Card. Martini: The “lies” and “damage” of Humanae vitae

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.]

Great, huh?

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  1. The Anti-Spam word phrase for my comment was “Viva il Papa.” Yes, by the grace of God in heaven it was Benedict XVI and not this man…and we wonder why we are in such trouble!

  2. Steve says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but what would happen if such a cardinal ever became pope, what would happen if he “un-did” Humana Vitae and other eternal truths? Do we simply trust that Jesus’s promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church would prevent such a scenario?

  3. tertullian says:

    I fail to understand how such a double standard can exist. When American Catholic politicians get church doctrine as wrong as Pelosi, Biden et al have, we see swift corrections issued by multiple Bishops, yet when an Italian politician blatantly misstates the Pontiff, it’s heralded by a fellow Jesuit. What am I missing?

  4. ken says:

    Martini is an old wineskin and his insights have no value for this Catholic.

  5. DoB says:

    Reading what this man has wriiten is quite staggering. The degree of delusion is laughable. I am very glad this man was not selected for the papacy. Good is evil and evil is good seems to be his motto. My goodness, to think he still lives off the Church he so despises. I just cannot fathom it.

  6. Richard says:

    I recall when in the late 90’s, His Eminence Card. Martini was the great white hope for Church progressives to succeed John Paul II. Read Francis Burkle-Young’s book on conclaves from 2000 and that’s who he (very happily) projected to reign next as….John XXIV.

    As it turned out, however, John Paul had several years more left in him, and a few more consistories. And that seems to have made the difference. Many of the new cardinals turned out to be more conservative, and Martini grew too old – and retired into relative obscurity in the Holy Land, putting him out of sight and mind to many electors while the similarly aged Ratzinger remained at center stage.

    Think of what might have been. Even for Martini, these are stunning comments. Though he has been evasive, it has been hard to shake the impression that he is not opposed to women’s ordination (he has explicitly promoted the idea of women deacons).

  7. Jason Petty says:

    These old timers should thank God every day for canon 1370 section 2.

    Just sayin’.

  8. athanasius says:

    That’s just it. In the words of the cardinal, the Sermon on the Mount is a charter of rights for the oppressed.

    This is sick. The Sermon on the mount has nothing at all to do with rights, but rather duties of the one who would follow Our Lord. Blessed are the poor in spirit…, this is always taken by moderns to have something to do with materially poor. But those of us who have engaged in ministry for the homeless know that the poor can be despicable people just as the wealthy. Our Lord is talking about those who are humble and not proud, who realize they need God to get to heaven, not their own abilities. These elements of the sermon are if anything, a charter of how to overcome our fallen nature.

    On the other hand, my thought on his Humanae Vitae comments run like this: The church can point a better way, namely to much clearer teachings such as Casti Conubii and the teachings of Pius XII.

  9. Rudy B says:

    Interesting… Could a Pope ‘take away’ cardinal-ship (?) from someone?

  10. David2 says:

    Pope Pius IX forced a French Cardinal to resign his Cardinalate for supporting “Action Francaise”.

  11. David2 says:

    Pope Pius XI, I mean – Achille Ratti. He forced Cardinal Billot (SJ) to resign.

  12. Warren says:

    Martini = clearly shaken, obviously not stirred (to defend Church teaching).

    Humanae Vitae = prophetic.

  13. therese says:

    One of the ingredients of the drink Martini is wormwood. (That might concern the C.S Lewis fans, the conspiracy theorists and the literally-minded students of Apocalypse). ; )

  14. Michael says:

    He is one of those who would love to be excommunicated because it would give them publicity. But no chance, they will die pigeoholed, and their products forgotten.

  15. Calleva says:

    I’ve heard that Martini’s early books are worth reading; if so, he must have really moved on. With his ante-pope [slither] comments he seems to have lost the plot completely. Does he really believe he is an eminence grise who knows better than the recent pontiffs? He sounds like an angry and embittered old man (much like Hans Kung) who has come to believe that his celebrity status qualifies him to equal authority with the Pope.

    One for the Sour Grapes award, methinks.

  16. Aelric says:

    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 Cardinal should heed his own advice.

  17. Tomás López says:

    “My people have been a lost flock, their shepherds have caused them to go astray, and have made them wander in the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place.” Jeremias 50:1

    Prayer and penance for the immortal soul of His Eminence! Prayer and penance for the Society of Jesus, especially here in Latin America!

  18. Maureen says:

    This is just silly. The only thing that our little pope would write to amend Humane Vitae is some kind of comment to point out how lovable and beautiful the Church’s teachings on the body and conjugal love are. He’d be more persuasive, and probably be deeper and more insistent about its importance. He’d also be more likely to close any loopholes that were left.

    In other words, pretty much what Pope John Paul II did.

    May God reward Pope Paul VI for writing Humanae Vitae. He was not always all that good a pope; but at that moment in history, he was a great shepherd and true prophet. No wonder the gates of hell worked so hard against the Church after it came out.

  19. Andraea says:

    Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is trying to re-build the Church “brick by brick” and this pseudo-cardinal and psycho-babblist Martini is trying to destroy it “house by house”.

    Go figure. He will have a lot of answering to do when he meets the Lord soon (that’s very soon because he’s 83).

  20. TNCath says:

    Given Cardinal Martini’s affinity for talking trash, isn’t there a cathedral basement somewhere that he could be assigned to clean out? I don’t care if he is retired, somebody needs to deal with him. Perhaps his pension check needs to be put on hold indefinitely? That just might get his attention.

  21. prof. basto says:

    Popes in centuries past used to depose heretic Cardinals.

    The last resignation took place under Pius XI, in 1927. It was a forced resignation, so that, in accepting to resign, the Cardinal avoided formal deposition from the Cardinalate. This was also the last time that anyone relinquished or was stripped of the Cardinalate.

    The last time a Cardinal was suspended from the Cardinalate was in 1786. The Cardinal so suspended was restored later that year.

    The last time a Cardinal was deposed from the Cardinalate (and not only suspended), was in 1733. The Cardinal was simultaniously arrested and excommunicated. The excommunication was lifted in 1734 and the Cardinalate was reinstated in 1742.

    I can’t figure out why Cardinal Martini shouldn’t face deposition from the Sacred College. Is he still a Catholic, after all?

  22. Emilio III says:

    At a Jesuit university in the late 60s, I had a professor who was constantly griping about the Vatican’s muzzling of his hero Teilhard de Chardin. As far as he was concerned, Teilhard’s only fault was that when ordered by the Pope to stop teaching and writing about his weird and slightly crazy theories “he wouldn’t even consider disobeying!”

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