Cardinal Carlo Martini says Church '200 years behind'

Catholics pay tribute to Italian cardinal Carlo Maria Martini at Milan's cathedral Cardinal Martini's body is lying in state in Milan Cathedral

Related Stories

Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini has described the Roman Catholic Church as being "200 years behind" the times.

The cardinal died on Friday, aged 85.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera has published his last interview, recorded in August, in which he said: "The Church is tired... our prayer rooms are empty."

Martini, once tipped as a future pope, urged the Church to recognise its errors and to embark on a radical path of change, beginning with the Pope.

Start Quote

The child sex scandals oblige us to undertake a journey of transformation”

End Quote Cardinal Martini

Thousands of people have been filing past his coffin at Milan's cathedral, where he was archbishop for more than 20 years.

The cardinal, who had retired from the post in 2002, suffering from Parkinson's Disease, is to be buried on Monday.

'Old culture'

Martini, a popular figure with liberal stances on many issues, commanded great respect from both Pope John Paul II and his successor Pope Benedict XVI.

The cardinal - a member of the Jesuit religious order - was often critical in his writings and comments on Church teaching, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

He was a courageous and outspoken figure during the years he headed Europe's largest Catholic diocese, our correspondent says.

Cardinal Martini gave his last interview to a fellow Jesuit priest, Georg Sporschill, and to a journalist at the beginning of August when he knew his death was approaching.


Cardinal Martini was a renowned academic and biblical scholar, as well as a prolific author of popular books on religion.

But it is highly unusual for a leading member of the Catholic hierarchy openly to challenge Church teaching - or rather to criticise the way in which the Church often expresses its teaching with negatives and prohibitions rather than encouragement to believers.

Pope Benedict is now faced with a difficult choice: whether or not to attend Cardinal Martini's funeral in Milan on Monday - which many leading Catholics say would be a powerful affirmation of Church unity.

The Pope has rarely awarded red hats to Catholic leaders of any nation who dare to question traditional doctrine.

The cardinal had returned to Italy from Jerusalem, where he had settled on retirement in 2002 to continue his biblical studies.

Catholics lacked confidence in the Church, he said in the interview. "Our culture has grown old, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our religious rites and the vestments we wear are pompous."

Unless the Church adopted a more generous attitude towards divorced persons, it will lose the allegiance of future generations, the cardinal added. The question, he said, is not whether divorced couples can receive holy communion, but how the Church can help complex family situations.

And the advice he leaves behind to conquer the tiredness of the Church was a "radical transformation, beginning with the Pope and his bishops".

"The child sex scandals oblige us to undertake a journey of transformation," Cardinal Martini says, referring to the child sex abuse that has rocked the Catholic Church in the past few years.

He was not afraid, our correspondent adds, to speak his mind on matters that the Vatican sometimes considered taboo, including the use of condoms to fight Aids and the role of women in the Church.

In 2008, for example, he criticised the Church's prohibition of birth control, saying the stance had likely driven many faithful away, and publicly stated in 2006 that condoms could "in some situations, be a lesser evil".

Corriere Della Sera plans to give a copy of his last book entitled Speak From The Heart to all its readers.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you...If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also..." (John 15:18-26) from this the Church is doing a good job! Gob Bless

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Age 4 i went to a church with my bigsis,this was oldskool money back then i managed too find fourhalf pennies and a 2 two pence.We left the church and bought some sweets.You cant even get a penny sweet now.Thats inflation?

    The MORAL of this Story is,How much money would a 4 year old find now in a church.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    As far as Catholic Church reform goes, I'll have another Martini. Thanks . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I do not expect liberals and atheists to understand these things. From the Enlightenment onwards we have been 'taught' that humans are the measure and should judge based upon their naturally they see no sign of a supernatural God. It's not about "critical thinking" though. It's about faith. It's not explainable, you either have it or you do not. As Jesus said, his sheep know his voice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Those remaining in these dying institutions are gravitating to the basic survival instinct - kill or be killed. The disgusting screetching being heard in the current political contest here in the US and continuing carnage in the middle east tell that the end of religions will not be pretty and there will be a lot of collateral damage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    As a member of the Church of England, I agree with many of the cardinals views. Churches of all denominations have a duty to uphold the traditional values of Christianity, but to make them more relevant to our largely secular world. Some Anglicans and non-conformists have already realized this, but most Catholics and some other Churches still have a long way to go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    It is irrelevant how far the catholic church is trapped in the past because the people in charge do not want change. They like it the way it is, and they cannot see any benefit to accrue from change. They are afraid!

    As an atheist I hope they stay there and that the whole structure crumble under its own weight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Just to clarify, the Roman Catholic church is 2012 years old. It is not behind times and revisits it's teachings regularly. Neither does the church hoard wealth. If anything it supports charities, gives towards schools, hospitals, the poor and homeless. Some folk who spout left wing claptrap should really learn to do their homework.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    I think this could be said for all religions. But we need to realize that there is a difference between Faith and Religion. Religion was made by man to control the masses, and like every thing needs to evolve, where faith has evolved over time, it is something that no man nor women can control, but ourselves! I feel the Church has a roll in society, to guide people to believe in themselves, FAITH!

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    God doesn't exist! Get over it! But seems like a nice guy for a cardinal!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    But the church is guided by God, and must be at equilibrium (steady state, i.e. unchanging). Surely the times must always be trying to catch up with the church, not the other way around?
    So does this mean the church is not guided by god and is therefore a giant fraud? Woah! Did this man know what he was unleashing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    The Catholic Church is living in the past. The church is loosing more and more followers due to the fact that it isn't changing with the times. If the church doesn't become more open and contemporary then it will continue to faulter, and loose its once powerful say so in society whether one is Catholic or not. Many Catholics are Catholics in name only. Fewer and fewer are practicing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Pity the Catholic church didn't listen to him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    11. Leap
    What a silly thing to say. The Church deals with eternal truths

    What, eternal like "purgatory"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    If the Catholic Church will admit it and catch up they may survive a few years longer but all the corruption, secrecy and money laundering has caused almost total loss of respect folks once had. Now the Catholic Church is seen more as a private sex and scandal club than a place of worship. Firstly they need to STOP begging from the poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    It's time we were all told that religion was handed to us by aliens so we would fight amongst ourselves to stop us looking up to the stars before those who created us come back for their harvest. That we went on to be clever and create nuclear weaponry and the internet was not factored into the original equation. The big question is this: If you could create a self-farming animal; would you - god?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Below someone was talking about 'eternal truths'. Isn't this evidence that the preaching is so much half-truths and misinformation designed to keep the plebs in order.

    An old lady once suggested she couldn't understand not having a religion 'How do you learn right from wrong?' Before organised religion, how do we thing they managed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    This is a huge loss for the Church. Cardinal Martini represented one of the few remaining hopes for reform and his death leaves the Church more in the control of hard-liners than ever. Had ill health not forced him to withdraw his candidacy in the last Conclave, Cardinal Martini might well have been elected Pope and what a great day that would have been for most Catholics. Such sad news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    If u don't understand something, it important u dont come harsh against it. The church may be behind things, in terms of tech & style. These are material in nature. The church stands 4 love, faith & life, which do not change with time. The problem with our world in not faith, it is things to do with material wealth, power n fame. They shall pass away. The truth of life will not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Only 200 years behind the times? Well, that's much better than some other established religions which seem to be content to live in the 13th century and cling to the values of that era.


Page 42 of 46


More Europe stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.