June 28th, 2010
04:30 PM ET

Pope reprimands cardinal over sex abuse criticism

Pope Benedict XVI slapped down Cardinal Christoph Schonborn on Monday over comments earlier this year in which he was seen as criticizing a fellow cardinal.

Schonborn - the archbishop of Vienna, Austria, and a former student of the pope - had said that  Cardinal Angelo Sodano had blocked an investigation of sexual abuse charges against a former archbishop of Vienna, according to the Catholic News Service.  Sodano was the Vatican's secretary of state at the time.

The pope firmly put Schonborn in his place Monday, according to a Vatican statement.

"It must be reiterated that, in the Church, when accusations are made against a cardinal, competency falls exclusively to the pope; other parties may have a consultative function, while always maintaining due respect for persons," the statement said.

Such public chastisements are highly unusual for the Vatican. Schonborn also had objected to a statement Sodano had made in April.

Speaking prior to the pope's Easter Mass address, Sodano - who is now the dean of the College of Cardinals - had said the pontiff maintained the support of Catholics around the world "who do not let themselves be influenced by petty gossip."

Sodano did not specifically mention the sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church, but his remarks clearly referred to those who had criticized Catholic leadership, including Pope Benedict himself for not having done more during his years as a top church official.

Schonborn said Sodano had offended victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests by using the term "petty gossip."

The Vatican, in its statement Monday, said, "The word 'chiacchiericcio' (gossip) was erroneously interpreted as disrespectful to the victims of sexual abuse."

It noted the word "was taken literally from the pontifical homily of Palm Sunday and referred to the 'courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the gossip of prevalent opinions.'"

At another time this year, as accusations of child abuse by priests swept Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland, Schonborn had said, "It's crucial that we ask about the causes of sexual abuse.

"That includes the question of priest's training as much as it does questions as to what happened with the generation of 1968 with the 'sexual revolution.' It includes the issue of celibacy as much as it does the issue of personal development. And also it includes a large dose of honesty in the church, as well as in society."

His words were interpreted as questioning priestly celibacy, although he said through a spokesman that he had not meant to do so.

He also has suggested the church reconsider policies relating to remarried divorced Catholics and homosexuals in stable relationships, according to news reports.

In Monday's meeting - which included the pope, Schonborn, Sodana and another Vatican official - "certain widespread misunderstandings were clarified and resolved, misunderstandings deriving partly from certain statements of Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, who expressed his displeasure at the interpretations given to his words," the Vatican statement said.

The Vatican's statement drew criticism from David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests "The pope should be encouraging, not forbidding, more open conversation about cover ups of clergy sex crimes by bishops," he said in a written statement. "Frankly, the church desperately needs it. Kids are safer when honest dialogue about misdeeds is encouraged, not forbidden."

He added, "With his words, Benedict professes concern for victims. But by his actions, Benedict shows concern for his colleagues."

Schonborn and the pope have known each other for decades, since the Austrian studied under then-Joseph Ratzinger at the University of Regensburg. Sodano was the Vatican secretary of state from 1994 to 2006. He has been dean of the College of Cardinals since 2002, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the previous dean, became Pope Benedict XVI.

The Vatican's statement said Schonborn had asked for Monday's meeting "to clarify the exact meaning of his recent declarations concerning some aspects of current ecclesiastical discipline, and certain of his judgments regarding positions adopted by (Soldano) concerning the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, archbishop of Vienna from 1986 to 1995.

Groer stepped down after allegations that he had sexually abused a schoolboy 20 years earlier. Other allegations followed. He died in 2003.

The Catholic Church has been rocked by allegations that clergy abused children sexually and physically for decades across Europe and the United States. The pope has repeatedly said he is seeking justice for the victims.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • Traditions

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soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. meizitang strong version

    Carmen January 7th, 2011 meizitang strong version http://www.zimbio.com/member/botanicalslimming30

    May 2, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  2. Chizoba

    Most comments here and elsewhere including a supposed comment by a UN official indicate the level of degeneracy of the minds and thoughts of many. If truth be told, the Pope and the Church have stood high conscientiously and otherwise, unfortunately, we are living in a precarious time, those who accuse and abuse the pope are the people with lowest morals. May God save us

    July 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
  3. Petel2

    Catholics can not and will not offer justice to victims. They escape with every deflection available, dishonest at best,

    The latests I've heard, "The catholic church is not about the hierarchy, the catholic church is within us." What an escape from the truth to remove yourself from the dishonest acts of the church. How putrid, you can now do nothing to help victims of destroyed lives.

    These deflections are no different than walking on the other side of the road to ignore those lying harmed. It is disgraceful.

    It would seem to me, if there were a god, the highest level of belief is to stand firm against this organization and to help victims. Instead it is selfish salvation they are after – all about them. Meanwhile, victims suffer as many committed suicide and others mentally ill today – lost childhoods and adulthoods with the worst and unimaginable trauma ahead, the realization of a lost life.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  4. ART

    he's gonna cry in his car

    June 30, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  5. CatholicMom

    Patrick, the Catholic Church is the visible Church of Christ. The members of Christ's body with Him as the head is the MYSTICAL BODY of Christ. How do you become part of His body? Through Baptism. You receive a mark on your soul which can never be erased. It will be visible in Heaven or Hell, which ever place you end up in. You choose the place by your free will.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  6. CatholicMom

    Yes, Jack, Jesus Christ is coming back for His Church, His Bride, which means the Catholic Church. [How many Brides does Jesus have? Yes, only one.] You see, it couldn’t mean ‘all the believers’, as you put it, because believers are sinners, so sinners are not the Catholic Church. I cannot look at a person and say—there is the Church! No!

    Furthermore, just to call yourself a believer does not make you a Christian. Even the devil believes! So how do you become a child of God? Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through Baptism. You see, you are chosen by Jesus Christ first! He loved you first! Now that you have the grace of God in your soul you must strive to do the Father’s will. Now you are doing work that only you could do BECAUSE OF CHRIST working through you. That is something that satan hates…and he works to get you to reject the Church, because then he wins. No Sacraments—it’s his goal for you.

    If you read the Bible you might recall that the Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth. People have scattered every which way trying to interpret the Bible on their own. They cannot truly believe THEY each are the pillar and foundation of Truth! No, sinners couldn’t do it. The Bible tells us that the Church is without stain or wrinkle or any such thing—now we know that is not the description of a sinner. So, you see, the Catholic Church is like a hospital and all of us are in need of healing, every human being. Sinners need the Catholic Church. It is not the Catholic Church that is flawed, but people who sin. Especially Catholics who know the Truth but turn the other way; they are in desperate need of God’s graces, more than any other sinner. No, all sin is not the same—some is gravely more serious than other sin.
    …to be continued…

    June 29, 2010 at 9:45 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      This part would not post previously…
      Since we did not have the Bible given under one cover for almost 400 years after Jesus’ resurrection the Apostle’s taught by Tradition and did so until the First Catholic Bible was published in the 1400’s or so, when the printing press came into being. Yes, that is when more men started reading the Bible because the Bible was more available. Men began thinking themselves more learned than the Pope and Bishops and decided how THEY might interpreted Bible. We know that reading the Bible is very good for everyone; however, when you come upon a question that you find puzzling or you just think it might mean this or it might mean that, do not be lead astray. If your conclusion differs from what the Catholic Church has interpreted it to mean, you know you are in error. It is a Catholic Book and so who other would know better than the author?

      Remember that Jesus Christ prayed that we all be as One, we in Him and Him in us [starting with Baptism]. But men have their pride…sad to say. There is evil everywhere and we must strive to reject satan and all his works. We have three voices we can listen to…our own, which we can manipulate, telling ourselves ‘others do it…so it must be ok; then there is satan’s voice..he will tell you, ‘of course it is OK, in fact, it is GOOD; then there is the voice of the Holy Spirit [remember Baptism?] and He will tell you the Truth.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
  7. CJ

    That's what you get when you don't tow the company line. This organization would be a joke if they weren't so damned harmful.

    June 29, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  8. Keithpp

    Excellent article, well informed comments. If a Cardinal gets slapped down for speaking out what hope is there?

    June 29, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
    • W0lfman

      There is every hope that there ever has been. Schonborn's comments don't sound to me in keeping with the Magesterium, and he shouldn't be taking advantage of this situation to publicly question it. If he disagrees with church theology, he should leave the church.

      June 29, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  9. Petel2

    That is funny philmyster

    June 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  10. philmyster

    The enemies inside the church have existed since the time of its establishment by Christ, to Peter.

    Bad bishops throughout history and priests who have committed deplorable acts, simply do NOT have the full faith and truth.
    They have betrayed the trust of the magistrate, which has been entrusted to be the deposit of the faith.
    You could say that they are in the lineage of Judas, and they must be removed.

    We need holy priests, holy people.
    However, with all of this, the CHURCH itself, will NEVER be destroyed. Why? Its protected by the Holy Spirit through the command of christ himself.

    When we go to mass, to join heaven on earth, and receive the real presence, we look to the divine, NOT TO OTHER HUMANS!!
    If you want to be dismayed in anything, look to humans. If you want hope, look to the divine.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • nachooooo libre

      so are methodists, baptists, presb... part of the church? if so then why do catholics deny them communion,.....

      June 29, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • W0lfman

      nachooooo libre, what is a church? It is a group of people. What is the Church? It is the Body of Christ. Catholics believe that bread and wine are transformed during the mass to become the real Body and real Blood of Christ – the fruit of the Tree of Life. The other denominations you mentioned don't believe that.

      June 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
    • Patrick

      Catholics, SINCE VATICAN II, believe that Church means "people of God." I'm one who believes in the Gospel of Thomas...and I believe that Jesus was an Essene as well...

      June 30, 2010 at 5:21 am |
  11. Forbidden Truth

    Smite !!!

    June 29, 2010 at 11:41 am |
  12. Not Scared

    How does someone go about getting abused by a PRIEST??

    I just don't get it! 'Cos if a priest tried doing something sexually with me when I was a kid...
    Hooo Boy! I'd of let him have it upside his freakin' head and then I probably would've beaten him half to death!! Or worse!!!!
    Unlike all the so-called "victims", I would've done WHATEVER it took to protect myself, and ALL THE OTHER KIDS!!!!!!!!!

    June 29, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  13. cutlass

    Still going after everyone but the pedophile priests. Can't get rid of them pope, because you would have to step down, because you are one of them.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:50 am |
  14. desert voice

    The Catholic Church will become chaster and stronger after this experience. The Pope will also become wiser. That is how we learn: by trial and error. Now everyone, in all the churches in the world, knows that children belong to God! No one should mess with their purity and moral integrity!. This goes for every adult in the world! Every chuch has had a few loose cannons. remember Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker? But immorality is not confined to religion only. Remember the fornication with Monica Lewinski? This reinforces my point: we all must act more morally! Children, by virtue of their lack of grave and mortal sins, reflect the purity and beauty of the Kingdom of God! Let's keep them that way!

    June 29, 2010 at 10:49 am |
    • nachooooo libre

      what a load of crap.... the catholic church should fall from it current state of harboring pedaphiles, 8000 priests convicted..... taking so called "Gods" mioney to pay over 3 billion in out of court settlements..... and running an organization that sees itself as a cornerstone of Christianity... nothing about it is what Christ was about.... i am wondering if he would let someone kiss his ring,.... or if he would deny people communion if they werent catholic.... and i kinda doubt he would pray to mary ... ha ha ... new age voodoo

      June 29, 2010 at 11:46 am |
    • Jordan

      then lead my moral example and denounce that pathetic archaic organization.

      June 29, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  15. Willie12345

    I'm surprised that the Pope doesn't really understand the concept of repentance. Only when the Catholic Church repents of it's sins and begs forgiveness of it's membership, in a truly heart felt manner, with complete sincerity, will the church be able to move on. This will require that those that have been involved in these crimes against children – be arrested and tried for their acts. To protect them from any form of appropriate investigation is a sin unto itself.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:45 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.