The case for and against Christoph Cardinal Schönborn…

… is made by John Allen, Jr., who has been profiling some of the “most frequently touted papabili, or men who could be pope”:

The case for Schönborn is easy to make.

First up is raw intellectual chops. Schönborn is a polyglot, comfortable discussing complex points in multiple languages, and a genuine scholar in his own right. During last fall’s synod, I asked another cardinal why people seemed drawn to Schönborn, and his answer was simple: “Intelligence attracts.”

Second, Schönborn is an intellectual protégé of Benedict XVI, so much so that over the years he’s almost been seen as the pope’s “beloved son,” but he also has keenly pastoral side and a capacity for nuance.

For instance, Schönborn has dropped hints that he’d be open to considering the case for married clergy, and given his patient reaction to the priests’ uprising in Austria, it’s unlikely that his first response as pope to any form of disagreement would be to crack heads. …

Fourth, Schönborn was an apostle of what’s now known as the new evangelization, meaning the effort to relight the missionary fires of the faith in the heart of the secularized West, well before there was even a word for it. He’s written widely on the subject, and at the pastoral grassroots he’s encouraged the growth of a variety of spiritual and missionary movements in Austria, many of them appealing in a special way to youth. …

The case against Schönborn, however, also has some fairly compelling elements.

For one thing, some cardinals may look at the fractious situation in Austrian Catholicism and say to themselves: “This guy has had 18 years to get the situation under control, and it hasn’t happened. What reason do we have to believe he’d fare any better as pope?”

Whether that’s a fair assessment or not, it’s likely to weigh on some cardinals’ minds.

Second, Schönborn’s tiff with Sodano may help him in terms of public opinion, but it could still be a liability in the College of Cardinals. Not only is Sodano still the dean of the college and an influential figure, but other cardinals may wonder if Schönborn might be inclined to toss them under the bus if the stars aligned that way.

Third, Schönborn is certainly a well-known figure in Vatican circles, but he’s never actually worked inside the system in Rome. For cardinals seeking someone who can push through a serious reform of the bureaucracy, that may be a question mark.

Fourth, despite Schönborn’s considerable savvy, he occasionally has a penchant for saying or doing things that strike some people as ill-advised.

Read the entire piece. Of all the Cardinals, I am most familiar with the writings of Schönborn (or Schoenborn), in part because of his involvement with the Catechism and YOUCAT, but mostly because many of his books have been translated and published by Ignatius Press—close to twenty, by my count. Some of his work is, in my estimation, quite brilliant, such as his book of Christology, God Sent His Son, and he has an obvious gift for explaining, presenting, and articulating Catholic doctrine and practice in accessible, popular form, as in his four Living the Catechism of the Catholic Church books. However, man does not live by bread alone, and popes are not elected on writings alone—far from it. But it is somewhat surprising how little attention Schönborn has been receiving in the English-speaking world (based on my reading of numerous pieces in secular papers and magazines). Then again, I think this is going to be the spring of surprises, so it is in keeping with recent and current events in the Church.

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About Carl E. Olson 1190 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.