By John-Henry Westen

Cardinal MartiniROME, April 21, 2006 ( – The controversial Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a favourite of liberal dissidents within the Catholic Church many of whom hoped he’d be elected Pope, has given an interview on abortion, embryo research, assisted procreation, AIDS and condom use to the Italian weekly L’Espresso. The lengthy interview, a dialogue with Italian bioethics expert Ignazio Marino, reveals publicly the Cardinal’s differing opinion on matters of sexuality with the Catholic Church. Even though he retired at age 75 in 2002, the former Archbishop of Milan continues to be a darling of the liberal media.

The full interview published today in Italian (here: ) has not been commented on by the Vatican. The President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia has said he would comment on it once he has reviewed it.

In the largest and most obvious break with Church teaching, the Cardinal refers to legal abortion as “positive” so far as it has “contributed to reducing and eliminating illegal abortions”.

In the interview the Cardinal recommends decriminalizing abortion. He laments the fact that the state cannot differentiate between punishable crimes and those which are not convenient to pursue with penal sanction.”That doesn’t mean a ‘licence to kill’,” he added quickly, but that the state should concentrate on diminishing abortion above all in later pregnancies. His strongest statements against abortion came as he said that “in no way” should it be used as a remedy for overpopulation, as it is in some countries.

With regard to the use of condoms in the context of a discussion on HIV/AIDS he said: “Certainly the use of condoms can, in certain circumstances, constitute a lesser evil . . . The question is whether religious authorities should advertise such a means of protection.”

On embryo research, the Cardinal presumes to have science on his side, as he suggests that after fertilization but prior to the joining of the two pronuclei (syngamy) destructive research on the embryo (which the Cardinal does not consider such) is not objectionable. He argues for leaving decisions around performing such research to the consciences of researchers.Â

With regard to artificial procreation the Cardinal is open to it. He suggests, falsely, that the Church’s absolute refusal on in vitro fertilization was “based above all on the problem of the fate of the embryos,” and since such problems, he claims, can be currently overcome with science the total objection to IVF could be dropped.

However, the Catholic Church opposes IVF and similar techniques of artificial procreation principally since they deprive the child conceived of the right to be conceived in the loving union of a husband and wife – the marital act. The death of embryos which is incidental to IVF is all the more reason to be against such procedures, as are the indignities and dangers associated with artificial procreation. That teaching was presented most recently in 1987 in a document called Donum Vitae which while approved by then-Pope John Paul II was prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and signed off by the former head of that Congregation – then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI. (see Donum Vitae here: )