An outspoken liberal bishop and a Catholic gay rights group on Monday criticized the appointment of Sydney's conservative archbishop as a new cardinal. Archbishop George Pell, 62, was among 31 new cardinals named Sunday by Pope John Paul II. "I think for him it means it's a great personal honor, and certainly I wouldn't want to be a party pooper and try and play that down," Canberra auxiliary bishop Pat Power told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "But in terms of what it means for the church, I think it further shows the church to be representing many elements that I think are not doing the church very much good at the moment."
At a press conference Monday, Pell was unrepentant about his conservative message. "I preach the truths of the Gospel without apology," he said, adding that "the modern pagan mix in our society is not making people happier or more productive." Pell has been a lightning rod for controversy since being appointed Sydney's archbishop in May 2001. His appointment angered the city's large gay population because he has refused to give communion to gay men and lesbians and once called homosexuality "a greater health hazard than smoking." Michael Kelly, a spokesman for Australian Catholic gay rights group Rainbow Sash, condemned Pell's appointment and said he does not truly represent the country's Catholics. "There is very little question that if bishops...were elected by the clergy or the people or even by the local bishops of the country that George Pell would have never even been archbishop of Melbourne, let alone archbishop of Sydney or cardinal," Kelly told Sky News. Kelly said Pell will likely use his extra power to push his conservative agenda, which is "not really about listening to the marginalized or the oppressed or really supporting people who are disenfranchised in Australian society."