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The Schönborn Scandal

by Christopher A. Ferrara

On July 10, 2008 the German Catholic website,, reported the truly disgusting news that the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, “has recently bestowed a Pontifical decoration upon an Austrian socialist politician who has been leading in promoting abortion.”

On June 25, 2008, notes, Schönborn “decorated the socialistic deputy mayor of Vienna, Renate Brauner, with the Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great.” According to, the Order of Saint Gregory the Great was instituted by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831 for “gentlemen of proven loyalty to the Holy See” who “are deemed worthy to be honoured by a public expression of esteem on the part of the Holy See.”

First of all, one ought to presume, absent evidence to the contrary, that this papal honor, like so many others, was “approved” by the Pope via the usual paperwork emanating from the Vatican Secretary of State — which has also taken upon itself the task of “revising” papal remarks on pro-abortion politicians. (See my upcoming “Fatima Perspective” on this outrage.)

At any rate, there is no question that it was Schönborn who selected Brauner for the award and personally bestowed it upon her, for “alleged merits in the field of the Austrian health care system and for her collaboration with ecclesiastical institutions in that field.”

Brauner, of course, does not meet either of the criteria for membership in the Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory. She is neither a gentleman nor a Catholic loyal to the Holy See. Rather, as notes, she is “a well-known defender of abortion which the Second Vatican Council has called an ‘unspeakable crime.’”

For example, as reports, when the Austrian “right-wing” politician Herbert Haupt introduced legislation that would ban abortions of handicapped children after the first trimester of pregnancy, Brauner declared: “Hands off the abortion law!... I consider Haupt’s suggestion to reduce the period of the so-called eugenic indication, an attempt to call abortion into question. This becomes clear as Haupt challenges the exclusive responsibility of the woman to decide for or against an abortion.” And back in 2005 Brauner opined: “If we socialist women speak about lasting values, we mean lasting women’s values – abortion rights are part of it.”

As a notorious public promoter of “abortion rights,” Brauner is not only not a loyal Catholic, she is barred from receiving the sacraments under canon law and is subject to a decree of excommunication, which would only confirm her self-excommunication for complicity in the mass murder of Austrian children in the womb. And this is the woman on whom Schönborn has bestowed a papal honor intended for “gentlemen of proven loyalty to the Holy See.”

Is this some sort of sick joke? Or is it an act of deliberate ecclesiastical subversion by the Vienna Cardinal? I favor the latter conclusion, because, as points out, “This has already been the second time that Cardinal Schönborn has bestowed the Order of St. Gregory to a promoter of abortion [my emphasis]. In November 2006 he honoured Gertraude Steindl, the secretary general of the ‘Aktion Leben Österreich’ – an Austrian pregnancy centre,” which is co-financed by the Austrian Bishops’ Conference, even though “‘Aktion Leben’ is also defending the current Austrian abortion law” and provides pregnancy “consultations” which treat “the decision to abort [as] a legitimate outcome.”

Pope Benedict XVI has liberated the traditional Latin Mass and made numerous other moves in the direction of an ecclesial restoration after forty years of disastrous ecclesial “updating” in the name of Vatican II. But as we can see here, the “diabolical disorientation” in the Church is far from over.

Schönborn’s actions are intolerable. In the name of God, the bestowal of a papal honor — named after no less than Pope Saint Gregory the Great — upon the likes of Renate Brauner and Gertraude Steindl must be rescinded. Furthermore, on account of the scandal he has given, Schönborn is obliged to make reparation to the community of the faithful by way of apology and other concrete measures to affirm the Church’s infallible and irreformable teaching on the sanctity of life in the womb. If he fails to do so, the faithful should demand his removal from office.

The ball is in the papal court. But in the same court, sad to say, is the ever-present Vatican Secretary of State, ever-ready to compromise truth in favor of diplomacy, as the entire Fatima affair makes clear.