The redoubtable Fr Joseph Fessio SJ, editor of the Ignatius Press, laid into The Tablet recently for its reporting of the Archbishop of Vienna's criticism of the dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, over his Easter remarks about media reporting of clerical sex abuse as "gossip".
"Schonborn attacks Sodano and urges reform", was the headline over Vienna correspondent Christa Pongratz-Lippitt's report in The Tablet of 8 May, which began:
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.
Writing on the Reuters 'Faithworld' site, Fr Fessio deplores the use of the word "attack" as sensationalist:
[Cardinal Schonborn] recognizes that the transfer of all sexual abuse allegations against priests to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) in 2001 was already a major reform. He was referring to an attitude of secrecy and defensiveness, as well as an inability to comprehend the gravity of the scandal. He cited Cardinal Sodano’s Easter remark as an example. It was a criticism, not an attack, of a fellow cardinal. It was much milder than what he could have said.
Fr Fessio goes on to observe that Cardinals Schonborn and Ratzinger wanted action taken against high-profile clerical abusers such as the then Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Groer, and the founder of the Legion of Christ, Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, but were blocked by Cardinal Sodano and Pope John Paul II. And he adds:
Cardinal Schönborn did not “launch an attack,” as the Tablet states; he made a criticism. And to characterize the substance of the meeting with such a false and misleading headline is typical of the treatment the pope, Cardinal Schönborn and the Church have been receiving at the hands of a sensationalist press.
Sensationalist press? The Tablet? Its editor, Catherine Pepinster [pictured], responds in today's issue:
Fr Fessio said that Cardinal Schonborn's words were a criticism, not an attack. These were comments addressed to editors of Austrian newspapers and made public by those journals and the Church's own agency, Kathpress, before being published by The Tablet. An attack is a fierce public criticism -- and the words the Archbishop of Vienna used seem pretty fierce, and public, by church standards.
Catherine's response appears in a Tablet statement which describes the Ignatius Press founder's criticism as -- er -- "the Fessio attack".