Cardinal Schönborn says he allows women to preside at funerals in his diocese - Corrispondenza romana
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Cardinal Schönborn says he allows women to preside at funerals in his diocese

(D. C. McLean and C. Chretien, Life Site News – October 19, 2019) Vienna archbishop and leading Amazon Synod participant Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has given permission for women to preside at funerals in his diocese, he said in an interview with Vatican Radio.

This week, Pope Francis personally appointed Schönborn to the committee that will write the final synod document. One of the proposals being advanced at the synod, most forcefully by the Portuguese language groups, is that women in the Amazon region should be “ordained” to the diaconate. 

More modest, if equally novel, suggestions are that women in the region should be appointed lectors and acolytes or given some “new ministry” appropriate to the pastoral work they are already doing.  

Schönborn, once thought to be fairly orthodox theologically, has under the current pontificate come under fire for suggesting the Church find “positive” elements in sexual sin, allowing and attending an event at his cathedral featuring a shirtless actor dancing on the Communion rail, co-hosting a homosexual-themed prayer service in his cathedral that featured speeches given by a world-famous drag queen and a homosexual activist from the pulpit within the sanctuary, and criticizing fellow cardinals asking Pope Francis for moral clarity via the dubia.

Notably, last fall, Schönborn said, “I may one day also ordain women to the diaconate.” The same day Schönborn tweeted a message expressing a hope for female “deacons.” LifeSiteNews archived the tweet before it was deleted. It reads: “I have a strong relationship with my priests and my deacons. Only a little while ago, I was able to ordain again deacons. A great joy.  Perhaps I may one day also ordain women to the diaconate…. Dear priests, have courage for team work! Collaboration, trust is the most important thing [“das a and o”].”

He said earlier in 2018 that “ordination” of women to the roles of “deacons, priests, and bishops” can be decided by a Church council, despite the fact that the Catholic Church has always taught that is ontologically impossible. However, in June the cardinal said that Pope Francis had ruled out the possibility entirely, saying that the novelty would be too great “an incision” into the 2,000 year Christian tradition. 

“I have certainly in the last years given a decree for presiding funerals to women,” Schönborn told Vatican Radio. In “traditional Austrian Catholicism,” he insisted, “a woman coming with the liturgical dress to preside [over] the funeral – it’s well-accepted.”

Women wearing liturgical dress, let alone substituting for a priest or deacon, is not a feature of traditional Catholicism anywhere in the world. One source suggested that Schönborn had permitted the innovation in order to get people used to seeing women who are “deacons” in all but title. 

He was discussing pastoral challenges the Amazon region faces, such as the fact that the Pentecostal church is present there but some areas “hundreds of kilometers dispersed” are only visited by a Catholic priest once a year.

At the synod, “What impressed me very much was what was said about women in the villages,” the cardinal continued. “The women have [a] decisive role. They already do what is possible [and] what is not even an instituted ministry but they do it, in fact. They baptize. They preside [over] funerals. They try to arrange who bless[es] marriages.” 

He then said that these “ministries” are present in Austria.

“At least 30, if not more, women in the diocese have the faculty of presiding [over] funerals.”

According to the Austrian government, as of 2011, over 64 percent of Austria was Catholic. That such “ministries” are present in a predominantly and historically very Catholic country suggests a desire by Church hierarchy for blurring of the roles between priest and laity and/or a painful lack of vocations, something that has been a problem in Europe over the last half-century. 

At the synod, Schönborn also “voiced my surprise that permanent diaconate is not so much present in Amazonia, while there is much discussion about the viri probati,” he said, referring to the ordination of morally upright married men. Vatican II “gave us the permission to ordain married men who have given a good witness of their family life, or their professional life, of their Christian faith, to be permanent deacons.”

“So why not start with viri probati deacons in the villages? Prepare them as catechists, as deacons, before asking whether they can become priests?” he continued, noting that before anyone becomes a priest he must be ordained a deacon. 

The Amazon Synod has outraged and shocked many Catholics with its October 4 pagan “Pachamama” ceremony attended by Pope Francis and cardinals, which featured, among other things, indigenous people and at least one Franciscan prostrating themselves before two naked statues of pregnant women; the display in Santa Maria in Traspontina (the titular parish of Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet) of a photograph of a woman breastfeeding a piglet (there was initially some debate over whether the creature was a weasel or another species of rodent); and the close connections of synod architects with Liberation Theology.

News broke this week that the pro-abortion, pro-LGBT Ford Foundation has given multi-million-dollar grants to key synod groups. Former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards sits on the Ford Foundation’s board.  

One bishop has been accused of racism for suggesting during a synod press briefing that indigenous people of the Amazon are incapable of comprehending celibacy. 

There has been a focus on environmentalism

A major concern of Catholics is that the Amazon Synod will be used as a vehicle to try to overthrow Church doctrine on the all-male priesthood and the Roman Church’s long-standing tradition of priestly celibacy.