The former Archbishop of Sydney, now ensconced in the Vatican as one of the Pope’s eight personal counselors for the reform of the Church, left an indelible legacy behind him in my home-town.  Thanks to the Internet, people not only there but around the world will remember him for a statement he made on ABC Television’s “Q & A”, April 10, 2012.  In his famous debate with Richard Dawkins, he said that Neanderthals were our ancestors.  “COUSINS”, corrected the Oxford scientist.  But His Eminence insisted, revealing an ignorance as embarrassing as it was abysmal.

Reading a recent interview with Svante Pääbo, a Swedish paleoanthropologist and probable future Nobel Prize winner for his sequencing of the Neanderthal genome (“L’Express”, 30 September, 2015), I could not but think of George Pell and his pathetic blunder which he might call a “lapsus mentis”, when I came across the following paragraph.  It could serve as a crash-course for Cardinal Pell and others as clueless as he about the origins of mankind and the “homo sapiens sapiens” we claim to be :

” Neanderthal is indeed our cousin.  We share a common ancestor and our two species were separated in a period estimated as between 750,000 and 550,000 years.  First stage : the “Daddy” of Neanderthal left Africa for Eurasia, where he fathered Neanderthal in Europe.  The “Daddy” of Homo Sapiens stayed at home in Africa, and when his descendants – modern men – were born on the African continent, they left to take over the world.  Second stage : during his long migration, homo sapiens sapiens found himself face-to-face with Neanderthal, and contrary to what a number of paleoanthropologists affirmed, the two species did not content themselves with co-existence, but interbred between 40,000 and 90,000 years ago, in the Middle East but also in Central Asia.  Thus we share 1% to 4% of our genes.  That may seem little enough, but in fact it is enormous : still today, we all have “something of Neanderthal” (my note : a subtle reference to a popular French song, “quelque chose de Tennessee”). Isn’t that touching ?  Final stage : after breeding with his cousin, modern man continued on his journey to populate the rest of the planet.  As far as China and Australia, which explains, for example, why Australians (Aborigines) have also genes from Neanderthal, although the latter never left Europe. ”

You would have thought that a Cardinal would have known that much.

P.S.  Not at all, George !  You’re welcome.  I’m happy to continue educating the clergy.