Among Catholics who've been rattled by remarks by Pope Francis in his famous interviews, some have sought solace in blaming the media. They have a point. Sensationalism, oversimplification, and ignorance (headline writers notwithstanding, "proselytism" and "conversion" are two quite different things) really have marked some of the papal coverage to date.
But when you're through criticizing the press, the fact remains that the reporters have gotten it essentially right. Pope Francis truly is saying something different while apparently preparing to set the Church on a significantly new path. This makes it a matter of urgency that Catholics, instead of getting hung up on media mistakes, grasp where the Pope's newness really lies.
Italian Vaticanologist Sandro Magister offers a helpful insight on that. To comprehend Pope Francis, he says, he should be seen in the line of two larger than life figures of the not so distant past--Cardinal Carlo Martini, S.J., of Milan and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago.
Cardinal Martini, a Jesuit like Pope Francis, died in 2012. For many years he was Catholic progressives' favorite candidate for election as pope. Cardinal Bernardin died in 1996. During most of the preceding two decades he was the dominant figure among his brothers in the U.S. hierarchy.
By no means is Pope Francis's resemblance to the two cardinals a perfect likeness. The Pope is very much his own man, with his own style and his own priorities. Still, no one who knew either Cardinal Martini or Cardinal Bernardin can help but notice the similarities. Especially, as Magister suggests, these concern the stance the Church should adopt in addressing the secular culture.
In modern times, the stance has generally been confrontational and combative: error must be corrected, evil resisted, no matter the cost. By contrast, the Martini-Bernardin approach is notably different: instead of confronting the secular culture, seek common ground; where no common ground can be found, downplay the conflict as much as can be done without sacrificing principle.
And the Pope? His strategy is reasonably clear from the metaphor used in his interview with several Jesuit journals to describe the role of the Church in today's world.
"I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugar. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds
Here is the context in which to read Francis's words later calling on Catholics to talk less about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. First, he's saying, stop the spiritual hemorrhaging from the wounds inflicted by the culture on faith and hope, and only then turn to specific problems..
We now have clear evidence that Francis doesn't intend only to talk about these things. It's his move in summoning an "extraordinary"--that is, out of the regular cycle--session of the world Synod of Bishops a year from now to consider "the pastoral challenges of the family."
This consultation with bishops from around the world reflects his commitment to collegiality as well as his concern for divorced and remarried Catholics. If Pope Francis has anything to say about it--and it hardly needs saying that he will--the Church's pastoral approach to them will be at the top of the Synod agenda.
So, unavoidably, will questions this unavoidably raises regarding Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage. Never mind the press--the truth is, we're in for an exciting ride.
Martini Pope. The Dream Come True
Jesuit, archbishop of Milan and cardinal, he was the most authoritative and highly praised antagonist of the pontificates of Wojtyla and Ratzinger. His supporters see today in Francis the one who has inherited his legacy. And is putting it into practice
by Sandro Magister
ROME, October 15, 2013 Seven months after the election as pope of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the interpretations of the beginning of this pontificate are contrasting.
Within the Church the judgments most positive, if not enthusiastic, on the first acts of Pope Francis are coming from the supporters of the cardinal who for years represented, with great authoritativeness and widespread consensus, the most clear alternative approach to the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
That cardinal was Carlo Maria Martini, a former director of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, archbishop of Milan from 1979 to 2002, who died on August 31, 2012 after having left his instructions in an interview that was also very critical, published immediately after his death as his spiritual testament:
> After Martini, the Fight Over His Spiritual Testament
This last interview was conducted by the Austrian Jesuit Georg Sporschill, the same who in 2008 oversaw the publication of the book most representative of Martini, also in the form of an interview, Nighttime conversations in Jerusalem:
> God Is Not Catholic, Cardinal's Word of Honor
During the last years of his life, Cardinal Martini had accentuated his criticisms in interviews and books written together with borderline Catholics like Fr. Luigi Verzé and the bioethicist Ignazio Marino, in which he expressed his hope for a bringing up-to date-of the Church also on questions like the beginning and end of life, marriage, sexuality:
> Carlo Maria Martinis Day After
In the conclave of 2005, Martini was the cardinal symbol of the failed opposition to the election of Joseph Ratzinger. And the votes of his supporters, together with others, converged at the time precisely on Bergoglio.
Eight years later, in March of 2013, it was again the "martiniani" who backed the election of Bergoglio as pope. This time with success.
And today they are seeing come true, in the first acts of Pope Francis, what for Martini was only a dream. The dream of a Church synodal, poor among the poor, inspired by the gospel of the beatitudes, leaven and mustard seed."
This is what is written and explained, in the commentary presented below, by the one whom Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi has rightly called the leading Martinian expert": Marco Garzonio, a prominent figure of the Milanese Catholic laity, psychologist and psychotherapist, editorialist for Corriere della Sera," author in 2012 of the most important biography of Martini, as well as being his longtime chronicler and confidant.
His latest work is in the form of a theatrical dialogue, between Cardinal Martini and his soul, performed at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto in July of 2013, and now on the playbill in Milan and in other Italian theaters.
The commentary by Garzonio is the most explicit and detailed interpretation written so far that links the pontificate of pope Bergoglio to the heritage of Cardinal Martini.
It was published in "Corriere della Sera" of October 11.
THE POPE'S DEBT TO MARTINI
by Marco Garzonio
There is without a doubt a great dose of novelty in the papacy of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. But one who sees only that aspect does wrong to him and to the Church. And he applies only categories of a political or in any case a convenient nature, daughters of a culture accustomed to distinguishing between good Catholics, open to modernity, and Catholics attached to tradition, rites, power.
The statements of Francis reported by Eugenio Scalfari must be interpreted in the light of a man of God who has presented a task for himself knowing how bold it is: to transform into crackling flames the coals concealed beneath a heavy blanket of ashes, which threatened, even in recent times, to suffocate all vital inspirations before they could become reforming impulses. Living coals, however.
Some examples have been offered by the pope himself. He has twice cited Carlo Maria Martini. This is already a good endorsement, for the cardinal who passed away a little more than a year ago, to find himself in a gallery that goes from Francis of Assisi to St. Augustine, from St. Paul to St. Ignatius.
To the one who was archbishop of Milan for more than two very difficult decades, Francis is publicly expressing a debt of extraordinary acknowledgment: his having pointed out for years to the pontiffs then reigning, Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger, the model of a "synodal" Church, an institution in which the pope governs not as an absolute monarch, but through service, helped by the bishops and cardinals.
In listening to these and being able to count on their support, the pope effectively becomes head of the whole Church, because he takes into account the voices of other continents, other needs, other requests, with respect to that Vatican which is folded in upon itself and its management.
And as bishop of Rome, and therefore without claims of hegemony and proselytism ("a solemn foolishness," Bergoglio says), he is clearing the way for the ecumenism and interreligious dialogue on which Martini centered his episcopate, garnering more than one official reproach for his lack of attention to proselytism.
When Martini, in 1981, as an assessment of the first year of his episcopate and therefore of his contacts with the Italian episcopal conference and the Holy See, began to speak of a synodal Church," he had to put his personal intuition and the path of development of the Church under the category of dream.
As a man of faith and a realistic person, as well as a prudent Jesuit, he had understood that his arguments did not constitute material welcome to the leadership. He presented his ideas as a goal that was perhaps a long way away, but he was not silent. And he paid the price himself.
He still had to speak of a dream almost twenty years later, with bitterness and disappointment at the coming of the new millennium, when Wojtyla's strength was declining and the power of the "court," as Bergoglio now calls those who surround the pontiff, was rising. And still he was not understood by some and opposed by most of his own brother bishops and cardinals who gathered at that synod of 1999.
Martini believed in and never gave up on the "dream," which Bergoglio is now trying to get onto its feet so that it can be turned into reality.
In the interview of August 8, 2012, published in Corriere della Sera" on September 1, the day after his death, Martini, with the grave tone of the testamentary bequest and the prophetic admonition, also indicated the practical means: the pope should surround himself with twelve bishops and cardinals if he wants the barque of Peter not to be submerged by internal waves and by a society that no longer believes in it, two hundred years behind as it is on issues like the family, the young, the role of women (this being a topic on which Pope Francis has promised to speak more).
Martini held the tiller firm until the end. and to give even more incisiveness and loftiness to his speech, he clarified that he was no longer dreaming about the Church, but praying for the Church.
The prayers must have knocked very high if the conclave, six months ago, selected Bergoglio and he accepted after an almost mystical crisis.
But it is certain that if Francis is revisiting those issues and expressing public acknowledgment of the one who inspired him, it is because Martini was not so alone and isolated after all, as much Catholic publicity has sought to make it believed for years.
In refutation of official public opinion, filtered by the leadership of the Holy See and by the Italian episcopal conference, and of a certain secular Manichaeism that has always liked to indicate a Martini "against" the pope, doctrine, the magisterium, there comes a great karstic river flowing beneath the churchyards, the altars, the sacred buildings.
They were those bishops and priests, those laymen and directors or volunteers of movements for whom there was nothing at all to be feared from the Church losing temporal power.
Beginning with the ecclesial conference in Loreto in 1985, headed by Martini (and even before with the one in Rome in 1976, with Martini, Giuseppe Lazzati, and Jesuits like Fr. Bartolomeo Sorge), there were many who recognized themselves in the image of a Church that, in addition to being synodal, would be poor among the poor, inspired by the gospel of the beatitudes, leaven and mustard seed.
Part of the hierarchy sought to oppose that course, and even to recover the direct management (Bergoglio now calls it "clerical") of power and of relations with politics, at the moment of the end of the Democrazia Cristiana party and the political diaspora of Catholics, in open disagreement with Martini, who instead thought the removal of Catholics from power would serve as "purification."
Francis is starting over from there, certainly with his statements to the newspapers, but also with acts of governance internal (secretariat of state, IOR, the group of eight cardinals) and directed to the CEI. Approaching, in fact, is the election of the head of the Italian bishops on the part of the bishops themselves, with majorities and minorities, with legitimation of debate and of different positions, no longer with official designations and autocratic management.
Let's give an example. Bergoglio said to Scalfari: "I believe in God. Not in a Catholic God, there does not exist a Catholic God, there exists God." In 2007 Martini said in the book-interview "Nighttime conversations in Jerusalem": "You cannot make God Catholic. God is beyond the limits and definitions that we establish." Many there were who tore their garments. In the Catholic world this seemed to some almost a blasphemy. But even among the secularists many were startled. Martini was attacked for that book even within the editorial group of l'Espresso, Scalfari's group. And it was not the first or the last time.
So there is a great deal of work to be done if one is truly aiming at a society and a politics in which each one can make his own contribution, the best he can and knows how. With honesty and consistency, willing to enter into discussion.
Then wonder and admiration for the pope will be authentic and will help him in reforms, in that he is bishop of Rome, as he takes care to reiterate, the pastor of a whole people that walks with him.
Exalting him too much risks distancing him from that people which to a large extent was already close to his ideas and was waiting for him. And damaging his work.
The newspaper in which the commentary by Marco Garzonio appeared:
> Corriere della Sera
On the conversation between Francis and Eugenio Scalfari to which Garzonio refers:
> Encyclicals Have a New Format: The Interview
The ecclesial conference in Loreto in 1985, to which Garzonio refers, effectively marked the affirmation of the stance of Martini, who presided over it, but also his public disavowal on the part of John Paul II. With Martini was also disowned the leadership of the Italian episcopal conference at the time.
At that conference, the theologian who delivered the keynote address, in full support of Martini's approach, was Bruno Forte.
Today Forte is the archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, and on October 14 Pope Francis appointed him special secretary of the synod of bishops scheduled for October of 2014, on the theme: The challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.
English translation by Matthew Sherry
, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.