It would have been more impressive if published while he was alive

I guess death was liberating for a certain bishop, who finally called out the Catholic church for its abuses in a posthumous interview.

Hours after Milan’s former Archbishop, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, died on Friday at the age of 85, the leading daily paper Corriere della Sera printed his final interview, in which he attacks the Church – and by implication its current leadership – for being "200 years out of date".

"Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous," the Cardinal said. "The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the Pope and the bishops. The paedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation."

Yeah? So what else is new?

Also, a bit of strangeness: the Independent published this with a photo of Martini’s rather waxy looking corpse. Why? This interest in dead bodies is a very Catholic sort of thing.


  1. markr1957 Inc. says

    I suppose they had to display his body before they bury it and ‘lose’ the tomb. By all accounts they have a lousy record when it comes to keeping tabs on holes in the ground.

  2. 'Tis Himself says

    If the interview had been published while Martini was alive, the Vatican’s response would possibly have been dismay that such a fine, upstanding cardinal was suffering from dementia “but we remember Carlo when he was a staunch supporter of the papacy so we forgive him for this little lapse.”

  3. Ogvorbis: broken and cynical says

    Isn’t Lenin still on display?

    You get full Marx for that one.

    If this had been published while he was alive, he might’ve been fired. Raping kids won’t get you fired, but pointing out that it is wrong will. Weird outfit.

  4. chrisv says

    Reminiscent of Mother Theresa’s confession that for a good part of her life she was an atheist.

    “…she could feel nothing when she prayed herself and no longer had any experience of God.”

    The edifice, rotten to the core, slowly and surely crumbles.

  5. says

    I really don’t get Catholics. The linked article said that Martini caused controversy by refusing a feeding tube– contravening the RCC’s policy on end of life issues. So, if I have this straight, it’s okay to artifically extend life (presumably against God’s will), but artificially shortening one’s own life (once again, presumably against God’s will) is a no no?

    How in the fuck does that make any sense?

  6. says

    This interest in dead bodies is a very Catholic sort of thing.

    Indeed. The Church has a nifty numerical classification system for relics. A “first-class” relic is a piece of the saint himself (or herself). Like a nice bone or foreskin or hank of hair. Vials of blood also qualify. A “second-class” relic is usually something belonging to a saint. This could be a scratchy hairshirt or a nice whip for self-flagellation or rosary. The less desirable “third-class” relics are also the most commercially viable, because there’s no limit to them. A third-class relic is something that came into contact with a higher-class relic. Imagine how well this works! If you have a saint’s knuckle-bone, you can generate third-class relics all day by pouring beads over it and then doling them out to include in rosaries. It’s a goldmine! Of course, technically you cannot sell relics of whatever classification — but it’s okay if people give you love offerings in return for your free gift of a relic. God won’t mind!

    By the way, if you’re ever in a Catholic church, be assured that there’s a relic within the altar somewhere. It’s supposed to be generating a powerful lot of goodness — sort of like Mammy Yokum used to do.

  7. says

    Audley, I’m guessing the RCC considers asking for your feeding tube to be withdrawn a form of suicide, which they forbid. Of course doing something suicidal isn’t bad if it can be in some way be of benefit to promoting the Church. Then you get called a martyr, and if you’re really lucky perhaps named a saint.

  8. Charlie Foxtrot says

    be assured that there’s a relic within the altar somewhere

    Unless it is a post-vatican II church. Which was kinda a disappointment back when I was a D&D playing kid – really took the necromantic magic out of the place.
    It’s almost shame they don’t make more use of the relics for their garments – the pope would look more appropriate and may get more respect if he looked like this. Maybe…

  9. autumn says

    How in the hell does the US government not indict every single member of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church? We have letters by the pope explaining why he illegally covered up abuse, we have a bishop now agreeing that there was a cover-up. Every goddamn Catholic church should have FBI agents waiting for the priest and his underlings to arrive so they can be arrested. The Roman Catholic Church is a worse threat to justice and society than the Mafia ever could hope to be.

  10. F says

    This interest in dead bodies is a very Catholic sort of thing.

    I don’t buy the implication that non-Catholic Christians or any other religion or culture don’t have an absurd interest in dead bodies. Catholic cultures sure do have an inordinate interest in relics of the sainted and ancient dead, though. (OK, not just RC, but non-Protestant “mainstream” Christians.)

    Audley Z. Darkheart

    You would have to mean the Catholic Church (the Central Imperial Bureaucracy) rather than all Catholics in general. Most don’t seem to give a fuck about papal douchebongery in such matters*, including those who actually venerate CathCentCom.

    *EOL, suicide, birth control, you name it.

  11. says

    Cardinal Martini was once considered among the papabili — the “pope-worthy” cardinals with a real chance of succeeding to the top spot. Martini’s positions, however, were considered more liberal than the Vatican mainstream and he was always viewed as a longshot. Although he was archbishop of Milan, a post that had spawned two earlier popes (Pius XI and Paul VI), he appointed to that position by John Paul II, the pope that refused to die, outlasting one batch after another of papabili. Martini never had a chance and, in fact, was close to 80 (the limit of eligibility to vote) when the conclave to elect John Paul II’s successor was finally convened.

  12. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    @ Zeno

    A “second-class” relic is usually something belonging to a saint. This could be a scratchy hairshirt or a nice whip for self-flagellation or rosary.

    People love going for this shit and it amazes me. It was a huge industry for the church – quite mindboggling in it’s scale – during the Middle Ages.

    I note it is not even necessarily a religious thing. Take this example I recently found (in a different context for Thunderdome):

    Though he only stayed in Berlin for a few months, a veritable “Lisztomania” (Heinrich Heine) broke out there in the spring of 1842. Swept away by the sheer brilliance of his playing, the public coveted and fetishized everyday items of his, including his silk handkerchiefs and velvet gloves, and were awe-struck whenever a piano string broke [ed: they covetted these two – they were made into bracelets]or an entire grand piano came crashing down under his ferocious performance. “A divinity, and we hearken on our knees,” noted Robert Schumann.

    (emphasis and comment mine) Link to Goethe Institute article.

    It is a feature of brute superstition that a magical object can transfer some its magic to anything that comes into contact with it.

  13. says

    I have a small chunk of Caltech’s Throop Hall in my desk drawer, a souvenir of its demolition at the end of 1972. Perhaps my Catholic upbringing moved me to collect a relic.

  14. madscientist says

    If you read through you see that cardinal Martini only wanted to bring the church forward to 80 years in the past.

  15. says

    @Zeno: Another Techer here?

    Re. the relics: and even with first-class relics, there’s always the question of authenticity, particularly with the older body parts. There are several different skulls/pieces thereof which are claimed to belong to John The Baptist, and there have been a large number of ‘Holy Prepuce’ artifacts – that is to say, supposed bits of Jesus’ foreskin (none of which are likely to be authentic, since why would anyone have attached any importance to one particular baby boy’s body parts?).

  16. McC2lhu saw what you did there. says

    I can only hope that all these individual acts of defiance, such as this bishop, Pope Fritz’s butler, and the group of nuns in the US, are the start of a steamroller effect that ends the anachronism of Catholicism much, much sooner rather than later. It was an evil political institution when it started as a replacement for a dying Roman empire and has grown more vile for centuries. Politics rigging, sectarian wars, multiple crusades causing death, multiple inquisitions causing death and torture, aboriginal genocide and child abduction, aiding fascist regimes from Germany to Argentina to Chile, becoming a front for a child-rape and AIDS pandemic promoting guild…what does it fucking take to make Catholic swallowers open their eyes and see that the fake piety, ceremony and sanctity are the biggest, gaudiest gilt false front for a scam ever contrived? If there was any sort of actual kindly and beneficent deity attached to this institution, it surely would have torn it to the ground to start over and do better by now. Two thousand plus years of murder and war and rape and torture and lies and theft and bloated sybaritic luxury are two fucking thousand years too many.

    Many will argue that it has done good for so many. So what? A secular organization of kindly old men and women could have been doing the same thing for 2000 years without fomenting the political turmoil and torture and wouldn’t have a phony deity’s skirt to hide behind when a horrifyingly egregious number of them decided to rape children or plunder someone’s coffers or any of a thousand and one crimes the church has been guilty of. And they certainly wouldn’t have stultifyingly moronic rules regarding STD protection, their own relationships and marriage, gay marriage and cracker eating.

    DIAF, Catholic church. Your time should have been over before it started.

  17. McC2lhu saw what you did there. says

    OH! I apologize. They made nice art over the centuries, though. Of course, they had wheedled away everyone’s money so were the only ones that could afford to do so.

  18. birgerjohansson says

    When the current pope dies, can’t the RCC do the same thing as North Korea and proclaim him eternal boss of bosses?

  19. McC2lhu saw what you did there. says

    That the North Koreans thought of that before the Catholic Church shows you how really, really warped NK is. They didn’t even have centuries to think about it.

  20. anubisprime says

    McC2lhu saw what you did there. @ 20

    Oh fuck yeah… and then some!

    But it is the beginning of the end.
    One can tell by the frenzied terror in their eyes and the tumult of panic soaked genuflecting betraying the cassock wetting fear that is slowly but inextricably crawling up their hairy legs making knobbly knees knock uncontrollably.

    They are losing the battle big time and they are dimly aware that things ain’t going at all well, but their disbelief in their crumbling stench ridden magisterium is almost as palpable as their shaky and cynical faith in things jeebussy!

    They are in active denial mode at the moment about absolutely everything thinking that by carrying on carrying on they will weather a little local unrest.
    But a certain piquant desperation is tinging and encroaching on their activities.

    Scotland is a case where their angst is prevalent at the moment…a government has actually told them to basically go and swivel on their bigotry.
    They respond by Cardinal Keith O’Brien flouncing out of governmental meetings in his pretty dress cos they are not getting their way.

    Ireland has really turned and bitten the katolic’ arse…only 1/3 of Catholics now attend mass the rest have wondered away,,…still ostensibly catholic but not practicing, and the surprising thing is that the opposition delusion is not gaining the disenfranchised, all are having severe staffing shortages, and what are there are aging and retiring inexorably every year and all the seminaries are basically empty.
    Coffers are suffering and “Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin. warned recently that the Irish church was in crisis and at breaking point”

    He meant the hold of Catholic doctrine on the sheeple..yep the whole shebang is irreversibly disintegrating before their eyes.

    How fucking sweet is that!

  21. Nightjar says

    This interest in dead bodies is a very Catholic sort of thing.

    Well, I did have some trouble the other day explaining to my very catholic grandmother that no, a trip to the city’s main church to see the preserved dead hand of a saint that every year is plugged into her statue and put on display for a few days isn’t appealing to me, ewww, thanks for the invite but I’d rather stay home.

  22. grumpyoldfart says

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Cardinal Martini had carried those thought for most of his life, but he enjoyed the money, fame, servants, and altar boys so much that he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Fuck it, I’m taking whatever I can get.” Later, when he was retired and his pension was secure; that’s when he decided to start acting like a decent human being again. Too little too late.

  23. says


    Most don’t seem to give a fuck about papal douchebongery in such matters*, including those who actually venerate CathCentCom.

    No, they don’t, at least not in the US. But they support this shit by not calling the Church out on its douchebaggery.

    *sigh* Sorry, there’s a movement to legalize assisted suicide in MA and the bishops are (not surprisingly) fighting tooth and nail– they’ve pretty much said that terminally ill patients should suffer because God. I’m just worried that they will be able to mobilize enough Catholic lay people to defeat the ballot measure in November.

    And whatevs. I’m not terribly uncomfortable blaming all Catholics for the evils of their religion. They are supporting it, after all.

  24. John Morales says


    Actually, it was a posthumously-published interview, not a posthumous interview.

    (The latter would indeed have been remarkable)

  25. steve oberski says


    Isn’t Lenin still on display?

    As is Mao Zedong, at least when we were in Beijing last November.

    It’s interesting how systems based on authoritatian ideology all endlessly recyle the same tropes, be they religious or politcal in nature.

    I still think the rcc does it best, what with the metric tonnes of body bits of their many dieties floting around in various states of preservation and an endless supply of the gullible waiting to slobber over them.

  26. says

    The suspicion – ever present in Italy – that the Vatican has tendrils everywhere, even in the mainstream press, was heightened by the failure of the article to appear on the Corriere della Sera website. Following inquiries by The Independent, Corriere’s editor, Ferruccio de Bortoli, said there had been no pressure to keep the article off the website. It was then published online yesterday evening. Other leading newspapers failed to give the cardinals’ comments much coverage.

    None at all. No one “suspects”. There is absolutely no tenable reason to doubt it. I frankly doubt people in other countries can actually appreciate the true extent of the phenomenon. It’s a given. A fact of life. Not that the RCC are the only ones, mind you.
    The main reason why I spend a lot of time browsing the net is to continue to be aware of the gap between what actually happens and what we are force-fed by the Italian media.
    On Mr. De Bortoli, although not usually fond of colorful metaphors, I respectfully invoke the porcupine.

  27. sciamannata says

    With reference to the title of the post, actually, cardinal Martini was well known to hold such opinions, and I’m pretty sure the posthumous interview didn’t really surprise anybody who knew him, much less the Catholic hierarchy.

    I grew up in Milan & although I left the church and declared myself an atheist not too long after he had become archbishop, and I’ve come to feel more and more disgust for the church in the intervening years, I feel I must put in a good word for him, because it seems to me that nobody in this whole thread knows anything about him other than the obvious fact that he was a cardinal.

    And fair enough, if you think that’s all you need to know, that’s your call. But there are levels of good and bad within the catholic church, and within those limits, he was a good man — this is really the core of what I want to say: sometimes (usually?) you need to know more than one single thing about a man before you judge him. And this man was almost certainly quite different from the first image that comes into your mind when you think “Cardinal”.

    Of all places in Italy you might think of, Milan is not in any sense a bastion of the Church or of medieval superstition: the popular turnout at his funeral does in fact speak very well to the man’s memory. As does the fact that the newspaper “il manifesto”, which proudly calls itself “communist daily”, devoted its cover page to him the day after his death. Things are more complex than they may seem.

    (Let me repeat that I’m not defending the church. I guess I felt some affection for this particular man, and so I felt the need to defend him as a person. There is now only one bishop that I like left in the world, and he isn’t young either…) (Desmond Tutu in case you’re wondering.)

  28. KG says

    There are several different skulls/pieces thereof which are claimed to belong to John The Baptist

    In Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, which is basically a medieval detective story, the investigator, William of Baskerville, jokes about seeing “the skull of John the Baptist at the age of twelve” displayed as a relic. My favourite relic, though, is the supposed body of St. Mark in Venice. It was stolen by the Venetians from Alexandria, and may in fact have been the body of Alexander the Great, which disappeared around the time Alexandria started claiming to have the body of St. Mark. But since the body went missing in Venice for several decades, the body now on display is probably that of some Venetian pauper or criminal.

  29. anubisprime says

    A DNA analysis on the various body bits of jeebus and his cronies might well present a cast of thousands.

    There have been enough splinters of the cross to stock a middling sized forest.
    And the severed head of John the Baptist had been claimed by at least a dozen churches throughout antiquity not least by the Vatican.
    Still is disputed who has what bit…from Serbia, Paris, Jerusalem to being stashed by The Knights Templar before they got spanked by Phillip cos he owed them a lot of hard cash.
    But the strange thing is any church or cathedral that boasted a body bit always charged entrance fees!
    Seems any wheeze to elicit a few shekels from the brain dead was deemed par for the course and the Vatican keeps up this charade today for tradition sake apparently!

  30. NitricAcid says

    The Catholic fascination with dead saints (and pieces thereof) reminds me of the comment in the bible about “whited sepulchers”; nice and clean on the outside, and all filth and corruption within. An adequate description of the church, but the Pope can hardly be described as “whited”. From now on, I’m going to think of him as a “vajazzled sepulcher”.