Friday, August 31, 2012

UPDATED: Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, Requiescat in pace

If any proof is required that His Eminence enjoyed being an agent provocateur, courtesy of my dear friend Jean-François, comes a BBC report on an interview he gave to an Italian newspaper the very month he passed away, in which he opined that the Church was 200 years behind. Personally, I don't really agree with what article says about Martini's critique (I'd will read his interview for myself as I am quite certain there are insights that are very salient, while this BBC report was boiler plate, a sure sign it's not Cardinal Martini). I'm quite certain that, as another friend put it, we don't have much to lament for not keeping up with nineteenth century "fashions and practices... eugenics, scientific racism, nationalism - or of the 20th [century] Europe - socially or nationally revolutionary genocide..." Predictably Church teaching on divorce, which it received directly from the mouth of Christ, and on contraception, not what is incorrectly stated as birth control, come in for particular focus by the BBC's David Willey. This despite the fact that he has to reach all the way back to 2008, beyond the interview, for the nugget on condoms.

I learned this morning that Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini passed into eternity. He was the archbishop emeritus of the great Ambrosian See of Milan. His Eminence was a wonderful shepherd. Furthermore, he was a provocative thinker and a bit of a contrarian, which qualities endeared him to me. If loose reports are to be believed, next to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Cardinal Martini received the most support in the conclave of 2005, convened to determine who would follow the still acutely missed Bl. Karol Wojtyla. This should be heartening to all Catholics, to know that the "contest" was between the two very best to serve as Christ's Vicar, to walk, borrowing the title of the first book of Morris West's papal trilogy (the only book of the 3 to be made into a movie, starring Anthony Quinn as Pope Kiril I), In the Shoes of the Fisherman.

Cardinal Martini, a member of the Society of Jesus (a.k.a. the Jesuits), was a Bible scholar, who spent much of his retirement in the Holy Land, but above all he was a great pastor, as well as a first rate preacher and teacher.

As a thinker and sometime agent provocateur, he showed that he loved the Church too much to let us fall into so many lazy assumptions, which render us smug.

Two of his books that I return to frequently are, On the Body: A Contemporary Theology of the Human Person, and The Gospel According to St. Paul: Meditations on His Life and Letters. In the latter book he wrote, "faith itself is living the dialectic tension between the seen and the unseen."

I posted something from the former book earlier this year, during Lent: Sickness shows us the limits of human satisfaction.

Requiem Aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetuae luceat eis. Requiescant in pace.

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