Sunday, June 28, 2009

Martini: Church needs a council on divorced people

Last week, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini gave an interview with La Repubblica which was picked up by Periodista Digital (6/27/09). Here is the article in English.

Italian journalist, politician and writer Eugenio Scalfari has interviewed the Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in La Repubblica. Martini proposes a council to take up “the relationship of the Church to divorced people” and acknowledges the problems of the Church in matters such as “the election of bishops, priestly celibacy, the role of the laity, and the relationship between the Church hierarchy and politics.”

In the interview, the emeritus cardinal of Milan spells out a series of problems that complicate the relationship of the Catholic Church to society. “The first,” Martini states, “is the attitude of the Church towards the divorced, then the election of bishops, the celibacy of priests, the role of lay people, and the relationship between the Church hierarchy and politics. Do those seem to you to be problems that are easily solved?”

A voice of hope in the midst of a society ever less Christian and ever more indifferent. “Indifferent with respect to what?”, asks the interviewer. Martini answers: “There is no longer a single view of what is good. The dominant tendency is to defend one’s personal interest and the interest of one’s own group. Perhaps we think we are good Christians because we go to Mass sometimes or we let our children receive the sacraments. But Christianity is not that, is not just that. The sacraments are important when they are the culmination of a Christian life. Faith is important if it goes along with charity. Without charity, faith becomes blind. Without charity, there is no hope and no justice.”

A few days before the Pope publishes his new encyclical devoted to charity and globalization, Cardinal Martini defines what he means. “To do good, to help the neighbor is an important aspect, but it is not the essence of charity. We need to listen to others, understand them, include them in our affection, recognize them, break through their solitude and be their companions. Love them, definitely. Charity is not almsgiving. The charity that Jesus preached was to fully participate in the fate of others. A communion of spirits and a struggle against injustice.”

In his book, Jerusalemer Nachtgespr├Ąche (“Nocturnal Conversations in Jerusalem”), Martini states that there are many sins and that the Church has made a very long list of them but, in his opinion, the real sin in the world is injustice and inequality. “Jesus says that the Kingdom of God will be for the poor, the weak, the excluded. And He says that the Church ‘s mission ought to have been to be close to them. That is the charity of the people of God that His Son, who became man for our salvation, preached,” the cardinal states.

"And who are the People of God?" “The whole Church is the people of God: the hierarchy, the clergy, the faithful…” "And the faithful? "“They certainly fulfill a role, but they should occupy it much more fully. Too often it is just a passive role. There have been periods in the history of the Church when the active participation of the Christian communities was much more intense. When I refer to growing indifference, I am thinking precisely of this aspect of Christian life. Here we have a gap, a silent desertion, especially in Europe and Italy.”

On a future Council: “I am not thinking of a Vatican III. It’s true that Vatican II has lost a lot of its impulse. It attempted to get the Church to face modern society and science, but this confrontation has only been marginal. We are far from having dealt with this problem and it even seems like we have turned our gaze backward rather than forward. We need to take the initiative again and for this we don’t need a Vatican III. That being stated, I do support another council and even believe it is necessary, but one on specific and very concrete issues. It also seems to me that it is necessary to put into practice what emerged , and what has even already been decreed in the Council of Constance: Convene a council every twenty to thirty years on a single theme, two at most.”

"But that would be a revolution in the way the Church is governed," the interviewer points out. “It doesn’t seem so to me. The Church of Rome is called “apostolic” and that is not a coincidence. Its structure is vertical but, at the same time, horizontal. The communion of the bishops with the Pope is a fundamental organ of the Church.” "And what would be the theme of the council you are proposing?" “The relationship of the Church to divorced people. It affects many people and families and, unfortunately, the number of families involved is ever greater. It needs to be confronted with intelligence and foresight. Another subject that the next council should take up: the penitential journey of life itself. Look, confession is an extraordinarily important sacrament that is bleeding to death. Fewer and fewer people practice it but, moreover, it has become something that is almost mechanical: you confess your sin, receive forgiveness, recite some prayer and everything ends there, almost nowhere. We have to give back to confession its truly sacramental nature, a route to repentance and a new life, a constant relationship with the confessor, definitely, spiritual direction.”

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