Cardinal Carlo Martini Maria, who passed on Friday, was once considered a likely successor to Pope John Paul II. From beyond the grave he has delivered a blistering critique of the Church, calling it "200 years out of date."
"Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous," the cardinal said.
"The church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the Pope and the bishops. The paedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation."
While unusually harsh, the Cardinal's words are not out of character. He was known for being socially liberal and had long advocated for a kinder, gentler Catholic Church. That was not, by all reports, why was not made pope. It was his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease which also led to his retirement in 2002. He was, however, a quietly divisive figure.
For progressives, he was the "eternal pope in waiting," as the Irish Times called him, the wise and understanding pastor who symbolised the fading dream of reviving the open reformist spirit of 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council.
. . .
"Many would like to see Martini as the 'enfant terrible' of the Catholic Church, a man who wandered on the outskirts of doctrine, and possibly even beyond doctrine, touching on heresy," wrote the Polish Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny.
"There were even those who searched for this in his words and thoughts," it said. But he "rather tried to formulate within the Church the questions that he was asked outside of it."
This led him to say condoms could help fight AIDS, women should be ordained deacons and civil unions for homosexual couples could be accepted. He also said the growing number of divorced and remarried Catholics should not longer be excluded from receiving the Eucharist.
The Cardinal's last interview appeared posthumously in Corriere della Sera. There is some speculation that pressure was applied by the Vatican to suppress it, as it did not initially appear on the paper's website. It was posted online only after inquiries were made. The Vatican denies that it interfered in any way, although the editor of the bishops daily paper has accused the media of distorting the late Cardinal's words. It remains unclear exactly how.
Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.