Cardinal Martino: the Vatican’s loose cannon
by Michael Novack, National Review Online. EFL
The Italian newspaper Il Foglio ran a piece Dec. 16 about the frustration at the Vatican, at the secretariat of state, with the imprudent, irascible anti-Americanism of Cardinal Martino, an unfortunate recent appointment (late last year) to the Institute for Justice and Peace, who has not ceased being an embarrassment to his superiors.
Rantburg noted the most recent embarassment the other day.
When I was in Rome last February, Cardinal Martino was already under heavy fire for his intemperate and irrepressible anti-Americanism. Even those who before the war leaned more to the weasel French/German position than to the American were dismayed by his uncalled-for comments.
Il Foglio pointed out today that Cardinal Sodano, the secretary of state (the official who functions something like a prime minister for the Vatican, the top leader of administration domestic and foreign),
-- that is to say, the man within the Church hierarchy who actually has authority to make foreign policy statements in the name of the Vatican --
not only changed the whole title of the document on World Peace released today but also edited out the most offensive passages of Cardinal Martino, from whose department the draft arrived in the last few days. The title, for example, went from "International Law, a Way of Keeping Saddam in Power So TotalFinaElf Gets The Oil Peace," to the less ideological "An Ever Timely Commitment: Teaching Peace." Other rhetorical flourishes were also edited out, according to Il Foglio.

The big Vatican news of the past month has been the major change in the way Islamic terrorism has been directly confronted, with gloves-off honesty in the Jesuit periodical Civilta Cattolica, whose pages are always cleared by the secretariat of state.
-- In other words, if the pronouncements of Civilta Cattolica and those of Cardinal Martino conflict, Civilta Cattolica wins the argument. --
Over a third of the Christians of the Middle East have been driven out during the past decade, the journal reports, and it lists many abuses by extremists, against the background of much greater tolerance in the past. It also analyzes carefully just how the extremists function in practice.

The immense relief experienced by the Catholic community in Iraq since the fall of Saddam has not gone unappreciated at the Vatican. In general, now that the American-led Coalition has acted firmly and with far better results than predicted last February by various spokesmen in the Vatican (they did not all speak with one voice), the Vatican has tried to help with the transition to a more just, peaceful, tolerant, and democratic Iraq.
(Emphasis added.)
The pope in particular never sided against the Americans, although without doubt he worked and prayed so that war would not in the end be necessary. He took pains to be clear that he is not a pacifist. (He had, after all, encouraged military action to relieve Kosovo of genocide and Croatia of intense suffering). He hoped America would not go to war. For myself, I am glad that in no way could the Vatican at that time have been seen as fomenting a war of "the Christians" against an Arab nation. On the contrary, the pope’s voice was the most audible and constant voice against war. To my mind, that is as it should be. The last thing we would have needed was a pope calling for war against an Arab nation.
That last point is extremely important. Bin Laden wants a war between Islam and western civilization. We shouldn’t indulge him--there are a lot of Moslems on the side of civilization, and many more who can be persuaded to join us. As GWB recently said:
Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free.

Posted by: Mike 2003-12-17