By John-Henry Westen

VATICAN, April 24, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini’s stunning interview-dialogue, in an Italian weekly last week, which contradicted Church teaching on abortion, in vitro fertilization and condoms, came two weeks after Pope Benedict praised the dissident Cardinal. Speaking to youth of Rome on April 6, in preparation for the diocesan-level World Youth Day, the Pope recommended they read the writings of Cardinal Martini on the Scriptures.

LifeSiteNews.com reported Friday that the retired Archbishop of Milan, a favourite of liberal dissidents within the Catholic Church, contradicted Church teaching on abortion, callingÂthe current situation of legal abortion “good” or “positive” in that it has “contributed to reducing and eliminating illegal abortions”. He also made statements approving limited in vitro fertilization and embryo research, both of which are condemned by the Church (see coverage: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/apr/06042108.html )

Speaking to the youth two weeks prior, the Pope pointed out that “one should not read sacred Scripture on one’s own . . . it is important to read it in the company of people with whom one can advance, letting oneself be helped by the great masters of ‘lectio divina.’ For example, we have many beautiful books by Cardinal Martini, a true master of ‘lectio divina,’ who helps us to enter into the life of sacred Scripture.” (see the text of the remarks: http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=87880)

Vatican expert Sandro Magister, who works for L’Espresso, the magazine which published the dialogue Friday, pointed out the Pope’s praise for Martini in his opening to the English translation of the complete dialogue.Â(see the English translation here: http://www.chiesa.espressonline.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=51790&eng=y)

The president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, has responded to the issues raised by Cardinal Martini without formally correcting the Cardinal. In an interview with Catholic News Agency (CNA - www.catholicnewsagency.com), Bishop Sgreccia, would not confront the former Archbishop of Milan directly saying: “at the Vatican, we do not consider it necessary make a controversy out of something that does not merit it.”

He did, however, directly contradict Martini on embryo research. Whereas Cardinal Martini suggested embryo research after the union of sperm and egg and prior to syngamy (the union of the two pro-nuclei) was not objectionable, the president of the Pontifical Academy disagreed. The “union of the feminine chromosome and the masculine chromosome contains in itself two pro-nuclei, and it is a fertilized ovum in which the process of fertilization has already begun,” Bishop Sgreccia told CNA.“This beginning,” Msgr. Sgreccia pointed out, in contrast to statements by Cardinal Martini, is “precisely the beginning of an individual life and leads to an irreversible process towards successive development, containing already at that point a unique [genetic] patrimony.”

Bishop Sgreccia also contradicted Cardinal Martini on the permissibility of in vitro fertilization.“In artificial procreation-fertilization, the unitive dimension of the spouses, expressed through the gift of self in the conjugal act, is missing,” Bishop Sgreccia told CNA.“This anthropological dimension has been considered essential for the legitimacy of the procreative act since the teachings of Pius XII on insemination and successively with Paul VI and John Paul II.”

With regard to condoms in the context of AIDS the head of the Pontifical Academy said, “Let us remember that scientifically it does not offer complete protection,” and therefore “the most effective method of prevention is in the correct use of sexuality, which consists of chastity and fidelity.”

In addition to what was reported by LifeSiteNews.com Friday, the dialogue also revealed Cardinal Martini’s controversial position on euthanasia. As with his position on abortion, where he suggested its decriminalization, he suggested similarly on euthanasia.“I agree with you that the action of someone who induces another’s death can never be condoned, in particular if it is a doctor, whose aim is the life of the sick person, not death,” he said. He added however, “But neither would I condemn those persons who carry out such an action at the request of a person reduced to extreme circumstances and out of a pure sentiment of altruism, nor those in disastrous physical and psychological conditions who ask for this themselves.”