Cardinal Carlo Martini: The Last Liberal Catholic Bishop?
With the recent death of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Catholics who call for church reform on issues such as homosexuality and priestly celibacy have lost one of their last leading lights in the top echelons of the church’s hierarchy.
Martini, who died Aug. 31, was a Jesuit and an archbishop of Milan from 1980-2002. More importantly, he was considered for decades the informal leader of “liberals” inside the church. But he has no clear successor in the current crop of cardinals.
He had a “rare combination of skills as a scholar, pastor, communicator and holy man,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a church expert and fellow at Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center. This allowed him to be an independent voice in the church that prizes conformity to tradition.
“If there was a young Martini in the church today,” Reese said, “he would not be made a bishop or cardinal.”
Since the late Pope John Paul II assumed the papacy, there has been an effort to remake the hierarchy by appointing bishops who would unquestioningly follow Vatican thinking started under John Paul. Ironically, it was John Paul who elevated Martini to the episcopacy in his first year as pope. After that, John Paul mainly appointed conservative bishops. [more]