VATICAN CITY - The Vatican on Monday issued an unprecedented rebuke of a top cardinal who had accused the retired Vatican No. 2 of blocking clerical sex abuse investigations, publicly dressing down a man who had been praised for his criticism of church abuse coverups.
Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn has also called for an open discussion of priestly celibacy; views the Vatican said he "clarified" on Monday during an audience with the pope.
As it admonished Schoenborn, the Vatican appeared on the defensive on two other fronts in the ongoing sex abuse scandal: it remained locked in a diplomatic tiff with Belgium over the raid on church offices last week, during which police detained bishops and even opened a crypt in search of church abuse documents. And it bristled at the U.S. Supreme Court decision to let a sex abuse lawsuit in Oregon naming the Holy See go ahead.
Schoenborn had accused the former Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in April of blocking a church investigation into the late Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, who was accused by victims in 1995 of abusing boys at a seminary - a scandal that rocked the Austrian church and cost Groer his job.
Schoenborn also accused Sodano of causing "massive harm" to victims when he dismissed claims of clerical abuse as petty gossip on Easter Sunday.
The Vatican said Monday that only the pope can level such accusations against a cardinal.
Abuse panel ends
A panel created by Belgian bishops 12 years ago to look into abuse cases disbanded on Monday, saying last week's seizure of its 500 case files rendered its existence pointless. Its chief, Peter Adriaenssens, accused authorities of betraying the trust of hundreds of victims and using his group to tap into information and testimony from abuse victims.