Schönborn attacks Sodano and urges reform
Christa Pongratz-Lippitt - The Tablet - 8 May 2010
The head of the Austrian Church has launched an attack of one of the most senior cardinals in the Vatican, saying that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, “deeply wronged” the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy when he dismissed media reports of the scandal. (There is also the little matter of 'paid lobbying' for the Legion.)
In a meeting with editors of the main Austrian daily newspapers last week, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, also said the Roman Curia was “urgently in need of reform”, and that lasting gay relationships deserved respect.
He reiterated his view that the Church needs to reconsider its position on re-married divorcees.
On Easter Day, Cardinal Sodano called the mounting reports of clerical sex abuse “petty gossip”.
This had “deeply wronged the victims”, Cardinal Schönborn said, and he recalled that it was Cardinal Sodano who had prevented Joseph Ratzinger, then a cardinal, from investigating allegations of abuse made against Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, the previous Archbishop of Vienna, who resigned in disgrace in 1995. (Somehow I don't think Sodano and Schonborn will be sharing any Papal brunches in the near future.)
Cardinal Schönborn said that Pope Benedict was “gently” working on reforming the Curia but he had the whole world on his desk, as the cardinal put it, and his way of working and his style of communication did not make it easy to advise him quickly from outside. (Here's another person imtimating it's hard to get past Benedict's gatekeeper, Msgr Ganswein.)
Cardinal Schönborn studied under Joseph Ratzinger at Regensburg University and is known to be close to him. (Not close enough to get past Georg.)
Questioned on the Church’s attitude to homosexuals, the cardinal said: “We should give more consideration to the quality of homosexual relationships,” adding: “A stable relationship is certainly better than if someone chooses to be promiscuous.” (It is sad that I find myself in the position of cheering on a Cardinal for promoting the obvious. However, this is quite an admission from a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church.)
The cardinal also said the Church needed to reconsider its view of re-married divorcees “as many people don’t even marry at all any longer”. (Here's another admission that I never thought to hear.)
The primary thing to consider should not be the sin, but people’s striving to live according to the commandments, he said. Instead of a morality based on duty, we should work towards a morality based on happiness, he continued. (This is a truly spiritual statement. It could revolutionize the Church's sexual morality. This is not a call for a morality based on secular relativism and me first thinking. It's a call for mature loving relationships.)
Cardinal Schönborn said clergy had often primarily protected perpetrators of abuse instead of the victims. “It was said in the Church that we must be able to forgive, but that was a false understanding of compassion,” the cardinal insisted. Since the Groer affair 15 years ago, however, the Austrian Church had appointed an ever-increasing number of lay people, especially women, to investigate abuse cases. (It was the confusion of forgiveness with enabling behavior.)
However this new openness on the part of the Church was not shared by everyone in the Vatican, he said. (I'm sure this statement is one hundred percent true.)
Asked if he thought celibacy was one of the causes of clerical sex abuse, Cardinal Schönborn said he had no answer and psychotherapists were divided on the issue. (Here's some humility too.)
Asked how he would rate the Church’s loss of credibility due to the abuse “tsunami” on a scale of 1 to 5, the cardinal said, “In Ireland the situation is catastrophic – almost a 5. In Austria it is dramatic – I’d say a 3.” (And honesty.)
The Vatican press spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, praised the Austrian Church for its openness in dealing with the clerical abuse crisis and told the Austrian daily Kurier on Monday that Cardinal Sodano’s words at Easter were “certainly not the wisest”.
I really really want to believe that Cardinal Schonborn represents a voice of reason, and faith, and compassion in the Vatican hierarchy. I want to believe that at least one Cardinal is listening and understands changes in how the system operates have to be made before Catholicism loses 90% of it's European and North American Catholics.
Instead I find myself thinking: "until he walks his talk I reserve judgement". I don't particularly like myself for my attitude because I want to believe him so badly, but I don't need another betrayal by great talkers who aren't great walkers. I don't need another well meaning talker whose chain is yanked by the Vatican and turns into just another chastised lock step walker. Another Cardinal who was misquoted or misinterpreted or taken out of context. Another Cardinal who didn't really mean what he said -- a la Cardinal Rino Fisicella in the Brazilian nine year old rape case.
Worse case scenario, I don't need to hear talk from a designated spinner of disinformation whose purpose is to stop the pew bleeding while covering for the fact there will be no substantial changes because Benedict's way of working is slow and gentle and no one can get to him.
I can't forget that this is the same Cardinal who blamed his predecessors for failing to back Humanae Vitae , stating that was the reason European whites were not replacing themselves. I can't forget that this is the same Cardinal who caved into to ecclesiastical pressure concerning his recent trip to Medjugorge. So I have one request of Cardinal Schonborn: Walk your talk.