Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cardinal attacks former Vatican No. 2

Last updated May 7, 2010 4:46 p.m. PT

Report: Cardinal attacks former Vatican No. 2

VIENNA -- Austria's cardinal has said the former second-highest Vatican official blocked a probe into a sex abuse scandal that rocked the country's Catholic church 15 years ago.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn also accused Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the retired Vatican secretary of state, of causing "massive harm" to victims when he dismissed claims of clerical abuse as "petty gossip" on Easter Sunday.

Schoenborn's recent comments to a select group of journalists were summarized by the Catholic news agency Kathpress.

Already on Palm Sunday, Schoenborn, a close confidante of Pope Benedict XVI, had indirectly blamed Sodano for blocking an investigation of sex abuse allegations against the late Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer.

The scandal surrounding the former Vienna archbishop broke in 1995 when a former student at a boy's seminary in the town of Hollabrunn alleged that he abused him repeatedly in the early 1970s. Other accusations followed. Groer stepped down shortly after the first allegations surfaced - officially due to old age. He died in 2003 but never admitted any guilt.

Schoenborn said the pope - known then as Josef Ratzinger and head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - had immediately pushed for an investigative commission when abuse allegations against Groer arose. However, he said, others in the Vatican - described by Schoenborn at the time as the "diplomatic track" - did not let this happen.

Austria, like other countries in Europe, has been hit by a wave of clerical abuse claims in recent months. In late March, Schoenborn acknowledged church guilt during a service for victims in which he openly addressed attempts to cover up abuse.

"The days of cover up are over," Schoenborn said during last week's interview.

In other comments, Schoenborn was quoted as saying that the quality of a gay relationship should be taken into greater consideration.

"A stable relationship is certainly better than if someone simply indulges in promiscuity," Schoenborn said. The church also needed a new perspective on the remarriage of divorcees, he added.

Schoenborn also was quoted as saying that it was no secret the Curia was "in urgent need of reform."

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