Before Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini passed away from Parkinson's disease
on August 31st at 85 years of age, the liberal prelate, who was known
for being open to the possibility of a married priesthood, ordaining
women as deacons, and allowing Communion for some divorced Catholics in
second marriages, gave a final interview in which he had some last words
for -- and about -- the Church he served for so many years. The
interview was conducted by a Jesuit confrere, Fr. Georg Sporschill, who
also interviewed the cardinal for his book, Nighttime Conversations in
Jerusalem, and freelance writer Federica Radice, and published in
Corriere della Sera. The interviewers describe this as "a sort of
spiritual testament" and assert that Cardinal Martini read and approved
the text prior to his death.
How do you view the situation of the Church?
The Church is tired, from the good life in Europe and in America. Our
culture has aged, our churches are big, our religious houses are empty,
and the Church bureaucracy is increasing, and our rites and habits are
pompous. But do those things express what we are today? (...) Comfort is
burdensome. We find ourselves here like the rich young man who went away
sadly when Jesus called him to make him his disciple. I know we can't
leave it all easily. But at least we can seek out men who are freer and
closer to their neighbor. As were Bishop Romero and the Jesuit martyrs
of El Salvador. Where are our heroes to inspire us? We shouldn't limit
them within the constraints of the institution for any reason."
Who can help the Church today?
Father Karl Rahner readily used the image of embers hidden under ashes.
I see in the Church today so many ashes over the coals that a sense of
hopelessness often overcomes me. How can we free the coals from the
ashes so as to reinvigorate the flame of love? First, we have to look
for those embers. Where are the individuals full of generosity like the
Good Samaritan? The ones who have faith like the Roman centurion? Who
are enthusiastic like John the Baptist? Who dare to do new things like
Paul? Who are faithful like Mary Magdalene? I advise the Pope and the
bishops to seek out twelve people who are out of line for leadership
positions. Men who are close to the poor and surrounded by young people
and experiment with new things. We need to be confronted with men who
are burning so that the spirit can spread everywhere.
What tools do you recommend against the fatigue of the Church?
I recommend three very powerful ones. The first is conversion. The
Church must acknowledge its own mistakes and follow a path of radical
change, starting with the Pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals
push us to embark on a journey of conversion. The questions about
sexuality and all issues involving the body are one example.
These are important for everyone and sometimes they're even too important.
We must ask ourselves if people still listen to the Church's advice on
sexual matters. Is the Church still a relevant authority in this field, or
just a caricature in the media? Second, the Word of God. The Second Vatican
Council returned the Bible to Catholics. (...) Only those who feel that Word
in their hearts can be among those who help the renewal of the Church and
are able to answer personal questions with a right choice. The Word of God
is simple and looks for a listening heart as a companion (...). Neither the
clergy nor the Church leadership can replace the interior life of man. All
external rules, laws, dogmas, are given to clarify the inner voice and the
discernment of spirits. Who are the sacraments for? These are the third
instrument of healing. The sacraments aren't an instrument for discipline,
but a help for men at moments along the way and in the weaknesses of life.
Are we bringing the sacraments to the people who need new strength? I'm
thinking of all the divorced and remarried couples, the extended families.
The latter need special protection. The Church upholds the indissolubility
of marriage. It's a grace when a married couple and a family are able (...).
The attitude we have towards the extended family will determine the
children's generation's approach to the Church. A woman has been abandoned
by her husband and finds a new companion who takes care of her and her three
children. The second love succeeds. If that family is discriminated against,
not only the mother but also her children are cut off. If the parents feel
they're outside the Church or don't feel supported, the Church will lose the
next generation. Before Communion we pray, "Lord, I am not worthy..." We
know we aren't worthy (...). Love is a gift. The question of whether the
divorced can take Communion should be reversed. How can the Church come to
help those who have complex family situations with the power of the
What do you do personally?
The Church is lagging 200 years behind. Why doesn't it shake itself up? Are
we afraid? Fear instead of courage? However, faith is the foundation of the
Church. Faith, confidence, courage. I'm old and sick and dependent on the
help of others. The good people around me make me feel love. That love is
stronger than the distrust I sometimes feel towards the Church in Europe.
Only love conquers fatigue. God is Love.