National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  January 30, 2004

'Look me in the eye and tell me'

Lesbian cousin challenges Australian cardinal for a personal response


Offended that a Vatican document considered her a “seriously depraved person” because she has lived with a lesbian partner for 19 years, Australian Monica Hingston wrote a letter to her second cousin, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia.

Hingston wrote to Pell, “I am concerned that in your role, you are required to reinforce and promulgate these vicious condemnations from Rome.”

“What I am really wanting from you, George, is a response that is personal, that comes from the heart, that is based on your knowledge of who I am,” she wrote.

Pell did not respond to the letter Hingston sent in August, nor when she resent it several weeks later. The cardinal did not return the three telephone calls Hingston made in December. That’s when she decided to go public and publish the letter in The Sydney Morning Herald. The letter appeared Jan. 12.

She said her reason for going public was to “highlight the difficulties same-sex couples have even being heard, let alone granted access to the same level of justice as heterosexual couples.”

In an article accompanying the letter, Hingston told the Herald that she and her partner, Peg Moran, had been active all their lives in campaigns for justice. Hingston had been for 26 years a Sister of Mercy. Moran was a Franciscan sister for 35 years. They had worked 10 years and 27 years respectively in the slums of Chile during the brutal era of dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Most recently, Hingston had worked with movements for Aboriginal rights and against nuclear weapons. She had never campaigned for gay and lesbian rights.

The Vatican document, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons” released in July, changed that. The time had come, she told the Herald to fight for her own interests.

In her letter to Pell, Hingston noted that synonyms for “depraved” include “corrupt,” “debased,” “vicious” and “vile.” She wrote, “It is hard to imagine that you would actually be able to look me in the eye and tell me any of these adjectives could truthfully describe me.”

Although Pell and Hingston are distant relatives, they maintained some family ties. Hingston told the Herald that the cardinal visited her in the hospital about six years ago and met Moran.

In a statement to the Herald, Pell said, “The church’s views are well known and will not change. I support them. … I wish Monica well and acknowledge the contribution she has made. I continue to regret the path she has chosen.”

Writing to Pell, Hingston said that since the Vatican prelates are so concerned about her relationship with Moran, “let me briefly describe for you, George, that relationship of 19 years. It is a rare and precious gift. A partnership of sensitivity and selflessness, of warmth and humor, of wonder and beauty.

“It is fundamental to personal growth, it has enabled me to face my own formidable challenges with courage, it daily enriches me, it empowers me to work for the well-being of others, to accept, appreciate and value the richness and diversity of individuals. In short, it is life-giving.

“The gifts we have received from each other and consequently are able to give to others would be values and ethics the Vatican portrays as intrinsic to basic Christian life. Still, that is not the crux of the matter. All these aspects are ignored, because the Vatican is wholly focused on what we do in bed.”

National Catholic Reporter, January 30, 2004

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