Discord Within the College of Cardinals

Source: FSSPX News

On May 9, 2010, the Italian press revived the critical remarks made by the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn (on the left in the picture), against the Dean of the Sacred College, the Italian  Angelo Sodano (on the right in the picture). The Austrian prelate reproached the former Secretary of State of the Holy See for having recently reduced to “idle chatter” the scandals of the paedophile priests, but also for having covered up the misdeeds of his predecessor in Vienna, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, in the mid-1990s.

In the midst of an informal meeting with the Austrian press last April 28, Cardinal Schönborn accused Cardinal Sodano of being guilty of a “grave offence” with respect to the victims of paedophile priests last April 4. At the beginning of the Easter Mass at the Vatican, the Dean of Cardinals had publicly informed Benedict XVI of the support of all the Church in the turmoil of the paedophile scandals, while asking him not “to let himself be influenced by the `idle chatter’ of the moment.”

According to the Catholic press agency of Austria, Kathpress, Cardinal Schönborn went further in accusing Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State from 1991 to 2006, of being opposed to the creation 15 years ago of a Vatican investigatory commission on Cardinal Groër, who was then Archbishop of Vienna. At that time Cardinal Groër had been accused by a former seminarian of acts of paedophilia committed during the 1970s. He resigned his office in 1995 as soon as the first allegations of sexual abuse were made. He died in 2003.

“For a long time, the principle of the Church was to forgive,” Cardinal Schönborn lamented, “but unfortunately this principle was misinterpreted in favour of the guilty and not of the victims.” During his meeting with the press, the Archbishop of Vienna also indicated that he would like to see an “urgent” reform of the Roman curia.

The accusations brought by Cardinal Schönborn against the former Secretary of State are added to those recently published in the American press concerning Cardinal Sodano’s possible leniency with regard to the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel (1920-2008), also accused of sexual abuse (see DICI n°214). As of this printing, Cardinal Sodano has not answered any of these charges. For many Vaticanists, the recent attacks concentrated on the former Secretary of State of John Paul II and on several members of his entourage will not make any easier the acceleration of the beatification process of the Polish pope.

In the Italian daily newspaper Repubblica of May 10, 2010, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Portuguese Cardinal Saraiva Martins affirmed that even if the intentions of Cardinal Schönborn were “honest,” his charges via the press have “not rendered a service to the Church.” He added, “To publicly condemn him who represents the unity of the Cardinals (the Dean of the Sacred College) is not appropriate.”

In a note about the intervention of Cardinal Sodano before the Easter Mass, addressed to Corriere della Sera and published on May 10th, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, reported that “Benedict XVI had asked absolutely nothing.” He specified that, “The words of Cardinal Sodano were an initiative of the College of Cardinals,” adding that Benedict XVI, even in difficult moments, “does not beg for nor devise demonstrations of defence and support for his peace of mind . . .  and his authority.”

The Roman newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano for its part described the remarks of Cardinal Schönborn as “very courageous.” It emphasized that the remarks were made available to the public in Germany the same day when the Sovereign Pontiff accepted the resignation of Mgr. Walter Mixa, Bishop of Augsburg. On May 8th, during a press conference, the representatives of  the Catholic Church in Germany confirmed that Mgr. Mixa was the subject of a preliminary investigation carried out by the state prosecutor of Bavaria concerning charges of sexual abuse of minors occurring when he was bishop of Eichstätt (1996-2005). The attorney for Mgr. Mixa denied all the charges formulated against the German prelate. On May 14th, the prosecutor of the state of Bavaria in Ingolstadt, Helmut Walter, made it known that “the suspicion of the crime of sexual abuse was not able to be established,” and that the investigation had been abandoned. (Sources: apic/imedia/Kathpress/La Repubblica - DICI n°215 of the 22/05/10)