‘We carry this guilt together’

2010-04-01 11:45

In a surprisingly strong attempt to make amends, a prominent

Austrian cardinal on Wednesday acknowledged church guilt in a sex abuse scandal

involving Catholic clergy.

During a sombre service in Vienna’s famous St. Stephen’s Cathedral,

Christoph Schoenborn, a close confidante of Pope Benedict XVI, also thanked

victims for breaking their silence.

Amid much media attention and an audience of about 3?000 people,

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


The strong language was contained in a confession he read together

with Veronika Prueller-Jagenteufel, a theologian.

“We, God’s people, his church, together carry this guilt,” they

said in unison after taking turns reading separate sections.

Schoenborn, who serves as archbishop of Vienna, also openly

addressed attempts to cover up abuse, saying silence “occurred far too often” in

the past.

“A lot has been pried open,” Schoenborn said. “There is less

looking away. But there is still a lot to do.”

Austria, like other countries, has been hit by a series of church

abuse claims in recent weeks, and years.

In 1995, the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer was forced to resign

as archbishop of Vienna concerning allegations that he molested youths at a

monastery in the 1970s.

Several years later, the church was again rocked by the discovery

of up to 40?000 lurid images at a seminary in St. Poelten, about 80km west of

Vienna, including child pornography and photos of young candidates for the

priesthood fondling each other and their older religious instructors.

Wednesday’s highly unusual and much-anticipated service was

co-organized by “We are Church,” a group promoting church reform. It featured

readings and musical performances, as well as accounts of abuse and other

statements from victims or their representatives.

“I’m angry, my Lord,” said one man. “Save me from these terrible

fears and nightmares!” said another.

To Hans Peter Hurka, head of “We are

Church,” the service was a first step in the right direction. “There certainly

won’t be a reconciliation or solution within minutes or hours,” he said.

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