Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. is founder and editor of Ignatius Press, which has published several books by Cardinal Schönborn. He is also publisher of CWR.
Did Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna “attack” Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and former Vatican secretary of state? If The Tablet weekly in London were your only source of information, you’d think so, because that’s what the headline screamed.
Cardinal Schönborn, who like his mentor Pope Benedict is a model of openness and transparency, invited the editors of Austria’s dozen or so major newspapers to a meeting at his residence in Vienna. How many bishops can you name who have extended such an invitation to the press?
The journalists agreed that this would be an “off the record” meeting so that everyone could take part freely and frankly. Was this to impose silence on the press? To cover up once again the misdeeds of clerics? No, it was an attempt by Cardinal Schönborn to be as open as possible and to make himself available to answer any question that was asked. It was an attempt to help educate the press on matters that the press often finds difficult to grasp—such as the essential foundations of the hierarchical and sacramental structure of the Church, and the intricacies of moral theology.
Cardinal Schönborn is a Dominican and a professor. Which means that he has a serious scholar’s grasp of the foundations as well as the conclusions of moral theology, particularly as expounded by St. Thomas Aquinas.
Perhaps Cardinal Schönborn overestimated the capacity of the invited journalists for a serious academic discussion. Just what did the cardinal do?