The cardinal went on to propose, quite rightly, that true reform in the Church is always reform inspired by Word and Sacrament. But then, at the end of the interview, came the money-quote: “The Church is 200 years behind. Why in the world does it not rouse itself? Are we afraid? Fear instead of courage?” To which one wants to reply, with all respect, “Two hundred years behind what?”A western culture that has lost its grasp on the deep truths of the human condition? A culture that celebrates the imperial autonomous Self? A culture that detaches sex from love and responsibility? A culture that breeds a politics of immediate gratification and inter-generational irresponsibility, of the sort that has paralyzed public policy in Italy and elsewhere? “Why in the world,” to repeat the late cardinal’s question, would the Church want to catch up with that? As for the question, “Where are the heroes?” Cardinal Martini seemed unaware of, or puzzled by, or perhaps even unhappy with, the heroic witness of the man who created him cardinal after naming him successor to St. Ambrose in Italy’s most prestigious see: John Paul II, whose faith and courage continue to inspire the liveliest parts of the Catholic world in Europe and America. (John Paul, for his part, gave Martini’s commentary on the First Letter of Peter to the cardinals gathered for the pope’s silver jubilee in 2003, as an appendix to a replica of the Bodmer Papyrus copy of the “first encyclical.”) Nor was John Paul alone as an exemplar of Christian heroism during the Martini years in Milan: years in which, to take but two examples, Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko became the martyr-priest of Solidarity and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta completed her singular witness to the “flame of love” the cardinal thought buried under ashes. For all his brilliance, Cardinal Martini, like many on the Catholic left, never seemed to grasp that the secular culture with which Vatican II hoped to open a dialogue was not the secular culture that emerged in Europe in the aftermath of the upheavals of 1968.
Link (here) to read the full piece by George Weigel