Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Late Cardinal Martini SJ

Being  at a   Jesuit school  between the age of 13 and 18 and  living in a Jesuit  parish for some 32 years inspires  a huge respect and affection for the Society of Jesus and its work. However that does not mean that  individual Jesuits are without imperfections any more or less than the rest of mankind is.

The reports following the recent death at age 85 of Cardinal Carlo Martini  SJ of Milan about his work life and beliefs are fascinating. I found the commentaries for example in the Independent newspaper a day or two back very interesting. He seems to have been a liberal Catholic who is also highly praised in "The Tablet" this week. I admire the way in which he appears to have coped with what must have been the  debilitating ailment of Parkinsons Disease by continuing to write  articles  and advise his many readers.

Reading about a man's life and death obviously has its limitations as regards knowing his true feelings about issues.  The Tablet  weekly Catholic magazine and Independent daily newspaper  often contain comments with which I disagree so their reports on his life and death I found very helpful.

The Late Cardinal is reported to have commented recently that some practice and preaching  in Catholic Church  is 200 years behind the times. Such comments are easy to make and of course  many gaps on Sundays in the pews of the Church today, result from absences from Mass by members of the younger generation. I am not sure however that simply changing the form and content of the Sunday worship  liturgy would alter that very much if at all.  Probably the Cardinal's comments went  beyond that but often in such cases criticisms and questions  are rather easier than positive  answers and actions may be. Furthermore changing to accommodate new attitudes  could imply a lack of definition about parts of lives and lifestyles that have been held to be sacrosanct since the time of Christ or by  more recent formal Papal declaration.

I have huge sympathy for his reported observations to the effect that the Church should be more accommodating to divorced Catholics. However my understanding about such matters is that for those who have had marriage issues, the ways in which they have tried to come to terms with these, including any re-marriages, are really matters largely between themselves and God although there will be some perhaps many people involved too. The Church cannot sensibly in my view interfere in particular cases beyond  perhaps  its existing quite difficult  nullity of marriage tribunals.

In my humble opinion  (nullity apart) for  a Catholic man who divorces and remarries, the question of whether he may still receive communion is a matter best answered through private  prayer and conscience. The public church cannot, again in my personal opinion, sensibly provide an  answer not least because there may  be children's and  many other lives affected by divorce about which they cannot   fairly judge. Thus the public  position of the  Church seems to me to be correct though often difficult where  for example  the private positions of those involved  are quite different yet entirely  in keeping with the outcome of private guidance and prayers.

Likewise though I should like to see far more young people involved with the work and prayer of the formal church the reality in my view, is that far more young people undertake the kind of work  with those less able than they appear to be, than used to be the case even though such work is not formally  work within the Church - young helpers with HCPT being a good example. They  really dedicate themselves to the disabled whilst at Lourdes and in the weeks leading up to an HCPT pilgrimage yet may not visit a Church throughout the rest of the year. In my humble opinion they are still enroute to the same destination as those whose church involvement seems more  straightforward   to discern.

Churches such as the CoE which have tried to adapt to the development of  (mainly western) Society do not appear to have secured an increase in attendances by the younger generation yet may have left many querying what the basic word of Christianity really is. Such attempts at adapting also seem to cause significant concerns from many non-western parts of the world such as Africa.

To me the late Cardinal Martini SJ was a great man. I do not agree with all the points attributed to him yet like most members of the Society of Jesus I have come across, he causes those who listen to or read about what he says to reflect deeply  about the meaning of life which can only be for the good.
May he RIP

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