Damian Thompson writes in today’s Telegraph that Cardinal George Pell’s loss of his anticipated appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops owes to “black propaganda” and a “smear campaign” stemming from long-discredited misconduct allegations and dubious charges of poor health:

I now have good reason to believe that Cardinal Pell—a man of towering presence and intellect, utterly faithful to Pope Benedict’s vision for renewing the Church—is the victim of a smear campaign endorsed by certain bishops, especially Italian ones, who are desperate to stop Pell cleaning up what are in effect the “rotten boroughs” of their dioceses. We must pray that the Holy Father ignores the campaign.

Rumors and whispers from other journalists confirm Thompson is not alone in suspecting political motives behind Pell’s downfall. If the rumors prove true, we can seek consolation knowing such political machinations are not mere products of our age—they are, rather, the stuff that has proved the Church’s survivability, even since the first disciple injected politics into the spiritual economy, asking , “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

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