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Benedict calls in Schönborn and Sodano

Unusual Vatican statement takes Archbishop of Vienna to task

By on Monday, 28 June 2010

The Vatican Information Service has just released an unusually detailed communique relating to a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and Cardinal Angelo Sodano in which the Austrian cardinal was made to explain public criticism he had levelled against Sodano.

After Cardinal Sodano made a surprise speech at Easter criticising the media’s reports about abuse as “idle gossip”, Cardinal Schönborn publicly accused the former Secretary of State of having deliberately obstructed an investigation into accusations of child abuse against Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer of Vienna. In today’s meeting, Pope Benedict seems to have done several things: he has reminded Cardinal Schönborn that the disciplining of members of the hierarchy is the responsibility of the Pope, he has clarified Sodano’s controversial comments about “idle gossip” and has brought the two men together. Interesting.

VATICAN CITY, 28 JUN 2010 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office released the following communique early this afternoon:

“(1) The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Christoph Schonborn O.P., archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian Episcopal Conference. The cardinal had asked to meet the Supreme Pontiff personally in order to report on the current situation of the Church in Austria. In particular, Cardinal Schonborn wished to clarify the exact meaning of his recent declarations concerning some aspects of current ecclesiastical discipline, and certain of his judgements regarding positions adopted by the Secretariat of State – and in particular by the then Secretary of State of Pope John Paul II – concerning the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, archbishop of Vienna from 1986 to 1995.

“(2) Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, and Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. were subsequently invited to join the meeting.

“In the second part of the audience 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.

“In particular:

“(a) 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.

“(b) The word ‘chiacchiericcio’ (gossip) was erroneously interpreted as disrespectful to the victims of sexual abuse, towards whom Cardinal Angelo Sodano nourishes the same feelings of compassion, and of condemnation of evil, as expressed on various occasions by the Holy Father. That word, pronounced during his Easter address to Pope Benedict XVI, 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”.

“(3) The Holy Father, recalling with great affection his own pastoral trip to Austria, via Cardinal Christoph Schonborn sends his greetings and encouragement to the Church in Austria, and to her pastors, entrusting the journey to renewed ecclesial communion to the celestial protection of the Blessed Virgin, so venerated at Mariazell”.
OP/ VIS 20100628 (370)

Update:

The Archdiocese of Vienna is reporting the meeting between Cardinal Schönborn, the Pope and Cardinal Sodano under the headline “Cardinal Schönborn informs the Pope about the Church in Austria” and the first paragraph of the story reads:

“The Viennese Archbishop and chairman of the bishops’ conference personally informed Pope Benedict XVI about the ecclesial developments of the last months. Several “misunderstandings” were cleared in conversation with Cardinals Sodano and Bertone.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn reported to Pope Benedict XVI about the current situation of the Church in Austria on Monday, June 28, 2010. The archbishop of Vienna and the chairman of the Austrian bishops’ conference requested to report to the Pope personally about the developments of the past months. At the same time the Cardinal also wanted to outline the “exact significance” of a number of his statements to questions of Church discipline and to aspects of the handling of the Papal secretary of state with reference to “Causa Groer”.

“At this meeting the Holy Father remembered with great warmth his pastoral visit in the year 2007 and asked Cardinal Schoenborn to convey “his greeting and encouragement” to the Catholic Church in Austrian and her shepherds. He entrusts the Church in Austria to the advocacy of the Mother of God who is so dearly revered in Mariazell.”

Meanwhile Rocco Palmo has more background on Whispers in the Loggia and Fr Zuhlsdorf over at What Does The Prayer Really Say? offers his analysis.

  • John M. Grondelski

    I can honestly say that, given our experience in the United States of the sex abuse scandal and the failure of various bishops (including CARDINAL Law of Boston) to deal with it, that nobody short of ordained clerics is going to be particularly deterred by the Pope claiming exclusive “discipline” of wearers of the red to himself. Had discussion not begun, the whole scandal would have continued to be hushed up as it was for many years, with priests being shuffled around parishes and dioceses, rather than lancing this boil on Mother Church. Such statements only blow ecclesiastical credibility.