Catholic Cardinal Praises Eurovision Winner

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn congratulates Conchita Wurst.

BY Michael O'Loughlin

May 22 2014 12:54 PM ET

Christoph Schönborn (left) and Conchita Wurst

A Roman Catholic cardinal who has consistently urged the church to be more hospitable to LGBT people is offering praise for the drag performer who won a European song contest.

“As we all know, there is multicoloured variety in God’s garden. Not everyone who is born male feels he is a man and the same applies to women. Such people deserve the same respect that we all have a right to as human beings,” Austria’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn told Kathpress, a Catholic news service in his nation.

Schönborn was responding to Tom Neuwirth’s winning performance earlier this month at Eurovision as “Conchita Wurst.” (Neuwirth, by the way, identifies as a gay man, not a transgender woman.)

According to a translation in international Catholic news publication The Tablet, Schönborn, the Catholic archbishop of Vienna, said he was “glad that Tom Neuwirth had such success with his artistic creation Conchita Wurst and I will pray for him.”

The 69-year-old president of the Austrian Bishops Conference lamented that sexual minorities are exposed to bigotry and said tolerance means “respecting someone even if one does not share his or her views.”

Last year Schönborn suggested that same-sex relationships should be recognized by civil law, though he said the sacramental definition of marriage as one man and one woman should not change.

"There can be same-sex partnerships and they need respect, and even civil law protection,” he said in a lecture, as reported by The Tablet. “Yes, but please keep it away from the notion of marriage. Because the definition of marriage is the stable union between a man and a woman open to life.”

In 2012, Schönborn ordered a priest in Austria to recognize the election of an openly gay man to a parish council, overturning the priest’s decision to exclude the man from the advisory board.

The candidates for the board “witness the vitality of the Church. In their diversity, they reflect the diversity of today's way of life and faith,” Schönborn said.

Still, Schönborn’s spokesperson said that the cardinal’s views on marriage haven’t changed, recalling his 2012 words about “God’s plan.”

“A pathway to conversion and repentance is necessary for those who live in homosexual relationships. One must help them to see that their relationship is not God’s plan. We cannot change that plan but we can remember that God is infinitely merciful,” Schönborn said in 2012.

Follow Michael O’Loughlin on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

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