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Vatican rebukes Cardinal Schönborn for criticism of ex-Secretary of State

Catholic World News - June 28, 2010

After Cardinal Christoph Schönborn met with Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience on June 28, the Vatican released an unusual statement that was, in effect, a rebuke to the Austrian cardinal for his criticisms of a former Vatican Secretary of State.

The Vatican reported that Cardinal Schönborn had requested the audience, wanting to “clarify the exact meaning” of remarks he had made in May at a meeting with Austrian journalists.

During that meeting, which he apparently thought was off the record, Cardinal Schönborn said that Cardinal Angelo Sodano had “deeply wronged” sex-abuse victims in an Easter Sunday statement that characterized their complaints as “gossip.” The Austrian cardinal had also said that Cardinal Sodano resisted calls for a thorough investigation of sex-abuse complaints against Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer.

Cardinal Sodano—who remains a powerful presence at the Vatican, nearly four years after he resigned as Secretary of State—sat in on the meeting between the Pope and Cardinal Schönborn. The Vatican statement released after the session was a vindication of the 82-year-old Italian prelate.

During the audience, the Vatican statement said, “certain widespread misunderstandings were clarified and resolved.” Those misunderstandings had arisen from Cardinal Schönborn’s remarks, the statement continued, and the Austrian prelate “expressed his displeasure at the interpretations given to his words.”

The Vatican statement emphasized that the Pope alone should be the judge of accusations against a cardinal. The emphasis on that statement was an unmistakable reprimand to Cardinal Schönborn for his public criticism of another cardinal.

The Vatican statement went on to defend Cardinal Sodano’s public statement on Easter Sunday, claiming that the “word 'chiacchiericcio' (gossip) was erroneously interpreted as disrespectful to the victims of sexual abuse, towards whom Cardinal Angelo Sodano nourishes the same feelings of compassion, and of condemnation of evil, as expressed on various occasions by the Holy Father.”

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