This is in from the gentlemanly Sandro Magister.
My emphases and comments.
Cardinal Martini’s Jesus Would Never Have Written "Humanae Vitae"
He is a Jesus who struggles against injustice. So he also opposes the "lies" and "damage" of the encyclical by Paul VI prohibiting artificial contraception. So writes the former archbishop of Milan in his latest book. But in the meantime, in another book, two scholars take a different approach to the spirit of that document [Go to the site for that part.]
by Sandro Magister
ROMA, November 3, 2008 – In his latest book-interview, published first in Germany and now also in Italy, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini calls himself not an anti-pope, as he is often depicted by the media, but "an ante-pope, a precursor and preparer for the Holy Father." [Interesting. There is a tendency among some in the Church to think that older is better automatically. They fall into both camps, conservative and progressivist. The progressivists tend to think that the "pristine" must be recovered because it is "more authentic". The problem is that Holy Church has grown and developed. We know more now than was known and understood in ancient times. Our reflection has deepened, not strayed far away from the pristine truth.]
But according to the book, there are many points on which Cardinal Martini seems fairly distant from the reigning pope and his most recent predecessors.
If one compares, for example, "Jesus of Nazareth" by Benedict XVI and the Jesus described by Cardinal Martini in this book, the distance is striking. This is expressed well by the German Jesuit interviewer, Fr. Georg Sporschill, who does not hide which side he takes:
"The pontiff’s book is a profession of faith in the good Jesus. Cardinal Martini puts us in front of Jesus from another perspective. Jesus is the friend of the publican and the sinner. He listens to the questions of young people. He stirs things up. He fights with us against injustice." [And those are contrasting?]
That’s just it. In the words of the cardinal, the Sermon on the Mount is a charter of rights for the oppressed. [Liberation theology?] Justice is "the fundamental attribute of God," and "the criterion of distinction" by which He judges us. Hell "exists, and is already on the earth": in the preaching of Jesus, it was "a warning" not to produce too much hell down here. Purgatory is also "an image" developed by the Church, "one of the human representations that show us how it is possible to be spared from hell." The ultimate hope is "that God will welcome all of us," when justice gives way to mercy.
As always, Martini’s style is subtle and opaque, beginning with the title of his latest book: "Nighttime conversations in Jerusalem. On the risk of faith." About priestly celibacy, for example, he says and doesn’t say. [I hear the soft sound of reptile skin on marble…] The same about women priests. And about homosexuality. And contraception. And when he criticizes the Church hierarchy, he doesn’t give names, of persons or things. [Right. Just insinuations?]
But this time, there is an exception. In one chapter of the book, the explicit target is Paul VI’s encyclical "Humanae Vitae," on marriage and procreation. Martini accuses it of causing "serious damage" by prohibiting artificial contraception: "many people have withdrawn from the Church, and the Church from people."
Martini accuses Paul VI of deliberately concealing the truth, [WOW] leaving it to theologians and pastors to fix things by adapting precepts to practice:
"I knew Paul VI well. With the encyclical, he wanted to express consideration for human life. He explained his intention to some of his friends by using a comparison: although one must not lie, sometimes it is not possible to do otherwise; it may be necessary to conceal the truth, or it may be unavoidable to tell a lie. It is up to the moralists to explain where sin begins, [slither] especially in the cases in which there is a higher duty than the transmission of life." [I wonder which candidate he would vote for tomorrow.]
In effect, the cardinal continues, "after the encyclical Humanae Vitae the Austrian and German bishops, and many other bishops, with their statements of concern followed a path along which we can continue today." It is a stance that expresses "a new culture of tenderness and an approach to sexuality that is more free from prejudice."
But after Paul VI came John Paul II, who "followed the path of rigorous application" of the prohibitions in the encyclical. "He didn’t want there to be any doubts on this point. It seems that he even considered a declaration that would enjoy the privilege of papal infallibility." [Notice that that implies that Humanae vitae was not infallible. Card. Martini is a Jesuit, btw.]
And after John Paul II came Benedict XVI. Martini does not name him, and does not seem to have much confidence in him, but he hazards this prediction:
"Probably the pope will not revoke the encyclical, but he might write one that would be its continuation. [slither] I am firmly convinced that the Church can point out a better way than it did with Humanae Vitae. Being able to admit one’s mistakes and the limitations of one’s previous viewpoints is a sign of greatness of soul and of confidence. The Church would regain credibility and competence." [Holy Father, take this man’s hat away.]
That’s Martini’s view. But those who read only his latest book will learn nothing of the letter, much less the spirit, of that highly controversial encyclical.
Much more instructive, from this point of view, is the address that Pope Joseph Ratzinger dedicated to "Humanae Vitae" on May 10 of this year. Illustrating its contents, he affirmed that "forty years after its publication this teaching not only expresses its unchanged truth but also reveals the farsightedness with which the problem is treated."
Even more interesting, for understanding the immediate and historical context in which "Humanae Vitae" took shape, is the reading of a book published in Italy shortly before the one by Cardinal Martini.
The book is entitled: "Due in una carne. Chiesa e sessualità nella storia [Two in one flesh. Church and sexuality in history]." The two authors were both militant feminists during the 1970’s and are both historians, one of them secularist, the other Catholic: Margherita Pelaja and Lucetta Scaraffia.
Scaraffia dedicates a full chapter to "Humanae Vitae," reconstructing its origin, content, and development. Here is the concluding part: [Go to the site for that part.]