The last interview

VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who died Friday, was an eminent biblical scholar and former archbishop of Milan. As portrayed in the media, he was also the hierarchy’s most prominent liberal on a number of questions, including the church’s teaching on human sexuality. That reputation was reinforced over the weekend when the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera published the cardinal’s last interview, making headlines around the world (including here and here).

In the interview, granted less than a month before his death, the cardinal lamented that the church was “200 years behind” the times, with an “aged” culture enervated by its material wealth in Europe and America, and attached to “pompous” rites and externals, while suffering a lack of vocations and of “heroes” such as the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador.

Asked what the church could do to overcome these problems, Cardinal Martini recommended that Pope Benedict make unconventional appointments — “men close to the poorest people and surrounded by young people and who experience new things” — to key leadership posts in the Vatican.

The cardinal also said that the clerical sex abuse scandal should lead the pope and the hierarchy to take up a “radical path of change,” including rethinking unspecified elements of the church’s teaching on sexual morality, which the cardinal suggested now falls largely on deaf ears. He stressed the importance of ordinary Catholics knowing the Bible. And he argued for relaxing strictures against divorced and remarried persons receiving the Eucharist.

Catholics will differ over whether Cardinal Martini’s thinking on such matters was ahead of its time or representative of an era that has passed. But as attested by the tributes of the last few days — from Pope Benedict and other dignitaries, as well the ordinary mourners who filed past the cardinal’s body at the rate of 6,000 an hour — Cardinal Martini was a figure who commanded love and respect that transcended disagreements over even the most contentious issues.

7 Responses

  1. Cardinal Martini pointed toward changes that could be made on solid theological grounds. Cetainly, there’s nothing but amorphous “tradition” behind clerical celibacy in the Latin rite and the male-only clergy. the public protestations of John Paul the Great and Benedict to the contrary notwithstanding. Likewise regarding birth control.
    It is the very insistence on “tradition” to support what are extra-doctrinal matters that has lead many to abandon the Church.
    One old Scholastic argument in support of doctrines and practices, the “consensus gentium” or “the consensus of the faithful at large” has been abandoned in recent centuries. Clearly, the “consensus” among Catholics regarding birth control is at odds with “Humanae Vitae” and other papal pronouncements on the subject.

  2. He had his opinions and the Church has it was and structures which cannot be shifted because of an individual. The Church shall continue to maintain her status quo. May his soul rest in peace.

  3. As I understand it, the consensus gentium was never meant to make the Church a democracy (We are a monarchy, with Jesus as king and the Pope as the vicar). Rather, the consensus refers to teachings which have been consistently taught throughout the Church since its beginning, not how a particular generation feels about teachings. Unlike “sola scriptura” protestants, as Catholics we believe that there are three sources of infallible doctrine: Scripture, Tradition (not to be confused with tradition), and the Magisterium of the Church (the pope/bishops).

    Regarding specific teachings,there is very strong biblical proof, not to mention the proof of Tradition, for the male only priesthood. Regarding birth control if you haven’t read humanae vitae, I would encourage you to do so, because the philosophical argument set out by the magisterium is very good, although not infallible. There is also some support of that teaching in scripture and from Tradition (all Christians shared it until about 1920).

    As I understand it, there is no theological reason for celibacy (eastern rite Catholic priests and converted Anglican priests can be married, and there is biblical evidence for married priests), but as some one possibly discerning the priesthood, I think it is a pretty good idea. Priests really need to be free to do whatever they are called to do, be it moving between parishes, going to a bad part of town, or running a mission in a dangerous country. It would not be fair to a wife and kids to make them go along with that. It would also be exceedingly difficult to dedicate oneself fully to both vocations.

  4. Matt, well said. I agree fully with you. Also, Blessed John Paul II had said that the Catholic Church does not have the authority to ordain women as priests, as the ordination of priests was first instituted by the Lord Master Himself while He was on earth and in His divine wisdom, He had deliberately left out the ordination of women as priests. Therefore, the Church cannot now, unilaterally acting on its own volition, deviate from the example set, and which had been instituted as a Sacrament, by Christ Himself.

    Besides, when the priest says “This is my body” and “This is my blood” during the Eucharistic celebration, we believe that Christ Himself is present in the priest at that point of time and that it is the Lord Himself who is uttering those words (in the first person) that caused the bread and wine to miraculously transform into His sacred body and blood. If the priest were a woman, how can Jesus, being a man and a Son of God, be in a woman form? It would be worse if the woman priest were having her period. This is just a thought for us to consider.

  5. I believe he is the cardinal a few years ago was excited about the use of GMO food and bought into the thought it would feed the world! He was soo wrong and since some countries have banned it’s produce. (Why not when your food would be tainted with pesticides?)
    Is this what he meant when speaking of getting modern or with the times? May God have mercy on his soul!!!

  6. Something strange is going on at The Vatican. Why would Pope Benedict XVI have nothing but praise for a member of the hierarchy of Christ’s Church who does not ascent to that which The Catholic Church proposes to be true, thus creating chaos and confusion in Christ’s Church?

  7. Are you suggesting that Cardinal Martini’s dissenting from The Word of God is a Good thing? That one can command Love and respect while denying Christ, The Truth of Love, simultaneously?

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