On the official website of the Archdiocese of Vienna, Austria – whose reigning archbishop is Cardinal Christoph Schönborn – two different articles, though not explicitly related to one another, will likely be of great importance for Catholics in the world today.
First, there is to be found the report that Pope Francis himself has just written a supportive letter to Cardinal Schönborn on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as a bishop. Francis praises this cardinal for his leading the Austrian Bishops’ Conference as its President “in a praiseworthy manner” and for his “concordance of word and work” that is so manifest in his personal witness. The pope also highlights that Cardinal Schönborn in his office as archbishop – and especially in his “care for the Sacred Doctrine” – is notably attentive that the sheep entrusted to him may “follow the path which you [Schönborn] show them with help of your words and your example.”
In the midst of such praise, however, another post on the same official website of Cardinal Schönborn seems to throw some doubt upon the assurance that this cardinal is leading his sheep in the right direction and for the right reasons. That is to say, his own website has now published an article about a theologian, Professor Gunter Prüller-Jagenteufel, who recently presented a strong attack on those Catholics who are at all critical of the “Gender Theory.” The Viennese Professor Prüller-Jagenteufel had just helped to organize a conference from 22 to 25 September 2016 at the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Vienna about the Gender Theory, and he afterwards gave an interview to the Austrian Bishops’ news agency Kathpress.at (whose own article is the same as the one on Schönborn’s website). According to Schönborn’s website, this theologian
criticizes the “anti-genderism,” which is widely spread within ecclesial circles, for its unacceptable generalizations, which are: that gender [or sex? – Geschlecht] is merely a social construction; that heterosexual relationships shall be dissolved and the traditional family destroyed.
The website further reports on the claims of this Austrian theologian and professor, as follows: “These often intentional misunderstandings and attacks against the purported ‘left-wing’ movement, which itself comes out of feminism, are in themselves ‘highly ideological’.” Prüller-Jagenteufel is also being quoted here as saying that “gender aims at equality and not at a leveling down.” In his eyes, therefore, it is wrong to disavow the whole Gender-Theory movement.
In summing up the discussions from his own 22-25 September conference, Prüller-Jagenteufel says that many people claim that those who support the gender theory want “to create a new man,” just as Marxism strove to do. Interestingly in this context, he explicitly makes a demeaning comment on Poland and on Hungary – two prominently earnest countries which still try to resist the implementation of the gender theory in their own beset homelands.
According to Schönborn’s website, Prüller-Jagenteufel just intends to “deconstruct” certain (unspecified) roles for men and women, but, purportedly, not to destroy them. Summing up the theologian’s ideas, the article supportively says:
It is mostly about questioning labellings and about making individual freedom more possible as to how we lead our own lives. Additionally, ambiguities that come to us through trans-and-intersexuality are only now being better perceived by us today – contrary to earlier times.
Prüller-Jagenteufel then also speciously insists upon the fact that both man and woman are made in the likeness of God and that this fact should have (again unspecified) consequences upon our ways of thinking. In this context, he therefore says, according to the article: “There is a reason why Pope Francis just recently initiated a commission studying the history of the female deaconate.” It is also worthwhile noting in this context that this theologian teaches theology at the University of Vienna and thus has his license to teach theology from Cardinal Schönborn himself.
Under the guidance of the president of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Schönborn himself, the Austrian news agency Kathpress.at had also additionally published an article on 23 September concerning the above-mentioned conference about the gender theory. In this article, several feminists who spoke at this conference are quoted as promoting the idea of a feminist theology and further promoting the influence of women in general within the Church. They also discredit the gathering resistance against the gender ideology and compare “anti-Genderism” with “other right-wing populist movements.”
With just these few statements to consider and to reflect upon, a Catholic can easily recognize that the Viennese Archdiocese is here giving inordinate scope to a strong undermining of those orthodox Catholic prelates and laymen – such as Cardinal Robert Sarah and Cardinal Carlo Caffarra – who try to defend the traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and the family in its entirety. It sheds additional light upon what Cardinal Schönborn is progressively promoting, not just allowing, in his own diocese. Thus, it seems doubtful to say that he is leading his sheep in the right direction, although that is the express opinion of the pope.