Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Energy Dealer Linked With Intercourse Abuse Cowl-Ups, Dies at 94


ROME — Cardinal Angelo Sodano, an Italian who rose to the top of the Roman Catholic Church because the Vatican’s prime diplomat, final energy dealer of the papal court docket and deeply influential dean of cardinals earlier than seeing his repute stained by his reference to the cover-up of intercourse abuse scandals, has died. He was 94.

The cardinal died on Friday night time, in keeping with the Vatican. No reason behind dying was given.

Cardinal Sodano served as secretary of state, the second-highest rating place within the Vatican, after the pope, for 16 years, masking a very good portion of the preach of John Paul II, who as soon as described him as “my first and treasured collaborator.” As Parkinson’s illness and different illnesses debilitated John Paul II, Cardinal Sodano, together with the pope’s personal secretary, performed an outsize function in operating the church.

The cardinal mediated within the Balkan wars and vigorously opposed the George W. Bush administration’s conflict in Iraq, as soon as telling reporters in 2003, “We’re asking for reflection not solely on whether or not a conflict could be simply or unjust, ethical or immoral, but in addition whether or not it’s opportune to annoy a billion followers of Islam.”

However Cardinal Sodano is most identified within the church for the facility he typically exercised throughout the Vatican hierarchy, together with to dam investigations of sexually abusive clergymen and to additional his conservative and anti-communist imaginative and prescient of a church that put safety of the establishment above all else. In 2010, talking throughout a public Easter handle, he infamously referred to as accusations of abuse “petty gossip.”

Francis, understanding Cardinal Sodano’s sway within the Vatican, the place he had nurtured the careers of many prime officers, was all the time cautious to indicate him respect, together with in dying.

“The passing of Cardinal Angelo Sodano stirs in my soul emotions of gratitude to the Lord for the present of this esteemed man of the church,” Francis wrote in a be aware of condolence on Saturday. He added, “I recall his diligent work alongside so a lot of my predecessors who entrusted him with necessary obligations in Vatican diplomacy,” and credited him with working for reconciliation in South America, the place Francis, an Argentine, is from.

Angelo Raffaele Sodano was born in 1927 in northern Italy to Delfina Brignolo and Giovanni Sodano, a politician, however his profession and connections would turn into deeply rooted in South America, the place he labored within the church’s diplomatic corps as a younger priest. In 1977, Pope Paul VI despatched him to Chile because the papal ambassador. He navigated, and critics say grew exceedingly shut, to the navy dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in addition to to a charismatic priest, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founding father of the Legionaries of Christ, a distinguished and financially beneficiant non secular motion based in Mexico that fueled the church with clergymen, universities, media retailers and cash.

In 1991, John Paul II, sharing his anti-communist zeal, made him Cardinal Sodano and shortly elevated him to secretary of state, a place from which the cardinal exercised close to unequalled energy within the Vatican.

Critics have lengthy argued that Cardinal Sodano abused that energy, and recognized him as a dominant drive for the secrecy and malfeasance that alienated many devoted from the hierarchy in Rome throughout John Paul II’s preach.

Cardinal Sodano was “the person who, greater than some other, embodies the misuse of energy that has corrupted the church hierarchy,” Jason Berry, a reporter on the church’s sexual abuse scandals, wrote in a New York Occasions visitor essay in 2013.

In L’Osservatore Romano, the church’s official newspaper, Cardinal Sodano in 2010 referred to as the abuse accusations “unfair assaults” that had been “used as a weapon in opposition to the church” by its enemies.

He overruled efforts to induce Pope John Paul II to talk out in opposition to abusive clergymen, comparable to within the case of Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër. The pope remained silent on that scandal, though Cardinal Groër’s successor as archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, mentioned that he was “morally sure” of his predecessor’s guilt. Cardinal Schönborn instructed reporters a number of years later that Cardinal Sodano “actually mentioned — to my face — ‘Victims? That’s what you say!’”

However criticism of Cardinal Sodano typically centered on his connection to, and safety of, Father Maciel, the Legionaries of Christ founder who engaged in many years of molestation of youngsters and of seminarians, abused medicine, fathered kids, and employed his order’s monumental monetary property — billions of {dollars} in keeping with some estimates — to purchase affect within the church’s management. These revelations, and Cardinal Sodano’s apparently benefiting from Father Maciel’s largess, forged an extended shadow on John Paul II’s whole papacy. Pope Benedict XVI dismissed Father Maciel from ministry in 2006. He died in 2008.

“We settle for and remorse that, given the gravity of his faults, we can not take his particular person as a mannequin of Christian or priestly life,” the Legionaries conceded in 2010.

Cardinal Sodano lengthy denied accusations of getting protected Father Maciel.

In 1998, accusations in opposition to Father Maciel crossed the desk of a strong German cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, who led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Religion, which dealt with abuse instances. Cardinal Ratzinger ordered an investigation, however opposition — critics say led by Cardinal Sodano — led Cardinal Ratzinger to desk the investigation for years.

Cardinal Ratzinger grew to become Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. A yr later, he changed Cardinal Sodano.

However for almost one other 15 years, Cardinal Sodano served as dean of the School of Cardinals, although he had handed the voting age of 80 to take part within the 2013 conclave to elect a brand new pope after Benedict’s resignation.

Vatican analysts reported that Cardinal Sodano used his affect to profit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was elected in that conclave and took the title of Francis. However the cardinal’s affect waned within the new preach, which sought to confront, albeit with combined outcomes, the church forms that Cardinal Sodano had lengthy managed.

Francis has additionally taken important steps to make clear the Vatican’s missteps in dealing with the scourge of sexual abuse, strikes that didn’t all the time replicate properly on Cardinal Sodano.

In Chile, Cardinal Sodano had additionally grew to become near Fernando Karadima, one other charismatic priest, who had turn into influential among the many social elite of the capital, Santiago, and who had deep connections to the nation’s navy regime. As early because the 1980s, accusations surfaced of Mr. Karadima’s abusing boys, however Chilean prelates repeatedly dismissed the costs.

The reality exploded just a few years into the preach of Francis, who, disastrously, selected to consider his bishops over the abused, even accusing victims of calumny. The ensuing disaster caught the pope flat-footed and made him look tone deaf. Within the wake of the controversy, Francis modified tack and set in movement new norms for accountability and transparency within the church aimed toward stopping additional abuse and holding to account those that cowl it up. Francis defrocked Mr. Karadima in 2018.

On his 90th birthday, Cardinal Sodano returned to his hometown, close to Asti, the place he was ordained in 1950.

“That is the hour of sundown,” he mentioned. “It’s time to say thanks.”

Anna Momigliano contributed reporting.

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