Monday, June 28, 2010

Schoenborn rebuked for criticising fellow cardinal

Pope takes Austria's top bishop to task
Schoenborn rebuked for criticising fellow cardinal
28 June, 16:47
(ANSA) - Vatican City, June 28 - Pope Benedict XVI took Austria's top bishop Christoph Schoenborn to task on Monday, reminding him that as head of the Catholic Church only he has the right to criticise or reprimand cardinals.

The admonishment was contained in an unprecedented statement released by the Vatican giving details of a meeting between the pope and Schoenborn.

The Viennese cardinal, a former student of Benedict's, is under fire for criticising former Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, for blocking a probe into a paedophile scandal in the Viennese church 15 years ago.

Speaking to Catholic reporters in April, Schoenborn said Sodano had defended his predecessor in Vienna, cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, later forced to resign in 1995 over alleged paedophile charges.

Groer - archbishop of Vienna from 1986 - denied the accusations which surfaced in 1995 but stepped down shortly afterwards. He died in 2003 without ever being formally charged.

Schoenborn has also accused Sodano, number 2 to late Pope John Paul II, of harming the victims of sex abuse by dismissing peodophile charges against prelates as "small talk". After a one-on-one meeting, discussion was widened to include Sodano and the current secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the statement, stressing that Schoenborn had voiced regret "for the interpretations" given to his statements.

The Vatican statement noted that "in particular, in the church only the pope has the authority to accuse a cardinal".

Other members of the Church "can give counsel but always with the necessary respect for the people involved," it added. The statement said that Sodano shared the "same feelings of compassion for the victims of the scandals and condemnation of evil, expressed by the Holy Father on several occasions". The Catholic Church has this year been rocked by a series of sex abuse scandals and has had to fend off allegations that the Vatican covered up a number of cases.

Paedophile scandals have hit the Church in the United States, Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Germany and Italy.

Benedict has repeatedly pledged to root out abuse but some victims groups have said they want to see "more concrete" steps.

In March Schoenborn called for an "unflinching" examination of the possible roots of the (paedophile) scandals, saying "it also includes the issue of priestly celibacy".

Later, the archbishop was forced to clarify that he had not meant "to call into question celibacy in any way".

Schoenborn has however staunchly defended Benedict from charges that he has not done enough. During his previous service as head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Benedict "always had a clear line against covering up" abuse, Schoenborn said recently.

"I have known him for 37 years and he has always been in favour of shedding light (on these cases), something that was not always to the Vatican's liking," Schoenborn said after his first meeting with the head of Austria's new abuse commission.

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