Cardinal Pell damaging the reputation of the Catholic Church

Tim Stephens, who is Director of the Sydney Centre for International Law at the University of Sydney and also one of Cardinal Pell's parishioners writes in Eureka Street (published by the Australian Jesuits) about his efforts to get Pell to learn something about climate science:

Pell's interventions on climate change have prompted me to write to him on many occasions, passing on standard scientific texts on climate change, recent scientific papers of relevance and interest, and extending an invitation to organise a meeting with a leading climate scientist.

That offer has never been taken up, and there is no indication my correspondence has had the slightest impact. Pell is wedded to the views of Plimer, despite the fact that Plimer's key claims cannot be maintained, and his outlandish statements (about the contribution of volcanism to climate change for instance) have never been corrected.


Unless you are a close follower of religious affairs you are unlikely to be aware that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has heeded the mainstream science, issuing a position paper on climate change in 2005, and a statement in 2009 supporting Benedict's prayers for the success of the Copenhagen Climate Conference.

Pell's views on climate change have no scientific basis, and his interventions on the topic have done great damage to the reputation of the Catholic Church in Australia and to agencies such as Caritas that are taking practical steps to help vulnerable communities in developing countries whose livelihoods are being threatened by climate change.

Read the whole thing.

More like this

Perhaps if you were to suggest the Washington and Cook book Tim? And by the way - time you reviewed it on Deltoid! That might encourage Pell, a regular visitor I'm sure.

I read the whole thing and it's a very fine debunking of Pell. I also admired the way in which a commenter there expressed Pell's failure:

It would perhaps be best if the Cardinal took note of the words he once wrote to me in response to a letter about an issue involving his administration of the Sydney Archdiocese: "I have always believed that if you know little about a topic it is best to remain silent."

Hey Tim.... "damage to the reputation of the Catholic Church".... why would you care ?

By Billy Bob Hall (not verified) on 21 May 2011 #permalink

<onion>I can see why they'd be annoyed.

Up until now, the reputation of the Catholic Church has been impeccable.</onion>

By Ezzthetic (not verified) on 21 May 2011 #permalink

Thou shall not bear false witness

Mispresenting, distorting, dissembling, and outright lying about the reality of climate science, especially after having been repeatedly told that one's pronouncements are incorrect, and after having been offered counsel to correct a deficient communcication of said science, constitutes the bearing of false witness.

George Pell appears to be knowingly and wilfully breaking one of the Ten Commandments.

Thou shall not kill.

Delaying action to mitigate against the negative impacts of climate change will lead to an increase in rates of premature death, over that which would otherwise occur.

Pell has significant standing amongst those who advocate delay in action in Australia. To the extent that Pell's influence contributes to overall global delay in addressing such a profound ecological and societal problem, has owns a share of the responsibility for that delay, and hence for the premature deaths that will result.

George Pell appears to be knowingly and wilfully breaking another of the Ten Commandments.

Thou shall not steal.

Not addressing the impact of global warming now, will ensure that otherwise available renewable resources are not be available to future generations.

Further, in the scramble to maintain the status quo of our current Western economic system, we are using many non-renewable natural resources at a rate that is not equitable with respect to consideration of near-future generations, nor to current generations in the Third World.

To the extent that George Pell is not advising careful cross-cultural and intergenerational husbanding and equal sharing of such resources, because it conflicts with his desire for delay/avoidance of action against global warming, he is complicit in stealing from hundres of millions (if not billions) of people.

George Pell appears to be knowingly and wilfully breaking yet another of the Ten Commandments.

This man does not deserve the affectation of 'prince' that his institution most ironically permits to be used in the context of his clerical position.

I can think of many much less polite, but far more appropriate, words.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 21 May 2011 #permalink

...has he owns...


It's late.

And I didn't properly preview.

However, I don't think that I broke a Commandment.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 21 May 2011 #permalink

@Ezzthetic - before taking cheap, trendy and group-think-uninformed shots at the Catholic Church, please try to remember that it is the world's single largest spender on charity, outside government. Additionally, it is active all around the world in assisting government in formulating policies on welfare, community and social justice issues.

As such it does have a very important reputation, and a reputation worth protecting against wreckers like Pell.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 21 May 2011 #permalink

@Vince Whirlwind

While I agree with you to a considerable extent, here in Canada we have had numerous scandals with Catholic priests sexually abusing children. Mind you, any number or other sects seem to have joined in, but it has not enhanced the reputation of the Catholic Church.

Ezzthetic has a perfectly good point, unfortunately.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 21 May 2011 #permalink

Sampling bias.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 21 May 2011 #permalink

To elaborate - where I live, for every 2 children being educated by a public education system, there is a 3rd child who is being educated by the Catholics. In many countries, the catholics represents the *only* generally available (affordable) source of education. It is a huge operation, and despite its "Galileo moments" in the past, it is today trying to educate people on their responsibilities towards the environment.
Uninformed cheap shots are extraordinarily counter-productive for this community.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 21 May 2011 #permalink

I doubt the Catholic Church will be terribly wounded by comments on this website, especially when they are flagged by the author as satire.

It's not the Catholic Church I'm talking about - it's the people who experience a tribalist sense of belonging as members of the Catholic Church. They represent a sizeable proportion of the Australian community - the original minority, boosted by post-war european immigration.

And the reason this is especially important, is that the Denier-In-Chief, Tony "It's Crap" Abbott, isn't just a catholic, he's some sort of ex- or proto-priest.

Most people do very little data gathering before going to analysis and decision phases: in this case their tribalist sense of allegiance will make it easier to overlook Tony Abbott's shortcomings, and that same sense will cause your cheap shots and glib insults to further push otherwise reasonable people into the arms of one of the most idiotic and destructive Liberal front benches this country has ever seen.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 21 May 2011 #permalink

Pell is at odds with the Vatican on this. Any catholics here? What does the local parish priest say, and the diocesan bishops. I presume they don't have to follow Pell's heresy.

Are there any others in the Australian catholic clergy who are prepared to argue for the sake of humanity? Or has Pell got everyone under his thumb. (Does he own shares in oil and coal perhaps.)…

Ease up on the Martinis there, Sou.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 22 May 2011 #permalink

Lol - sorry Vince and everyone for the multiple posts.

I didn't go to mass today so I'm not at all prepared for the rapture. Getting so nervous about my fire and brimstone future that it's getting to me!

(I did pay someone in advance to take care of the animals after I've gone, so the cat, dog and budgies should be fine. Thing is, I tried to phone them this morning and no-one answered. Name of Plimer I think. They might have left earth for heaven already.)

Gaz, (and Coyotenose) the link doesn't work for me. I searched the site with the terms 'william kininmouth' and nothing came up. Perhaps it's been removed?

The irony in this for me is on one hand you have the new Australian deniers group calling themselves The Galileo Movement and on the other hand you have Pell. Then in the middle you have the catholic church supporting the science and its aid agencies such as CAFOD seeking to tackle the social outcomes of AGW.

Hmm, that's odd. No reason it shouldn't work. The forum thread is still up. Go to, click on Commentary, and it's the fifth thread down today, "YOUR VIEW: Global warming alarmism is misdirected".

WARNING: This website is not great. You can't even use HTML in comments.

By coyotenose (not verified) on 22 May 2011 #permalink

None of the links work for me.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 22 May 2011 #permalink

Yeah, heere's the link to the [commentary section](, scroll down to the releveant bit.

It's the usual stuff - climate always changes, we don't know why, blah blah blah. Rather an emabarrassing position to take for someone calling himself a climatologist.

I have no objection to Cardinal Pell expressing a âpersonalâ point of view, even if it is stupid, immoral and shows him to be a liar. What I object to is that when ever he opens his mouth, he does so as one of the leading Catholics in Australia, he does so as a Prince of the Catholic Church (whatever that means in 2011?) and he does so with all the influence that those positions confer on him in relation to Catholics in Australia.

Pell, like his political co-religionist Abbott, has a duty to speak truthfully, act morally and not bring his religion into disrepute by expressing views which are wrong, misleading and dangerous. Why dangerous? Because they are using their positions with the aim of offering guidance to their followers about a very serious problem, global warming and associated climate change which can threaten our future existence on this planet.

Science tells us that they are knowingly offering the wrong advice and are likely to be condemning us to a very bleak future. Irrespective of our religious beliefs or political persuasion, we should be guided by science, not pseudo science, and by a sense of self preservation, not the ill informed utterances of prelates and pollies.

By Mike Pope (not verified) on 22 May 2011 #permalink

Mike Pope.

It will be interesting to hear how the Cardinal and Abbott spin the [report released today by the Climate Commission](

The preparation of the report was overseen by [Will Steffen](, but I suspect that Tim Flannery, as head of the Commission, will be used as the punching bag for dismissing the material within the report.

It's been interesting to listen to Sophie Mirabella, Barnaby Joyce, and other conservative politicians rattle on about it. Apparently any threat to the status quo of Australian business is untenable, even if it will actually save said business, and the society in which it operates, in the near future. They are still deliberately and explicitly spreading associated memes such as the lies there is uncertainty in the cause of global warming, and that we can't do anything until the rest of the world does too.

Of course, perhaps they really do believe this nonsense. If this is the case, then allI can say is that Australia truly is the land of opportunity, that fools and idiots can rise so high in Federal politics...

Personally, I think that these people are so desperate to be in power that they'll say anything to get it. Abbott's persistent childish whining for an election typifies this - in the past we elected politicians knowing their philosophical inclinations, and trusting them to act during their terms as they saw fit. Under Abbott's new approach, if we went back to the polls whenever a contentious decision was to be made we'd be voting every other year, if not more frequently.

The national discussion about pricing carbon has been long known, as have the scientific claims that action needs to be taken immediately. The Australian public has already shown to be in majority support for such action, and it is only after corporate vested interest and politically conservative propaganda pulled the wool over the unsophisticated lay public's eyes that sentiment for action dropped away.

It's dispicable that the Plimers, Pells, Bolts and Abbotts of the country are willing to sell our planet's future in order to fulfill their own personal ideologies, profits, and ambitions.

A pox on all their houses.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 22 May 2011 #permalink

Given the chatter that [Will Steffan's report](…) is likely to generate, I reckon that Tim could usefully start a thread specifically devoted to it, so that we don't flood this thread will non-Pell discussion.

I suspect that it will be a long one, and I would bet that amongst other appearances, Spangled Drongo will apparate and dispute the sea level rise data yet again.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 22 May 2011 #permalink

Pell and his views aren't really compatible with the AGW movement, which is much closer to The Rapture -- both keep insisting that the world is guaranteed to be doomed due to man's iniquity, and both keep trumpeting the idea as loudly as possible.

Oh, and they both keep getting the date wrong, as well.

Next 'tipping point' is [Dec 21, 2012](

By Rick Bradford (not verified) on 23 May 2011 #permalink

My letter that appeared in The Australian Financial Review on Friday:

In claiming that I have missed the point, Bob Carter is entitled to his own opinions but not his own facts ("Committee given partial advice", Letters, May 13). He states that "global average temperature has decreased by about 0.05 of a degree since 2001". In fact it has increased. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's global surface temperature time series, global temperature in seven of the nine years since 2001 was higher than for 2001. In fact last year tied with 2005 as the hottest year on record.

Cardinal George Pell recently claimed that Dr Greg Ayers, head of the Bureau "was obviously a hot air specialist", and said of Ayers's evidence to the Senate Estimates Committee earlier this year, "I've rarely heard such an unscientific contribution". Pell is implying perhaps that we, including Carter, should be suspicious of the Bureau's claims.

But the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is the latest scientific body to consider and endorse the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Its report on the subject, posted on the Vatican web site earlier this month, is consistent with Dr Ayers's evidence, consistent with the climate change data on the Bureau of Meteorology web site and and consistent with the conclusions of the government's Multi-Party Climate Change Committee. It calls on:

"... all people and nations to recognize the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants..."

Will Carter claim that the Vatican too has been briefed with "quite inadequate, not to mention partial, scientific advice"? Will Pell claim that he is right and that the Vatican's scientists are wrong? I'd like to see that.


Cardinal Pell is yet to reply.

The headline stated "Cardinal Pell damaging the reputation of the Catholic Church".

What reputation? This is the planet-wide child-rapist protection scheme we are talking about, is it not? How could that reputation, fostered by removal of the suspects to new predation areas, calumnification of the victims, and denial of the existence of the issue, possibly be worsened?

Denying the facts of the universe is not a Pell-specific bug, it is a design feature, if not a Unique Selling Point.

I note that the head of BoM - Greg Ayers - also offerred to show Pell around some real Australian Climate Science. Pell, AFAIK, has declined. It's a lot harder to accuse climate scientists of being incompetent, biased and engaged in conspiracy if you have to look them in the eye; thus Pell avoids them and sticks to getting his 'science' off those who agree with his predetermined opinions. Odd though that he should pick the author of 'Telling Lies for God' to acquire lies to be used for 'Telling Lies for Corporate Greed'.

By Ken Fabos (not verified) on 23 May 2011 #permalink

Whatever it is that has shrivelled up and imploded inside Cardinal Pell's head, it's sad to see a guy who potentially could draw so much attention to some of the world's problems actively sabotage the efforts of others to get accurate and verifiable information out there.

By Other Mike (not verified) on 23 May 2011 #permalink

Pell has made a science of cover-ups for money. He is more than qualified to run an extremist media outlet in the US, serve out an unfinished GOP senator's term, and sell indulgences to Marc Morano. But, not needing to disturb Pell's foil hat, good âPope Benedict XVI calls the space shuttle-station crewâ (BY WILLIAM HARWOOD, STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION;, 5/21/11).

> 8 Sampling bias.

Yeah. Problem is, EVEN IF TRUE (not proven), the RC church protects and hides "the few" paedophiles and therefore becomes part of the problem.

The Anglican church has passed on the accusations and evidence to the police.

The head rapture dude has just admitted he got things wrong. He has added the new data (that the world failed to end) and has created an updated General Rapture Model which predicts the world will end on Oct 21 instead.

The parallels with AGW theory get even closer.

By Rick Bradford (not verified) on 24 May 2011 #permalink

No, he got it right. It's just he's not a Jew and has carnal relations with another being.

Therefore he's not allowed in.

He's gonna burn with the rest of us!

Tony Abbott is against the carbon tax, which is a tax on polluters. Its aim is to reduce atmospheric pollution, which contributes to climate change according to the great majority
of scientists. In the Middle Ages the great scientist Galileo claimed through his telescopic observations that the sun is not circling around the earth, but instead the earth is turning around and moves around the sun. As this was totally against the Catholic belief Galileo was convoked to the Vatican, where he had to recant his theory under threat to be burned alive on a stake as a heretic. If there would have been a plebiscite, Galileo would have been burnt alive and if the fervent catholic Tony Abbott and Cardinal Pell would have lived at that time, they both would have voted for Galileo's execution.

By andrew partos (not verified) on 21 Jun 2011 #permalink