Cardinal Schönborn’s grave sin of scandal

This LifeSiteNews article is very troubling:
Austrian Priest resigns after overruling by cardinal on homosexual in parish council

A man named Florian Stangl ran for a seat on the parish council. He is a 26-year-old social worker, who is openly living with another man in a civil union (termed “a legal registered partnership” under Austrian law). He was elected with 67.6% of the vote: 96 out of 142 votes.

Fr. Gerhard Swierzek, priest of the Stützenhofen parish in the Vienna diocese, attempted to keep Mr. Stangl from taking a seat on the Council, because he is living in sin with another man. Fr. Gerhard also asked Mr. Stangl to refrain from receiving holy Communion for the same reason.

Cardinal Schönborn, archbishop of the Vienna diocese, met with Florian Stangl and his homosexual lover. They had lunch together. The Cardinal declined to meet with, or talk to Fr. Gerhard. After the lunch with Stangl, the Cardinal approved of his election to the parish council.

“candidates for parish councils in the Archdiocese of Vienna can be nominated by any Catholic before the election. The nominations are supposed to enclose a signed statement by the candidates in which they affirm that they fulfill the conditions for the office (including crucially the condition that they adhere to the faith and discipline of the Church…. In Stützenhofen the candidates neglected to sign statements affirming that they fulfilled the conditions for election.” [Rorate Caeli]

Fr. Gerhard has said he will ask to be reassigned to a different parish in the diocese. In effect, the Cardinal is forcing this priest out of his parish. He cannot be a pastor over a parish if he is forced to violate his conscience by giving Communion to active homosexuals, and by working with a parish council whose members do not believe or practice the Catholic Faith. I don’t see how Fr. Gerhard will be able to function in the diocese at all, given that the Cardinal’s decision is incompatible with Fr. Gerhard’s correct understanding of what Christ requires of him.

So often people forget that the head of the Church is Christ. They get caught up in the interpretation of rules, in pleasing everyone and avoiding conflict, in trying to reconcile the Faith with the ways of secular society. The teaching of Christ cannot be interpreted so as to approve of homosexual civil unions, nor of homosexual sexual acts at all:

“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, Tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved…. Homosexual persons are called to chastity.” (CCC 2357, 2359)

Christ ate and drank with sinners — so as to correct them. When our Lord encountered the woman caught in adultery, He warned her “Go, and now do not choose to sin anymore.” (Jn 8:11). When speaking to unrepentant sinners, such as the scribes and Pharisees, or those who bought and sold in the temple, Jesus spoke harshly. But most Bishops today refuse to imitate Christ in His just anger at unrepentant sin. Here is a summary of my posts on homosexuality, which review the teaching of Christ and His Church on this particular type of sin.

There are several grave problems with the Cardinal’s decision:

1. grave scandal to the faithful
2. the harm to the diocese, by in effect setting a precedent that the other priests must follow
3. the implied rejection of Canons 915 and 916 (on who may receive Communion)
4. the harm to the Church as a whole
5. grave doctrinal error

1. The Cardinal’s approval of the election to the parish Council of a homosexual who is openly living in sin with another man, in a civil union, constitutes the grave sin of scandal against the faithful. Scandal occurs when a person’s words or actions have a particular type of harmful consequence, by setting a bad example, or by leading other persons into sin or into errors on matters of faith or morals.

His approval of this man’s election suggests to the faithful that persons who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” may hold offices in the Church, may do so without signing the Profession of Faith, and without accepting the Church’s teaching on grave matters of morality. His approval further suggests that persons who are fully aware of Church teaching on grave matters of morality may violate that teaching deliberately and continually, without repentance, and yet still participate in the life of the parish without reservation or restraint. His approval even suggests that the Church might one day change Her teaching against homosexuality and homosexual acts.

Now it does not matter, for the sin of scandal, whether the Cardinal would or would not agree with the grave errors that are suggested by his words and actions. For example, suppose that a priest lives alone in a rectory, and that he allows a young attractive woman to sleep and live at the rectory for several days. Even if the priest is not sleeping with the woman, and no grave sins are committed between them, the priest still sins by scandalizing the faithful. He sets a bad example because he presents the appearance of sinning.

The proof that the faithful have been scandalized is seen in many comments reported by the press or stated online, in which people see this action as a step in the direction of eventual approval for homosexuality and homosexual unions.

Cardinal Schönborn has committed an objective mortal sin by scandalizing the faithful, worldwide, on the subject of homosexuality, civil unions, and the necessity to repent from actual mortal sin in order to be a faithful Christian.

2. The Cardinal’s approval of the election of a homosexual in a civil union, of a man who is fully aware that his actions are objective mortal sin and who is unrepentant, will have a negative effect on the diocese and on all parishes in the nation. Anyone who is committing objective mortal sin without repentance will be free to seek and hold any position in the parish. No priest will be able to oppose them, because of the bad example set by the Cardinal’s decision.

The priest who opposed Stangl’s election was forced to resign from the parish; the Cardinal refused to even meet with the priest. The Cardinal praised a man who was unrepentant from mortal sin, and who remained unrepentant even after meeting with a Cardinal. The Cardinal had nothing positive to say about the priest. The message to priests in the diocese is clear: you may not oppose persons who are obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin; you may not refuse to give them roles of leadership in the parish.

Worse still, this approval suggests to the priests of the diocese that they may not preach against homosexuality or civil unions. For the Cardinal praised a man who is an active homosexual and who is in a civil union, and the Cardinal approved of his position on the parish council. In effect, this man has become the de facto head of that council. For no one else on the council has the approval and praise of the Cardinal. And the priest of the parish was forced to resign when he objected to this man’s election. Other priests and other members of the council will not be able to oppose him on any matter.

3. The Cardinal’s approval of Stangl’s election, and the Cardinals unmitigated praise of this unrepentant sinner, imply a rejection of Canons 915 and 916 (on who may receive Communion).

Canon 915 REQUIRES that Communion be refused to persons who are obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin. Such persons are publicly unworthy (as the Eastern Code phrases the same law).

But no one will be able to refuse to give Communion to Stangl, despite his public unworthiness, because of the Cardinal’s approval. No one will be able to refuse to give Communion to any homosexual who is living in sin with his or her lover, even openly in a civil union, because of the Cardinal’s approval. No one will be able to refuse to give Communion to anyone obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin because of the clear example set by the Cardinal of praise and approval for a man who is, beyond any doubt and in full view of the whole world, obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.

Canon 916 REQUIRES that persons who are conscious of grave sin (manifest or not) refrain from presenting themselves for Communion. But the Cardinal has given his approval and praise to a man who the Cardinal says is “fully aware” of Church teaching on homosexuality and who continues to choose to live contrary to that teaching. This man is, according to the Cardinal, conscious of grave sin. And yet he presents himself as a leader in the parish, and the Cardinal not only approves of him for this leadership role, he also publicly praises him without any reservation or qualification.

This man will present himself for Communion, committing a sacrilege, contrary to Canon 916, and the priest or deacon or extraordinary minister will not deny him, contrary to Canon 915.

Worse still, other persons, seeing this bad example, will also present themselves for Communion. Heterosexual couples living in sin, divorced and remarried couples (without an annulment), persons using contraception, persons who are unrepentant from the sin of abortion, pro-abortion politicians and voters, and everyone who rejects the definitive teaching of the Church, will now be able to point to the decision of a Cardinal concerning a persons who utterly rejects the teaching of the Faith on a grave matter of morality. They will be able to present themselves for Communion, and to hold offices in the Church, despite their rejection of the Church as their Teacher.

4. The grave harm to the Church of the Cardinal’s words and actions is incalculable. His bad example harms the whole Church, worldwide.

The only remedy would be a new Pope, one who will speak out against grave sin and grave doctrinal error, promptly and strongly, and who will take action against persons obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin and against wolves in sheep’s clothing such as Cardinal Schönborn.

5. Grave Doctrinal Error

Doctrinal error can be expressed by words or by actions. The Cardinal has expressed grave doctrinal error in both ways.

“Thus there are many parish councilors whose lifestyle does not in every way conform to the ideals of the Church. In view of the life-witness that each of them gives taken as a whole, and their commitment to the attempt to live a life of faith, the Church rejoices in their efforts. She does not thereby call the validity of her ideals into question.

“In the small community of Stützenhofen, which I hold in great esteem, there is lively participation in Church life even in the younger generation. A sign of this is the high turnout the parish council elections. The formal errors which have come to light in that election do not call the results of the election itself (in which the youngest candidate, Florian Stangl, received the most votes) into question.

“I was able to have a personal conversation with Herr Stangl, and was deeply impressed by his faithful disposition, his humility, and the way in which he lives his commitment to service. I can therefore understand why the inhabitants of Stützenhofen voted so decidedly for his participation in the parish council.” Full Statement

The “formal errors” of the election include the failure of the candidates to sign the Profession of Faith required of all who hold any office in the Church. This error is not merely formal, as proven by the fact that Mr. Stangl does not adhere to the teachings of the Church. He obviously does not agree with this portion of the Profession of Faith:

“With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

“I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.” [Ad Tuendam Fidem]

The Cardinal is also quoted as saying that “This man is at the right place” in his life [source].

In a subsequent sermon, the Cardinal spoke further about the case, affirming the teaching of the Church against homosexuality, but then undermining that teaching in his next breath:

“During the homily, Cardinal Schönborn noted that the Church’s teachings on sexuality are part of ‘the Creator’s master plan, ‘ in which ‘sexual union only corresponds to the order of creation when it is embedded in a marriage between a man and a woman. ‘

“But he acknowledged that many people ‘don’t live according to the master plan ‘ – possibly because ‘it was not presented or taught to them as a genuine possibility, ‘ or because they ‘honestly believed that they were simply unable to follow God’s master plan. ‘ ” [CNA]

In his sermon, the Cardinal also stated that Stangl is “fully aware of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality”. And yet the man continues to live in contradiction to that teaching, with full deliberation. This implies that Stangl is committing actual mortal sins: with full knowledge and full deliberation, he chooses acts that are gravely immoral, without repentance. And yet the Cardinal praised this man, calling him faithful and humble.

The Cardinal’s words and actions imply the following grave errors:

a. that the grave sins of Stangl are merely differences in lifestyle;

b. that the grave sins of homosexual acts and a homosexual civil union merely fall short of the “ideals” of the Church, as if these were imperfections, or venial sins, and not “acts of grave depravity”;

c. that persons can live in a way that fundamentally contradicts the plan of God for sexuality, and still be treated as full members of the Church, even taking roles of leadership in the Church;

d. that the mere “attempt to live a life of faith” is sufficient for salvation, even when the individual is unrepentant from actual mortal sin;

e. that the “life-witness” of a person’s life, “taken as a whole”, is sufficient for the state of grace, contrary to the teaching of Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor (n. 65). This error sometimes uses the term ‘fundamental option’ to describe the idea that the whole of a person’s life can justify their soul, despite unrepentant actual mortal sin.

f. that the Church “rejoices” in the lives of persons who are unrepentant from grave sin;

g. that agreement with, and the signing of, the Profession of Faith is not a requirement for holding an office in the Church — in contradiction to the decisions of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI;

h. that the Church can approve of homosexual civil unions;

i. that a person can be faithful, even if he is fully aware of Church teaching on the grave immorality of an act, and yet continues to commit that act without repentance’;

j. that persons “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” may be admitted to holy Communion;

k. that priests who object to these grave sins are unfit for their office.

To the contrary, Christ teaches:

{5:20} For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

{5:27} You have heard that it was said to the ancients: ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
{5:28} But I say to you, that anyone who will have looked at a woman, so as to lust after her, has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
{5:29} And if your right eye causes you to sin, root it out and cast it away from you. For it is better for you that one of your members perish, than that your whole body be cast into Hell.
{5:30} And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it away from you. For it is better for you that one of your members perish, than that your whole body go into Hell.

{7:20} “But,” he said “the things which go out from a man, these pollute a man.
{7:21} For from within, from the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
{7:22} thefts, avarice, wickedness, deceitfulness, homosexuality, an evil eye, blasphemy, self-exaltation, foolishness.
{7:23} All these evils proceed from within and pollute a man.”

And the Holy Spirit teaches:

[2 Corinthians]
{12:21} If so, then, when I have arrived, God may again humble me among you. And so, I mourn for the many who sinned beforehand, and did not repent, over the lust and fornication and homosexuality, which they have committed.

{5:13} For you, brothers, have been called to liberty. Only you must not make liberty into an occasion for the flesh, but instead, serve one another through the charity of the Spirit.
{5:14} For the entire law is fulfilled by one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
{5:15} But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you are not consumed by one another!
{5:16} So then, I say: Walk in the spirit, and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.
{5:17} For the flesh desires against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. And since these are against one another, you may not do whatever you want.
{5:18} But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
{5:19} Now the works of the flesh are manifest; they are: fornication, lust, homosexuality, self-indulgence,
{5:20} the serving of idols, drug use, hostility, contentiousness, jealousy, wrath, quarrels, dissensions, divisions,
{5:21} envy, murder, inebriation, carousing, and similar things. About these things, I continue to preach to you, as I have preached to you: that those who act in this way shall not obtain the kingdom of God.

{1:24} For this reason, God handed them over to the desires of their own heart for impurity, so that they afflicted their own bodies with indignities among themselves.
{1:25} And they exchanged the truth of God for a lie. And they worshipped and served the creature, rather than the Creator, who is blessed for all eternity. Amen.
{1:26} Because of this, God handed them over to shameful passions. For example, their females have exchanged the natural use of the body for a use which is against nature.
{1:27} And similarly, the males also, abandoning the natural use of females, have burned in their desires for one another: males doing with males what is disgraceful, and receiving within themselves the recompense that necessarily results from their error.
{1:28} And since they did not prove to have God by knowledge, God handed them over to a morally depraved way of thinking, so that they might do those things which are not fitting:
{1:29} having been completely filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness; full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, spite, gossiping;
{1:30} slanderous, hateful toward God, abusive, arrogant, self-exalting, devisers of evil, disobedient to parents,
{1:31} foolish, disorderly; without affection, without fidelity, without mercy.
{1:32} And these, though they had known the justice of God, did not understand that those who act in such a manner are deserving of death, and not only those who do these things, but also those who consent to what is done.

The words and actions of Cardinal Schönborn are contrary to the teachings of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and contrary to the teachings of Christ.

This case is much like the case of Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, who lost his priestly faculties essentially because he refused to give Communion to a publicly unworthy person, a homosexual living with her lover. In both cases, the decision of the Bishop scandalized faithful priests and laypersons. In both cases, the Bishop spoke with great affection toward unrepentant homosexuals, and acted with callous contempt for faithful priests. It is stupefying that, when Bishops and Cardinals must choose between supporting active unrepentant homosexuals, and supporting their own priests, some are choosing the homosexuals, even to the extent that the priests are forced out of their ministry.

The great apostasy is exceedingly close. We are on its very threshold. It expect that it will begin later this very year (2012). And some Cardinals and Bishops will apostatize, with many of the laity.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic moral theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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2 Responses to Cardinal Schönborn’s grave sin of scandal

  1. John Platts says:

    I actually agree that Cardinal Schönborn did the wrong thing and Fr. Gerhard Swierzek did the right thing in this case. Cardinal Schönborn, Florian Stangl, and everyone else will be judged by God when they die.

    In contrast to the scandal of Cardinal Schönborn, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska has set a good example by denying communion to pro-choice politicians and excommunicated Catholics, by supporting the just discrimination (but not unjust discrimination) of homosexuals, by only allowing boys to altar serve in the parishes of his diocese, and by automatically excommunicating by extrasynodal legislation Catholics of his diocese members of Call to Action, Planned Parenthood, Catholics for a Free Choice, Society of St. Pius X, Hemlock Society, and freemasonry.

    Can the Pope excommunicate Cardinal Schönborn, remove him from the college of Cardinals, and/or remove him from his position as Archbishop of Vienna as a result of this scandal? If so, should Cardinal Schönborn be excommunicated, removed from the College of Cardinals, and/or removed from his position as Archbishop?

    Can the Holy See excommunicate Florian Stangl and/or remove him from the parish council of his parish? Should the Holy See excommunicate Florian Stangl and/or remove him from the parish council?

    • Ron Conte says:

      If the Cardinal were guilty of heresy, then (theoretically) he could be excommunicated. If he were guilty of bad judgment, then he could not be. A person can only be excommunicated if there is objective grave sin; nothing less. Florian Stangl is automatically excommunicated for heresy; he does not believe the teaching of the Church on grave matters of morals. It is in fact the rule of the Church that all persons who hold Church office must agree to and sign the Profession of Faith. Stangl does not agree and did not sign. Therefore, he illicitly holds office.

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