On April 14, 2019, Cardinal Schönborn of the Archdiocese of Vienna gave a televised interview with the ORF (in German) with Gaby Konrad and Gerold Riedmann. Here the translation of the part where he was asked about the ordination of women. Surprisingly, but perhaps because he was asked more insistently, he seems to more explicitly advocate the ordination of women as deaconesses than he does the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Latin Church in the same interview, though he certainly suggest support for the latter as well.
Gaby Konrad: In your estimation, from a closer perspective, has he (the pope) gotten mired down with his reforms?
Schönborn: That depends on what one expected of him. In my estimation, there is a group in the Church and in Society, for whom the pope has already gone to far. These are the in some respects very severe critics from the traditionalist camp, who suspect nothing good. There are those who anticipated enormous reforms, which the pope cannot deliver.
Gerold Riedmann: Because the system resists too strongly?
Schönborn: No, because here one has problems with doctrine. These are the well-known topics, are they not? There are still no women bishops, still no women priests.
Gerold Riedmann: Why?
Schönborn: Exactly. This question was inevitable. That’s why I posed it myself.
Why? Because we have a two thousand year old tradition, which not even the pope can set aside at breakfast with a stroke of the pen; that requires developments, and developments, in a institution as large as the Catholic Church, require a long time. We dare not forgot, the protestants have had women pastors for less than a hundred years, among the protestants for less than a hundred years, the Orthodox by no means. The usage has now developed among the Anglicans, and always with enormous controversy. So someone who expected that Pope Francis would clarify this question now, is of course disappointed.
But if one looks at what this pope has already achieved, well just look at it. The climate Summit of Paris, we are allowed to say it, the climate Summit of Paris would finally not have came about, if the pope had not massively fought for it. Those are, for me, the immense reforms that this pope is driving. The Amazon Synod, that is now coming in October.
Gaby Konrad: We intended to come to that topic. But perhaps before that to the issue of women. You yourself said, for you, in your opinion the issue of women is decisive for the Church’s future. If we now make a thought experiment, and the pope would ask you for your personal opinion, at a Council, and would ask you, what do you personally believe? Can women become priests? What would you answer?
Schönborn: I would say, that at any rate women need a greater place in the Church. That is, in many respects that have more place, since in most cases there are more women in the Church than men. Aside from those who are at the altar.
Gaby Konrad: In the pews?
Schönborn: Sorry, what's that?
Gaby Konrad: In the pews there are more women than men.
Schönborn: There are more women than men sitting in the pews. That's a fact. In our parish councils are 52% women. But women are less represented in positions of leadership. That is, incidentally, a problem in all religions. There was recently a meeting of representatives of the religions in Austria with the President of Austria, and the representatives sat in the first row, and those they had brought with them in the second and third row, and in my speech of thanks I said to the president: “if I look at the first row, I get the impression that the second half, or the other half of humanity is missing.” Among the Muslims, the Jews, the Buddhists, the Christians, everywhere there only men sitting in the first row. I think we have world-wide a problem or topic: women in the religions.
Doris Wagner, in the movie “female pleasure”, of which I only saw the trailer and read about it… it concerned the fate of five women, five religions, five cultures. This is a world-wide topic, the Catholic Church in many respect is not coming in last in this movement.
Gaby Konrad und Riedmann simultaneously: But?
Gerold Riedmann: I only wanted to take up her question. Can women become priests? That is one question. You answered somewhat evasively. Asked again: should women become priests?
Schönborn: I have said very clearly. I wish that they could become deaconesses. That is the degree of ordination that they also historically have had. Let us try and see [Schönborn spoke this sentence in English]. Ok? Let’s see.
Gerold Riedmann: That means?
Gaby Konrad: Women have to first prove themselves?
Gaby Konrad: Women have to first prove themselves as deaconesses, and then we’ll see how it further goes.
Schönborn: No. Institutions don’t work at the touch of a button. That’s a fact. And before we get our nose bloody running into the limits that exist, let’s see what is possible. I ask myself again and again, why women have until now had now place in Vatican diplomacy. There is no reason, why women cannot be in all possible positions of leadership – in our diocese, women are as a matter of course in all possible positions of leadership. Let's start there.