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

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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 883.

    @874 Penguin337

    You can Dream ?Iwill not!!

    It should die like the scabby dog it is?

    You wonder WHY?

  • rate this

    Comment number 882.

    I have just posted a comment re. how my brother was sexually abused by priests and how this led to his extremely acute mental illness and it has been removed for further consideration. Is the vatican editing this thread?

  • rate this

    Comment number 881.

    In the Bible, God says: “I am Jehovah. That is my name.” (Isaiah 42:8) Although he also has many titles, such as “God Almighty,” “Sovereign Lord,” and “Creator,” he honors his worshippers by inviting them to address him by his personal name.—Genesis 17:1; Acts 4:24; 1 Peter 4:19.

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    @870. Name Number 6 "Religion is like tobacco, if it was invented tomorrow it would be banned."
    So would aeroplanes. (tut tut tut, health and safety's gone mad!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    864. After 50 years I'm not so sure that there isn't a fatal flaw in capitalism and bringing it back to topic its the same flaw with with religions.

    We are all led to believe that consigning our faith to a particular path is the only way to go and it always lands us in the hands of those who run the show.

    Somehow we have to find a way to break this childish need for leadership.

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    The Catholic Church is 200 years behind the times? Its message is 2000 years old and as relevant today as it was then. Yes the Church can consider whether the 2000 year old vestiments could be updated, whether traditions should continue unchanged, or be updated for the age of reason, and a democratic society, but the message of the Church, Salvation through Faith in God remains unchanged.

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.

    Separate religion, truth, and God from all organized compulsion and coercion. Find the common meaning of religion and separate dogma and mythology from the true religion. True religion runs through the dogmatic and institutional church, mosque, temple and synagogue. Attempts to align religion and God with perpetual secular myths fail. Truth is God; God is Truth. All else is irrelevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    In ancient times the church was a major help to morality romans were less brutal after christianity i will admit and in europes dark ages islamic areas had a golden age. Yet it was overdevotion to the faiths that destroyed islams golden age. And christians (gothic clans) brought low and sacked rome. Much of the laws in the holy books are good, yet many need updated And read the bible its horrific

  • rate this

    Comment number 875.

    It seems to me that to catch up the two hundred years is going to take an open-mindedness that is not readily found in big institutions. Bishops and popes are usually picked on their ability to not rock the boat. Right now what is needed is someone to rock the boat!

  • rate this

    Comment number 874.

    The Catholic Church is virtually unique

    2000 years old and still going
    It has outlasted the Roman Empire the Ottoman Empire the British Empire the Dark Ages Communism Fascism and is currently living through Liberalism
    It still has a billion + followers

    No other organisation has taken the test of time so well

    Anyone who predicts its demise is a dreamer, the Church will outlast Liberalism too

  • rate this

    Comment number 873.

    My brother was sexually abused by Catholic priests in the 80s and is now a paranoid schizophrenic. I have no doubt that this played a major part in his becoming ill. He now believes that every other male is gay and wants to rape him. The school in question tried to cover up several similar cases but was closed down. The sooner society sticks ALL religions in the skip, the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 872.

    I am not religious or politcal!!!

    You are or maybe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 871.

    Hello 852. Carol
    You can write your own 'bible' if you like but you can't re-edit the one we've had for 1900 to 3500 years. For that long its been almost universally regarded as inspired by god. OK not many think that today. I suppose it comes down to, 'either there is a god or there isn't.' Oh, and his son Jesus did say he would return. Be some red faces then, even some who claim to represent him

  • rate this

    Comment number 870.

    Religion is like tobacco, if it was invented tomorrow it would be banned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 869.

    The catholic church has protected the message given to us by Jesus 2000 years ago and the reason they have been able to do this is because they have sailed their own course and not blown in the wind like modern interpretations of Christianity which are all based on Catholicism any way.

    As the women and gay priests will see 'one swollow does not make a summer', the Catholic Church will not change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 868.

    @#47 Roddy - No, the bible does not need to be rewritten. Religion has always been based on interpretation of the bible and is not meant to be taken literally. This is the problem with the Catholic church. Bits are extracted in order to defend agendas. For example, Catholics say that the Bible forbids Homosexuality, but the Bible also states to stone your neighbour if found working on Sunday!

  • rate this

    Comment number 867.

    850. You obviously do have an agenda. You're espousing that religious organisations not are organised for the leaderships benefit.

    If you refuse to concede thats what bureaucracies do, irrespective of the spcific religions involved, despite all evidence to the contrary thats up to you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 866.

    Wow! Mao Tse Tung's Commie youth were less convinced about their attacks on religion and faith than those who commented on this site. The inverted totalitarianism of today totally brainwashed society, from WMD to economic growth, but please try to at least understand that religion does not equal faith, nor failures of the Church has any bearing on the existence of God.

  • rate this

    Comment number 865.

    I am or is that im not in LOVE with this upstanding community?

  • rate this

    Comment number 864.

    @847 Nothing wrong with capitalism which is just spare capital being redirected from unproductive purposes to productive ones in the form of borrowing and lending not to be confused with the free market and all its derivations which were championed by Adam Smith a Deist. I believe international banking came during the days of empire and were frowned upon by the church because it was usurious


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