I had heard about Cardinal Carlo Martini for many years, although I had forgotten him lately. A Jesuit priest and scholar of both scripture and science, he was named the Archbishop of Milan in 1980. There was great hope he might succeed John Paul II, and he received the most votes during the first round of election (we are not supposed to know that, but even Cardinal’s can’t keep a secret, I guess!). He revealed that he had Parkinson’s disease, however, and withdrew from consideration.
Cardinal Martini died the last day of August. Two weeks before his death, he gave an interview in which he said that the Catholic Church is “200 years out off date. Our culture has changed, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous. The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation.”
He added that the Church should open up to new kinds of families: “A woman is abandoned by her husband and finds a new companion to look after her and her children. A second love succeeds. If this family is discriminated against, not just the mother will be cut off but also her children." His final message to the pope was to tell him to begin a shake up of the Church without delay.
I am sharing this with you because I know that many among us have very strong feelings of either agreement or disagreement with these sentiments. We often hear and read of those among the hierarchy who would be completely opposed to everything Cardinal Martini held true. So quoting this man who might have been pope shows that the true Universality of the Catholic Church is not only geographical, but also ideological.
Some other of his views that differ from the Church norm: contraception; women’s ordination; when life begins; right to die; church governance and collegiality; human sexuality; same sex civil unions; use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS; power as being passé in Church governance; education.
Those who might consider such a man to be the Anti-Christ might be grateful he was not elected pope. Those who might see his views as very Christ like might feel a sense of loss and disappointment at his death. But he was 85 years old and suffered from his illness. He probably could not have done more on earth.
But we believe in the Communion of Saints, so if he is in that number, this 50th year after the start of Vatican II, you can bet that he will do all he can to effect change as one among the saints of heaven.