Earlier today, the Pope received the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn (left) for 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 echoing Benedict, and 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.
After being taken to the Papal Woodshed for all of the above, 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 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.Notably absent from the word-eating fest: any retraction of Schönborn's comment -- made in the same meeting with journalists that saw the other addressed statements -- that the church "should give more consideration to the quality of homosexual relationships," and that "a stable [same-sex] relationship is certainly better than if someone chooses to be promiscuous."
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 regret 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.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.
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."
PHOTO: L'Osservatore Romano/Pool