Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity". Pope Francis/Pope Benedict
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Saturday, 23 March 2013

Angelo Sodano: Or, what is wrong with the Roman Curia

In May, 2011, John Allen wrote an interesting report on the possibility of Angelo Cardinal Sodano remaining Dean of the College of Cardinals following a papal death. In essence, we had this, a couple of weeks ago. Allen seems to have forgotten his own admonition: that Sodano front and centre will bring disgrace on the Church. Not only Allen, but virtually the entire media was silent on Sodano's past. One wonders why. Ignorance (certainly), stupidity (without doubt).... but for the more clever...? There are those who prefer a corrupt Roman Curia for various and sundry reasons... Angelo Sodano personifies what is wrong in Rome. 

Allen nicely sums up a number of key points about Sodano:


First, Sodano is known as perhaps the most stalwart defender in the Vatican of the late Mexican Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The Legionaries have acknowledged that Maciel was guilty of a wide range of misconduct, including the sexual abuse of former members. As late as 2005, while the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was reaching the conclusion that Maciel was guilty, the Secretariat of State under Sodano issued a public statement denying there was any case against him.

Second, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna charged in May 2010 that it was Sodano who blocked an investigation against Schönborn's predecessor, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, when Groër faced charges of sexual abuse in the 1990s. (At the time, Schönborn and other Austrian bishops announced they were "morally convinced" of Groër's guilt.) Although Schönborn later apologized for publicly reprimanding a fellow cardinal, he never retracted the substance of the charge.

Third, it was Sodano who sparked international outrage last year by using a platform during Pope Benedict's Easter Mass to compare criticism of the church on the sexual abuse crisis to "petty gossip."
That dismissal seemed at odds with Benedict's own commentary, including his famous reference on Good Friday in 2005 to "filth" in the church. In fact, the furor over Sodano's "petty gossip" line didn't really die down until Benedict fielded a question en route to Fatima, Portugal, and replied that the real problem is not attacks from the outside but "the reality of sin inside the church."
Fourth, Sodano recently roiled the waters again with his response to a question about Maciel during the run-up to John Paul's beatification.

"How can you, in such a great moment, get into such peripheral issues when the world is applauding the pope?" Sodano said on the sidelines of a Vatican exhibit honoring the late pope. "I'm stunned."
Whatever Sodano may have meant, the take-away for many people was that Sodano had called the suffering of sexual abuse victims a "peripheral" concern.

Beyond those points, there's also the whiff of financial scandal. In 2008, an Italian businessman Raffaello Follieri was sentenced to four and a half years in prison in New York for cheating investors out of millions of dollars. He built the scheme by playing off Vatican ties, in particular to Sodano.

No doubt, those inclined to give Sodano the benefit of the doubt could argue that there are ways to explain all this. The fact remains, however, that in terms of public perceptions, having Cardinal Angelo Sodano front and center whenever the pope dies would be counter-productive for a church trying to convince the world that it's turned a corner.

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