Vatican's Cardinal Sodano accused of sex abuse cover-up

Mon, May 10, 2010, 01:00

IN A HIGHLY unusual development, the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, has accused the former Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, of having blocked a Vatican inquiry into sex abuse allegations against the late, disgraced cardinal of Vienna, Hans Hermann Groer.

Cardinal Schönborn’s accusations come on a weekend when Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of yet another bishop, German Walter Mixa, the bishop of Augsburg in Bavaria, who is under investigation in relation to accusations of child sex abuse.

Only last Friday, in an ad limina meeting with Belgian bishops, the pope had said that the Belgian church had been “tested by sin”, a reference to the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, who resigned last month after admitting that he had sexually abused a boy when in charge of the diocese of Bruges.

As someone widely believed to have been one of the key “electors” of Pope Benedict at the 2005 conclave, Cardinal Schönborn is both close to the pope and a “heavyweight” in the College of Cardinals.

He had already raised the issue of Cardinal Groer, his predecessor as archbishop of Vienna, in late March when he claimed that unnamed Vatican officials had blocked an inquiry in 1995 into sex abuse allegations against Cardinal Groer.

In comments last week to Austrian news agency, Kathpress, Cardinal Schönborn went further, identifying Cardinal Sodano as the person who had persuaded the current pope, then in his previous role of Prefect For The Congregation Of The Doctrine Of The Faith (CDF), not to investigate Cardinal Groer.

In 1995 the Austrian church had been stunned by a series of sex abuse accusations against Cardinal Groer, which alleged that he had molested young boys at a seminary in the town of Hollabrunn.

Three years later, Cardinal Groer relinquished all religious duties and sought exile in Germany.

He died in 2003 without having admitted any guilt in relation to the sex abuse allegations.

Not only did Cardinal Schönborn last week identify Cardinal Sodano as the head of the Vatican “diplomatic track” that had protected Cardinal Groer but he also said that Cardinal Sodano had done “massive harm” to victims of sex abuse with his recent Easter Sunday remarks in which he dismissed international criticism of the church over the sex abuse scandal as “idle gossip”.

Furthermore, Cardinal Schönborn added: “The days of cover up are over.”

Cardinal Schönborn’s unprecedented comments could well be seen as an attempt to defend Pope Benedict, arguing that it was not he but rather other senior church figures, in particular “prime minister” Sodano, who so manifestly mishandled the sex abuse crisis during the last decade of the pontificate of the ailing John Paul II.