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James Martin, S.J.May 07, 2010

In the I Can't Believe He Really Said That Department comes this story from the London Tablet, in which Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, is reported to have leveled an "attack" on Cardinal Angelo Sodano, one of the most senior officials in the Curia, for Sodano's response to the sex abuse crisis.  And, as if that's not enough, the Austrian archbishop has also called for the church to re-evaluate its stance on long-term gay relationships and remarried Catholics.  Seems to me that the ecclesial infighting has intensified.  On those last two topics (gays and remarried Catholics) let's see how long it takes for (a) the Vatican to distance itself from Schönborn's comments; or (b) Schönborn himself to say he was misquoted.  If (b) doesn't happen, don't be surprised if he starts turning up at your local Voice of the Faithful meeting.  Here's the Tablet:

The head of the Austrian Church has launched an attack of one of the most senior cardinals in the Vatican, saying that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, “deeply wronged” the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy when he dismissed media reports of the scandal. In a meeting with editors of the main Austrian daily newspapers last week, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, also said the Roman Curia was “urgently in need of reform”, and that lasting gay relationships deserved respect. He reiterated his view that the Church needs to reconsider its position on re-married divorcees.

On Easter Day, Cardinal Sodano called the mounting reports of clerical sex abuse “petty gossip”. This had “deeply wronged the victims”, Cardinal Schönborn said, and he recalled that it was Cardinal Sodano who had prevented Joseph Ratzinger, then a cardinal, from investigating allegations of abuse made against Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, the previous Archbishop of Vienna, who resigned in disgrace in 1995.

Cardinal Schönborn said that Pope Benedict was “gently” working on reforming the Curia but he had the whole world on his desk, as the cardinal put it, and his way of working and his style of communication did not make it easy to advise him quickly from outside. 

Cardinal Schönborn studied under Joseph Ratzinger at Regensburg University and is known to be close to him.
Questioned on the Church’s attitude to homosexuals, the cardinal said: “We should give more consideration to the quality of homosexual relationships,” adding: “A stable relationship is certainly better than if someone chooses to be promiscuous.” 

The cardinal also said the Church needed to reconsider its view of re-married divorcees “as many people don’t even marry at all any longer”. 

Happily, the whole article is free here at the Tablet.

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James Lindsay
13 years 9 months ago
Three cheers for Cardinal Schonborn for showing courage, truth and love rather than loyalty and conformity. We will see if he recants or Sodano retires. I suspect the latter.

Schonborn is aware how governmental action will change how Catholic families deal with their gay children and what these families will want from the Church. In prior years, families wanted moral support in "converting" their children back to heterosexuality. While some bisexuals might be able to do that, there are others for whom such a move would be destructive. Nowadays, Catholic families want to celebrate the fact that their children find a life with another person and they want to do so in the context of the Church. The Church owes this to them out of love for both the children and the families. Correcting something that does not need to be corrected (inate sexuality) is not a denial of sin (before someone replays that riff - but a better understanding of sexuality.

As for the divorced, it is also time for a modernization. If one party adulterates the marriage (through either violence or adultery), the wronged party should be free to leave or stay at their option, while the offending party should never be allowed to marry again unless the cause of their bad behavior - for example, alcoholism or past abuse, is treated - and even then there should be a period of celibacy. If the wronged party wishes to maintain the marriage, the offending party should have no choice but to comply. There should be no option to adulterate a marriage as a way of moving on. Only the injured party should have that choice. It would be wrong to deny this priviledge to them, since the fault is not theirs.
13 years 9 months ago
My blue collar Democrat father, a FDR lover, said... 'one thing you can count on about aristocrats is that they don't pander to anybody'. [he would have really said 'KA to nobody'] He would have appreciated aristocrat Schonborn.
Michael Liddy
13 years 9 months ago
Homosexual activity/union and Heterosexual activity/union outside of marriage is sinful. Life is very difficult and painful for some. We don't alleviate that pain by breaking God's laws. That goes for any issue at any stage of life.
James Dominic James
13 years 9 months ago
I wonder when Cardinal Schönborn's recent interview will be available as a handsome, affordable paperback. It's over to www.ignatius.com I go.
13 years 9 months ago
Good for Cardinal Schonborn!
Mike Evans
13 years 9 months ago
Our annulment procedures are antedeluvian and baroque and bear no relationship to the reality of divorce and later, remarriage. The theology itself is not credible and the effort to prove lack of due discretion or lack of due competence is fraut with difficulties. In my experience, after an interview of less than 1/2 an hour, it is very easy to reach moral certainty that the marriage which died was never made in heaven to begin with. Let us not create a new blame game, sacrificing the souls of millions of victims loathe or unable to deal with Tribunal procedures and a long, long process. Just simply prescribe a bit of reconciliation and counseling and then let people move on with their lives. Their hunger to return to the sacraments should be evidence enough for all of us. Jesus wept!
robert hoatson
13 years 9 months ago
It's about time the ''hierarchy'' began dialoguing about the issues confronting the Catholic Church.  Maybe Cardinal Schonborn's announcement will be the basis of the next synod of bishops.  And, perhaps the next synod of bishops will include married bishops, women bishops, and ''official'' homosexual bishops.  Then, just maybe, the Church will have taken a giant leap forwards, instead of its usual backward flips.  If only.
John Siegmund
13 years 9 months ago
Cardinal Schönborn is wrong and he should be dicsiplined and made to confirm his true position on the teachings of the Church. If he is found to be is disagreement with Church teahings he should be removed from the Church or repent, which should apply to any Catholic in rebellion.  Homosexuality is sinful and so is divorce and remarriage without the Church's blessing.  This behavior is the essence of rebellion and deserves  no treatment except repentance or excommunication!
John Greenleaf
13 years 9 months ago
Schönborn is no fool. He knows very well what he is doing; and I am sure the old guys behind Vatican walls are in a tizzy. And this is only the opening scene. I suspect he is laying the foundations for his own change at the chair of Peter. In any event it is far better entertainment than anything Dan Brown has produced. I have a feeling J. Ratzinger is getting a kick out of it as well since he has never had much affection for the not always so angelic Angelo Sodano!
Brendan McGrath
13 years 9 months ago
Bilboj1:  You wrote, "Cardinal Schönborn is wrong and he should be dicsiplined and made to confirm his true position on the teachings of the Church. If he is found to be is disagreement with Church teahings he should be removed from the Church or repent, which should apply to any Catholic in rebellion.  ...  This behavior is the essence of rebellion and deserves  no treatment except repentance or excommunication!"
...Would you say the same about Cardinal Law?
In some ways, I know my question is flawed, because of a sort of irony in Catholicism - what "gets you in trouble" in the sense of excommunication, or rather, what causes a real "problem" with the Catholic community, is not actions, but beliefs/opinions.  I.e., even if one commits the most horrific sins, one isn't excommunicated if or when one repents, goes to confession, etc.  But it's a different matter if one BELIEVES or expresses the opinion that such sins are not sins.  I.e., what gets excommunication, censure, etc. is not sin, but heresy.  (Though some sins like abortoin are said to carry automatic excommunication - which I've never quite understood.  Does that just mean that one is presumed to have fallen out of a state of grace, even though that cannot be determined with certainty, as Trent says?)  People sometimes say, "the Vatican goes after dissenting theologians, but doesn't go after priests who have sexually abused children."  The interesting thing is that the Vatican WOULD have gone after such priests had they openly expressed the BELIEF/opinion that sexual abuse is not a sin.
Just some thoughts - perhaps bishops/cardinals like Law can't really be excommunicated because they've repented, supposedly.  Just thinking out loud here.
13 years 9 months ago
Atticus-Right you are. For those who have ears... 2 Timothy 4 Verses 1-7:

1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, 2 will accumulate teachers
and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.
But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.
3 For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.
4 I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.

Lord, help us persevere in the Truth...
Maria Davis
13 years 9 months ago
I've long thought that Schonborn is an enormous liability to the Church. Everything he ever says or does reinforces that opinion.
His latest pronoucements, utterly eccentric would be a polite way of describing them, are a case in point. His comments on those living in states of public adultery amount to an unconscionable and callous attack on every single fatherless child in the world, on everyone who's ever been abandoned by their spouse and forcibly divorced, on everyone who's ever been the victim of adultery and what is worse are hopelessly ill-thought out. He doesn't seem to comprehend that many people eschew marriage for the precise reason that given the grotesquely iniquitous divorce laws, marriage affords them no protection from abandonment and being divorced against their will. Neither does he comprehend the basic Christian point that one person's adultery does not justify their spouse doing the same thing, or putting it differently, two wrongs don't make a right. Neither does he seem to be cognizant of the fact that Jesus Christ, not an insignificant figure in Christianity I am led to believe, made his feelings very clear on what constitutes marriage, and what adultery.
His attack on Cardinal Sodano is the kind of opportunism we have come to expect from him and recalls his undermining of the Bishop of Mostar's authority by visiting that charlatans' holiday camp in Medugorje. A period of silence from him would be most welcome.
Maria Davis.
Leon Podles
13 years 9 months ago
I gave Cardinal Schoenborn my book Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church. He read it and, to my horror, told me that things were worse than even I knew. He told me that he sat across the table from John Paul and pleaded for the pope to say something about the abuse crisis. John Paul refused, saying “they” wouldn’t him. The “they” seems to have been Sodano.
Therefore Schoenborn is angry that Benedict, his former teacher, is bearing the blame for the corruption that both Schoenborn and Ratzinger fought.
Also, remember that Schoenborn has perhaps the unique distinction of being both Latin archbishop of Vienna and Eastern metropolitan of all Greek Catholics in Austria, and Orthodox have said that 99.9% of the catechism sounds like it was written by an Orthodox theologian.
The Orthodox seems to have developed a theology that allows remarriage after divorce. It is not the same as the first marriage, but it is not adultery either. How they can square this with the  words of Jesus I am not sure, but perhaps Schoenborn  thinks the Orthodox approach should be explored.
However, newspapers are not noted for getting theological statements right, so I would wait for Schoenborn’s considered opinion rather than a sound bite before making a judgment about him.
James Dominic James
13 years 9 months ago
On the 2 Timothy thing:
Meet A and B. A and B are arguing over what counts as sound doctrine. Now in walks C, who announces that a time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine. By predicting that in the future people won't tolerate sound doctrine, has C settled the dispute between A and B over what is sound doctrine? No.
jame houston
13 years 9 months ago
2 Timothy 4:3
Maria Davis
13 years 9 months ago
Lee Podles, since you have chosen to advertise your book on this blog, it's equally fair for me to say on the basis of reviews posted on the internet and some extracts including gushing encomia which appear on your website, that said work seems to be a sensationalist, not to say prurient treatment of its subject which adds little, if anything, to the sum of human knowledge. But I won't know for sure until I have read it. I will procure a copy and review it on my blog.
I am not in the least surprised that Schonborn used the opportunity of his meeting you to babble knowingly about the situation, as though he were privy to some esoteric knowledge mere mortals are denied. Neither am I surprised by his self-serving account of his meeting with the late John Paul II. How convenient that Pope John Paul is no longer with us so we must perforce hear only one side of the tale, Schonborn's, which completely coincidentally paints him as the lone hero struggling manfully against unnamed intriguers in the Holy See. Schonborn isn't just a wrecker who undermines his brother bishops authority whenever the fancy takes him; he is also a devotee of the conspiracy theory.
Schonborn's baleful influence on the Catechism is not unknown. Those of us who are steeped in Eastern European history and politics know that the Orthodox churches, especially the Russian Orthodox Church, suffer from the fact that they were, in pre-revolutionary Russia and increasingly are now, effectively arms of the state. Their tolerance of adulterous relationships must be seen in this light, as part of a bigger picture, one of a cosy relationship with the ruling classes, of dependence on establishment patronage, of worldliness rather than religiosity and the moral compromise which inevitably follows from that. That's a world which suits Schonborn, a man who reflects the backdoor stitch-ups of Austrian politics, very well indeed. He should be torn away from it. A spell on a housing estate subsisting on the paltry benefits single-mothers and migrants workers have to live on would benefit him immensely.
James Lindsay
13 years 9 months ago
I think, to an extent, we are arguing past each other here and in many other places. I think conservatives have a fantasy that what they have been taught is immutable and that violating that immutability will lead others astray and into damnation. At the core of this seems to be a belief that the moral law exists for divine happiness rather than human happiness - which is heretical because a God that can be made unhappy is not a god at all (God being happiness itself). This reminds me of a discussion in ethics class in minor seminary about whether we ought to follow the moral law because doing so makes us completely happy or because the perfection of God demands it. I got a B because I did not believe in a duty to God. We are not necessary for God, God is necessary for us. Once we believe we are necessary for God, we replicate the pride of Lucifer. The fruit of that pride are uncharitability to others.

In dealing with these questions (gays and divorce), we must ask how God would resolve these questions if he were unbound by doctrine (which He is, by the way). He expects us to fulfill our humanity, not His Divinity. In sexual matters, how humans ought to behave changes based on culture, since marriage is a cultural creation as well as a sacrament. There is room in marriage as a sacrament for polygamous patriarchs, my monogamous heterosexual parents and my brother and his husband, as well as my in-laws who are both in their second marriage with their first spouses both being at fault for why the marriages ended.
James Dominic James
13 years 9 months ago
Red Maria, can you point to a passage Schönborn caused to appear in the Catechism that smuggles in what you take to be the 20th century Russian Orthodox Church's position on adultery? What is the shape of this "baleful influence"?
It's great you're committing to read Lee Podles's book. I think you will regret having taken a "gotcha" stance toward him.

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