Schonborn’s “Civita Cattolica” Interview: Preamble and Summary

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna is a senior cardinal in the Catholic Church, who was often named before the last conclave as a possible “papabile”, one who could become the next pope. He is also an eminent theologian, a former pupil of Cardinal Ratzinger, who was a regular member of a select group who gathered with Pope Benedict annually for a theological summer school.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, cardinal archbishop of Vienna

For LGBT Catholics, he is particularly notable as the first senior bishop to have noted, a few years ago, that it is high time that the Catholic church stopped obsessing about “genital acts” of gay and lesbian people, and considered instead the quality of their relationships. At the same time, he also noted the contradiction in Church practice, between exclusion from marriage those who had previously married and divorced but wished to remarry, and the reality that in the modern world, so many couples have no interest in marriage in the first place.

At the time, he was a lone voice, and many conservatives in the Church excpected an immediate slapdown. That did not happen. Instead, a series of other bishops began to take up similar themes, which have since become mainstream, now dominating news coverage of the family synods, that of 2014, and of 2015, next month.

In a notable interview with the Italian Jesuit publication, Civita Cattolica, he shared some important insights into the synod process, on marriage and family, on pastoral approaches to those in “irregular” relationships, and on gay and lesbian relationships specifically. At Bondings 2.0, Francis DeBenardo has discussed these LGBT specific passages, but the entire article is worth reading for its relevance to our concerns, even where these are not directly referenced.

I am preparing a series of posts on this interview and its implications for LGBT Catholics, in my own rather free translation. (The original is available only in Italian. When completed, I will post the entire interview in my English translation at The Queer Church Repository). The excerpt below, giving the Civita introduction, gives some of the flavour of the entire, 12 page, piece.

During the extraordinary Synod on the family, which took place 5 to 19 October 2014, I was impressed with, among others, by the intervention of Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna. We had a discussion, after his speech in the classroom, during a dinner with a mutual friend. Then he told me about his experiences as a child of a family that has experienced the divorce. His lucidity was not a merely intellectual reflection, but was the result of experience. Strolling under the colonnade of St. Peter, he told me about the absence of grandparents and uncles from Synod speeches. The family, he said, is not only wife, husband and children, but  is a wide network of contacts, including ​​some friends and not only relatives. Any divorce affects a large network of relationships, not only on a couple’s life. But it is also true that the network can withstand the impact of the split and support the most vulnerable, the children, for example.

We did not end the conversation. We continued for two subsequent meetings, after a few months, at the headquarters of Civiltà Cattolica. Once with his friend and fellow Dominican Fr Jean Miguel Garrigues, who I also interviewed for our magazine (1). And the interview finally, continued in Vienna at the Kardinal KönigHaus.The following interview is the result of these meetings, which eventually took the form of a dialogue unit. I asked the Cardinal for a reflection closely tied to his experience as a pastor. And this pastoral inspiration that gives body and breath to his words.During the extraordinary Synod on the family, which took place 5 to 19 October 2014, I was impressed with, among others, by the intervention of Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna. We had a discussion, after his speech in the classroom, during a dinner with a mutual friend. Then he told me about his experiences as a child of a family that has experienced the divorce. His lucidity was not a merely intellectual reflection, but was the result of experience. Strolling under the colonnade of St. Peter, he told me about the absence of grandparents and uncles from Synod speeches. The family, he said, is not only wife, husband and children, but  is a wide network of contacts, including ​​some friends and not only relatives. Any divorce affects a large network of relationships, not only on a couple’s life. But it is also true that the network can withstand the impact of the split and support the most vulnerable, the children, for example.

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