?

>* In North America people who submit to the established authorities to
extraordinary degrees often turn out to be political conservatives [â¦] But someone who lived in a country long ruled by Communists and who ardently supported the Communist Party would also be one of my psychological right-wing authoritarians even though we would also say he was a political left-winger. So a right-wing authoritarian follower doesnât necessarily have conservative political views. Instead heâs **someone who readily submits to the established authorities in society, attacks others in their name, and is highly conventional.**

So **someone who readily submits to the established authorities in society, attacks others in their name, and is highly conventional.** Sounds like Andrew Bolt and his followers

>*You could have left-wing authoritarian followers as well, who support a
revolutionary leader who wants to overthrow the establishment. I knew a few in the 1970s, Marxist university students who constantly spouted their chosen authorities, Lenin or Trotsky or Chairman Mao. [â¦] But the left-wing authoritarians on my campus disappeared long ago. Similarly in America âthe Weathermenâ blew away in the wind. Iâm sure one can find left-wing authoritarians here and there, but they hardly exist in sufficient numbers now to threaten democracy in North America. However I have found bucketfuls of right-wing authoritarians in nearly every sample I have drawn in Canada and the United States for the past three decades.*

I think Marxist and other strong left ideologues are a minority (compared to pragmatists) in the Greens, and even those with old left views who Iâve met appear strongly committed to democracy not overthrow of it.

I think the people who publicly proclaim the Authoritarianism of green/left leaning groups are just being cynical or, maybe, projecting.

However, the reason why this strikes a chord with the populace at large, rather than just people who believe the speaker in question, is personal contact with a certain subset of 'green-ish' citizens.

The new puritans. The ones who get bossy with others who may be smoking in the street. Or ascetics who loudly proclaim their virtues in riding a bike to work or only washing dishes twice a week.

Or openly criticise workmates who have the temerity - shock, horror! - to have children, plural. And the reason why these people are so fundamentally unattractive, apart from their sanctimonious rudeness, is the underlying undemocratic sentiment.

These people are cast from the same mould as those Cornish Methodist mine owners in South Australia who sacked anyone who didn't attend chapel on Sunday. And not just them - their whole families. Dictatorial control of every aspect of employees' lives.

These attitudes on the part of some people you can meet in ordinary life are clearly authoritarian. Their only saving grace is that they'd never be able to maintain membership, or control, of groups they might be attracted to because they're too dogmatic, inflexible and "focused" (there are stronger words) on their own personal package of issues.

Much the same problems chronically beset extreme groups of all kinds. They keep splitting because a larger, democratic group always, always moves away from whatever core, or 'pure', issues founded the group in the first place. This used to happen to Methodists, Primitive Methodists, Bible Methodists and all their smaller and smaller breakaway groups and to Trotskyites and their 37 varieties.

> However, the reason why this strikes a chord with the populace at large ... is personal contact with a certain subset of 'green-ish' citizens.

No, I think it just has to do with the fact that many things done are not evironmentally sound, therefore when someone says "that's bad we shouldn't do it", the knee-jerk reaction is to consider them to be telling you what to do.

Doesn't matter who it is or why they're saying it. Even telling people to recycle is seen as telling them off and being authoritarian.

How then can you tell people the consequences of their actions without them seeing you as telling them off?

You can't.

Wow 'telling people to recycle'?

I think this often kicks off a guilt response because people already know they should be doing this. And this provokes them, sometimes to anger.

This is one good reason why local authorities should make it easier to comply with good practice and set things up so that it actually takes deliberate decision and effort to contravene good practice. People will usually do the easiest thing, so make the better action the easier action.

> I think this often kicks off a guilt response because people already know they should be doing this. And this provokes them, sometimes to anger.

Yup. Every time (I'm not kidding, EVERY TIME) there's something about how the habitat for the lesser spotted greeble has been damaged by forest clearing in the Amazon, my dad would go "Oh, yes. MY fault AGAIN, I see...".

Persecution complex.

This may be why so many Rightwingnuts also go for anti-environmentalism. Persecution complex is strong with them (just look at Palin whining about how she's put upon but doesn't whine about it...).