Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
July 5, 2010
Austrian cardinal's wrists slapped over comments on sexual abuse
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY - In an unusual public chastisement, the Vatican said a series of statements by Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn have contributed to widespread misunderstandings on issues related to clerical sexual abuse.
In particular, the Vatican took issue with Schonborn's statement that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, former secretary of state, had blocked an investigation of sexual abuse and offended victims by calling their complaints "petty gossip."
"It should be remembered that in the Church, when there are accusations against a cardinal, the competence rests solely with the pope; others may have an advisory role, always with the proper respect for the person," a Vatican statement said.
The statement was issued after Pope Benedict met June 28 with Schonborn, the archbishop of Vienna. Schonborn requested the meeting to "clarify the exact meaning of his recent statements" on a number of topics, the Vatican said.
In a closed-door session with Austrian news editors in May, Schonborn reportedly said that Sodano, the longtime secretary of state under Pope John Paul II and now the dean of the College of Cardinals, had hindered the investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of minors by the late Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, who was forced to step down as archbishop of Vienna in 1995.
Schonborn said that at that time, Pope Benedict, then head of the Vatican office in charge of investigating accusations of clerical sex abuse, had been thwarted by Sodano in his efforts to take more direct action on accusations against Groer, Austrian news media said.
Schonborn also was quoted as saying Sodano had offended victims of sexual abuse in the Church when, at the pope's Easter Mass in April, he used the term "petty gossip" in referring to the current controversy surrounding the Church.
The Vatican said that in their private meeting, Pope Benedict and Schonborn had discussed his comments about Sodano as well as "some aspects of current Church discipline."
Afterward, Sodano and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the current secretary of state, were called in to continue the encounter.
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