George Pell Vatican church
Cardinal George Pell

If bullshitting was a cardinal sin, George Pell would be in trouble.

In an Easter column in The Australian the cardinal waxed lyrical about the Eternal City. He lauds Italy for having “at least” two government-sponsored television stations (although there’s really only one that matters, and Italy ranks below Australia in Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index).

The thumbs-up to Italy, though, is just a little device to allow Pell to have a crack at the “Gramscian” ABC, a reference to the trope of “cultural Marxism”, a debunked conspiracy theory that has been found to be anti-Semitic.

He suggests Australia should have an alternative national broadcaster (presumably one that did not bother to cover the peccadilloes of the Catholic Church).

There’s not enough room here to go through his supernatural claims about whether or not a dude called Jesus was the son of God. Or if, indeed, God exists. There’s also not enough space to wade through the Pet Sematary-esque claims about the resurrection of the aforementioned son of God, or the notion of miracles.

It’s also not really possible, in a column about the preponderance of bullshit, to start tackling claims that are not falsifiable. So let’s stop the self-flagellation and move on.

What is entirely falsifiable is Pell’s claim that Australians don’t give a fig leaf about the “Christian origins” of Easter.

Pell spends much of his precious broadsheet real estate bemoaning the little colony down south and its ignorance of Christian teaching. “Most of the poor and all of the taxi drivers in Rome have a viewpoint on religion and the Vatican,” he writes.

“In Australia, everyone enjoys the Easter break, as they enjoy the Queen’s Birthday holiday, but many haven’t much of a notion about the Christian origins of the celebration, even of Good Friday.”

The Christian origins of Easter?

For Christ’s sake. Believe in miracles, in the son of a God crawling out of a tomb to ascend bodily to Heaven, if that’s your faith.

But to wilfully ignore the actual, factual origins of Easter in the rush to perpetuate the culture wars is self-indulgent tosh. Easter’s origins are pagan. It’s in the name, derived from the pre-Christian goddess Eostre. It’s in the timing, dictated by the movements of the sun and moon, coinciding with spring equinox in the northern hemisphere. It’s even in the symbolism of eggs and bunnies as fertility symbols.

It was eventually adopted by Christianity, but did not originate with Christianity.

Pell’s self-righteousness is so ingrained he imagines devils where there are none. He’s trying to exorcise non-existent ghosts at the ABC, and to perpetrate the idea that there is some existential threat to life as we know it.

Pell believes that “there were no bones in the tomb after the resurrection”. He believes in miracles. But he also believes something patently false, that Easter sprung fully formed from Christianity (a Virgin birth, if you will).

Perhaps his dismissal of history shouldn’t come as a surprise. This is a guy who once described people who want action on climate change as modern-day pagans.

“In the past, pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods — today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions,” he said.

You can’t make this shit up.

Peter Fray

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