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Cardinal Schönborn criticizes former Vatican Secretary of State

May 10, 2010

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has told a group of journalists that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the former Vatican Secretary of State, had "deeply wronged" the victims of sexual abuse by downplaying the importance of the issue.

On Easter Sunday, Cardinal Sodano surprised the congregation at a Mass in St. Peter's Square with an unscheduled statement of support for Pope Benedict XVI. In that statement Cardinal Sodano referred to criticism of the Pope's handling of the abuse issue as "petty gossip." While joining Cardinal Sodano in support of Pope Benedict, Cardinal Schönborn strongly objected to his characterization of the controversy.

Moreover, Cardinal Schönborn hinted that Cardinal Sodano-- who remains a highly influential figure in Rome, as the dean of the College of Cardinals-- had a history of underestimating the abuse problem. The Austrian cardinal said that in 1995, the future Pope Benedict pushed for a probe into abuse allegations against Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër but that Cardinal Sodano resisted the probe. Cardinal Schönborn had earlier told The New York Times in April that Cardinal Ratzinger had called for an investigation of Cardinal Groër, who served as Archbishop of Vienna from 1986 to 1995, but that “the other side, the diplomatic side, had prevailed.” Cardinal Groër-- Schönborn's immediate predecessor in Vienna-- eventually relinquished all his ecclesiastical titles in 1998, at the request of Pope John Paul II, as mounting evidence of his misconduct emerged.

During his session with Austrian newspaper reporters, Cardinal Schönborn made several other noteworthy comments:

  • On homosexual couples, the cardinal said that an enduring same-sex union is preferable to a series of encounters, telling the journalists that “a stable relationship is certainly better than if someone simply indulges in promiscuity."
  • Regarding Catholics who divorce and remarry, the cardinal said the Church might need to reconsider the idea that they should not receive Communion, pointing out that “many people don’t even marry at all any longer.
  • Cardinal Schönborn argued that the Roman Curia is "urgently in need of reform," and said that Pope Benedict is working carefully toward that goal.

Cardinal Schönborn himself is one of the most influential prelates in Europe. A former student of then-Professor Ratzinger, he was the chairman of the bishops' committee that edited the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Joseph Paul - May. 12, 2010 6:21 AM ET USA

    Cardinal Schonborn urgently needs to read the Catechism he was supposedly responsible for. He thinks committing mortal sin consistently with the same person by living in a homosexual relationship is preferable to committing mortal sin with a variety of people. It may be slightly safer but it is still the path to Hell. The Cardinal and his fellow Austrian bishops are a scandal to the faithful.

  • Posted by: BlaiseA - May. 10, 2010 9:45 PM ET USA

    How sad! And is this the same man whom we are to take seriously, in his opions of Medjugore?

  • Posted by: Anselm - May. 10, 2010 7:07 PM ET USA

    I disagree that the "dictatorship of relativism" gained another convert. Cardinal Schonborn's writings have been spot on support of Catholic teaching, but, like his mentor, he also will at times put comments out there to see the reaction and begin a dialogue (ie: the devil's advocate). Look at the NY Times editorial about evolution, it resulted in two books, one which was the results of a dialogue with Pope Benedict XVI. As far as liturgy goes, is it him or the MC? That is the question!!!

  • Posted by: - May. 10, 2010 4:24 PM ET USA

    If this is true, then the dictatorship of relativism has gained another convert.

  • Posted by: New Sister - May. 10, 2010 1:57 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Schonborn's diocese is "urgently in need of reform" -- the liturgical abuses my colleagues and I have observed in his own Cathedral in Vienna - just as passing tourists - are appalling.

  • Posted by: bsp1022 - May. 10, 2010 1:34 PM ET USA

    Here, here... Great reporting by CC. Seems to me Cardinal Schönborn, in his common sense approach to difficult issues, re-opens the window of promise suggested by Vatican II, but not delivered.