Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Monday, June 28, 2010

Pope stifles abuse discussions; Clergy sex abuse victims respond

Statement by David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home)

(Today, the Pope issued what the AP calls a "remarkable" statement admonishing a high profile Cardinal who had publicly questioned a top Vatican official's handling of child sexual abuse.)

The Pope should be encouraging, not forbidding, more open conversation about cover ups of clergy sex crimes by bishops, not less. Frankly, the church desperately needs it. Kids are safer when honest dialogue about misdeeds is encouraged, not forbidden.

Prelates who conceal the horrific and devastating rape of children need to be ousted. If Pope Benedict has his way, however, such prelates won’t even face discussion, much less discipline. This is a recipe for continued disaster.

This strong reinforcement of the Vatican’s code of secrecy, coupled with the Pope’s wrong-headed attack on Belgian law enforcement, clearly shows that it’s “business as usual” in Rome regarding this on-going crisis.

With his words, Benedict professes concern for victims. But by his actions, Benedict shows concern for his colleagues.

Finally, once again, as we’ve seen time after time, top Catholic officials are backpedalling over mean-spirited public comments about clergy sex abuse victims. Today, a Vatican statement tries to minimize and ‘explain away’ Cardinal Sodano’s recent and hurtful remark about “petty gossip” and the abuse crisis.

Vatican officials aren’t dumb rookies. They’re very smart. Yet when they cause a firestorm by making callous or misguided statements about clergy sex crimes and cover ups, they later claim to have been “misunderstood.” Such claims increasingly lack credibility.

The highest echelon in the Vatican is filled with exceptionally well educated men, most of whom have been in prominent leadership positions within the church hierarchy for years if not decades. They rarely make unscripted, ‘off the cuff’ public comments. It’s naïve to believe their comments about clergy sex crimes and cover ups are ‘misinterpreted.’

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])

Vatican admonishes Austrian cardinal for his critical comments about former Vatican No. 2
By NICOLE WINFIELD | Associated Press

The Vatican on Monday admonished a leading cardinal for having publicly criticized the former Vatican No. 2 for his handling of clerical abuse cases.

In a remarkable statement, the Vatican said only the pope can make such accusations against a cardinal, not another so-called prince of the church.

In April, Vienna's archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, accused the former Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, of blocking a probe into a sex abuse scandal that rocked Austria's church 15 years ago.

Schoenborn also accused Sodano of causing "massive harm" to victims when he dismissed claims of clerical abuse as "petty gossip" on Easter Sunday.

The Vatican sought to clarify Sodano's comments, noting Monday that the pope himself had used the "petty gossip" phrase a week earlier, referring to the need to have "courage to not be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinions."

The phrase, and Sodano's repetition of it, sparked widespread criticism that the Vatican simply didn't appreciate the significance of the clerical abuse scandal. It also suggested the Vatican thought the hundreds of reports of abuse flooding in, and the questions that were being asked about the Vatican's handling of abuse for decades, was mere gossip.

The Vatican said that interpretation was "erroneous," although it didn't explain what the pontiff or Sodano meant by the phrase. The Vatican said both men felt compassion for victims and condemnation for those behind the abuse.

The Holy See issued the statement after Schoenborn met with the pontiff in a private audience. The audience was then broadened to include Sodano and the current Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Schoenborn, a former student of the pope's and a papal confidante, has been a leading figure in the abuse crisis, forcefully denouncing abuse, presiding over service of reparations for victims and openly calling for an honest examination of issues like celibacy.

His comments about Sodano were remarkable in that they were directed at Pope John Paul II's No. 2, who has already come under fire for his alleged stonewalling of a Vatican investigation into the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who was found to have abused seminarians and fathered at least three children.

Schoenborn made the comments April 28 to a select group of Austrian journalists. The comments were later summarized by the Catholic news agency Kathpress and picked up by media around the world.

In the discussion, Schoenborn blamed Sodano for having blocked an investigation of sex abuse allegations against the late Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer.

The scandal surrounding the former Vienna archbishop broke in 1995, when a former student at a boy's seminary in the town of Hollabrunn alleged that he abused him repeatedly in the early 1970s. Other accusations followed. Groer stepped down shortly after the first allegations surfaced _ officially due to old age. He died in 2003 but never admitted any guilt.

Schoenborn, who succeeded Groer as Vienna archbishop, said the pope _ known then as Josef Ratzinger and head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith _ had immediately pushed for an investigative commission when abuse allegations against Groer arose.

However, he said, others in the Vatican did not let this happen.

His comments in defense of the pontiff came at a time when Benedict himself was coming under fire for his handling of abuse cases both during his time as archbishop of Munich and as the head of the Vatican's doctrine office.

The Vatican statement Monday recalled that "in the church, only the pope has the competence to deal with accusations against a cardinal; other instances can have a consultation function, but always with the necessary respect for the people involved."

In other comments on April 28, Schoenborn was quoted as saying the quality of a gay relationship should be taken into greater consideration, the church needed a new perspective on the remarriage of divorcees, and it was no secret the Vatican government was "in urgent need of reform."

(This version CORRECTS Schoenborn's comments were in April, not May)

Monday, June 28, 2010
Vienna, Carpeted

Another day... another astonishing Vatican statement.

Earlier today, the Pope received the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, in what appears to have been a rather lengthy private audience.

The session was the first meeting between the pontiff and his onetime student since the Austrian prelate's recent comments implying an openness to a "re-examination" of mandatory priestly celibacy, slamming Cardinal Angelo Sodano's Easter reference to "petty gossip" (a comment widely interpreted as a characterization of reaction to this spring's sex-abuse storm) and accusing the retired Secretary of State of obstructing a Vatican investigation into his predecessor, the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer, who resigned in 1995 after multiple allegations of abuse were made against Gröer stemming from his days as a teacher at a Benedictine school.

At the conversation's close, the Holy See released the following communiqué, here in an English translation:

1. Today, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and President of the Austrian Episcopal Conference. He had been asked to report personally to the Supreme Pontiff on the present situation of the Church in Austria. In particular, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn wishes to clarify the exact sense of his recent statements on some aspects of ecclesiastical discipline [read: priestly celibacy], as well as some judgments on the attachment had by the Secretariat of State, and in particular by the then-Secretary of State of Pope John Paul II of venerated memory, as regards the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer, Archbishop of Vienna from 1986 to 1995.

2. Subsequently, invited into the meeting were Cardinals Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, and Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State.

In the second part of the audience, some widely-circulated misunderstandings partially derived by some comments of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn were clarified and resolved, for which he expressed his sorrow over the interpretations given.

In particular:

a) It is recalled that in the Church, when accusations are made against a Cardinal, the competence [of judgment] rests solely with the Pope; other instances have a function of consultation, always with the proper respect for persons.

b) The word "chiacchiericcio" ["chatter," "gossip"] was erroneously interpreted as a lack of respect for the victims of sexual abuse, for whom Cardinal Angelo Sodano holds the same sentiments of compassion and condemnation of evil, as expressed in diverse interventions of the Holy Father. That word, pronounced in his Easter address to Pope Benedict XVI, was taken literally from the papal homily of Palm Sunday and referred to the "courage that doesn't let one be intimidated by the chatter of dominant opinions."

3. The Holy Father, recalling with great affection his pastoral visit to Austria, conveyed to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn his greetings and encouragement to the Church in Austria and to its pastors, entrusting to the heavenly protection of Mary, so venerated at Mariazell, the path of a renewed ecclesial communion.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests