Repeated Defiance of Rome: Cardinal Martini Defies Pope; Sabotages Church’s Teaching on Life

Tue Jan 30, 2007 - 12:15 pm EST

By Peter J. Smith
  ROME, January 30, 2007 ( – The retired Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, has struck another subversive blow to the clearly defined teachings of the Catholic Church on life, reports Vatican expert Sandro Magister in the Italian journal Chiesa, who says “the real clash is between Martini and the Pope.”

  Just nine months previously, Martini, a high profile leader in the Catholic Church, exposed his public dissent from the Church’s life teachings on artificial insemination, embryos, abortion, and euthanasia published in the Italian weekly L’espresso in what Magister wrote was a “bombshell manifesto of opposition to the reigning pope.”

  Back then, Martini contradicted Church teaching on euthanasia saying, “The pursuit of physical human life is not, in itself, the first and absolute principle. Above this stands the principle of human dignity.”

  In the January 21 Sunday edition front page of Il Sole 24 Ore, the leading economics and finance newspaper in Italy, and one of the most influential in Europe, appears Martini’s elaborated dissent entitled “Welby, Death, and Me.” The piece comes in the wake of the death of Piergiorgio Welby last Christmas; a man who became a cause célèbre of the “right-to-die” movement after an Italian doctor removed his ventilator on his request.

  The former archbishop of Milan contended that cases like Welby do not actually constitute euthanasia, because the seriously ill person has at every moment the right to interrupt the care that keeps him alive (with some exceptions) and may discontinue “the use of disproportionate medical procedures without any reasonable hope for a positive outcome.”

 “By interrupting these – the cardinal writes, citing the Catechism –“one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted.”

  However, the Cardinal’s statements put him in conflict with the Church because he declares the patient is the competent authority in most cases to determine whether or not his treatment is proportionate, and legitimizes exclusionary euthanasia, where a patient dies after life-preserving medical treatment is withdrawn.

  In this way the Cardinal legitimizes as morally licit the exclusionary euthanasia of Piergiorgio Welby, who – as the cardinal himself wrote –“lucidly asked for the suspension of respiratory support therapies, which in the past nine years have been constituted by a tracheotomy and an automatic ventilator.” However even “right-to-die” enthusiasts such as Umberto Veronesi, an oncologist of worldwide fame, deny this rationale describing exclusionary euthanasia as “suicide.”

 “Such situations,” Martini writes, “will be increasingly more frequent, and the Church itself will need to give them more attentive consideration, including pastoral consideration.”

  This last part has been seen as an indirect rebuke of Pope Benedict XVI’s “pastoral consideration” in the case of Welby for refusing Welby a funeral. The diocese of Rome denied a request from Welby’s wife for a Catholic funeral since Welby “repeatedly and publicly affirmed his desire to end his life, something that is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.”

  Although nine months ago leading Church officials had avoided replying in public to Martini’s previous shocking dissent, this time Church officials have been quicker to respond to Martini’s departures, although remain hesitant to enter into an open confrontation by naming him directly.

  A decisive response came from Elio Sgreccia, titular bishop of Zama, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and for years the most authoritative representative of the Church’s official positions in the area of bioethics in “Corriere della Sera,” the major newspaper of Milan, Martini’s former archdiocese. Citing John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae”, Sgreccia wrote that euthanasia is still the same offense against life even when it is “exclusionary,” or when it omits “an effective and rightful therapy, the withholding of which intentionally causes death.”

  Sgreccia also reiterated that the doctor, not the patient, must evaluate the “proportionality” of the medical treatment and must not be “a simple executor of [a patient’s] wishes” and is bound to object conscientiously if a patient groundlessly refuses medical treatment.

  See Sandro Magister’s full article in Chiesa:

  See Related LifeSite coverage:

  Controversial Retired Cardinal Martini Calls Legal Abortion "Positive"

  Controversial Cardinal Martini Interview Caused High Level Vatican Meeting

  Pope Benedict Praised Cardinal Martini Weeks Before Abortion-IVF Betrayal

  Vatican Says No Change to Teaching Against Condom Use

  Diocese of Rome Refuses Catholic Funeral for Catholic Right-to-Die Activist  

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