In his last interview before his death, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini answered questions. His opening point had been that the Church seems to be tired, a profound answer which was carried here the other day. The next question was, “What tools do you recommend against the exhaustion of the Church?”
His answer was:
“I recommend three very strong ones. The first is conversion: the church must recognize its errors and follow a radical path of change, beginning with the pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals compel us to take up a path of conversion. We have to ask ourselves if people still listen to the advice of the church on sexual matters. Is the church still an authoritative reference in this field, or simply a caricature in the media?”
The Cardinal continues:
“The second is the Word of God. Vatican II gave the Bible back to Catholics. Only those who perceive this Word in their heart can be part of those who will help achieve renewal of the church, and who will know how to respond to personal questions with the right choice. The Word of God is simple, and seeks out as its companion a heart that listens. … Neither the clergy nor ecclesiastical law can substitute for the inner life of the human person. All the external rules, the laws, the dogmas, are there to clarify this internal voice and for the discernment of spirits.”
The Cardinal continues:
“Who are the sacraments for? These are the third tool of healing. The sacraments are not an instrument of discipline, but a help for people in their journey and in the weaknesses of their life. Are we carrying the sacraments to the people who need new strength? I think of all the divorced and remarried couples, to extended families. They need special protection. The church upholds the indissolubility of matrimony. It’s a grace when a marriage and a family succeed …”
And then the Cardinal concludes:
“The attitude we hold towards extended families determines the ability of the church to be close to their children. A woman, for instance, is abandoned by her husband and finds a new companion, who takes care of her and her three children. This second love succeeds. If this family is discriminated against, not only is the mother cut out [from the church] but also her children. If the parents feel like they’re outside the church, and don’t feel its support, the church will lose the future generation.
Before communion, we pray: “Lord, I am not worthy …’ We know we’re not worthy … Love is a grace. Love is a gift. The question of whether the divorced can receive communion ought to be turned around. How can the church reach people who have complicated family situations, bringing them help with the power of the sacraments?
His views flow from the fact that His Eminence realized that on a given Sunday morning a tragic percentage of adult Catholics present for Mass are forbidden to receive the Eucharist because of their marital status. What are we to do?