Christoph Schönborn

Christoph Schönborn
His Eminence 
Christoph Schönborn,
Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna

Cardinal Schönborn in Altötting on the day Pope Benedict XVI visited the town.
Archdiocese Vienna
Enthroned 14 September 1995
(&1000000000000001600000016 years, &1000000000000006800000068 days)
Predecessor Hans Hermann Groër
Other posts Auxiliary Bishop of Vienna and Titular Bishop of Sutrium (1991–1995); Coadjutor Archbishop of Vienna (April–September 1995)
Ordination 27 December 1970 (Priest)
Consecration 29 September 1991 (Bishop)
Created Cardinal 21 February 1998
Rank Cardinal-Priest of Gesù Divin Lavoratore
Personal details
Born 22 January 1945 (1945-01-22) (age 66)
Skalken Castle, Bohemia (now Czech Republic)
Nationality Austrian
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Parents Count Hugo-Damian von Schönborn and Baroness Eleonore von Doblhoff

Christoph Maria Michael Hugo Damian Peter Adalbert (Graf von) Schönborn, OP (born 22 January 1945) is an Austrian Cardinal of the Catholic Church and theologian. He currently serves as the Archbishop of Vienna and President of the Austrian Bishops Conference. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1998.


Early life

Christoph Maria Michael Hugo Damian Peter Adalbert Graf von Schönborn was born at Skalken Castle, west of Leitmeritz, Bohemia (now Czech Republic), the second son of the Count Maria Hugo Damian Adalbert Josef Hubertus von Schönborn and Baroness Eleonore Ottilie Hilda Maria von Doblhoff. They divorced in 1959. He has two brothers and one sister. He belongs to the Central European noble family of Schönborn, several members of which held high offices in the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire, including several prince-bishops, cardinals and ecclesiastical prince-electors.[1]

Early church career

In September 1945, his family was forced to flee from Bohemia. Schönborn took his Matura examination in 1963, and entered the Order of Preachers. He studied theology in Paris; and philosophy and psychology in Bornheim-Walberberg and Vienna. Schönborn also attended the Catholic Institute of Paris for further theological work, before studying Slavic and Byzantine Christianity at the Sorbonne.

He was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Franz König on 27 December 1970 in Vienna. Schönborn obtained a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1971, and later studied in Regensburg under Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI). He subsequently completed a doctorate in Sacred Theology in Paris. From 1975 he was Professor of Dogmatics at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. In 1980, he became a member of the International Theological Commission of the Holy See, and in 1987 he became editorial secretary for the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In 1991 he was chosen to become an Auxiliary Bishop of Vienna.

Archbishop of Vienna

Styles of
Christoph Schönborn
CardinalCoA PioM.svg
Reference style His Most Illustrious and Reverend Eminence (in short: His Eminence)
Spoken style Your Most Illustrious and Reverend Eminence (in short: Your Eminence)
Informal style Cardinal
See Vienna

He was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Vienna on 11 April 1995 and succeeded as Archbishop of Vienna on 14 September 1995. He was created Cardinal-Priest of Gesù Divin Lavoratore by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of 21 February 1998. Considered among the papabili following John Paul's death, Cardinal Schönborn was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Schönborn remains eligible to vote in any future papal conclaves that begin before his 80th birthday on 22 January 2025.

He serves as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that for the Oriental Churches, and that for Catholic Education, and of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church. On 5 January 2011 he was appointed among the first members of the newly created Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.[2]

Cardinal Schörnborn (with crosier) walking in the Otto von Habsburg funeral procession

Cardinal Schönborn also serves as the chaplain to the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece. In addition to his native German, he is fluent in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Latin. Schönborn's episcopal motto is Vos autem dixi amicos (I have called you friends) from John 15:15.

In 2009, he was critical of the lifting of the excommunication of controversial Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X.

Cardinal Schönborn presided over the requiem for Otto of Habsburg, former Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, in St. Stephen's Cathedral on 16 July 2011.[3]

Response to sex abuse

In March 2010 he called for priestly celibacy in the Latin Rite to be re-examined in the light of sex scandals. Cardinal Schönborn suggested that the Church should carry out an "unflinching examination" of causes of the scandal, including "the issue of priests' training". He wrote in his archdiocesan magazine, "...the question of priest celibacy and the question of personality development...requires a great deal of honesty, both on the part of the church and of society as a whole". Cardinal Schönborn's spokesman, Erich Leitenberger, issued a clarification later stating that the cardinal was not "in any way seeking to question the Catholic Church's celibacy rule". Sources in Rome[citation needed] said he had been obliged to issue his "clarification" under pressure from the Holy See. His remarks came days after Father Hans Küng, a Catholic theologian, blamed the Catholic Church's "uptight" views on sex for child abuse scandals in Germany, Ireland and the United States.[4]

A number of sex abuse scandals involving priests came to light in Schönborn's homeland of Austria, one involving a man of 53 who claimed to have been abused by two priests for six years from the age of 11.[4]

In May 2010 Cardinal Schönborn told Austrian Catholic news agency Kathpress: "The days of cover-up are over. For a long while the Church's principle of forgiveness was falsely interpreted and was in favour of those responsible and not the victims." He added that during the 1990s, when Cardinal Groër, the then leader of Austria's Catholics, was accused of sex abuse, a "track of Vatican diplomacy" had muddied the investigation and led to a cover-up. Cardinal Schönborn said that the then Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano indirectly blocked the attempts and Cardinal Groër had simply faded into the background.[5]


Catholic-Orthodox dialogue

Cardinal Schönborn has said that theological differences between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches can be resolved, if the two faiths can overcome the burden of history.[6]

Alleged excommunication for renting space for an abortion clinic

Cardinal Schönborn distanced himself from a pronouncement by Salzburg's auxiliary bishop Andreas Laun, who mistakenly[7] said that Viennese businessman Richard Lugner had been automatically excommunicated for having allowed an abortion clinic to rent space in a shopping mall owned by Lugner.[8][9] The Cardinal had asked Lugner not to rent the space to the abortion clinic, and declared: "The destruction of life must not be made banal and viewed like a shopping trip. Everything you need to know about abortion is to be found in the Fifth Commandment."[8]

HIV/AIDS and condoms

In 1996, Cardinal Schönborn told an Austrian television audience that someone suffering from AIDS might use a condom as a "lesser evil," but he quickly cautioned, "no one could affirm that the use of a condom is the ideal in sexual relations." [10]

Jewish connection to the Holy Land

As part of a visiting Austrian delegation, he spoke to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and said it was doctrinally important for Christians to recognize Jews' connection to the Holy Land, and that Christians should rejoice in Jews' return to Palestine as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.[11]

Rahner and Balthasar

Schönborn has said that the two approaches of Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar are close and different at the same time, being mutually complementary.[12]

Mozart, Catholicism, and Freemasonry

According to Eric Leitenberger, Schönborn's spokesman, the Cardinal's position is that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a free mason, but that he was also fully Catholic.[13]

Society of Saint Pius X

In a September 2009 interview, Schönborn stated that the Holy See would not give a free pass to the Society of Saint Pius X, saying that the Church's core values and its relations with Judaism were not negotiable.[14]

Evolution and the Catholic Church

Schönborn discusses evolution and intelligent design with philosopher Robert Spaemann (2006).

In an editorial in the New York Times on 7 July 2005[15] Schönborn accepted the possibility of evolution but criticised certain "neo-Darwinian" theories as incompatible with Catholic teaching:

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection – is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

This statement created considerable controversy, including public criticism of Schönborn's views by the director of the Vatican Observatory, George Coyne, SJ,[16] and a response by Catholic physicist Stephen Barr in the Catholic periodical First Things,[17] to which Schönborn in turn replied.[18]


See also


  1. ^ Graf/Gräfin von Schöborn. An Online Gotha. Retrieved on 22 March 2010.
  3. ^ "Otto Habsburg: Beisetzung am 16. Juli in Wien". Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  4. ^ a b Cardinal blames celibacy rule for abuse scandals
  5. ^ Vatican cardinal attacks fellow cardinal for 'covering up' abuse case
  6. ^ Austrian cardinal optimistic on Catholic-Orthodox accord
  7. ^ Canon Law Excommunication Blotter: February 2007
  8. ^ a b Austrian Bishop Laun Says Mall Owner Excommunicated for Providing Space for Abortion Clinic.
  9. ^ The report Excommunication Over Abortion: Austrian Cardinal Disagrees, mistakenly says that Auxiliary Bishop Laun "excommunicated" Lugner, a power that belongs to the diocesan bishop, not to an auxiliary bishop; however, it also more correctly states at one point that the Bishop had declared that Lugner "had excommunicated himself".
  10. ^ Condom use as lesser evil, but still an evil
  11. ^ Roman Catholic cardinal endorses Zionism
  12. ^ Between Rahner and Balthasar
  13. ^ Mozart: Catholic, Master Mason, favorite of the pope
  14. ^ Vatican commission to draw red lines for ultra-traditionalists
  15. ^ "Finding Design in Nature", The New York Times, 7 July 2005.
  16. ^ "Intelligent Design belittles God, Vatican director says", Catholic Online, 30 Jan 2006
  17. ^ S. Barr, "The Design of Evolution", First Things, Oct 2005
  18. ^ C. Schönborn, "The designs of science", First Things, January 2006
  19. ^
  20. ^

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Hans Hermann Groër
Archbishop of Vienna
14 September 1995–incumbent
Succeeded by

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