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. Matt

    I whole-heartedly support Pope Benedict XVI!!!!!!!!!!!!! We are LUCKY to have such an intellect as our shephard! If I'm not mistaken, Obama did EXACTLY the same thing with General McCrystal last week. Strange how quickly you all forget the principle at work here. Did you even notice??

    June 28, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
    • Burbank

      If you are really that brainwashed and also have children I recommend you don't allow them alone with priests, especially at confession, I would be sitting in the church waiting for them. The pedophile problem is a lot more prevalent than you think. I was victimized myself by a priest and my next door neighbor was also molested by a priest, a different one. That's 2 children, next door neighbors attacked by 2 priests!

      June 28, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
    • Matt

      My children do spend time with my priest. He is a wonderful pastor and a true man of God. They are much more likely to be abused by their teachers, doctors, or even other parents. Catholic priests have one of the lowest rates of abuse of all professions–even when compared with other Christian ministers. Fact. God bless Pope Benedict XVI!

      June 28, 2010 at 8:02 pm |
    • shame on you

      I feel sorry for Burbank's misery experience. and to Matt, what I want to say is shame on you. At this moment, dont you have any sympathy to the children? dont you have any guts or any humanlity to condemn your 'beloved' religious leaders for covering up all these crimes? I cant believe you can still be foolish and numb enough to compare these to others and claim your churches better than them. Anyone who commits this kind of evil must be punished by law, by human law. and anyone who wants to cover this up commits more evil shouldbe punished also.

      June 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
    • lexi

      @Matt - a good pastor is a blessing and I am happy for you and your children
      @Burbank, I am sorry that you were abused, and that your neighbor was abused. I hope you report it to the police, because an injustice to one is an injustice to all, and I hope that God strengthens and comforts you.

      June 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
    • Paul

      I'm sorry Matt, did McChrystal call out Obama for his handling of an ongoing pedophilia scandal?

      Totally uncomparable.

      June 29, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
    • Paul

      Who cares if priests have a lower rate of abuse or whatever? The fact is that there was a cover-up that goes all the way to the top.

      June 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  2. Jack

    Ok everyone, Christ will come back for His Church. It's not the church as we know it, and it is certainly not the catholic church. His Church is a reference to those who truly love Him, and follow Him, and believe in His death and resurrection for their salvation that washes away their sin in the eyes of God, come their judgement day.
    This is not a plan of mere men, it is the plan of God. Yes, I know you would do it differently, I probably would too.

    June 28, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  3. Anne E

    Such a bunch of HYPOCRITS... It's pathetic...

    June 28, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
    • Guest

      Hippocrates are the doctors that perform abortions, but swore a oath to uphold life.

      June 29, 2010 at 9:11 am |
  4. Nancy M. B.

    Sure glad I became an agnostic!

    June 28, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
    • Ryan

      comeon now....join the dark side of atheism
      I have cookies

      June 28, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
    • Anne E

      And so am I....

      June 28, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  5. paul cannell, falls church, virginia

    Jesus would be proud of the Catholic Church. He would commend them for taking in vast sums of money and defending pedophiles.

    June 28, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
    • lexi

      Jesus would be proud of the Catholic church. They help the poor. They help the sick. They help the forgotten. They help the lost. The church does more good than harm. They need to get rid of the bad and strengthen the good. There is a lot of good in the RCC, and there always has been.

      June 28, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
    • Greg


      All the the good in the world is worth absolutely NOTHING in comparison to the irreparable harm that the church has CREATED for the innocent children involved in the ongoing abuse. Get a clue. Pope Benedict ...go to hell.

      June 28, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
  6. Ryan

    The more I stare at this pope....the more he begins to look like emperor Palpatine from Star Wars

    I'm waiting for him to pull out a lightsaber any day now

    June 28, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
    • EJavaM07

      I keep seeing Transylvania when I look at him, but maybe that's just where he comes from originally.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
  7. dimes1

    Why don't Catholics convert to a religion that doesn’t condone and cover up pedophile priests? I wonder why Catholics put up with it. Don't just cry about it. You are enabling this. Force a change!

    June 28, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
    • Leo

      Oh.. Catholics are leaving the faith.. now for the last 20 years. The Catholic church in the United States is dieing. More and more churches close every month. The end of the Catholic Church is near.. is it any wonder ? A Nazi Pope.. pedophilia covered up.. contraception frowned upon.. the Church is irrelevant.

      June 28, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
    • question

      can someone answer this question for me:

      I dont know the orgnization of catholic church much. but it seems to me catholic church is also a dictatorship,only difference is in the name of GOD. tell me if I am wrong.

      June 28, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
    • EndofYourCorruption

      Good luck trying to get me to leave the Church. I'll fight for my faith no matter what. Protestants are more hypocritical which is why i left their sect.

      June 29, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
  8. Mitch

    Infallability. . . ain't it grand?

    June 28, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  9. FrankL

    Cardinals Bertone, Sodano, Levada, and Hoyos + the Pople = The Gang of Five

    June 28, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
  10. oneStarman

    POPE ON A ROPE – Isn't it about time that the church had leadership that didn't wear dresses and think sleeping with women was icky?

    June 28, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
    • EJavaM07

      Isn't it past time that the church returned to Christ?

      June 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  11. LI Catholic

    The Church isn't going anywhere. It was built by Christ to last until the end of time.

    June 28, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
    • garc

      ...regardless of how corrupt and morally bankrupt it has become, apparently.

      June 28, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
    • BD70

      So they say....

      June 28, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
    • MK

      You may want to check your timeline to confirm your built' comment... the Catholic Church was 'built' several hundred years after Christ walked the earth. The Catholic Church is no more built by Christ than the Morman's. They have commendeered it as their own, but it's far from it. It was built by men who likely had good intentions and based on teachings and recorded accounts, but not once did Christ even utter the word "Catholic" much less ordain it.

      June 28, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
    • Kevin

      The church was built by Christ, not by the architects hired on by Constantine IV around 300 A.D? Hmmm. Just goes to show that ignorance IS bliss...

      June 28, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
    • lexi

      @Kevin and @MK – The Church was founded by Christ through St. Peter. The Bible is one tool to support what the Apostles taught. Understandings of mathematics existed before math books and university buildings. Understandings of Christianity – literally following Christ – existed before the Bible and the buildings. If you read Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch – that is an excellent history of the Church.

      June 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
    • NoMorePope

      The church may not be going anywhere but followers will. Popey won't be liking the empty collection plates.

      June 28, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
    • Spawned

      Jesus Christ (not really the Son of God) is a self appointed, self-anointed fraud with many foolish followers just like the Pope!
      Peace over religion..............

      June 28, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
    • EJavaM07

      Unfortunately, the RCC is not the Church of Christ.

      In His church, we don't wear rich robes, or gold, as we recognize that the poor are always among us.

      We don't eat bread pretending it's the actual body of Christ, nor do we drink wine pretending it to be the actual blood of Christ; we recognize bread as bread, and wine as wine, but we know what they represent.

      We minister humbly and carefully to each other, remembering always to love one another as God loves us. And we are always conscious of Christ's words condemning those who would injure any of the little ones in any way.

      When the Bishop at Rome makes a declaration, I listen, but know that his history and his actions correspond one to one with the many characteristics of the antichrist found in the Bible, even to the one that says 'he shall think to change times and laws".

      So beware, the Bible (Daniel + Christ + John) says that the strange beast that has evolved from the remnants of the Roman Empire will yet rise up and demand obedience due only to God.

      Thankfully, this game is almost over.

      Thankfully, so much more so though, that Christ has promised to see us through this time.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
    • UUforlife

      Christ did not build the Catholic Church. Man did.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:20 am |
    • KERRY

      Spawned, you are half right......no where does it say that Jesus was the son of God; not even in the Bible. It says that Jesus (PBUH)said, "That is what YOU say". He however was a phrophet who was sent down by God to deliver the message. Also, the chruch was created long after Jesus (PBUH). His saying have been changed over the centuries and do not contain what he had actually preeched.

      June 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  12. Anne

    You are all wrong. Cardinal Schoenborn attacked his colleague Sodano saying Sodano blocked then Cardinal RATZINGER'S attempts and plea for an investigation of the previous Archbishop of Vienna!! That is the point that is left out of CNN's report ( as usual they leave out anything that shows Ratzinger is an honest guy.) Even though Schoenborn came up for Ratzinger ( and everyone know that his facts are correct there), the Pope still does his duty as head of a church (he is not a secular CEO for god's sake) to reprimand a cardinal who attacked another one in public.

    June 28, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  13. Dwayne

    Belgium is the only country with balls enough to get it right...If we raided the Vatican and all other Catholic interests we might actually get to the bottom and truth of all the abuse.

    June 28, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
  14. Petel2

    The cardinal should have helped the pope conceal. What's wrong with him? He should have been concealing, not revealing. Ratzinger is ticked because his crimes of cover ups will be exposed if one starts to talk the truth,

    June 28, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
    • NoMorePope

      What's that old saying: "The tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut by the scythe." Hope so.

      June 28, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  15. Reality

    Too little too late for the RCC. This type of rhetoric along with the flaws in its history and theology will continue to eat away the foundations of said church. I will give it ten years before its total collapse.

    June 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
    • lexi

      Think of all the storms the RCC has weathered. The church will get on the right path again.
      @ SDFrankie - exactly, they insist on not getting it.
      @ garc – That's not fair, most evangelicals are not like that, just like most Catholic priests are good. Christians do a lot of good in the world, but it isn't newsworthy.

      June 28, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
    • Jacob

      The Church will still be here in hundreds of year; there are places where it remains very relevant, including many parts of the US. It will probably look very different, but it will be here

      June 28, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
  16. Jimatkins

    Typical- blame anybody who stands up for right and justice. Another example of the complete moral bankruptcy of the Catholic Church.

    June 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
    • C.M. Holmes

      I highly agree. It was so brave of Cardinal Schonborn to DARE to stand up for right. It makes my blood boil to hear people who feel sorry for the Pope and the hierechy. Why, in Heaven's name, don't they feel sorry for the poor children whose lives were ruined???

      June 28, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
  17. Abd al-Latif

    Why do I constantly get auto-censored on this blog? Anyone have similar experiences? You hit "post" and nothing happens. Do they have some kind of a filter looking for certain words?

    June 28, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
    • Reality

      Yes, they do have a list of secret, forbidden words. One of these words/phrases is "peace be upon him".

      June 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
    • garc

      I think sometimes when it's a popular article, a ton of people are writing in at the same time and a technical screw-up happens.

      June 28, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
    • Jacob

      are you serious? PBUH is being censored? I hope that is an ugly rumor.

      June 28, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  18. Abd al-Latif

    Yes, the man who called sexual-abuse allegations "petty gossip" is being publicly and conspicuously defended by the Pope. Nothing new here. I guess the Pope's "conversion" on this matter just amounted to crocodile tears. At its heart the Catholic church is an unfeeling mafia-like organization that viciously protects its own perceived interests. Does anyone still think they speak for God?

    June 28, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  19. SDFrankie

    Wow. Nobody does crazy like the Catholic Church. You can't make this stuff up. It's not just that they don't get it. It's that they insist on not getting it.

    June 28, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • garc

      I always thought the evangelicals here were the nuttiest (who literally believe we'll all just be driving down the road one day and some of us will get magically whisked away, and thinks people and dinosaurs coexisted like Land of the Lost), but apparently Crazy doesn't discriminate against any religion.

      June 28, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
    • Jim


      June 29, 2010 at 12:34 am |
  20. Sir Craig

    Pope Ratzi reprimanding one of the few cardinals who stood up in defense of the victims because he defended them and denounced those blocking the investigations – why am I not surprised. (Rhetorical question.)

    Ratzi's papal legacy will be akin to that of Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI)...

    June 28, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
    • jesus

      He broke the Pope's code of silence and was reprimanded. It's not nice to air dirty laundry. Keep it quiet and move the perpetrator around. Hide the evidence.

      June 28, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
    • James J

      I really wish the TRUE story would have been reported. What really happened on this occasion is NOT what CNN has reported because CNN is biased against the Catholic Church, as so many people here seem to be. It's yet another example of the hatred people have for the True Faith. Those who call the Pope "a creep" or "a jerk" or various untold other names will have their moment of judgment and will be judged unworthy of being accepted into the heavenly court. Good luck in the "other" place.

      June 28, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
    • Petel2

      Well the true story will come out in the end. The pope and his merry bishops have worked hard at denying small children. Imagine that! Who could stoop so low. What kind of filth does it take to deny children needed medical attention to preserve grown mens reputations? Because of the cover ups, many children later committed suicide and others are mentally ill today. A good person would have helped the child rather than threaten them following the rapes and sodomies.

      June 28, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
    • Petel2

      True story is the pope is a liar and deceiver.

      June 28, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
    • Petel2

      Funny you say that. When I was sodomized from ages 8 to 10, once gang sodomized by 4 priests, I guess I didn't get to pick.

      June 28, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
    • Petel2

      This is your holy pope.

      The 1962 vatican document, “Crimes of Solicitations” was indeed that document. This document specifically stated that everyone who knew of the crime was to keep it silent or be excommunicated. Think about your grandparents for a moment. Wouldn’t excommunicated seem like a threat – go directly to hell? Even more is that this document had writing on it to hide it, as if it did not exist. It also stated that no one should ever nark it up. Why? You must remember that these folks are best at keeping secrets. After all, if the real truth were revealed, this would be proved not to be the true religion – they state that, not me. Marking the document by a bishop who had to remember the real purpose of certain statements might expose its true meaning so others would see the truth. This sort of reminds me of the mob leader questioned by the grand jury stating “Dead, what do you really mean by dead. Is it not moving?” Same manipulations that most reasonably thinking people can see through.
      Now the pope and his cardinals claimed some time in 2003 or so, this document was only received by a few bishops. After all, it isn’t so bad because only a few had it. Guess what? Another lie. In fact Ratzinger wrote a letter to all bishops in 2001, I did say ALL. That letter reminded them to adhere to the above stated one. I hope you can all see now? Let’s presume the unlikely, most didn’t have it. Wouldn’t this now mean to get your hands on it, all would now have it? You bet they did, after all they have to comply with the boss don’t they? Maybe a very few good guy bishops didn’t, then again so few you could count on one hand.
      More on the 2003 Ratzinger letter. This letter also stated to “extinguish” all cases before the victim reaches the age of 10 years past reaching adulthood. Why? Statutes of Limitations now becomes the shield to protect the RCC. You see, this now allows them to save reputation, protect the pedos and deny victims and families justice. What a nice religion this is.

      One might ask why these are so bad? Well, if this Vatican, popes preceding included, are so child caring, why not a document to help the child. After all, they were into documents. And they have always write documents on how to care for others when they need to take up collections. Why not a document as; get the child immediate medical care, tell the parents so they can care for their child and tell authorities to protect other children. Well, it didn’t happen, and most now understand what was more important to them.

      June 28, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
    • thessalonian

      The point of the popes is that gossip and inuendo without proof should not be spread as fact. Something that most of you on these boards like to do. If he's a Catholic priest he must be guilty. If he is a biship or archbishop or pope, well clearly he's hiding something. The Pope has used the very same words the cardinal has regarding the abuse and those who covered it up. But none of you give him credit for that. I am not forbidden from speaking against the abuse as a Catholic. But I am held by the moral law as accountable for spreading information that is not proven to be true about certain individuals. That is the case here. That is the context here.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
    • thessalonian

      Pete, perhaps you could tell us, did you turn those 4 priests in so that there are no other victims of their actions? What were there names and where did this take place. You seem to be fairly open about it.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
    • Jim

      "For there is one God and but one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 2:5

      So there is the proof that Catholicism is out of step. Mary worship. Were it the "true faith" , then Christ is who they would worship. Since they choose to worship idols, what do you expect from a pagan religion? You cannot measure them against the teachings of Jesus. They don't know him.
      The true seeker of God must look to his own heart and create his/her church there....not in the many false religions and false churches.

      June 29, 2010 at 12:32 am |
    • Petel2

      Glad you asked. The FBI has their names. NY senators protect them by denying victims justice. You see, statutes of limitations protects the most violent pedos.
      And yes, each senator in NY State knows the names. If they tell you otherwise, they are lying. Why I know this? I personally sent each one a notice.
      Unfortunately, catholic votes are too important to them. That is why I post here and elsewhere.

      June 29, 2010 at 12:49 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.