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Cardinal Schönborn during last Synod on the FamilyJohn-Henry Westen/LifeSite

VIENNA, April 6, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, one of the closest advisors to Pope Francis, has said in an interview that ordination of women to the roles of “deacons, priests and bishops” can be decided by a Church council. The constant teaching of the Church is that ordination of women is not possible, and that the teaching is irreformable.

Speaking to Salzburger Nachrichten, Cardinal Schönborn said, “The question of ordination [of women] is a question which clearly can only be clarified by a council. That cannot be decided upon by a pope alone. That is a question too big that it could be decided from the desk of a pope.” The quotes were first translated by Maike Hickson at OnePeterFive.

When the reporter asked if Schönborn was referring to ordination of women as priests, Schönborn replied, “as deacons, priests, bishops.”

Schönborn, who was praised by Pope Francis as a “great theologian” and given the final authority on interpreting the Pope’s controversial exhortation Amoris Laetitia, has previously expressed a leaning towards ordaining women. “I can understand the malaise which women feel when they see only men concelebrate,” he said last year.

Pope Francis too has expressed a vague openness to such considerations. In a March 2016 interview with Die Zeit, the Pope was asked about the devastating lack of priests in Germany and Switzerland. “Yes that is a great problem,” he replied. “Many parishes have well-behaved women: they keep up Sunday and celebrate liturgies of the word (Wortgottesdienste), that is without the Eucharist. The problem is in fact the lack of vocations. This problem needs to be resolved by the Church.”

In August 2016, Pope Francis set up a 12-member commission to study the issue of women deacons, which included the world’s leading advocate of ordaining women deacons – Phyllis Zagano.

Early in his pontificate Pope Francis shocked Catholics by washing women’s feet at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The symbolic washing of the feet by the celebrant of the Mass is to commemorate Christ’s washing the feet of His Apostles at the establishment of the priesthood. In January 2016 he officially altered the Church’s practice to allow for washing women’s feet at the Holy Thursday.

In 1994 Pope St. John Paul II taught authoritatively that the question of women’s ordination was not open for discussion in the Church.  In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis the Pope wrote:

Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.