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. John Home-Douglas

    What Catholic mothers should be telling their young children" If you see a priest......RUN"

    June 28, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
  2. bulldogguy

    I CANNOT for the life of me understand how most all Catholics continue to uphold this utmost "reverance" for a CREEP like the pope. He's done NOTHING about these abuses (not alleged)..that have been going on since his reign and years and years before that.
    Why are they holding on to such an outdated, backward religion? In my community that I grew up in, when catholics were preparing to get married, they had to go to "couple counselling"..Oh, did I mention, it was performed by the priest!!!! Seriosly. How insane is that? What on earth could a single, "allegedly" celibate man possibly have to offer? Unless it was a man marrying a 8 year old perhaps?
    I've spoked to a friend (priest) how even he himself truly believes that the Catholic Church will be responsible for it's own demise! Even HE cannot understand why the church won't allow women to be ordained as priests, or why priests cannot be married. It should have NO impact on being a truly passionate messenger of God. NONE!
    He's also confirming that eventually there will be NO more men wanting to become priests..the evidence is already staring them in the face. More and more churches are closing as the severe lack of priests and even parishioners are on the rise.
    Catholics of the world...for GOD's sake (yes pun intended)..WAKE UP!!!!!

    June 28, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      I am with you on this one. I can't see why any of it's members keep going back to that church!!

      June 28, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
    • W0lfman

      bulldogguy, I think you have a filthy mind.

      June 29, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
  3. pat

    hey folks, read your bibles. daniel and revelation. The Catholic church is the beast that slaughtered untold millions as a dominating power combined with the state powers[ actually ruling over them]. America is soon to form the image to the Catholic church as we break down the seperation of church and state. Study people, study. Perfect justice will be meeted out to every man. grace does not cover a wicked person and every wicked deed will be brought to light and punishment will be dealt. No one gets away from anything unless Jesus himself makes the call in truth.

    June 28, 2010 at 9:21 pm |
    • EJavaM07

      I believe you are quoting from:

      Rev 13:15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

      May I suggest to you that the image of the beast has already been formed, but that it only awaits the support of civil authorities to require its allegiance on pain of death.

      May I suggest that the image of the beast is a duplicate, a clever deception of something so simple as perhaps which day belongs to Christ, and which day is the 'Lord's Day' of Caesar.

      It's only a small matter of allegiance. Just a tiny thing, really.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
    • Reality


      What three very intelligent men concluded about the book of Revelation:

      Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".[75] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he considered it as "merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [76] George Bernard Shaw described it as "a peculiar record of the visions of a drug addict".[77]

      June 28, 2010 at 11:58 pm |
  4. a.

    unreal... the only one from this evil organization to speak out against the child molestation that took place. Shows you where the church's priority is.

    June 28, 2010 at 9:11 pm |
  5. Bob

    He has been dean of the College of Cardinals since 2002, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the previous dean, became Pope Benedict XVI.

    This is an error, Ratzinger became pope in 2005, not 2002.

    June 28, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
  6. CV

    I agree with David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "Benedict professes concern for victims. But by his actions, Benedict shows concern for his colleagues."

    I was raised a Catholic but I have lost all respect for the Vatican and it's Leaders at all levels. They're secrecy and lack of compassion for the victims abused by priests, bishops, is sickening. As a child I memorized the ten commandments and was told to look up to Priests, Bishops, Cardinals as role models. Hypocrisy! But I don't need a Church to instill Faith in God, Holiness, virtues or role models. My parents and community gave me those gifts and values. No Church or it's Members can take them from me. My Faith in God has not been shaken by the Hypocrisy of Church members or the Vatican! I will continue to pray that all the abused will receive justice and peace.

    June 28, 2010 at 9:01 pm |
    • EJavaM07

      I am so thankful that there are still those among you that stand for God. Please get your hierarchy to open up, release all bad stuff, and get back to serving God in Christ. But above all else, please get them to stop abusing the little ones.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
  7. IF

    This church, as it "stands", was not built by Christ (as I've read somewhere up there). This church was built by men, regulated by men for their own self-empowering purposes (there are bound to be some exceptions, the previous pope seemed to be what is referred to as "a good man"). But Ratzinger, and I am quoting a post from SDFrankie: It's not just that he doesn't get it. It's that he insists on not getting it!

    June 28, 2010 at 8:38 pm |
  8. ajk68

    This is completely a media created story. The initial statements by Schonborn were completely misrepresented – or perhaps completely misunderstood by journalists who understand almost nothing about the Catholic Church. Schonborn requested this meeting to clarify the statements. For example, Schonborn had not called into question the practice of celibacy. He had merely called for better training on the living of that way of life. He had also criticized the use of the expression "gossip." The outcome of the meeting was a statement that said basically "Cardinal Sodano was not implying any disrespect to the victims of abuse" by the use of the term. What is not being reported is how Schonborn's real point was that a lot of the abuse problems stem from the late 60's when liberal theologians were suggesting all types of immoral behavior were acceptable. Some priests were poorly trained and were being ordained despite serious personal moral problems. One only needs to look at the statistics to see how almost all the abuse occurred in the mid 70's. Furthermore, most of the abuse at later dates was done by people trained in the 60's.

    The irony of the liberal days is that the importance and dignity of the priesthood was so reduced that nobody was inspired to accept the vocation. Since the late 90's, there has been a resurgence of vocations – especially amongst orthodox Catholic groups. These people are serious striving to be holy and bring many people with them on the path of holiness. The liberal media actively campaigned against the Catholic Church all last year – a year dedicated to recognizing the dignity and importance of the priesthood. They fear these new dedicated and holy people.

    June 28, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
    • shame on you

      Basically, human brain(cerebra) consists of two parts: left part and right part. unfortunately, if brainwashed, the left part has nothing right, and the right part has nothing left.

      June 28, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
    • magy stelliing

      Sorry, you are so wrong, This has been going on ever since boys will be boys. Vatican II only encouraged the laity to speak out. would you believe St Ignatius de Loyola ,back in the 15oohnds went to the civil authorities to make a law protecting the young from sexual abuse. go ahead look it up in his autobiography 88-89 Wish our hierarchy had continued to follow his example. We wouldn't have this mess now.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
    • Clarad

      Please don't be blind, all these pedophiles got in the church to hide their wicked souls. How can you justify the psychological and spiritual damage? the pope and the majority of priests are guilty of converting boys to Homosexuality instead of guiding them to the real teachings of Jesus. Holy, only God is holy! The Catholic church and The Vatican will fall and burn like Sodom and Gomorrah!

      June 29, 2010 at 2:11 am |
  9. sandalista

    Remember, they had unlimited (god given) power for two millenia. Power that was used to torture, burn, rape, starve and fight wars. It's tough to give up that power without a fight. The hirarchy knows that the shtick is up, now it's damage control to keep the 3 trillion in assets. This has nothing to do with religion anymore, it's big business!

    June 28, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
    • EJavaM07

      Funny how your comment reminded me directly of Rev 13. Here's a part of that chapter:

      Rev 13:3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

      Rev 13:4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who [is] like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

      Rev 13:5 And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty [and] two months.

      Rev 13:6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.

      Rev 13:7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

      Rev 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

      Rev 13:9 If any man have an ear, let him hear.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
  10. Nick

    The man is a former hitler youth. His actions are not surprising.

    June 28, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
  11. W. E. Gutman

    Like Sarah Silverman said, "Sell the Vatican and feed the poor."

    June 28, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
    • EJavaM07

      Are you kidding me?

      Sell the Vatican?

      Don't you know how much that cost?

      That was a huge piece of very choice real estate presented to the Bishop of Rome by Caesar himself!

      All the Bishop had to do was swear allegiance to Caesar. Oh, and to verify that all the Christians were really good citizens of Rome, they had to give up that pesky Sabbath thing that Christ declared himself Lord of.

      Just a one day difference. No big deal. And it was critical to establishing to whom citizens had their allegiance to, and besides, it was so Jewish.

      So next time you're kneeling down on a Sunday morning thinking that you're showing your allegiance to Christ, remember, the Lord's Day is actually the 'Lord Caesar', not Jesus Christ, and it was brought to you by the Bishop of Rome, again not Jesus Christ.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  12. Mick

    "competency falls exclusively to the pope"


    Way to go, Church! This is the perfect day and age to try to convince people of papal infalibility! You have some fabulous public relations people!

    June 28, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
  13. Tssshhhh

    I once had respect for the Pope and Catholic Church; that has all disappeared now. The pope thinks he is above the law and II hope the world shows him that he is wrong about that.

    June 28, 2010 at 8:12 pm |
    • Joan

      I much prefer ionfmraitve articles like this to that high brow literature.

      October 8, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • abeqlcdmq

      tWnTkB smuhfuwrktfj

      October 11, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  14. cmjt

    "Slapped down" it should of been a slap on the back, Thanking the Cardinal for doing the Pope's job!

    June 28, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
  15. Bill Kilpatrick

    Those who abuse children do not deserve to wear the robes of any priesthood. Those who protect such abusers are just as guilty. Those who protect those who protect abusers deserve nothing but contempt.

    Bishop Ratzinger, my middle finger has your name on it. You are a discredit to your faith.

    June 28, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
  16. lance corporal

    to bad this "pope"s expectation of respect doesn't extend to victims of abuse

    June 28, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
  17. Leroy Jackson

    God is probably of thinking of changing her religion.

    June 28, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  18. Leroy Jackson

    why hasn't any of them gone to prison?

    June 28, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
  19. Tim

    So, the Pope wants to slap down the one person who might actually want to DO something about all of this? Meanwhile, the Pope keeps SAYING "we're going to do something about this," but I haven't seen him DO one thing. Unless you count writing memos. He seems to be very good at writing memos.

    June 28, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  20. Burbank

    Ooooh! Smack down for speaking out! Publicly abused for blowing their dirty coverup! Just proves the Vatican still doesn't get it and will continue coverups of these pedophiles every chance it gets! Even a picture of that rotten, evil old man dressed all in white and gold gives me the creeps! Anyone that stays a Catholic after all this is crazy, especially parents! – I'm an EX Catholic attacked by a pedophile priest as a young girl. Evil, evil pope! All he cares about is control and image. Not a thought for the victims and the damage it did. The cardinal getting the smack down is a HERO!

    June 28, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
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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.