Today, November 14, 2018, is the feast day of St. Didacus, Confessor, “the patron of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego” (1400-1463) according to the Lives of the Saints by Fr. Alban Butler (first published in 1887 under the title Lives of the Saints–With Reflections for Every Day in the Year), and you can read about this saint at http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/lots/lots352.htm and a more detailed article at Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didacus_of_Alcal%C3%A1
Reading about these saints is a wonderful daily reflection; such marvelous lives the saints lived, such an army, the Church Triumphant, who has our back in heaven.
The Cardinal Abuser, A Case From Church History
The single greatest chronicler of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in our time is Randy Engel and her article Monday in Renew America is a classic.
It’s been more than 23 years since the Cardinal Hans Groër, O.S.B sex abuse scandal erupted in Vienna, Austria.
Recently, while researching the Cardinal McCarrick case, I had occasion to go back over my notes on this high-level Church scandal that took place in Austria, and it struck me how little accurate information and follow-up details on clerical abuse issued by Catholic media sources actually reaches Catholics in the pews.
It appears that official Catholic news sources including Vatican Information Service, and Catholic News Services, an organ of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, do everything possible to obfuscate and minimize the real nature and consequences of these sexually-related scandals in the Church today – or perhaps, better stated, in the Counterfeit Church that passes for the true Roman Catholic Church today.
So, I decided to do a follow-up article to see what, if anything, the reader remembers about the accusations against Cardinal Groër, and how those memories measure up to the unreported facts which eventually came to light many months or years later.
After you read this scenario regarding Cardinal Groër, please ask yourself, “Did the Catholic media, at the time, provide me with sufficient information that would permit me, as a faithful Catholic, to make a conscious and accurate evaluation and understanding of this unforgettable scandal?” If the answer is “no,” then the next question is “why not?”
Also, ask yourself if the Vatican’s dealings with the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and his minions will be any better.
Early Revelations About the Groër Case
The first time that most American Catholics heard about Cardinal Hans Groër, Archbishop of Vienna, was on September 14, 1995, when he resigned his post following allegations of pederasty (the sexual molestation of adolescent boys), brought by one of Groër’s former student. Afterwards, John Paul II arranged for Groër to be sent to his old Benedictine monastery in Maria Roggendorf where the cardinal was made prior, until new accusations of past criminal deeds reached the pope’s ears.
The second time that Groër made American headlines was on April 14, 1998, when Pope John Paul II finally forced Groër to relinquish all ecclesiastical duties and privileges as an archbishop and cardinal-priest, although he kept his title as Archbishop Emeritus of Vienna.
Background on Cardinal Groër
Included in the Vatican announcements of Groër’s dramatic fall from grace were some generic biographical notes on the cardinal.
Groër was born on October 13, 1919 in Vienna to Sudeten German parents. The family later moved to Czechoslovakia where they set up residence for a decade and then returned to their homeland. Groër received his seminary training in Hollabrunn and Vienna and was ordained for the diocesan priesthood on April 12, 1942. He then served as a military chaplain in Petronell and Bad Vöslau until 1946 when he became Prefect of Studies at the Minor Seminary of Hollabrunn in Lower Austria. He obtained a doctorate in theology in 1949. Later he became a Professor of Religion at the Hollabrunn Seminary.
According to Groër, it was in the early 1950s that he developed a special interest in Marian devotions and devoted himself to the restoration of the pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of Roggendorf. In 1980, That same years he was named Spiritual Director of the Legion of Mary (Legio Mariens) in Austria.
Subsequent testimony from Groër’s early victims support the charge that during this same time period that he reported receiving a message from Our Lady and was conducting pilgrimages to the popular shrine, the priest was routinely molesting young members of the Legio.
In 1974, Groër made a significant career change from diocesan priest to monk. In retrospect, the change may not have been entirely voluntary.
That year, he joined the Benedictine monastic community of St. Joseph’s Priory located in the historic pilgrimage center of Maria Roggendorf in Hollabrunn. He entered the novitiate at Göttweig monastery in 1976 and took his solemn vows as a Benedictine monk on September 8, 1980.
To the surprise of many, the obscure monk was appointed the 15th Archbishop of Vienna by Pope John Paul II on July 15, 1986 and made Cardinal-Priest of Santi Gioacchino ed Anna al Tuscolano two years later at the consistory of June 28, 1988.
A Note on the Austrian Hierarchy
Although demographically small with a total population of about eight million, Austria has always played a significant role in the history of Europe and the Roman Catholic Church. Its hierarchy is composed of two archbishops, one for the Archdiocese of Vienna, and the other for the Archdiocese of Salzburg, although, for all practical purposes, the Archbishop of Vienna is the ruling prelate; seven bishops for the Dioceses of Eisenstadt, Linz, Sankt Polten, Graz-Sckau, Gurk, Feldkirch and Innsbruck; the abbot of the Cistercian Territorial Abbey of Wettingen-Mehrerau and the military bishop of the Military Ordinariate of Austria.
In recent years, the Catholic population of Austria has been hemorrhaging from 89% in 1961 to 58% in 2017 due, in part, to migration and the increased secularization of Austrian society, and more recently, to the large numbers of clerical sexual abuse cases – 837 in 2010 alone – about 75% of which involved male homosexual clerics and at least two high-ranking prelates including Hans Groër and Archabbot George Becker, OSB, of St. Peter’s Archabbey in Salzburg, the oldest monastery in the German-speaking world.
However, what makes the story of Cardinal Groër so unique in Church annals is not only the four decades-long duration of his predatory crimes, and the incredible number of young boys he sexually molested, but also the role played by Pope John Paul II, and Cardinal Josef Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and later as Pope Benedict XVI, in the continuing rise of Groër up the Vatican’s hierarchal ladder to the office of Cardinal, despite Groër’s early predator track record.
Let’s begin with a look at that record.
Groër Case Breaks in 1995 in Profil
On March 27, 1995, the weekly Austrian magazine, Profil, published an interview with Josef Hartmann, 37, who alleged that when he was a student at Hollabrunn junior seminary, Father Groër, one of his seminary teachers, had sex with him repeatedly for four years, from 1972 to 1976.
Hartmann’s statement was backed up by the testimony of Rev. Udo Fischer, who had attended the same boys’ school in the 1960s and early 1970s. Fischer stated that he had been molested by Cardinal Groër when they worked together on a youth movement devoted to the Virgin Mary in the early 1970s, and that he had observed him acting inappropriately with others who were not willing to come forward. Fischer noted that referred to the young boys he surrounded himself with as “little angels.”
To his credit, in 1985, Fischer reported Groër’s criminal activities to his abbot, Dr. Clemens Lashofer, OSB, at Göttweig Abbey. Three years earlier, Lashofer had become the Abbot President of the Australian Congregation of Benedictines, so he was in a position of considerable power and influence. But Fischer’s accusations including his personal testimony that he himself was sexually abused by Groër apparently fell upon deaf ears. Lashofer remained silent.
It was not until one year later, when the Vatican announced Groër’s appointment as archbishop of Vienna that the angry Fischer re-contacted with Abbot Lashofer and asked him why he had not denounced Groër to the proper ecclesiastical authorities when he learned that Groër’s name was being put forth as a candidate for the office of archbishop. The abbot, who died in 2009, responded that the papal nuncio had never questioned him regarding Groër’s suitability as archbishop before his selection. To which Udo made the profound observation that, “If they really did not ask him, they did not want to know.” Who the “they” were will be discussed later in this article.
The Vienna branch of the Legion of Mary (Legio Mariens) was formed on February 21, 1949. A former member of the Legio for ten years, recalls that he witnessed Groër, grabbing hold of boys’ genitals, but he did not interpret the action as sexual abuse at the time. After all, Groër had enjoyed a visitation by Our Lady and had a reputation for “sanctity!”
Similar recollections were made by many of Groër other victims who recounted how the priest/monk would ask them to come to his room for confession, demand they take off their clothes and then abuse them. Others reported the priest/monk would fondle their genitals in the shower under the guise of conducting a medical exam.
At the time that these revelations were being made public, I believe it would be fair to state that few Austrian Catholics really believed that Groër really committed these crimes against seminarians and monks and other young boys and young men with whom he came in contact. The scales did not begin to fall from their collective eyes until 1998 with the publication of Hubertus Czernin’s exposé on the Groër scandal.
Das Buch Groer: Eine Kirchenchronik Lights the Fire
On January 1, 1998, Das Buch Groër: Eine Kirchenchronik (The Book Groer: A Church Chronicle) by Hubertus Czernin hit the streets of Vienna. It forever put to rest any argument that Groër was innocent of the charges of sexual abuse made again him.
Born on January 17, 1956, into an aristocratic family in Vienna, Czernin studied art history at the University, but later decided to become a journalist and investigative reporter. Czernin started at the bottom of the ladder at Profil, and eventually worked his way up to editor.
The startling conclusion of Czernin’s investigation was that Groër had sex with over 2,000 young men, mostly seminarians and monks, starting in the 1950s and ending in the 1990s. That’s no misprint. The figure put forth by Czernin was over 2,000, although the actual figures remain unknown. Czernin died on June 10, 2006 at age of 50, three years after the 83-year-old Groër went to meet his Maker. Although Czernin had the satisfaction of living long enough to see Groër removed from office, the Viennese prelate never faced an ecclesiastical court, much less a criminal trial in a secular court.
Retrieved November 13, 2018 from http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/engel/181112