Cardinal says "truth" will set the Church free after tense exchange with journalist

A Cardinal, long considered to be a papal contender, has said the Church had now “learned a lot” from its mistakes and that he and others were committed “to stand very clearly for truth”.

By David Raleigh 

Cardinal Schönborn, who is Archbishop of Vienna, said “the truth will set you free" and said Church and society together must “speak out about what was so long hidden and covered (up)”.

Speaking in Limerick this evening, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn was asked by RTE’s Religious Affairs Correspondent Joe Little if he agreed there was a compelling argument for ordaining women priests, given that “many” believe the abuse of children would never have been tolerated by women.

Cardinal Schönborn initially laughed at the question before saying: “I take your question seriously but, astonishingly, these questions come in every discussion, in every (interview).”

“I think it’s simply not possible to give an answer (about) what should have been done to avoid abuse.”

Responding Joe Little said: “You laugh at the question and you say it’s astonishing that these questions come up.”

“You’re sitting in a country where the Catholic Church has been devastated by this issue. Can you address the question, whether ordaining women, might be a good idea now, in order to prevent (further abuse) happening in other countries, where the truth is much slower to emerge, and where women might act as an important control within the decision-making process in the church.”

In response, Cardinal Schönborn said: “You relate two questions which I would not link. I’m sorry to say that. We have no expertise about the link you make between these two questions.”

When asked if he had any insights into the role of women in the church while the (abuse) scandals were going on in his own archdiocese prior to him becoming Archbishop, he paused to consider his answer.

Cardinal Schönborn said an “independent” commission in Vienna involving “men and women equally”, had handled abuse scandals “very honestly” and “without any interference” by the church.

Asked if he agreed with recent comments by Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, who warned potential hostilities between the Church and State over education could make it more difficult to maintain a "true Catholic ethos in Catholic schools", the Cardinal said, “generally speaking … the model of strict separation (of church and state) has never worked, and the model of confusing religion and politics has always been very problematic.”

He said all religions needed to “negotiate” together to find a solution, but he acknowledged this “can be difficult, and even conflictual.”

Schönborn, a son of a divorced couple, advocated for a more “merciful” church towards divorcees and same sex couples.

Agreeing that some marriages can’t last forever he said: “Yes, dramas happen in life; That’s life.”

He told reporters that, “despite the fact (Pope Francis) is not married”, he was “a master in counselling, good marriage counselling”.

Speaking ahead of a conference at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, he added: “What Pope Francis does in Amoris Laetitia, post Synod letter on the family) is encourage means how to overcome these crises."

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