Archbishop of Vienna accuses one of Pope Benedict XVI’s closest aides of sex abuse cover-up

Cardinal Schönborn accused the former Vatican Secretary of State of having blocked investigations into abuse (AP)

Open warfare broke out in the Vatican over the clerical sex abuse scandal at the weekend as Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, accused one of Pope Benedict XVI’s closest aides of covering up past scandals.

Cardinal Schönborn, 65, seen as a possible future Pope, accused Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 82, the former Vatican Secretary of State (Prime Minister), of having blocked investigations into sex abuse crimes committed by his predecessor in Vienna, the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer.

Cardinal Schönborn, a former theology pupil of Pope Benedict and a close ally, also charged Cardinal Sodano with causing “massive harm” to victims by dismissing claims of clerical abuse as “petty gossip” on Easter Sunday.

Cardinal Sodano is now Dean of the College of Cardinals and as such due to convene and chair the conclave to elect the next Pope. The row thus pitches the man in charge of the next papal election against one of the leading contenders.

Andrea Tornielli, the papal biographer, said that Cardinal Schönborn’s remarks, made to a small group of journalists and reported by the Catholic news agency Kathpress, were “without precedent” and a sign of “nervous tensions” in the Church hierarchy.

Pope Benedict, who on Tuesday travels – volcanic ash permitting – to Portugal, asked the faithful yesterday to “pray for the success” of his visit to the Marian shrine at Fatima, where in 1917 the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to three shepherd children and confided three “apocalyptic” secrets to them.

The first and second secrets offered a vision of Hell and predicted the Second World War and the conversion of Communist Russia to Christianity. The Third Secret was only revealed ten years ago at Fatima by John Paul II, who – in remarks read out on his behalf by Cardinal Sodano – said that it referred to the attempt on his life in 1981.

There are persistent reports that part of the Third Secret referring to the collapse of the Roman Catholic Church in scandals and “apostasy” was withheld. Vatican officials deny this.

Cardinal Schönborn had previously accused senior Vatican officials of obstructing the investigation of Cardinal Groer, but had stopped short of naming names. The scandal broke in 1995 when a former seminary student said that Groer had abused him repeatedly in the early 1970s. Other accusations followed. Groer stepped down because of “old age” and died in 2003 without admitting any wrongdoing.

Cardinal Sodano has also been accused by US Catholic journals of persuading John Paul II not to take action against Father Marcial Maciel, the once revered Mexican founder of the conservative order the Legionaries of Christ.

Father Maciel, who died two years ago, was found to have abused seminarians and fathered several children by mistresses. Pope Benedict has ordered direct Vatican control of the disgraced order.

Cardinal Schönborn praised Benedict for having pushed for sex abuse inquiries when he was Cardinal Josef Ratzinger and head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before his election as Pope in 2005. He said that “others” however had stopped John Paul II from taking action, adding “The days of cover up are over.”

Austria, like other countries in Europe, has been hit by a wave of clerical abuse allegations. On Saturday Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg in Bavaria. Bishop Mixa, 69, is the first bishop to step down in the pontiff’s native Germany over the abuse scandal.

Bishop Mixa offered to step down last month after being accused of striking children. However, German prosecutors and Church officials said that they were now also investigating accusations of sexual abuse when he was bishop of Eichstaett in Bavaria. Bishop Mixa’s lawyer denied the accusations.

A survey last month found that a quarter of Germany’s Catholics were considering leaving the church over the abuse allegations.

Belgian bishops ended a week-long visit to the Vatican on Saturday with a press conference at which they spoke of their pain over the resignation last month of the Bishop of Bruges, Monsignor Roger Vangheluwe, after he admitted sexual abuse.

In his remarks to the Belgian bishops Pope Benedict only made an indirect reference to the Bruges case, saying that their Church had been “tested by sin”.

May 10, 2010
Richard Owen, Rome

Source: The Times

Related information:

Pope Benedict XVI accepts resignation of his close friend Bishop Walter Mixa in sex probe (Reuters)

Belgium: Top Catholic Bishop Resigns Over Child Sexual Abuse (Times)

Database of Catholic Priests Publicly Accused of Sexual Abuse in the US (

Illinois man is suing the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI for covering up sexual abuse (CNN)

Catholic priest, 84, receiving oral sex from a choirboy in front of a local church altar caught on video (AFP)

Priest Says He Was Bullied Into Taking Fall For Pope Benedict XVI In Abuse Scandal (The Local)

Catholic Church is ‘like the Mafia’ (The Telegraph)

Cardinal Praised Bishop’s Silence Over Paedophile Priest (BBC NEWS)

Catholic Priest Accused of Child Porn Possession (AP)

Belgian Bishops Failed To Punish Over 300 Paedophilia Complaints (AFP)

Connecticut Catholic Bishops Fight Sex Abuse Bill (CNN)

Richard Dawkins plans to arrest Pope Benedict XVI during his state visit to Britain ‘for crimes against humanity’ (Times)

Catholic Priest Raped Teenage Boy At Gunpoint (My San Antonio)

Norway Catholic Church Computer Server Crashed By Flood Of Pedophile Priests Abuse Claims (AFP)

Pope John Paul II Blocked Inquiry of Paedophile Cardinal Friend Who Abused 2,000 boys (Times)

Ireland Archbishop Stunned by Archbishop of Canterbury’s Criticism of Catholic Church (Times)

Pope Benedict XVI’s personal preacher: Abuse critique like anti-Semitism (AP)

ABC Nightline: What the Pope Knew About Father Maciel (ABC NEWS)

Pope Benedict Appointed Bishop Accused of Ritually Beating Orphaned Children (The Raw Story)

40% of Americans view Pope Benedict XVI favorably (Gallup)

1963 letter indicates former pope knew of abuse (AP)

Germany’s Catholic Church sexual abuse hotline received 1,000 calls the first day (Digital Journal)

Austrian Catholic Church Abuse Hot Lines Log 566 Reports This Year (Austrian Independent)

Australian Bishop says ‘vast amount’ of sexual abuse cases yet to emerge (Sydney Morning Herald)

Deaf Boys Tried to Tell of Priest’s Abuse FOR YEARS (New York Times)

Christopher Hitchens Slams Vatican, Pope Over Sex Abuse Scandal (Huffington Post)

The Pope Is Not Above the Law (Slate)

Sex Abuse Victims to Sue Vatican (Times)

Pope Benedict Signals Won’t Be Intimidated By Abuse Critics, Uses Popemobile For First Time On A Palm Sunday (New York Times/AFP)

Vatican knew of abuse in Ontario: Victim (Toronto Star)

Pope failed to defrock an American priest who molested hundreds of deaf boys, despite receiving letters from American bishops pleading with him to act (Times)

A church sex scandal where the truth is crucified (Toronto Star)

Sinead O’Connor: ‘There Should Be A Full Criminal Investigation Of The Pope’ (LA Times)

Catholic Church quietly expelling and punishing children, homeless (Irish Central)

Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland routinely shredded copies of weekly reports about sexual abuse by priests (Flashback):

Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland routinely shredded copies of weekly reports about sexual abuse by priests, according to formerly sealed testimony turned over to Milwaukee County’s district attorney on Thursday.

Swiss Catholic Church Investigating 10 Abuse Cases (Reuters)

Irish Catholic Church Paid Child Sex Abuse Victim To Keep Quiet (Guardian)

Catholic Church Child Abuse: Nuns Now Also Accused (Radio Netherlands Worldwide)

Church: Pope Had Role in Moving Molesting Priest (Bloomberg)

Pope knew priest was paedophile but allowed him to continue with ministry (Times)

Pope will struggle to survive abuse scandal (Irish Independent)

Benedict’s involvement ’shows extent of cover-ups’ (Irish Independent)

Sinead O’Connor: I’d help Jesus to burn down the Vatican (Irish Independent)

RIGHTS-GERMANY: ‘Catholic Church Protects Paedophile Priests’ (IPS)

Child abuse claims sweep Catholic Church in Europe (AP)

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