Leon J. Podles :: DIALOGUE

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Schönborn, Ratzinger, and Groër

March 28th, 2010 · 16 Comments

Now that he has made a public statement, I feel I can now reveal what Cardinal Schönborn told me two years ago.

 I know him a little, and I sent him my book Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church. We met in San Diego, and I asked him what he thought of the book, especially the section on his predecessor, Cardinal Groër. I wondered whether I had understood all the German sources correctly.

Schönborn said the situation was worse than I knew.  Groër had molested almost every student he had come into contact with for decades. After Groër was accused of this abuse, John Paul II continued to receive Groër socially in the Vatican, and tens of thousands of Austrians were resigning from the Church in protest.

 Schönborn in person pleaded with John Paul to make a statement about Groër. John Paul replied that he would like to, but “they won’t let me.”

“They”? I asked Schönborn. Who are “they” who can tell the pope what to do or not to do? Schönborn said that John Paul would not explain.  I gathered from the context it must be part of the curia.

Schönborn has now explained:

Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, in defense of the pope, told ORF Austrian television on Sunday that Benedict wanted a full probe when former Vienna Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer was removed in 1995 for alleged sexual abuse of a boy.

But other Curia officials persuaded then Pope John Paul that the media had exaggerated the case and an inquiry would only create more bad publicity.

“He told me, ‘the other side won’,” Schoenborn said.

This other side, from all indications, was Cardinal Sodano, the Secretary of State, or at least some influential members of that Secretariat.. Ratzinger did not report directly to the pope, but to the Secretary of State.

Kathweb reports:

Der heutige Papst habe sich in der Causa Groer (1995) energisch für eine vatikanische Untersuchungskommission eingesetzt. Diese sei aber von der “anderen Partei” im Vatikan verhindert worden, berichtete Schönborn: “Ratzinger hat mir damals traurig gesagt: Die andere Partei hat sich durchgesetzt.” 

Bei den Kommissions-Gegner habe es sich 1995 um die - im Staatssekretariat angesiedelte - “diplomatische Schiene” gehandelt. 

Ratzinger sei auch der Verantwortliche für die Errichtung des “Gerichtshofs” in der Glaubenskongregation zur Behandlung der “delicta graviora” gewesen: “Ihm vorzuwerfen, er sei ein Vertuscher, ist deshalb nicht wahr.”

Ratzinger made a mistake in his handling of the Hullermann case; from all indications, he wanted to act against other abusers but was limited by John Paul and Sodano. No doubt he feels it a terrible injustice to be criticized for others’ failures. It would be awkward for Benedict to blame others, even if they are to blame. He should set up an independent commission to investigate what really happened and to bring out the truth about who was blocking the investigations of abusers.

But of course if John Paul II failed, the next question would be. “Why on earth are you trying to canonize him as a saint?” And if Sodano is the one responsible, why is he still a cardinal?

Tags: Vatican · clergy sex abuse scandal

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mere Catholic // Mar 28, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I don’t understand how certain Curial officials could have wielded so much power over John Paul II. Does the title ‘Supreme Pontiff’ not have any teeth to it?

  • 2 Joseph D'Hippolito // Mar 28, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Leon, sadly, this is the way of all bureaucracies. We shouldn’t be surprised that the Curia has a role; it probably has a few favorites whom it wants to protect. Also, this adds credibility to those who believe that the 1978 death of JPI was an “inside job” because he wanted to address corruption directly. Perhaps this is why few bishops have done so? I know that sounds too conspiratorial to be true but who knows? After all, Malachi Martin wasn’t too fond of the Vatican. Perhaps he had reason to be.

  • 3 A Lay Catholic // Mar 29, 2010 at 4:03 am

    Why did Pope Benedict XVI reappoint Cardinal Angelo Sodano to the position of Secretary of State in spite of being past the customary retirement age.? Why did Cardinal Sodano try to abort the case of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado?

  • 4 Anonymous // Mar 29, 2010 at 4:25 am


  • 5 Tony de New York // Mar 29, 2010 at 11:19 am

    This is tragic, while they shout, subito i think it should wait about 500 years before they make him a ’saint.’

    Indeed Benedict XVI is going through a painful tribulation, may God give him the streght to clean and purify his church.

  • 6 Marilyn // Mar 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Ah! When all else fails, pull out the old “pope surrounded by enemies” line.

    You’ve got to be kidding.

  • 7 Joseph D'Hippolito // Mar 29, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Marilyn, the idea that bureaucracies have power is not a question of the “pope being surrounded by enemies.” It’s a question of human behavior in a corporate context. All bureaucracies run by self-benighted people who are sheilded from any accountability will foster corruption. Just look at the Soviet Union the and state and federal bureaucrats who belong to public employee unions. That doesn’t exonerate Pope Benedict (in fact, he is part of this bureaucracy) or any other bishop who aided and abetted this mess. But it does explain how “groupthink,” self-protection and self-advancement metastacize even to the point of ignoring moral common sense.

  • 8 John Shuster // Mar 30, 2010 at 9:36 am

    All of these men in the church are supposed to live an uncompromosing moral life that is dedicated to truth and justice. The intrigue that is driven by sexual politics in the church’s administration has played a key role in the shredding of so many of our childrens’ lives. How can one stop this with the strong cult of personality culture that exists in the priesthood? Adherents worship the same men who cause and sustain these many real problems. Where can we find truth and justice in this self-serving clerical morass?

  • 9 glorybe1929 // Mar 30, 2010 at 11:52 am

    It was a smart move on the part of the Roman Catholic Church to “generationally brainwash” every human being that came into their midst.They got all the people to follow Satan in the name of our Lord.

    The original believers were not well educated and there were infilltrators of their small groups, that taught a gospel other than the Gospel of Christ, which led them down a path that was a faux church. Sadly there were enough of them to turn it into the Roman Catholic Church. Thus the Vatican walls to hide behind.

    Anyone with a small knowledge of the Christian Bible should know that Jesus Christ would not approve , just in that arena., let alone all the atrocities the Church has committed over. the millenniums

    .The Devil wanted to show God, who demoted. him, how successful he could be with dumb people.

    We are no longer dumb and must make sure this faux church is obliterated from the face of the earth.

  • 10 Indy677 // Mar 31, 2010 at 7:15 am

    From a very reliable source I heard that His Eminence, Angelo Sodano, is “a complete slimeball.” And, the priest, who taught in Rome, was being very charitable.

  • 11 Midwest // Mar 31, 2010 at 11:13 am

    glorybe1929, your post was rather sad. Typical anti-Catholic rhetoric that has gotten old and boring.

  • 12 Mere Catholic // Mar 31, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Glorybe1929, I can understand your anger at the Catholic Church over the abuse scandals. Trust me, there are many Catholics who are ashamed, hurt, and angry that their bishops allowed this to take place. And many of those Catholics, including me, would say to you humbly that we are deserving of many of the criticisms that are coming our way. But I hope you realize that by using this scandal to further your anti-Catholic screed you are doing nothing for abuse victims.

  • 13 Charles E. Flynn // Mar 31, 2010 at 6:27 pm


    Please learn the differences between these two items:

    1. baby

    2. bathwater

  • 14 Bishops Who Get It - Ross Douthat Blog - NYTimes.com // Apr 1, 2010 at 10:12 am

    [...] Schönborn, Pope Benedict, and the sex abuse crisis in Austria, this post from Damian Thompson and this post from Podles are well worth [...]

  • 15 David // Apr 1, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    This isn’t the first instance in which the Curia has devolved into a criminal oligarchy (remember the Medici Popes? A delightful punch of grand scale thugs they were). It is indeed the nature of isolated, sclerotic bureaucracies to lose sight entirely of their original purpose and to begin to serve themselves.

  • 16 Mike Connelly // Apr 2, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Let’s open the door and the windows
    and see what good leadership can do
    You know you can get kill scum with
    clorox and water so too, you can rid
    the Vatican of scum by transparency.
    While the sexual abuse is satanic in
    and of itself, it opens questions to a
    variety of other “secrets” that the
    Vatican has been harboring. One of these concerns the alleged “death by heart attack” of John Paul 1. If the
    Vatican curiae can intimidate JP11
    who was a “powerful soul” what could they have done to silence a man who was determined to sweep out of the Vatican the “mold” that had attached itself to its spiritual core.
    Surely, in that vast number of God’s
    “chosen” there must be ONE man who has the courage to speak out for his Lord and the rest of us.
    Where there is good, there is ALWAYS evil.

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