The sadness of Cardinal Martini’s final disservice to the Church

Though I did not share Cardinal Martini’s liberal critique of the Church, which is so typical of a certain generation of Jesuits who are ideologically socialist,  I did admire the fact that his Lectio Divina in Milan Cathedral drew thousands of young people, and I myself benefited from his reflections on St. Paul. This is why I’m so sad that his last public act was a bitter, unbalanced interview that was imprudent, unjust, uncharitable and just plain wrong about the state of the Church.

Here is a translation of Cardinal Martine’s interview in Corriere della Sera

Father Georg Sporschill, a fellow Jesuit who interviewed him for Night Conversations in Jerusalem , and Federica Radice met Cardinal Martini on August 8: “A sort of spiritual testament. Cardinal Martini read and approved the text. ”

Q. How do you see the situation of the Church?

“The Church is tired in Europe and America. Our culture has aged, our Churches are large, our religious houses are empty [Protect the Pope comment: This was the conclusion of Blessed John Paul the Great's Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa. He wrote of the 'dimming of hope' and 'weariness' in the Church due to 'a kind of practical agnosticism and religious indifference whereby many Europeans give the impression of living without spiritual roots and somewhat like heirs who have squandered a patrimony entrusted to them by history.]

and the bureaucracy of the Church climbs higher, our rituals and our clothes are pompous. Do these things express what we are today? (…) The burden of care. We stand there like the rich young man who went away sad when Jesus called him to make him his disciple. I know that we can not leave it all with ease. [Cardinal Martini's advice appears to be that Catholics in the West should further sever their spiritual roots and  squander the patrimony entrusted to them by history.  He is hearkening back to the failed experiment of the 1970's exemplified so disastrously by the Dutch Church]

But at least we can try to be people who are free and closer to our neighbours. [ What does this mean? The further secularisation of the Church?] As were Bishop Romero and the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. Where are our heroes to inspire us? For no reason, should we restrict them within the constraints of the institution ‘. [Here are a few modern Catholic heroes to inspire us - Dr Adrienne von Speyr, Chiara Lubich, Venerable Dorothy Day, St. Gianna Molla, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Marthe Robin, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Fulton Sheen, Luigi Giussani, Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, Jean Vanier, Kiko Arguello]

Q. Who can help the Church today?

“Father Karl Rahner willingly used the image of the embers hidden under ashes. I see in the Church today is so much ash over the coals that often a sense of helplessness comes over me. [Obviously Cardinal Martini and Rahner hadn't attended World Youth Day, or a papal Apostolic visitation, or International Eucharistic Congress. Maybe they  were both so depressed because of the sceptical, dissenting circles in which they mixed]

Can you remove the ash from the fire so as to revive the flame of love? For first we have to look for this fire. Where are the individuals full of generosity like the Good Samaritan? Who has faith like the Roman centurion? Who are enthusiastic as John the Baptist? Who dare to be new as Paul? Who are as faithful as Mary Magdalene? [If Cardinal Martini had stayed on a residential at Maryvale he would have met Catholics and Christians with all these characteristics].

I advice the Pope and to the bishops to seek twelve people who work outside the box to point the way. Men that are close to the poor and are surrounded by young and that experience things in a new way . We need the comparison with men who are passionate so that the spirit can spread everywhere. ” [Pope Benedict meets with these people who think and work outside the box every time the New Movements gather in Rome].

Q. What tools are recommended to fight against fatigue of the Church?

“I recommend three very strongly.
The first is the conversion. The Church must recognize her mistakes and must follow a path of radical change, starting with the Pope and the bishops. [Had Cardinal Martini been on Mars for the past 20 years? How else explain his ignorance of Pope John Paul's 'purification of memory' initiatives and his apologies, on behalf of the Church, for the mistakes of past generations of Catholics.  How can the Cardinal ignore the countless apologies made by Pope Benedict concerning the child abuse scandal and the reforms he has initiated throughout the Church? Like all liberals Cardinal Martini suffered from selective 'deafness' in order to keep a favourite stick with which to beat the pope and fellow bishops].

The scandals of paedophilia impel us to embark on a journey of conversion. The questions on sexuality and all issues involving the body are one example. These are important for everyone and sometimes maybe they are too important. We must ask ourselves if people still listen to the advice of the Church on sexual matters. Is the Church still an authority in this field of reference or only a caricature in the media? [Cardinal Martini makes the mistake here of ignoring St. Paul's advice about the need for the steadfast proclamation of the truth whether it is in season or out of season, welcome or unwelcome. (II Tim 4:2). The world doesn't want to hear God's plan for sexuality and marriage, doesn't want to hear that contraception and homosexuality make a meaningless nonsense of sexuality, but this doesn't mean that the Church must abandon the truth entrusted to her].

The second is the Word of God. The Second Vatican Council returned the Bible to Catholics. (…) Only those who feels in their heart that Word may be part of those who help the renewal of Church and will answer personal questions with a correct choice. The Word of God is simple and looks like a heart that listens companion (…). Neither the clergy nor the Church law can replace the interiority of man. All the external rules, laws, dogmas are data given to clarify the inner voice and the discernment of spirits. [Cardinal Martini makes the basic protestant mistake here, the Word of God is not simply revealed in Scripture. God's word is revealed in Scripture and the Tradition of the Catholic Church.  The Bible was entrusted by God to the Church, not to the solitary 'interiority of man'. We can only be sure we hear the Word of God with the guidance and teaching authority of the Church].

Q. What are the sacraments? These are the third instrument of healing. The sacraments are not a tool for discipline, but an aid to men in the moments of their journey and weaknesses of life. [ Sacraments are not a tool for discipline but they need the discipline of the regula fidei if they are to retain the meaning and truth given them by Christ].

We bring the sacraments to the people that need a new power? I think of all the divorced and remarried couples who create families. These need a special protection. The Church supports the indissolubility of marriage. It is a grace when a marriage and a family succeed (…).
The attitude we take toward extended families will determine the approach to the Church of the next generation of children. A woman was abandoned by her husband and finds a new partner that takes care of her and her three children. [ In this Cardinal Martini is raising a concern also voiced by Pope Benedict himself]. The second love succeeds. If this family is discriminated against, not only the mother is cut off but also his children. If parents feel outside the Church or do not feel the support, the Church will lose the next generation. Before Communion we pray: “Lord I am not worthy …” We know we are not worthy (…). Love is grace. Love is a gift. The question of whether the divorced can go to Communion should be reversed. How can the Church get to help with the power of the sacraments those who have complex family situations? ” [For all Cardinal Martini's pastoral concern, which we all share, he ignores the status of the first marriage. Is the fact that the the divorced and re-married individuals are still in a first valid sacramental marriage to be air brushed out of history as if it never happened? Is marriage according to Martini just a subjective feeling with no objective basis in reality?]

Q. What do you do personally?

The Church has been left behind for 200 years. [With these few words Cardinal Martini dismisses as outdated and irrelevant all our lives of discipleship and struggle for Christian perfection. His mistake is to make the world the measure of the Church, rather than God's Word entrusted to the Church the measure of the world. Is Maximilian Kolbe outdated and irrelevant? Or Edith Stein, or Titus Brandsma, or John Paul II, Mother Teresa?  Did Cardinal Martini think it better for the Church to catch up with Marie Stopes or Margaret Stanger, Peter Singer, or Peter Tatchell? This liberal obsession with modernity as the measure of the Church is absurd].

Why does she not shake? What are we afraid of? Fear instead of courage? [Who does Cardinal Martini think is afraid in the Church? Surely not Blessed John Paul II or Pope Benedict. Both of these pope's fearlessly faced down opposition, and hostile crowds. Countless ordinary Catholics courageously live out their faith every day in the face of secular hostility and intolerance. ] However, the faith is the foundation of the Church. The faith, confidence, courage. I am old and sick, and I depend on the help of others. The good people around me make me feel the love. This love is stronger than the feeling of distrust that I sometimes perceive in to the Church in Europe. Only love conquers fatigue. God is Love. I still have a question for you: what you can do for the Church? [Cardinal Martini is right to a degree here in stressing the primacy of love for the Church, but as a Scripture scholar he should have known that St John and St Paul always linked love and truth in an inseparable bond. Sadly, Cardinal Martin's last words were a disservice to the truth, and ultimately, a lack to love. ]

It’s important to bear in mind that Cardinal Martini made these comments when he was dying from Parkinson’s disease. Eternal rest grant to him O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace.


5 comments to The sadness of Cardinal Martini’s final disservice to the Church

  • spesalvi23

    I guess it wasn’t a surprise that Card. Ratzinger was elected as quickly as he was -> 4 voting sessions (?), considering Card. Martini was his direct antipole. I think it was clear to the electors that it was needed to continue the path of stability grounded on the Catechism which had been taken by JP2.

    The famous ‘dictatorship of relativism’ sermon backfired on Card. Ratzinger. He thought nobody would vote for him if he laid out the truth and the bitter pill in that way -> I guess, much to his shock and horror, he was wrong.

    As much as Card. Martini was respected as a person, his rather Euro-centric, Jesuit views of adaption to social trends are not based on true Catholic teaching and don’t reflect the views of the global clerus – luckily especially of the younger generation.

  • Appreciative Protestant Reader

    Is it possible to read the Cardinal’s words with more generosity of interpretation? As Fr. Lucie-Smith has done? ( I think of Protestant ministers/pastors who sometimes preach in a similarly self-critical and pessimistic manner in order to emphasise the need for renewal.

    • Deacon Nick

      I find Fr Lucie-Smith’s interpretation on Cardinal Martini’s interview unconvincing and light-weight. He fails to take seriously Cardinal Martini’s criticisms. This approach of brushing over major differences for the sake of peace has been a disastrous policy for the Church for the past 50 years. As to his comment that the Church’s teaching on sexuality needs reform I find this a mind-boggling statement to read on the website of the Catholic Herald. He goes on to explain that this means going back to the roots of the Church’s teaching as if this is a new idea. What does Fr Lucie-Smith think Pope John Paul’s theology of the body was? Deacon Nick

  • fd

    Do you appreciate the fact that I posted about Cardinal Martini here, (before you wrote this post )and the coverage of the Italian media?

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