Cardinal Pell: 'We Can't Do Doctrinal Backflips'

Says Even If Language Is Softening, Doctrine’s Firm and There’s No «Sidestepping»

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Pope Francis is urging the faithful to evangelize by leading with a person, rather than push moral rules and doctrine on others, two cardinals have said. 

«Francis introduces people to the person of Jesus,» said Cardinal Dolan of New York, speaking Wednesday at the Rome launch of Crux, a website of the Boston Globe on Catholicism. He addressed the event at the North American College alongside the recently appointed prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, Cardinal George Pell of Australia.

The New York cardinal, however, admitted he hadn’t thought Francis would be the charismatic «rock star,» who ceaselessly «electrifies» crowds. Rather, he thought of him as a quasi-retired, «behind-the-scenes man.»

«In no way did I think of him as charismatic,» he said, adding his style is «simple» and «sincere.» He elaborated, «No one needs to tell Pope Francis what to do. He just knows.»  

«Pope Francis doesn’t need to be told how to act,» because it’s naturally «who he is,» he said. «No one needs to tell him to pay his hotel bill. He just does it.»

‘Softening’ language

Cardinal Pell, the member of the Vatican’s Council of Cardinals who now is charged with overseeing Vatican finances, has made it clear that even if some lenience is being discussed, he is not, nor will ever be, one for «relaxing the standards.» 

“When we talk about some time of renewal and reform of our vocabulary, we don’t mean to soften or to dilute our teaching, but to make it more credible,» the Vatican’s finance czar continued, noting it’s not an attempt at «sidestepping.»

The Australian prelate stressed not only how much Christians and Catholics can offer the world, but also suggested how badly the world is in need of their contribution.

No to silence

Addressing the audience, many of whom were seminarians from the North American College, he said: “I hope you’re not going to be one of those priests or bishops whose primary mission is to keep out of the press.

“If we are silent, we can’t complain that we’re not being heard,” Cardinal Pell frankly stated.

“Some may wish that Jesus might have been a little softer on divorce, but he wasn’t and I’m sticking with him,” Cardinal Pell concluded.

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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