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05 Sep

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, his final interview, and a damning critique that has rocked the Catholic Church

 By Michael Day

One of Italy’s most revered cardinals has stunned the Catholic Church by
issuing a damning indictment of the institution from the grave, calling for its
“transformation”.

Hours after Milan’s former Archbishop, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, died on
Friday at the age of 85, the leading daily paper Corriere della Sera printed his
final interview, in which he attacks the Church – and by implication its current
leadership – for being “200 years out of date”.

“Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church
bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous,” the Cardinal
said. “The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting
from the Pope and the bishops. The paedophilia scandals oblige us to take a
journey of transformation.”

Church insiders believe he wished for the interview to be published following
his death.

Cardinal Martini, who was on the liberal wing of the church hierarchy, was
once tipped to succeed John Paul II as Pope. His chances of being elected fell
away when he revealed he was suffering from a rare form of Parkinson’s disease
and he retired as Archbishop in 2002. Instead, the ultra-conservative German
cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

The body of Cardinal Martini has been laid out in Milan cathedral since noon
on Saturday, with thousands of people coming to pay their last respects. His
funeral will take place there this afternoon.

The left-wing Mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, who recently angered church
authorities by recognising gay couples and providing them with the same rights
the city gives married couples, led the tributes to the dead Cardinal.
“Difficult times require words of wisdom and hope from great men,” he said.
“Carlo Maria Martini illuminated the way for the entire city, not just for part
of it. For this reason, today more than ever, Milan mourns its Archbishop”.

Cardinal Martini was noted for supporting the use of condoms, at least a
decade before the Vatican grudgingly accepted they might be acceptable in
certain situations to prevent the transmission of HIV. He also questioned the
Church’s line on gay relationships and divorce – calling on it to reconsider
what constituted a family in the 21st century or risk losing even more of its
flock.

Conservative voices in the Church tried to repair damage caused by Cardinal
Martini’s criticism. Marco Tarquinio, the editor of the bishops’ daily paper,
L’Avvenire, accused the mainstream press of distorting the Cardinal’s comments,
although he did not give specific examples.

“The attempts to distort and manipulate in an anti-ecclesiastical way the
Cardinal’s final hours on this earth are a bitter reminder of similar actions
against even the blessed John Paul II,” he said.

The suspicion – ever present in Italy – that the Vatican has tendrils
everywhere, even in the mainstream press, was heightened by the failure of the
article to appear on the Corriere della Sera website. Following inquiries by The
Independent, Corriere’s editor, Ferruccio de Bortoli, said there had been no
pressure to keep the article off the website. It was then published online
yesterday evening. Other leading newspapers failed to give the cardinals’
comments much coverage.

Robert Mickens, the Rome correspondent of The Tablet, called for Cardinal
Martini’s deathbed comments to be taken very seriously.

“They must be seen in the context of coming from a man who loved the Church
and who gave his life to the institution. He made a profound statement, which he
had already said many times to Benedict and John Paul II in private,” he
said.

Cardinal Martini caused controversy in his final days after refusing
artificial feeding, contravening church policy on end-of-life issues.

Mr Mickens said that although Cardinal Martini’s ideas had “zero support” in
the Vatican, he was revered by rank and file members. “The people in the
trenches looked up to him. He was a giant. We’re in a very conservative period.
But that won’t last forever. A whole generation have been inspired by Martini’s
writings. That will be his legacy.”

Cardinal Martini: A holy life

Carlo Maria Martini was born in Turin in 1927, entered the Society of Jesus
in 1944 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1952. His appointment as
Archbishop of Milan, Italy’s most important diocese, in 1980 was considered
highly unusual; Jesuits are not traditionally given bishop posts. He retired
from the post in 2002, the year he was diagnosed with a rare form of Parkinson’s
disease. He then moved to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem. He
passed away at the Jesuit-run Aloisianum College in Gallarate near
Milan.

ROME, Sept 1 (Reuters) – The former archbishop of Milan and  papal candidate Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini said the Catholic  Church was “200 years out of date” in his final interview before  his death, published on Saturday.

Martini, once favoured by Vatican progressives to succeed  Pope John Paul II and a prominent voice in the church until his  death at the age of 85 on Friday, gave a scathing portrayal of a  pompous and bureaucratic church failing to move with the times.

“Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and  the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks  are pompous,” Martini said in the interview published in Italian  daily Corriere della Sera.

“The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical  change, starting from the pope and the bishops. The paedophilia  scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation,” he said  in the interview.

In the last decade the Church has been accused of failing to  fully address a series of child abuse scandals which have  undermined its status as a moral arbiter, though it has paid  many millions in compensation settlements worldwide.

Martini, famous for comments that the use of condoms could  be acceptable in some cases, told interviewers the Church should  open up to new kinds of families or risk losing its flock.

“A woman is abandoned by her husband and finds a new  companion to look after her and her children. A second love  succeeds. If this family is discriminated against, not just the  mother will be cut off but also her children.”

In this way “the Church loses the future generation”,  Martini said in the interview, made a fortnight before he died.     The Vatican opposes divorce and forbids contraception in  favour of fidelity within marriage and abstinence without.

A liberal voice in the church, Martini’s chances of becoming  pope were damaged when he revealed he was suffering from a rare  form of Parkinson’s disease and he retired in 2002.

Pope John Paul II was instead succeeded in 2005 by Pope  Benedict XVI, a hero of Catholic conservatives who is known by  such critical epithets as “God’s rottweiler” because of his  stern stand on theological issues.

Martini’s final message to Pope Benedict was to begin a  shake up of the Catholic church without delay.

“The church is 200 years out of date. Why don’t we rouse  ourselves? Are we afraid?”

Martini was much loved and thousands paid their respects at  his coffin in Milan cathedral on Saturday.     (Reporting By Naomi O’Leary)

3 Responses to “Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, his final interview, and a damning critique that has rocked the Catholic Church”

  1. 1
    John McGlinn Says:

    The cardinal is correct, the Church is more than 200 years behind. Issues of birth control, same sex marriage and outdated positions on divorce and remarriage have already made its comments irrelevant in the global discourse. I love the tradition up until Emperor Constantine made it a state religion and the clergy donned the trappings of the imperial elite. When the church became institutionalized as a part of the ruling elite it began a downhill slide resulting in the reformation and aberrations in the message of Jesus which continue today. The Way of Jesus was characterized by Love, non exclusion and bias for the poor. I am a catholic today because of The Eucharist and the teachings of St. Francis which I find more in line with The Way than mainstream Catholic thought.

  2. 2
    John McGlinn Says:

    The cardinal is correct, the Church is more than 200 years behind. Issues of birth control, same sex marriage and outdated positions on divorce and remarriage have already made its comments irrelevant in the global discourse. I love the tradition up until Emperor Constantine made it a state religion and the clergy donned the trappings of the imperial elite. When the church became institutionalized it began a downhill slide resulting in the reformation and aberrations in the message of Jesus which continue today. The Way of Jesus was characterized by Love, non exclusion and bias for the poor. I am a catholic today because of The Eucharist and the teachings of St. Francis which I find more in line with The Way than mainstream Catholic thought.

  3. 3
    M McGlinn Sr Says:

    I will pray for his eternal soul. I’m sorry bhe was so lossed. But remember! Life is short — we all will die — GODS love is everlasting!!!

    Praise God

    Mike

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