RIP, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini

Two days ago, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Archbishop of Milan, Italy died at age 85 years. Many people liked to call him a “progressive” in the Church, and he was considered to have been a likely successor to Pope John Paul II in 2005, but his chances dimmed when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2002 and retired. He spent a lot of time in the Holy Land.

Martini was a Jesuit. The popular press is now making hay out of an interview with a fellow Jesuit, Fr. George Sporschill, called his “last interview,” two weeks before his death. It was published yesterday by the Corriere della Sera, a daily out of Milan. In the interview, Martini said that the Church was 200 years out of date, that she needed a radical conversion, and that the Word of God was a core aspect of that conversion. He was critical of the pomp and ritual of the Church at the expense of being out-of-touch with the lived realities of many men and women. He was also offering counsel to the Holy Father in indicating that consultors be sought out who were near the people and their needs. He called for a renewed understanding of the difficulties women with children experience when their husbands abandon them and they find another man to assist them in the raising to their children.

I have included a translation of the interview below. The original is in Italian, which I have also included so you may read it as it was spoken and recorded. (Martini, reportedly, read and approved the text.)

Before you begin reading, I might add that I am not necessarily endorsing what Martini states in its entirety, although I do think that his underlying concern is of great importance, and I applaud it.

For the Italian original, click on this link:

Here is my English translation of the above link:

 How do you see the situation of the Church?

The Church is tired, in prosperous Europe and in America. Our culture is aged, our Churches are grand, our religious houses are empty and the bureaucratic structures are expanding, our rites are pompous. Do these express who we are today?…. Prosperity burdens us. We find ourselves like the rich young man that went away when Jesus called him to become his disciple. I know we cannot leave everything easily. How much easier, though, is it to look for men who may be free and closer to our neighbors. Like Bishop Romero and the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. Where are the heroes who inspire us?  Under no circumstances should we limit ourselves to institutional bonds.

Who can help the Church today?

Fr. Karl Rahner liked to use the image of hidden embers beneath ashes. He saw in the contemporary Church so many ashes over the coals that often I am bombarded with a sense of powerlessness. How can one free the coals from the ashes to in such as way as to reinvigorate the fire of love? First, we must look for these coals. Where are individuals full of generosity like the Good Samaritan? Who have faith like the Roman centurion? Who have the enthusiasm of John the Baptist? Who dare new things like Paul? Who are faithful like Mary Magdalene? I would advise the Pope and the bishops to search for 12 persons (outside their own ranks)  for directive positions. Men who may be close to the poorest and who are surrounded by youth and who experience new things. We need to encounter with men who burn in such a way that the Spirit will be able to spread  everywhere.

What means do you advise against the Church’s weariness?

I would advise three strong ways. The first is conversion: the Church must recognize its errors and must travel a radical journey of change, beginning with the Pope and the bishops. The scandal of pedophilia impels us to undertake this journey of  conversion. The questions about sexuality and all the themes about the body are examples of this. They are important to everyone, at times too important. We must ask ourselves whether the people listen anymore to the Church’s counsel in sexual matters. Is the Church still a reference of authority in this area or only a caricature in the media? The second is the Word of God. The Second Vatican Council gave the Bible back to Catholics….. The Word of God is simple and searches a heart that listens… For whom are the sacraments? These are the third means of healing.  They are not meant for discipline; rather a help men in the moments of life and in the weakness of life. Does our bringing of the sacraments to men need a new strength? I am thinking of all the divorced and remarried couples, of the extended families. These people have a need for special protection… a woman abandoned by her husband and finds a new companion who cares for her and her three children.

What do you personally do? 

The Church is 200 years behind. Why does it not shake itself? Are we afraid? Fear instead of courage? However, faith is the foundation of the Church. Faith, fidelity, courage. I am old and sick and dependent on the help of others. The good people around me enable me to experience love. This love is stronger than the feeling of discouragement that I sometimes feel in encountering the Church in Europe. Love alone conquers weariness. I have a question for you that remains: What can you do for the Church?

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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