Austen IvereighMay 14, 2010

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".

Austen Ivereigh

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Ronald Grace
11 years 1 month ago
Hand it to Fessio for trying? Trying to do what?  Diminish the seriousness of the outrage over Sodano's words and actions?
Carolyn Disco
11 years 1 month ago
Brava for the ''Fessio attack'' rejoinder. Congratulations to the Tablet for the original article by their Vienna correspondent, and to the Tablet editor's retort.
Is Fessio another politically ambitious cleric wanting his 15 minutes to show how loyal he is? I mean, God forbid one cardinal dare publicly speak truth to power.
Good luck to Fessio smoothing things over for Sodano...the Schonbron piece was the one bit of fresh air around these days.
Jim McCrea
11 years 1 month ago
Methinks Fessio is noticing his lack of status in corridors of power in the Vatican compared to what he and his ilk enjoyed during the latter years of the ever-weakening papacy of JPII.
Guys like Fessio need that mother's milk of clericalism:  constant access to media and the resulting "fame" they get.
It's time for the good Jebbie to lead a university to fame and fortune.  Oops, been there, tried that, failed miserably.  Ave Maria!  Now what?
Pearce Shea
11 years 1 month ago
Ah well, you have to give it to Father for trying. The Tablet is not exactly known for being the cool head in the room. Or the sane head.
11 years 1 month ago
Fr Fessio thinks 'attack' is harsh on Sodano. Jason Berry by showing the Legionaries cash envelopes/money/ dinners for 200 etc to Sodano . what would Fessio call that? I suggest 'slam dunk' is the proper expression. you see an attack is just a noble try.. this  slam dunk is game, set, match, to mix sport metaphors.The only question is Why is Sodano still hanging around? The  answer =no shame ... no shame is a dangerous corporate condition. a danger lurking/clinging to the Vatican Halls. 'no shame' needs to be rooted out as it is essentially what caused the cover-up crisis in the first place. . 'no shame' condition is an essential symtom to identify sociopaths. . 
michael murphy
11 years 1 month ago
Carolyn: I think it's clear that Fr. Fessio is not trying to smooth things over for Cardinal Sodano-just the opposite; but he is attempting to qualify the nature of Cardinal  Schonborn's critique. This kind of thing, while somewhat irregular, is much welcomed by this writer in Vatican politics, especially as we all navigate the hyperactive nature communication in the digital age. What's more interesting to me is Cardinal Schonborn's recognition of the dignity of committed homosexual relationships and his right-headed thinking about divorcees. This amounts to a sea-change, in my view, especially when one considers the traditional shape of Cardinal Schonborn's thought. Frankly, I'm impressed. Moreover, given the Holy Father's statements this week about how our beloved Church is being called to face and atone for this mess (and Father Fessio's astute clarifications about notions blame and scapegoating in this regard), I am certain the the Holy Spirit-with "ah, Bright wings" is in flight.
Anne Danielson
10 years 8 months ago
The essence of our Dignity as Human Beings is found within our inherent, complementary nature as male and female, which has been endowed to us from God, for, from The Beginning, we have been made in His Image, to live in a communion of Love while being called to The Communion Of Perfect Love, simultaneously. For this reason, we have not been called by God to live in relationship as "homosexuals" and "heterosexuals", which demeans the dignity of the Human Person through sexual objectification and is in direct conflict with God's Commandment regarding the sin of adultery, but rather we are called by God to live in relationship as male and female, men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters...oriented to The Word Of God, Perfect Love.

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