Cardinal Martini- Don't Believe the Hype!


Cardinal Carlo Martini died last Friday aged 85. There has been much chatter about this and I thought I might chip in with my two penneth worth.

I think it's terribly sad that the BBC chose to make their headline for the death of the renowned academic and biblical scholar:
Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini has described the Roman Catholic Church as being "200 years behind" the times.
I have to admit to being upset by this. I pre-judged the statement based on the reports, knew little about Martini, and saw scandal- which always disappoints me. Not because of discussion, or differing perspectives, which as any of fellow students of recent years will testify, I am a great advocate for, but because as Christians, we are a team and I think we have to present a broadly united front to the world, especially at this level. As I mentioned here, theology is not doctrine, and there is a time and a place for discussion. Surely this is especially important when you claim to be a member of an organisation dealing in objective truth?

To further deepen my gloom, the Beeb seemed to love bringing this tag line up thereafter at every given opportunity, and I was forced to listen to a further re-hashing of the bashing on BBC Radio 4's PM programme on the evening of the 2nd as I drove home from the office. Interestingly, they had translated and used an actor to read out the Cardinal's statement to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. I have to say I was rather surprised at the content, which didn't seem very controversial at all, and really rather good. It asked some interesting questions and spoke very eloquently and in Biblical terms about renewal and a call to faith. For example:
"Where are the individuals full of generosity like the Good Samaritan? That have faith like the Roman centurion? That are enthusiastic like John the Baptist? That dare something new like Paul? That are faithful like Mary of Magdala?"
I think the Cardinal makes a good point here and goes on to make further good points. As my good friend Father Dominic O'Toole has pointed out to me on numerous occasions, the faith is not a monolithic one, there are always differing strands of theology; alternative perspectives. History demonstrates how the great councils of the Church have steered a course of via media through the extremes and looked for the truth.

I have always found myself arguing for the 'other side'. Politically, I find that in Conservative company I argue for a Liberal perspective. In Liberal company I argue a Conservative point of view. Similarly, when studying theology, I would generally argue the divergent perspective, but don't misunderstand me, this is not mere truculence. Surely this is the only way to truly understand the discussion? If you comprehend both sides to the degree where you can confidently argue it both ways, you know it well enough to make an informed decision about it.

Despite what extremists like Tablet hagiographer Robert Mickens try to push as reality, (sorry, I wont link to The Bitter Pill) in Milan, where he was Arch-bishop until 2002, Cardinal Martini was known as a strong pastor and administrator, and as a very careful, thoughtful advocate of wider discussion and dialogue on some delicate and controversial Church positions. Sounds like just the sort of person who should have been a Cardinal and an important voice on the 'top table'.

Father Alexander Lucie-Smith has a good blog about the dichotomy between the statement and the way in which it has been reported here.

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini SJ (15 February 1927 - 31 August 2012) 

Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine.
Et lux perpetua luceat ei.
Requiescat in pace. Amen



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