ITALY- SNAP's list of the “least worst” Papal candidates

The following three papal candidates are the ones we feel are the most “promising candidates”. These three were chosen based on their words and actions in regards to the clergy sex abuse crisis. Sources include mainstream media accounts, legal filings and victims’ experiences. The names are in no particular order.

1. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle -- Manilla, Philippines

Cardinal Tagle is one of very few prelates who have spoken clearly about the “culture of shame” that surrounds victims of sex abuse. He has said that the church has contributed to this culture, and says that in order to move on, the church must find ways to help victims heal. (

At a talk in the Philippines, Tagle noted that "media practitioners observe that when they report on abuses committed by politicians, financiers, etc, the Church appreciates them. But when they expose anomalies within the Church, they are branded as anti-Church and anti-Catholic, even if the information comes from people close to the Church."

"The Church should also be prepared to be scrutinized by media, provided the norms of fairness and truthfulness are applied to all, especially the victims," Tagle said.

In 2012, Tagle spoke at a Vatican abuse symposium, in mentioning the cover-ups, he argued that the church must stop “waiting for a bomb” and instead should prevent the scandal from happening, rather than try to “prevent it from exploding” (

One of our members on the west coast was assaulted in 1990s by a Filippino cleric, Fr. Jose Superiaso. (He pled guilty in 2005.) She reports to us that Tagle has reportedly been helpful in starting the process of defrocking her perpetrator.

It’s worth noting that the Philippines has also seen horrific clergy sex abuse and cover up cases. A brave and beloved SNAP member, Rita Milla, was abused by seven Filipino priests in California beginning when she was 16. After two years of abuse, her original abuser, Fr. Santiago Tamaya, passed Rita on to six other priests who violated her as well. Two years after that, Rita became pregnant by one of these priests (Fr. Valentine Tugade) who then sent her to the Philippines so she could keep her pregnancy and baby a secret. While there, Rita spoke with Bishop Edmundo Madarang Abaya who told her that he would help her when she returned to California if she kept the baby a secret. Rita had the baby in 1982.

(These predators were from the Laoag diocese and the Los Angeles archdiocese. During this time, Tagle was a priest in the Diocese of Imus.)

2. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn -- Vienna, Austria

Since becoming a Cardinal in 1998, Schonborn has spoken out several times regarding clergy abuse and cover-ups. He famously and publicly criticized the very powerful – and controversial - Cardinal Angelo Sodano (now Dean of the College of Cardinals) for allegedly obstructing the investigation of Schonborn’s predecessor, Cardinal Herman Groer, who was credibly accused of abusing children. (Sodano in his role as secretary of state, worked to halt proceedings against the now-disgraced Legion of Christ head Fr. Marcial Maciel. Seven ex-Legion victims had filed a canonical case against Maciel.

Sadly, for his remarks, and for criticizing a top church official, Schonborn was disciplined by the Vatican. (

In 2010, Schonborn publicly acknowledged that he believed the accusations against Groer were true ( He has also called out church officials for what he says is a misinterpretation of the church’s doctrine of forgiveness, saying they have done so “in favor of those responsible and not the victims,” and has said that “the time of cover-ups is over.”

In his recent profile of Schonborn, the NCR’s John Allen wrote “He won high marks early on for steadying a church that had been rocked by a sexual abuse scandal involving his predecessor” and wrote of “Schönborn's willingness to break ranks and speak out in favor of reform on the abuse crisis.”

Allen also noted that “Schönborn carried out a purge of his staff (including) his popular vicar general” and was also willing to challenge then-Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco, who was until recently another high ranking Vatican official. These facts suggest a willingness to stray from the church hierarchy’s unhealthy insistence that no bishop or cardinal criticize others in public and always honor one another’s autonomy, regardless of the issue or the cost.

At the same time, Allen reports, Schonborn “hasn't shut down lines of conversation” with dissatisfied factions in his own archdiocese.

We feel positive about the fact that Schonborn has “never “actually worked inside the system in Rome.” 

Finally, Allen says “one could make a good argument that no senior official in Catholicism has a better feel for the demands of crisis management than Schönborn.

Schonborn isn’t perfect, of course. In 2004, he failed to take action quickly when St. Poelten Bishop Kurt Krenn made light of 40,000 images of child porn being downloaded at a seminary, by referring to it as a childish prank. Schonborn should have immediately disciplined OR DENOUNCED Krenn, but instead an investigation was launched and Krenn resigned in 2004.

3. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin -- Dublin, Ireland (An archbishop can, indeed, be chosen to be a pope.)

In 2009, Martin told the Irish press that the depth of the clergy abuse epidemic “will shock us all” and acknowledged that it is likely that there were thousands of abuse victims throughout Ireland, ( which is an uncommon statement when you consider that other Cardinals like Peter Turkson claim there are none. Martin also called for the resignations of certain auxiliary bishops (Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field) and urged the Vatican to accept them after these bishops were named in the Irish “Murphy Report.”

Martin came under considerable fire for doing so ( He also has warned other church officials that investigations into the clerical child sex abuse in diocese will not get to the truth unless church officials are prepared to tell the truth, and expressed anger over the “Cloyne report” which showed cover-ups by other officials. (

Martin also went against the norm when he willingly turned over documents to secular officials relating to abusive priests ( He also refused to publicly back Cardinal Brady due to his role in the abuse scandals (

In a 2012 interview Martin said the church is at its “breaking point” and that “There’s a real danger today of people saying the child abuse scandal is over... It isn’t over. Child protection and the protection of children is something that will go on for the rest of our lives and into the future, because the problems are there.”

Showing 3 comments

  • Marie Brockway
    commented 2013-03-08 19:36:03 -0600
    Oh by the way, please make note … Cardinal Tagle is from the ‘Philippines’, not ‘Philippians’.
  • Marie Brockway
    commented 2013-03-08 19:26:44 -0600
    It would be nice to see history in the making if Cardinal Tagle becomes the first Asian pope ever! :)
  • Rosemary McHugh
    commented 2013-03-07 21:18:04 -0600
    Thankyou, David, for the excellent summary on these 3 possible papal candidates. I know Archbishop Diarmuid Martin personally and I know that he is focused on what Jesus would do. Dr Martin is a leader. He is a seeker if the truth, and says that the truth will set us free! I believe that he would be a very capable Pope, who will help the church to implement Vatican II.

    In my view, the cardinals are following what Pope Benedict’s policies have been. The Pope’s policies have not been what Jesus would do for the 24yrs that the Pope was head of the office that dealt with clergy sexual abuse cases and since 2005 as Pope. The cardinals are followers.

    Thankyou, David, for being there in Rome representing SNAP, and giving the victims of clergy sexual abuse a voice in the election of a new Pope.

    In gratitude, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago

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