Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Australian Bishop Stirs Controversy

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Australian Bishop Stirs Controversy

Article excerpt

In recent days Archbishop George Pell of Melbourne has drawn fire from educators, gay and lesbian activists and feminists, each upset over separate words or deeds from the conservative Australian prelate.

In late May, some Catholic educators and theologians criticized new guidelines for religious education issued by Pell as overly traditionalist in outlook and too heavily doctrinal, according to the May 23 issue of the Australian newspaper The Sunday Age.

The guidelines, intended to shape how religion will be taught to more than 140,000 students in 300 Catholic schools in the archdiocese, were denounced by critics as clericalist, rule-oriented and biased against women, according to the newspaper report. They were prepared by a committee that included Mary Helen Woods, a spokesperson for the National Civic Council, a well-known conservative advocacy group in Australia.

An official of the Catholic teachers' union in the archdiocese told the newspaper the guidelines contained "some pretty bizarre" material, but a spokesperson for Pell said they marked a return to the solid religious education that Catholicism offered before the impact of secularization in the 1960s and 1970s.

Brigidine Sr. Brigid Arthur, an educator in the Melbourne archdiocese, criticized the guidelines for their silence on religious diversity. "Where Christians are killing non-Christians in the thousands" in Kosovo, she said, "this is appalling."

An official said that Pell was proceeding with plans to have new textbooks based on the guidelines ready by 2001.

Meanwhile, Pell angered homosexuals on May 23 by refusing to give Communion to people in Melbourne's St. Patrick's Cathedral wearing rainbow sashes -- the seventh time Pell has turned away activists wearing the sashes. According to reports, he offered them a blessing, which many rejected, rather than Communion. …

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