Sadly the glory days when Cardinal Pell was a world renowned internationally respected climate scientist have now gone, but it's reassuring that his scientific expertise has been re-assigned to Vatican finances, as you can read in Australia's least trusted newspaper in Pope Benedict calls in experts to control the Vatican finances.
Inter alia, in a treatise on Vatican finances that is certain to create tremendous excitement amongst tabloid readers, the humble Cardinal downplay's Gerard Henderson's assertion that he's number two in the Vatican:
The chief executive of the finance secretariat (a job which the Pope has given to me) will not be a member of the Council of the Economy.
As chief executive my task will be to persuade the Council of the wisdom of our proposals, just as the Vice Chancellor has to persuade a University Senate, which makes the decisions.
The Auditor General, who can intervene anywhere at any time, will be independent of the chief executive (called Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy) as will the Financial Services Authority, the Vatican equivalent of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.
None of this is rocket science, and most seems to us to be an expression of rudimentary common sense, but officials in other countries sometimes brings a different set of perspectives, and sometimes even a different sense of what is appropriate behaviour.
P.S. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to write these weekly columns in the Sunday Telegraph during the past thirteen years. I thank all the readers who have expressed their appreciation, even when they added that they didn’t always agree. And to those who disagreed, sometimes very strongly indeed, I thank them for their attention.
That's it? That's all? Thirteen long years of Pellism and it's all over? Until the new Pellist takes charge?
In the interim, let Father Michael Kelly, a Jesuit, and therefore of the same tribe as the Pope, have the final world about the absolute monarchy, in Crikey, with Pell-mell: what Australia's cardinal will really bring to the Vatican.
In it, Kelly chides a fatuous Michael Hewitt-Gleeson (who fatuously calls himself a Vaticanologist) for an unseemly burst of Pellist hagiography, which shows how desperate Crikey has got these days, willing to publish anything that turns up on the door mat, even A 'faithful and wise' 2IC: George Pell now rules the Catholic world (paywall protected to maintain a little sanity in the world).
Stopping just short of the Peter Principle, Kelly endorses a different view:
Word travels far and wide, and it did about Cardinal Pell a long time ago.
In fact the international view, and the tactical master stroke of the pope’s appointing Pell to the position, was reported in the Boston Globe by John Allen, one of the best-known Roman resident Vatican commentators. He characterised the pope’s appointment of Pell with a baseball term – a “triple play”: he gets a non-Italian to manage the Vatican’s housekeeping; he quarantines Cardinal Pell away from any influence over theology, bishops’ appointments, doctrine and discipline, the important posts at the Vatican that have world wide effect; and he removes a broadly unpopular leader, not of the Church in Australia but of the Archdiocese of Sydney.
And so on. By golly these Jesuits play it hard, but fair, very fair ...
As for the pond, what to do for meditative Sundays until the new Pellist, perhaps ersatz Pellist or Pellist lite, turns up in the Terror?
Fear not. Rarely has the pond had to dip into the treasure trove of American ratbaggery, but remember there's always some excellent guides, like Right Wing Watch, and its splendid story Boykin: When Jesus Comes Back, He'll Be Carrying An AR-15 Assault Rifle:
The Lord is a warrior and in Revelation 19 is says when he comes back, he's coming back as what? A warrior. A might warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe ... I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies 'cause he's coming back as a warrior carrying a sword.
And I believe now - I've checked this out - I believe that sword he'll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.
Now I want you to think about this: where did the Second Amendment come from? ... From the Founding Fathers, it's in the Constitution. Well, yeah, I know that. But where did the whole concept come from? It came from Jesus when he said to his disciples 'now, if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.'
I know, everybody says that was a metaphor. IT WAS NOT A METAPHOR! He was saying in building my kingdom, you're going to have to fight at times. You won't build my kingdom with a sword, but you're going to have to defend yourself. And that was the beginning of the Second Amendment, that's where the whole thing came from. I can't prove that historically and David [Barton] will counsel me when this is over, but I know that's where it came from.
And the sword today is an AR-15, so if you don't have one, go get one. You're supposed to have one. It's biblical.
Naturally it turned into an internet meme:
Barking mad, but it goes to show how the average domesticus loonus Australianus is really light weight up against a dedicated American loon ...
And there's plenty more, like Tea Party Call: Without A Christian President, You Get 'Pain, Suffering, Disease and Death', and Paulk: God Punishes Gays With Early Death, Disease. And then there's God writing the American constitution ...
And if that isn't enough, if you're a genuine seven sins glutton, you can always head of to Media Matters, and marvel at Arizona's attempt to imitate Uganda, and prats like Tucker Carlson with It's "Fascism" For Businesses To Have To Treat Gay Customers Equally.
There's so much available that the pond guarantees you'll get up with a headache and nausea of the kind you usually get over-dosing on fairy floss, with guaranteed nil in nutritional and intellectual value.
But speaking of Uganda, the pond was immediately reminded of the angry Sydney Anglicans and their valiant attempts to demonise gays. What's their opinion of the work they've done and the state of play in Uganda, and the bill signed into law last Monday?
Well the angry Anglicans have a news linking facility on their website:
So the pond trawled back through the files, and the last mention and link to matters Ugandan came with Uganda archbishop responds to Welby on anti-gay laws - in which the head of the Anglican Church in Uganda criticises the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, back on February 3rd, though you could probably also throw in the link on February 5th to another Anglican Archbishop, also taking it up to Canterbury and York in Archbishop Elud Wabukala dismisses calls to 'normalise homosexual lifestyles'.
So where's the link to Uganda anti-gay law prompts World Bank loan delay? Where's the Anglican protests, where's the angry Anglican concern for people in peril?
You're kidding right? Instead you cop the usual meaningless Jensenist drivel:
It's yours for free at An Unspiritual Church, though it might make you wonder at the value of things you get for free:
Non-Christians today commonly describe themselves as being ‘very spiritual’ while having nothing to do with organized religion or Christianity. This spirituality is a way of saying they are not materialistic atheists but it rarely has any theological content other than a vague mysticism. If it has any intellectual content it tends towards an anti-rational experientialism – feelings, experiences, awareness, asceticism, ascetics, pantheism, meditation and miracles. It also tends towards tolerance inclusiveness of all religious experiences and intolerance towards any theological propositions or exclusive claim to truth. It is naturally quite hostile to Biblical Christianity with its clear expression of theological truth claims about the uniqueness of Jesus and his way of salvation.
And so on and tediously on as Jensen tackles the business of the spiritual, and inevitably comes to the conclusion:
Critical to his plan was the coming of the Spirit to teach the disciples and to evangelistically convict the world. Central to this work is the use of words to address minds about the unique and exclusive truth of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. True Spirituality is not found in miracles or meditation, music or emotions, ascetics or aesthetics but regeneration through the gospel and holiness through the renewed mind. Nothing can be much more Spiritual than teaching and being taught the very words of Jesus’ gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:10-12).
Uh huh. The pond immediately thought of that old joke about one less than 10,000 gods, as recycled by John Dickson in Some atheist jokes deserve to be laughed at:
Launching the book For God's Sake: An Atheist, a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim Debate Religion, columnist Peter FitzSimons revelled in the opportunity to offer his favourite atheist one-liners. "There have been 10,000 gods through history," he said to my colleague Simon Smart, one of the authors of the book. "You reject 9,999 of them. I just go one god further!"
It was a well-rehearsed line straight out of the atheist joke book - Dawkins likes to tell it, too. It got the laugh a witticism deserves. Simon replied laconically, "Is that meant to be an argument, Fitz?" Apparently, it was. "I've put this to a lot of believers over the years," FitzSimons said with gusto, "and none of them has been able to reply." I was surprised to hear that. So let me give it a go.
So how does Dickson give it a go? How does he laugh at the joke? Well inter alia:
For one thing, believers in any particular religion do not reject the other gods in toto. They deny the manifestations and stories of the other deities, but not necessarily their substance. A Christian may reject the elaborations and add-on characteristics of, say, Ra or Vishnu, but they happily acknowledge the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians and Indians in positing the existence of a powerful Intelligence which orders the universe.
There is, in other words, an irreducible shared conviction among most worshipers: the rational order of the universe is best explained by the existence of an almighty Mind (or Minds) behind it all. This is why the apostle Paul in Athens (Acts 17) can happily quote a line from a hymn to Zeus in his argument about God: "We are his offspring." Paul did not think the stories about Zeus were true, but he agreed with the idea of divine power and intelligence which belief in Zeus embodied. Fitz and others are simply misguided to liken a Christian's rejection of particular versions of divinity with the atheist's denial of divinity altogether.
Say what? Let's just rewind a little that Jensenist homily and tract, about mindless spiritualism and ancient wisdom:
If it has any intellectual content it tends towards an anti-rational experientialism – feelings, experiences, awareness, asceticism, ascetics, pantheism, meditation and miracles. It also tends towards tolerance inclusiveness of all religious experiences and intolerance towards any theological propositions or exclusive claim to truth. It is naturally quite hostile to Biblical Christianity with its clear expression of theological truth claims about the uniqueness of Jesus and his way of salvation.
Yep, if the pond has done only one good deed this meditative Sunday, it will result in the Jensenists casting out Dickson, an ordained Anglican minister, from the temple as a Zeus lover and a heretic ...
And Dickson still hasn't got a convincing rebuttal for that old joke, not if the dour, absolutist, exclusive, theology of the Jensenists is any guide ...
(Below: and so to an old Tom Tomorrow joke. Yes, there are some sensible Americans).