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.
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.”
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.