VATICAN CITY (RNS) — The Vatican’s financial chief, Cardinal George Pell, has taken the unusual step of criticizing Pope Francis’ groundbreaking environmental encyclical, arguing the Catholic Church has “no particular expertise in science.”
Nearly 18 months after Pell was brought to the Vatican by Pope Francis and given a mandate to reform the city-state’s banking affairs, the Australian cardinal gave an interview to the Financial Times, whacking his boss’ landmark document.
“It’s got many, many interesting elements. There are parts of it which are beautiful,” he said. “But the church has no particular expertise in science ... the church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters. We believe in the autonomy of science,” Pell told the Financial Times on July 16.
In the papal letter, released last month, Francis called for global action on climate change and criticized world leaders for not addressing the issue urgently enough. While the pope won praise from environmental activists, others have argued the pope should not be wading into the political and scientific debate.
Until now, Pell had remained quiet on the contents of the encyclical, despite gaining a reputation in Australia as a climate change denier. In 2011, he clashed with the then-head of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, Greg Ayers, who said Pell was “misled” in his climate change views.
Despite the cardinal’s criticism of the pope’s environmental stance, Pell noted the encyclical had been “very well received” and said Francis had “beautifully set out our obligations to future generations and our obligations to the environment.”
Since the document’s release the Vatican has hosted a high-level meeting on the environment, while Francis has taken his message on the road throughout Latin America.