A New Saint for Those Who Long for Reforming the Catholic Church


Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini

For those who work and hope for a Catholic Church that is more welcoming and inclusive of LGBT people, and more in line with the spirit of Vatican II, there’s a new saint in heaven to intercede.

Cardinal Carlo Maria Montini,  former archbishop of Milan and once talked of as a possible successor to John Paul II, has died at the age of 85.  In his final interview, published a day after his death on August 31st,  he declared that the church is 200 years behind the times.

CNN’s Religion Blog  reports the cardinal’s quote:

” ‘The Church has remained 200 years behind the times. Why has it not been shaken up?” Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini said in an interview published in Saturday’s Corriere dell Sera newspaper. ‘Are we scared? Fear instead of courage? However, faith is the fundamental to the church.’ “

The New York Times reported Martini’s further explanation of this quote from the same interview:

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

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

Cardinal Martini made headlines earlier this year when in a separate interview, he called for a change in the church’s opposition to civil unions.  In May, Bondings 2.0 reported his statement from a book-length interview with the cardinal, entitled Credere e  Cognoscere (Faith and Understanding): 

“I do not agree with the positions of those in the Church who takes issue with civil unions.”

QueeringTheChurch.com blog carried English translations of the interview.  Though Cardinal Martini defended traditional marriage in the interview, he saw the need for allowing for civil unions:

“. . . if the State grants some benefits to homosexuals, I would not be too concerned. The Catholic Church, for its part, promotes partnerships that are beneficial for the continuation of the human species and its stability, and yet it is not right to express any discrimination for other types of unions.”

In the same interview, he praised the possibility of recognizing same-sex relationships as good:

” . . . I am ready to admit that in some cases good faith, lived experiences, acquired habits, the unconscious and probably even a certain innate inclination can push one to choose for oneself a form of living with a partner of the same sex. In today’s world such behaviour cannot therefore be ostracised or demonized. I am also ready to admit the value of a loyal and lasting friendship between two persons of the same sex. Friendship has always been held in high honour in the ancient world, perhaps more so than today, although it was largely understood as part of that surpassing of the purely physical realm that I mentioned above, to be a union of minds and hearts.”

He also made allowance for the use of condoms as a way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS:

“One must do everything to fight AIDS, as I have argued on many occasions and as we wrote in our previous dialogue in 2006. Certainly the use of condoms can constitute in certain situations a lesser evil. Then there is the particular situation of spouses, one of whom is infected with AIDS. One is obliged to protect the other partner who likewise should be able to protect himself or herself. But the question rather is, should it be the case that religious authorities promote such a means of defence, almost holding that other morally sustainable means, including abstinence, be sidelined, while risking the promotion of an irresponsible attitude? The principle of lesser evil is one thing, applicable in all cases provided for by ethical doctrine, another thing altogether the matter of who is to express such things publicly.

“I believe that prudence and consideration of different situations will permit everyone to contribute effectively to the fight against AIDS without fostering, in this way, irresponsible behaviour.”

Let’s pray that Cardinal Martini intercede for the church, and that Catholics will be renewed to reform the church in the way that Cardinal Martini saw as the only possible alternative:  love.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


12 replies
  1. Brother Benilde Montgomery, O.S.F.
    Brother Benilde Montgomery, O.S.F. says:

    Cardinal Martini is a great loss. I do hope that his identity and theology get a more public hearing so that the fact of his life is a sign of great hope. I fear that my own cynicism prevenets me from imagining that the Institution will ever beatify him (at least now) but we ought to try to do waht you have done and hold him up as an image of a Reformed Catholicism.

  2. Terence
    Terence says:

    Frank, I think you’re right to suggest that we should think of Martini as a new saint in heaven (and recall that the formal canonization process does not create sainthood – it merely confers Vatican recognition).

    However, reports in the MSM all seem to depend on a handful of short quotations, leaving much important material from the interview hidden, undisclosed. Commonweal has a full translation, which I have used for an extended reflection specifically for LGBT Catholics (and other queer Christians), at http://queeringthechurch.com/2012/09/03/queer-lessons-in-cardinal-martinis-warning-from-the-grave/

  3. CRH
    CRH says:

    The information about Cardinal Carlo Martini’s positions on abuse of children by Catholic clergy, contraception, the role of women in the Church, and homosexuality, have all been a light in the darkness for me and probably many others who came to adulthood at the time of Vatican II. I hope we can learn how best to achieve greater attention for these views and and for the many who share them but are forced to remain silent, such as the American nuns. Cardinal Martini and the Irish Archbishop who did public penance for the sins of others in abusing children are my heroes!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] also cited the recently deceased Cardinal Martini, who in the last interview before his death, called for greater discussion in the church, […]

  2. […] A New Saint for Those Who Long for Reforming the Catholic Church (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com) […]

  3. […] A New Saint for Those Who Long for Reforming the Catholic Church (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com) […]

  4. […] A New Saint for Those Who Long for Reforming the Catholic Church (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com) […]

  5. […] A New Saint for Those Who Long for Reforming the Catholic Church (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com) Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *