Cardinal: God’s First Question Is Not About Sexual Orientation, But About Care for the Poor

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, center, with event organizer Gary Keszler to his immediate right

A cardinal has defended his participation in an AIDS fundraiser by suggesting the first question God asks is not about a person’s sexual orientation, but about how they treat other people.

Conservatives targeted Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna after the cardinal attended an HIV/AIDS fundraiser, “Believe Together,” hosted by the city’s cathedral and organized by LGBTQ activists.

Schönborn told the German magazine Die Furche that the event was focused on helping an AIDS hospice in South Africa, which he said primarily cares for heterosexual victims. But he acknowledged the close ties between homosexuality and AIDS, continuing:

“[W]orking with [gay activist] Gery Keszler is also a sign for me that we really need to work together for this help. Concern for AIDS sufferers was the focus of this night taking place a third time. I think that is a very right effort. I am very aware that the right way to deal with homosexuality is a big social and also a big church issue. Here I strongly advocate not looking first at the question of sexual orientation, but at human quality. The first question is: how are you with other people? And that’s the first question God asks us. Not the only one, but the first. The great gospel speech in Matthew does not ask about sexual orientation, but: I was hungry and you gave me food, and I was naked and you clothed me. This is how I see these fundraisers in the cathedral for AIDS relief.”

Cardinal Schönborn’s response should not be misunderstood. He is not suggesting, as some church leaders do, that sexual orientation should be downplayed or ignored. Schönborn is an ally. This AIDS fundraiser is the third Schönborn has hosted in Vienna’s cathedral, and he has spoken warmly of his friendship with Keszler. His repeated welcomes to LGBTQ people are evidence he recognizes the importance of sexual and gender identity in people’s lives. But without mitigating that importance, Schönborn can offer the credible reminder that what is most important to God, and therefore should be most important to us, is whether or not we have treated one another, especially the poor and oppressed, with great love.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 17, 2020

Related Articles

Novena News, “Austrian cardinal says Last Judgment about having fed hungry and clothed naked, not sexual orientation

La Croix International, “Candid cardinal looks back on pivotal Church issues of 2019

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