Most accounts of Cardinal Schönborn’s recent wigging by the Pope for his criticism of Cardinal Angelo Sodano (for calling accusations of clerical child abuse “petty gossip”) tended to deflect attention from the fact that Sodano himself did not escape criticism. However wrong Cardinal Schönborn may have been to make his criticisms to journalists and not to the authorities in Rome, the fact is that he was dead right about Sodano. The wording of the Vatican’s press release made his real mistake clear: “when accusations are made against a cardinal”, specified the statement, “competency falls exclusively to the Pope”. After Cardinal Schönborn “clarified” his own remarks, Cardinal Sodano was made to do the same: “The word chiacchiericcio [gossip] was erroneously interpreted [hum, hum] as disrespectful to the victims of sexual abuse, towards whom Cardinal Angelo Sodano nourishes the same feelings of compassion… as … the Holy Father.”
I think not. Cardinal Sodano appears to have an exceptionally sinister record of shielding abusers, particularly eminent ones, which goes back many years. He blocked a 1995 investigation into subsequently proven accusations of child abuse against Schönborn’s predecessor as Archbishop of Vienna, Hans Hermann Groër. The most shameful episode was his consistent defence over decades of Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ. And, according to reports in the National Catholic Reporter, he had his reasons: he stands accused of receiving a great deal of money and other benefits from the Legion of Christ. In 1998, according to reports, Sodano halted investigations into sexual abuse by Maciel then being carried out by the CDF. One of Pope Benedict’s first actions was to depose Maciel and forbid him to function as a priest.
Cardinal Sodano’s continuing danger to the Church comes from the fact that he is still Dean of the College of Cardinals. This means that if the Pope were to die before he can be removed, Sodano will be in charge of the obsequies (he will preach the panegyric) and of the conclave: and the international press will have a field day, with millions of column inches about his alleged support for child abusers, his corruption and his sheer incompetence. This is a disaster which must not be allowed to happen. Sodano must go, soon.