VATICAN CITY, JUNE 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In the Church, only the Pope can level accusations against cardinals. This was the clarification made today by the Vatican at the conclusion of an audience between Benedict XVI and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, Austria.
The meeting took place between the two to discuss statements made by the cardinal regarding the investigation of his predecessor, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, who resigned in 1995 amidst allegations of sexual abuse.
Cardinal Schonbörn made comments to journalists April 28 that were interpreted by the media as an accusation against Cardinal Angelo Sodano’s treatment of the investigation. It was understood from his statements that he believed that the then secretary of state, under Pope John Paul II, had blocked the inquiry for “diplomatic reasons.”
Benedict XVI received first Cardinal Schönborn, a former student of his, to discuss the situation. The two were then joined by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who is now the dean of the College of Cardinals, and the current secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
The Vatican communiqué confirmed that in the second part of the meeting, “some widespread mistakes were clarified and resolved in part derived from some expressions of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who expressed his displeasure over the interpretations made.”
The note then continued, “It is reminded that in the Church, when it is a question of accusations against a cardinal, the competence belongs only to the Pope; other entities can have a consultative function, always with due respect for the persons.”
Furthermore, the statement clarified the interpretation of the word “chiacchiericcio,” which had been used both by Benedict XVI during his homily on Palm Sunday, and subsequently by Cardinal Sodano, when speaking of the sexual abuse crisis. The word in English has been translated by the media as “petty gossip,” but the Vatican has translated it as “gossip.”
The word, the Vatican clarified, “has been interpreted erroneously as a lack of respect for the victims of sexual abuses, for whom Cardinal Sodano has the same sentiments of compassion and condemnation of the evil, as he has expressed in several interventions of the Holy Father. That word, pronounced in Benedict XVI’s Easter address, was taken literally from the papal homily of Palm Sunday and referred to the ‘courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the gossip of prevailing opinions.'”
The Vatican also reported that Cardinal Schönborn “wished to clarify the exact sense of his recent statements on some aspects of present ecclesiastical discipline.”
In March, it was widely reported in the Austrian press that the cardinal believed it time to reconsider celibacy in the Church. A spokesman later clarified that the cardinal considers it time to reconsider the “formation of the clergy.”
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