Thursday, 1 April 2010

Austrian Cardinal's "Truth & Reconciliation" Move

Around the world, leading bishops are having to face difficult decisions on how best to respond to the gathering storm of anger over church abuse, globally and in their own countries. On the one hand, many bishops are participating in a clearly orchestrated response to the global crisis by defending the record of Benedict XVI, often by attacking the motives of the critics. On the other, some braver and more perceptive clerics are simultaneously warning of the urgency required for a more thoroughgoing reform and cleansing of the church itself, in its institutions and practices.
Whatever their stance on the global problem, all have to deal also with the local issues, which vary dramatically from country to country, from Ireland, where the head of the church remains under intense pressure to resign, to the UK and Canada, where claims have been made that reforms introduced years ago have effectively eliminated the problem. The response that I like best, however, was that of the Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who has applied an approach which reminds me of the principle behind the South African experience of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and which I recommended many months ago as an appropriate response from the Church - he has held a service in the Viennese cathedral, in which people were invited to speak of their experiences, and to share their hurt and anger. (Earlier, Cardinal Schoenborn was one of the first to state publicly that the crisis required the Church to start to ask some hard questions about its rules and procedures)

Austrian cardinal acknowledges church guilt in abuse scandal, thanks victims for coming forward

VIENNA (AP) - In a surprisingly strong attempt to make amends, a prominent Austrian cardinal has acknowledged church guilt in a sex abuse scandal involving Catholic clergy.During a somber service Wednesday in Vienna's famous St. Stephen's Cathedral, Christoph Schoenborn, a close confidante of Pope Benedict XVI, also thanked victims for breaking their silence.

Schoenborn said some in the church took advantage and destroyed the trust of children, were sexually violent and considered the image of the church most important.

The strong language was contained in a confession he read together with Veronika Prueller-Jagenteufel, a theologian.

Schoenborn, who serves as archbishop of Vienna, also openly addressed attempts to cover up abuse, saying silence "occurred far too often" in the past.

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