“When the Call to Disobedience was published,” Cardinal Schönborn explained, “we said the word disobedience cannot stand because you cannot build up a Church life on the basis of disobedience. We have not yet taken sanctions because we still believe in the possibility of personal dialogue but we also clearly said: you will have to decide yourself.
Some observers have criticized the cardinal for not moving swiftly against those seeking to change the Church’s teaching.
When he asked if the time for action was near, Cardinal Schönborn replied, “God is immensely patient, but the danger is it provokes confusion for the faithful, and therefore I think it is time to come to a decision.”
Another issue that has put the Vienna cardinal in global headlines was his decision last month not to veto the already completed election of an openly homosexual man in a registered domestic partnership to a parish council within the archdiocese.
“I decided for very precise reasons, which I am not ready to expose to everybody, (that) this election was done. I do not overturn it. I let it stand,” the cardinal said.
He also strongly rejected any suggestion that his decision has undermined the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.
Initially Cardinal Schönborn was intending to intervene with the supervisory body that oversees the elections to veto the selection of 26-year-old Florian Stangl in the northern Austrian village of Stützenhofen.
But after a week of consultations and a meeting with the young man, Cardinal Schönborn decided not to interfere.
The episode should “certainly, absolutely not be understood as a change to the Church's teaching on homosexuality,” he stressed. “You may believe me, I was the General Editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the teaching of the Catechism, especially in this respect.”
He said he regretted that in “our blog and internet society” everybody thinks they can “judge the situation without knowing all the precise details, but that’s our world.”
“Without entering into details, you can believe me that as a pastor I have had very clear words with this young man, and I am convinced that he is on a way as a young faithful in a difficult situation.”
He said his experience over many years is that “if a person with same-sex attraction discovers true, chaste friendship, this can be a real way out, a real way out of a situation that is very often a dramatic destruction of the person.”
“To live in promiscuity is really inhuman and destructive for the person,” the Austrian cardinal observed.
And he sees that there is a need for “good communities where people are not judged immediately, but also not just taken for granted. To find the right way between accepting the person as the Catechism says, but being clear on homosexuality as practice. To make the person aware that he is really esteemed, loved, and nevertheless, at the right moment, we say that his is not the true way.
“So, guiding a person in a difficult situation is always a real art. We should be very clear on the principles and very human on the steps to these principles,” the cardinal said. “As Pope Benedict always reminds us: one will not understand the teaching of the Church unless one has a true relation with Jesus Christ.”
A proud patriot, Cardinal Schönborn seemed somewhat frustrated by the external media image of Catholic Austria being one of dissent and protest. For him, this stereotype “is not the life of the Church.”
“Go to Mariazell, the national shrine, and this is also the shrine for the Hungarian and the Slavic peoples, and you will find what is the heart of the Austrian people – their love for Our Lady,” he said.