Tablet article prompts critical response from Archbishop Pell

Tablet article prompts critical response from Archbishop Pell

Michael Gilchrist

An article in The Tablet (London) of 18 May, by Lucy Wooding, titled "Sydney's Unlikely Allies", has drawn a critical response from Archbishop George Pell. In a letter to The Tablet, he said that of "ten opinions" ascribed to him, "eight of these are either the opposite of what I believe and said or gross caricatures."

The Tablet's article consisted of an attack on the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, described as "part of an extremely uncompromising and anti-liberal evangelical grouping within the diocese" and his "unlikely" alliance with "his Catholic counterpart, Archbishop George Pell ... also known as a hardliner", whose "appointment has caused alarm to many local Catholics." The article also criticised what it called their "prejudicial distortions of history".

Ms Wooding, who interviewed both archbishops, was surprised to learn of Dr Jensen's "great admiration for his Catholic counterpart". Both, she found, "agreed they were facing the same adversaries - and had the same objective in the tackling of unbelief." Archbishop Pell told her that "the threat now comes not from Protestantism ... but from secularism."

She commented: "Hardline churchmen are two a penny. This is not the first example of the curious, and curiously distasteful, resemblance between extreme evangelicals and traditionalist Catholics. There is a striking affinity between the two camps in their hatred of liberalism."

In a letter sent to the editor of The Tablet, Margaret Rodgers, CEO, Anglican Media Sydney, identified in Ms Wooding's article "laughable errors of fact about Archbishop Jensen's views and also of policies of the Diocese of Sydney."

Archbishop Pell, in his letter, included the following observations:

"Archbishop Jensen and I publicly acknowledge important differences on matters of doctrine. United by baptism and friendship, we choose to work together as far as possible to present the person and teachings of Christ, the Redeemer of the world. I am surprised that a Tablet writer finds this unlikely ...

"My problem with Catholic liberalism is that it is ineffective, unattractive to young Catholics, and often drains strength from the Church rather than building it up. It is increasingly irrelevant to the religious struggle, particularly in Britain.

"While I have long been disappointed by The Tablet's persistent subversions of some Catholic teaching and mystified by the inability of the English bishops to nudge it towards a more productive line of witness, Tablet writers are nearly always competent and courteous. Ms. Wooding's contribution is neither."

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