200 Years Behind the Times (from the BBC website)

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini has described the Roman Catholic Church as being “200 years behind” the times.

The cardinal died on Friday, aged 85.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera has published his last interview, recorded in August, in which he said: “The Church is tired… our prayer rooms are empty.”

Martini, once tipped as a future pope, urged the Church to recognise its errors and to embark on a radical path of change, beginning with the Pope.

Thousands of people have been filing past his coffin at Milan’s cathedral, where he was archbishop for more than 20 years.

The cardinal, who had retired from the post in 2002, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, is to be buried on Monday.

Martini, a popular figure with liberal stances on many issues, commanded great respect from both Pope John Paul II and his successor Pope Benedict XVI.

The cardinal – a member of the Jesuit religious order – was often critical in his writings and comments on Church teaching, says the BBC’s David Willey in Rome.

He was a courageous and outspoken figure during the years he headed Europe’s largest Catholic diocese, our correspondent says.

Cardinal Martini gave his last interview to a fellow Jesuit priest, Georg Sporschill, and to a journalist at the beginning of August when he knew his death was approaching.




Cardinal Martini was a renowned academic and biblical scholar, as well as a prolific author of popular books on religion.

But it is highly unusual for a leading member of the Catholic hierarchy openly to challenge Church teaching – or rather to criticise the way in which the Church often expresses its teaching with negatives and prohibitions rather than encouragement to believers.

Pope Benedict is now faced with a difficult choice: whether or not to attend Cardinal Martini’s funeral in Milan on Monday – which many leading Catholics say would be a powerful affirmation of Church unity.

The Pope has rarely awarded red hats to Catholic leaders of any nation who dare to question traditional doctrine.

The cardinal had returned to Italy from Jerusalem, where he had settled on retirement in 2002 to continue his biblical studies.

Catholics lacked confidence in the Church, he said in the interview. “Our culture has grown old, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our religious rites and the vestments we wear are pompous.”

Unless the Church adopted a more generous attitude towards divorced persons, it will lose the allegiance of future generations, the cardinal added. The question, he said, is not whether divorced couples can receive holy communion, but how the Church can help complex family situations.

And the advice he leaves behind to conquer the tiredness of the Church was a “radical transformation, beginning with the Pope and his bishops”.

“The child sex scandals oblige us to undertake a journey of transformation,” Cardinal Martini says, referring to the child sex abuse that has rocked the Catholic Church in the past few years.

He was not afraid, our correspondent adds, to speak his mind on matters that the Vatican sometimes considered taboo, including the use of condoms to fight Aids and the role of women in the Church.

In 2008, for example, he criticised the Church’s prohibition of birth control, saying the stance had likely driven many faithful away, and publicly stated in 2006 that condoms could “in some situations, be a lesser evil”.

Corriere Della Sera plans to give a copy of his last book entitled Speak


Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

3 responses to “200 Years Behind the Times (from the BBC website)

  1. What a courageous man – RIP



    Often considered to be one of the more liberal members of the College of Cardinals, and prelates in general, he achieved widespread notice for his writings, earning him popularity in some circles, criticism in others. On occasion Martini’s views proved to be controversial, thus bringing him comparatively large amounts of media coverage.

    In 2000 he criticized the declaration Dominus Iesus and described the document as “theologically rather dense, peppered with quotations, and not easy to grasp”

    In April 2006, in response to a very specific question from physician and politician Ignazio Marino, director of the transplant centre of the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Martini opined that in certain cases, the usage of condoms might be allowable stating, “The use of condoms can, in certain situations, be a lesser evil”.

    He stressed the particular case of married couples where one has HIV or AIDS.But he quickly noted that it’s one thing the principle of the lesser evil in such cases, and quite another the subject who has to convey those things publicly, thus it is not up to the Church authorities to support condom use publicly, because of “the risk of promoting an irresponsible attitude”. The Church is more likely to support other morally sustainable means, such as abstinence.On another occasion the Cardinal stated that “I believe the Church’s teaching has not been expressed so well… I am confident we will find some formula to state things better, so that the problem is better understood and more adapted to reality,” earning him a reputation for having a more liberal stance toward contraception.

    Beginning of human life
    Martini’s position on the start of a distinct human life during the fertilization of oocytes was rebuked by certain Vatican officials.Some of his other positions may have frustrated Church leaders, but official response from the Roman Curia was limited.

    Right to refuse treatments
    Cardinal Martini, speaking about the right to die debate said that “terminally ill patients should be given the right to refuse treatments[specify] and that the doctors who assist them should be protected by law.”It is traditional Catholic moral teaching that one is morally bound to apply “ordinary” treatments, but not “extraordinary” treatments.The distinction was the basis of the declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1980 that, “when inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted.”The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states: “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate”.Martini, in fact, refused medical treatment[as his illness advanced.

    Collegiality of bishops
    He called for greater collegiality in the governance of the Church and urged continued reflection on the structure and exercise of ecclesiastical authority.
    Role of women in the Church
    He demonstrated a desire for further theological enquiry on issues relating to human sexuality and the role of women in the Church. He expressed support for the ordination of female deacons.

    Sacramentum Caritatis
    In March 2007 he openly criticised the attitude of the Church authorities, whilst speaking at the basilica of the Nativity to a congregation of over 1,300 visitors, he remarked that “The Church does not give orders.” Martini stated that “It is necessary to listen to others, and when speaking to use terms that they understand.” These remarks came days after Pope Benedict XVI published the 140 page apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis. Some interpreted this document as being an attempt to influence Catholic politicians, particularly at a time when Italian government was trying to pass legislation offering legal recognition of same sex unions.

    Social work
    Furthermore, he promoted combating social ills, often calling for greater action to be taken in assisting socially underprivileged. Martini wished that the Church rekindle a “burning fire in the heart” of men and women today.


  3. Pingback: Feeling-good, search for hapiness and the church « Christadelphians : Belgian Ecclesia Brussel – Leuven

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