Featured Image
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn


July 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – “We have to read magisterial interventions on the family in the light of Amoris Laetitia’s contribution; just like we read the Council of Nicaea in light of the Council of Constantinople and the First Vatican Council in light of Vatican II,” explained Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, in an interview with Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro.

Schönborn stressed the binding force of the Apostolic Exhortation against recent remarks by Raymond Cardinal Burke who had emphasized that Amoris Laetitia is subject to all previous authoritative teachings and cannot in fact change the Church’s Magisterium.

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published parts of the interview with Schönborn Thursday as lead in to a full text publication in the Jesuit newspaper Civiltà cattolica, edited by Father Spadaro.

The Archbishop of Vienna amply described his opinion of Pope Francis’s intentions with the Exhortation and laid special emphasis on the possibility of civilly remarried “divorced” Catholics receiving Communion.

“The relevant fact of Amoris Laetitia is that it does not overcome the categories of ‘regular’ and ‘irregular.’ There is no simplistic way of doing that; on the one side there are marriages and families that work, while on the other side others do not work. Francis speaks of a reality that concerns all: we are all viatores, we are pilgrims. We are all subject to sin and we all need mercy.”

Schönborn continued to discuss the presupposed separation of theory and praxis, and subsequently to take recourse to the seemingly all-answering principle of “mercy”: “In principle the doctrine of matrimony and sacraments is clear. […] With regards to discipline, the Pontiff takes into consideration the numerous varieties of concrete situations and has affirmed that one should not wait for a new general norm of canonical type that is applicable in all cases.”

The cardinal seems to overlook the fact that the Magisterium of the Church does in fact apply to all cases, and that some cases are simply irreconcilable with the Church’s moral teaching. “The Pope has written that the only thing possible is fresh encouragement for responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases.”

With these words Schönborn seems to promote the idea that in individual cases a priest could deem “irregular” lifestyles regular. He continued interpreting Pope Francis’ words: “Francis opened the door for a wider understanding that passes through a discernment of the different situations, which are not objectively identical, thanks to the internal forum.”

In response to the question if Amoris Laetitia represents an “evolutionary step” in comprehension of doctrine, Schönborn replied: “Francis made an important step in obliging us to clarify something that has remained implicit in Familiaris consortio regarding the tie of the objectivity of a situation of sin and the life of grace in the face of God and of His Church and as logical consequence: the concrete liability of sin.” Schönborn went on, citing a statement of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. In 1994 speaking about “remarried” divorcees, Ratzinger said that one cannot “automatically speak of a situation of mortal sin with regards to the new union.” Schönborn linked this statement to Francis’s words: “There is no general norm that can cover all particular cases. The general norm is very clear, as much as it is clear that it cannot cover all cases in an exhaustible manner.”

When asked if the Pope “affirms ‘in certain cases’ when there is evidence of a situation of objective sin, but without being subjectively guilty or at least not fully, that it is possible to live in the grace of God,” Schönborn affirms: “The Popes invites us not only to look at the outside conditions, […] but to ask ourselves, if we are thirsty for merciful forgiveness, with the mindset to respond better to the sanctifying dynamism of grace.” He goes on confirming that people in the state of objective grave sin can receive the sacraments: “It is therefore possible in certain cases, for those who are in an objective situation of sin to receive the help of the sacraments.” Thus the cardinal agrees that Francis does not speak about those who have declared their marriages null, nor those who want to live like “brother and sister,” but those who “do not manage to objectively establish our conception of marriage” with the words: “Yes! Certainly!”

Subsequently, Schönborn retracted slightly, indicating that nobody can claim the right to the Eucharist: “There is a risk – also through a norm of exception – to create a right to receive the Eucharist in a situation of objective sin.”

The Archbishop of Vienna closed with the words: “Francis perceives doctrine as the today of the Word of God, incarnate word in our history, and the communication of it listening to the questions that are being asked along the way.”

Pope Francis in the past months repeatedly and publicly promoted the “great theologian” Cardinal Schönborn’s presentation of Amoris Laetitia. Schönborn presented the document in the press office of the Vatican on April 8.

Schönborn’s questionable pastoral implementation of the Church’s teaching made headlines in the past when in his Cathedral in Vienna, St. Stephen’s, a blessing for unmarried couples on Valentine’s Day was offered, including for homosexual partners. The rector of St. Stephen’s explicitly welcomed “people with homosexual inclinations to receive a blessing for their longing for love.”