Future Pope’s Role in Austria Abuse Case Was Complex
As Pope Benedict XVI has come under scrutiny for his handling of sexual abuse cases, both his supporters and his critics have paid fresh attention to the way he responded to a sexual abuse scandal in Austria in the 1990s, one of the most damaging to confront the church in Europe.
Defenders of Benedict cite his role in dealing with Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër of Vienna as evidence that he moved assertively, if quietly, against abusers. They point to the fact that Cardinal Groër left office six months after accusations against him of molesting boys first appeared in the Austrian news media in 1995. The future pope, they say, favored a full canonical investigation, only to be blocked by other ranking officials in the Vatican.
A detailed look at the rise and fall of the clergyman, who died in 2003, and the involvement of Benedict, a Bavarian theologian with many connections to German-speaking Austria, paints a more complex picture.
Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had the ear of Pope John Paul II and was able to block a favored candidate for archbishop of Vienna, clearing the way for Father Groër to assume the post in 1986, say senior church officials and priests with knowledge of the process. His critics question how this influence failed him nine years later in seeking a fuller investigation into the case.
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Pope Benedict XVI
Posted April 27, 2010 at 9:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]
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1. Paula Loughlin wrote:
The NYT does another attempted hit piece on Benedict and once again misses. Anyone else tiring of their obvious desperation?
April 27, 9:09 am | [comment link]
2. Adam 12 wrote:
I suppose some people actualy enjoy this kind of piece and I think that is the problem. There is something lurking in us as fallen beings that wants to justify our actions and attitudes by searching out hypocrisy from sources of moral teaching.
April 27, 10:05 am | [comment link]
3. Pageantmaster [KJS to Coventry] wrote:
No doubt there have been some elements of the media who have taken a prurient delight in raking over stuff with mischief in mind, however it also has to be said that the New York Times and others have raised serious issues of fact which need to be faced and dealt with, rather than just greeted by the Catholic chorus chiming in noisily to whine about them raising these questions.
This article takes further the information which previously came to light regarding Cardinal Groer, and perhaps Cardinal Ratzinger’s attempts to have the issue dealt with, but reportedly losing out to other interests in the Vatican under JPII.
Trying to drown out the questions with verbal abuse is pretty much what happened to those who had the temerity to raise the issue of child abuse years ago. Had the issues been faced and dealt with, and proper procedures and safeguards been put in place, the Catholic Church would probably not be going through the trauma it is now. As far as I can see at the moment little has been learnt about how to deal with this, and the Vatican continues to deal with things on the back foot.
And with the Bishop of Brussels resigning for abusing children over years, it is pretty clear that there may be considerably more to come out.
April 27, 10:43 am | [comment link]
4. Catholic Mom wrote:
The Catholic Church has never been seriously hurt by events which originated entirely outside the Church. It has always been its own worst enemy. The Reformation did not take place because a bunch of invaders crossed the alps and sacked Rome. The Reformation took place because of gross abuses in the Church. Absolute power has always resulted in corruption—in the Church as everywhere else. IMHO the reason Catholicism has been so successful in the U.S. is because it did NOT have power in this country. It was the underdog—it had to fight against discrimination itself, it could not impose itself on the population.
Along with absolute power, absolute secrecy is another great corruptor, and together the two are deadly. I do not think the NY Times is going to hurt the Church. Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against it so I doubt the NY Times has a good shot. Of course its motives are not to help the Church (and why should they be?) but I believe that they will. “How will I justify myself if my action becomes public knowledge?” is perhaps not the highest or most noble of ethical motives, but it is a pretty powerful one, nonetheless. As far as I’m concern, the NY Times can print an article a day about sex abuse in the Church. As long as they don’t lie or totally distort facts, I truly believe that they will be doing the Church an (unwitting) favor. The Church is only pure when it is stripped of secrecy and secular power.
April 27, 11:08 am | [comment link]
5. Ian+ wrote:
Another problem of our time is that things must be seen to happen. For example, the drooling yellow journalists want to see public floggings (or defrockings, as the case may be), and won’t believe justice (with mercy) has been dealt without a public airing. All clergy know that the quieter the better in these matters, so as to preserve the dignity of everyone involved.
April 27, 1:13 pm | [comment link]
6. phil swain wrote:
Pageantmaster, you may want to issue an apology to the “Bishop of Brussels”. I think you meant the Bishop of Bruges.
April 27, 1:39 pm | [comment link]
7. Pageantmaster [KJS to Coventry] wrote:
So I did phil swain - to be sure to be sure.
April 27, 1:48 pm | [comment link]
8. C. Wingate wrote:
Reading the article, I don’t see the narrative as bearing that negatively against the present pope. But it’s another brick in the wall that is the castle of JP II failure to deal with the issue.
April 27, 3:02 pm | [comment link]
9. billqs wrote:
#4. I believe your analysis is spot on, and your theory about Catholicism succeeding in the US in part because of its lack of temporal power is a great insight.
I tend to defend the Catholic Church as they are so often allies in the fight against rampant secularism, but nobody ultimately benefits when scandals are swept under the rug.
However, while this piece would tend to indict certain high ranking Vatican officials mostly unnamed, what it fails to do is to indict or even raise serious allegations against Benedict. Once again the NY Times is attempting to draw in the current Pope in a web of innuendo and half truths. While the Church needs to be open and fully resolve this abuse, it is only fair to also question the motives of sources that call it out, such as the NY Times.
April 27, 4:31 pm | [comment link]
10. Anne Trewitt wrote:
Agree that the media has a responsibility to publish facts about clergy sex abuse. But it’s apparently too much to ask the media to maintain standards of accuracy and professionalism. I’ve seen the damage this sort of “reportage” causes in the minds of uncritical readers.
It’s curious that journalistic abuses happen without any secrecy at all (b/c these abuses appear in black and white) and yet most of the mainstream media closes ranks and refuses to accuse each other of failing in their ethical duties just as too many bishops seem to have closed ranks and failed to challenge brother bishops who failed in their moral duties.
Which magisterial authority are most people more likely to trust? The mainstream media or the college of bishops?
April 27, 5:59 pm | [comment link]
11. Pageantmaster [KJS to Coventry] wrote:
Once again the NY Times is attempting to draw in the current Pope in a web of innuendo and half truths
Can you please identify the “innuendo” and “half truths” in this particular article by which you condider the New York Times is attempting to draw in the current Pope.
#10 ‘Anne Trewitt’
it’s apparently too much to ask the media to maintain standards of accuracy and professionalism. I’ve seen the damage this sort of “reportage” causes in the minds of uncritical readers.
Similarly, can you please identify specifically the inaccuracies and specific instances of unprofessionalism which you state exist in the “reportage” in this particular article in the New York Times?
April 27, 6:34 pm | [comment link]
12. Anne Trewitt wrote:
I don’t mean to be evasive, but I can’t take the time to respond to your reasonable request at the moment. But I suspect the blogosphere will supply a response by and by.
I will say in the NYT’s favor that a couple of recent pieces (very recent) seem to have demonstrated a more moderate tone (though some might say that it’s simply more insidious or grasping at straws or . . .). I don’t recognize the name Katrin Bennhold. I wonder what happened to Laurie Goodstein and Rachel Donadio. Personally, I’ll welcome the forthcoming apology from Benedict XVI just as I would welcome one from Maureen Dowd and her entourage.
April 27, 7:17 pm | [comment link]
13. Vatican Watcher wrote:
3. “Had the issues been faced and dealt with, and proper procedures and safeguards been put in place, the Catholic Church would probably not be going through the trauma it is now.”
In the US at least, since when the Boston abuses came out in the media, the US bishops have put in place very efficient procedures to both weed out possible abusers and deal swiftly with perpetrators by cooperating fully with civil authorities.
At the same time, Cardinal Ratzinger in Rome had the matter of abuse shifted to his portfolio at the Doctrine of the Faith and had put in place processes that allowed ecclesiastical measures against perpetrators to be brought swiftly with as little red tape as possible.
The “Catholic chorus” to which you refer I think objects so vocally to these stories in the media and the way the media dribbles them out slowly to maintain the fervor of condemnation of the Catholic Church precisely because they are in fact in most cases from long ago. Note that in the Milwaukee case, the priest died in the 1990s and in the Munich case where Ratzinger himself was allegedly implicated, the events took place over thirty years ago.
What more do you want?
April 27, 10:54 pm | [comment link]
15. Larry Morse wrote:
The Times piece is probably part of the “contagion frenzy” that often overtakes “popular” topics. But it suggests once more that the entire church has not dealt with a problem that has plagued it for centuries, namely, its role in protecting homosexuality in its ranks. When this recent phase of the scandal first appeared in Boston., all sorts of books and articles appeared. They largely shared this common theme, that the seminaries were hothouses of homosexuals and homosexual practices to the degree that heterosexuals seminarians felt constantly pressured. As I recall, one seminary in California was made up entirely of homosexuals. (I wish I could cite the actual books, but I don’t buy this sort of thing and they are now years ago.) This problem is and has been so pervasive that the Pope, even trying his best, would be forced into compromises and misdirections in trying to deal with so systemic a problem. Even the Pope has become a pawn of the system, and he is only recently grasping the consequences.
The present mess is simply the most recent blooming of a weed that must be torn up by its roots if it is to be controlled. All other remedies are simply panaceas - desireable but at last ineffective.
April 28, 8:12 am | [comment link]
However, the Pope is quite capable of playing hardball, and he may actually undertake to pull the weeds. Larry
16. Catholic Mom wrote:
My mom has a letter written by her great-great or such grandmother in which she mentions a nephew of hers who had been “ruined” by the priests in his boarding school. She then goes on to say that you can’t blame the Church because a person is not responsible for the evil that their servants do and “Christ chose 12 and one of them betrayed him.” This would have been like about 1850. Certainly a long time before the “gay agenda.”
Perhaps if they’d had a different attitude in those days—or the NY Times was up to writing stories about such things in those days—we also wouldn’t be facing the problem we are now.
April 28, 8:39 am | [comment link]