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Friday, 7 November 2008

Martini attacks the Church

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Emeritus Archbishop of Milan, has long been a respected figure among liberal theologians. His comments have usually been of a kind that hint at deeper issues, rather than openly dissenting from the teaching of the magisterium. For example, his calls for greater collegiality, for further theological enquiry on questions of sexuality, and for the Church to speak in a way that people understand, can all be given a perfectly proper interpretation. Nevertheless, in ecclesiastical circles, they are coded language hinting at opposition to Pope Benedict and to various doctrines of the Church.

I remember having to endure the gushing enthusiasm of some for Martini when I was a student in Rome and he was the Grand Chancellor of the Gregorian University. His reputation as a biblical scholar, specialising in the gospels, was such that it was unthinkable to challenge his authority. This has continued, as Diogenes remarks:
Martini's truly extraordinary composure and personal gravitas have earned him liberty from censure enjoyed by few ecclesiastics anywhere.
This composure now seems to have left him. Recently, Martini co-authored with Fr Georg Sporschill SJ a book called "Jerusalemer Nachtgespräche" (Nocturnal Talks in Jerusalem) in which he asks the Church to consider ordaining married men - and women.

In the 1994 letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II said:
I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.
In the following year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a "Responsum ad Dubium":
Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.
Responsum: In the affirmative.
An ordinary theologian who called this doctrine into question publicly would risk losing his licence.

Martini also attacks Pope Paul VI and Humanae Vitae. He accuses Pope Paul VI of concealing the truth, and calls for the Church to admit its mistakes in this area as a sign of "greatness of soul". Thus he flatly contradicts Pope Benedict who, earlier this year, said of Humanae Vitae:
...forty years after its publication this teaching not only expresses its unchanged truth but also reveals the farsightedness with which the problem is treated."
There is a report of a recent interview with Martini at Sandro Magister's Chiesa and the text of one of his interviews is to be found at Catholics for Ministry, (an Australian website that supports the ordination of married men, and women.)

What bothers me almost more than Martini's now open dissent from the magisterium is the offensive implications of his purple passages. Did you notice above that he implies that the Popes continuing to teach the doctrine of the Church on the unlawfulness of contraception is down to a lack of "greatness of soul." At the conclusion of his interview, he says:
There was a time when I dreamed of a church in poverty and humility, one that does not depend on the powers of this world. A church that gives space to people who think outside the box. A church that transmits courage and worth, especially to those who feel belittled or like sinners. A young Church. Today I no longer have those dreams. After 75 years I have decided to pray for the Church.
That is what Martini thinks of the Church today - cowardly, fat, rich, unable to help sinners, old and conventional.

My own experience confirms Pope Benedict's positive and loving appraisal that contrasts so starkly with Martini's: "The Church is alive... the Church is young." From the viewpoint of a parish priest in a country that has just legalised the creation of hybrid embryos, introduced legislation that has outlawed the work of Catholic adoption agencies, and looks set to introduce sex education for five year olds and compel the Church to go along with it, I can't recognise Martini's Church that depends on the powers of the world.

As for transmitting courage and worth, and thinking outside the box, the participants at the recent Faith and Family Conference could explain to the venerable Cardinal that the Catholic Church's teaching on love, marriage and the family is courageous, counter-cultural and transmits real worth to the family that is denigrated and despised by precisely those secularist values that Martini would have the Church ape.
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