Just after the recent renewed polite criticism of Pope Francis by Father Thomas G. Weinandy, the well-respected U.S. theologian, there comes to us another priestly voice of resistance, this time coming out of Spain. For some weeks now, Father Santiago Martin – the founder of the international association Franciscans of Mary with 10,000 members world-wide – has been raising his voice, criticizing the current “confusion,” “polarization,” and the danger of open “schism.”
Giuseppe Nardi, journalist of the German Catholic website Katholisches.info, has first brought out this voice in German. At the end of January, he reported about Father Martin’s words which he spoke to the audience of his own Catholic television station, Magnificat.tv. In one of his weekly commentaries, Father Martin then spoke about the question of the “married priests,” after first reviewing some of the “polarization” that took place during the papal visit to Chile with regard to the Barros case and the papal words about it. After mentioning Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley’s own critique of Pope Francis in this matter, Father Martin observes that there might be “turning point with regard to the support of certain liberal media” that had previously existed for Pope Francis.
Father Martin regretted that in the midst of these public events some words of Cardinal Beniamino Stella, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, had been mostly overlooked. (Onepeterfive reported here.) The Spanish priest saw that Cardinal Stella opened up the idea of ordaining to the priesthood married men, and he warned that this new possibility, though first introduced for “certain regions in Brazil and some Pacific islands,” might be “the beginning of the end of mandatory celibacy.”
However, for Father Martin, this new wound adds only new burdens: “Some people are astonished about this timing,” especially after “another wound just had been opened” with regard to the divorced and “remarried” couples and their access to the Sacraments without that they begin and continue to live in continence. The Spanish priest insisted that so many changes are not good: “To be fixated is not good. However, nor is it good to push on the gas pedal. There is too much confusion, too much tension in this moment in the Church to open up a new source of discussion.”
Only a few days ago, Father Martin made yet another set of important comments about the current Church crisis. This time, he wrote a commentary for the prominent Honduran newspaper La Prensa. He speaks now about war and adds:
It is not normal that that the website of the Pontifical Academy for Life publishes an article in which it is said that the use of the contraceptive pill has to be permitted while at the same time there is a strong group of Catholics who converted from Islam and who write to the pope a letter in which they state that they feel abandoned by the Church.
Father Martin sees here a set of contradictory developments which are troubling. One the one hand, there is the (progressivist) movement to establish a “theory of accomplished facts,” on the other, there are signs that those who are holding on to the Church’s Tradition and to the Word of God “are leaving the Church” and that there might come “a schism.” Both developments might be taking place at the same time. He explains, as follows:
At the beginning, when they started with the debate about Communion for the remarried divorcees, one spoke about a possible schism, should it come to it. Now, Amoris Laetitia has allowed it in such an ambiguous manner that one may interpret it either way. As I have said, while this confusion is still unresolved, other confusions are now being added.
The Spanish priest adds that “there are too many [confusions], and they come too fast in a row. There is too much acceleration, which only happens when the driver has lost control, or when the car is to come off the road in order to drive against a tree.” Father Martin wonders whether in this case, the famous Shakespearean expression (from Hamlet) is not applicable, according to which there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. Without once mentioning the name of Pope Francis, Father Martin adds: “I also do not know why this is the case, but I am certain that somebody knows it, and I do not here mean God who of course knows everything.” It is important now “to pray and to remain calm.”
It is here that the Spanish priest also warns against a schism, because “some might only wait for it” by hitting the loyal watch dog in order to then be able to say that he is dangerous. That is to say, such a schism could happen because one group actively seeks it – or because another group tries to push another one out.
The significance of the warnings coming from Father Martin lies in the weight of his apostolate. Father Martin (born 1954 in Madrid) had founded the Franciscans of Mary in 1988, and in 2007, he received Pope Benedict’s official approval. The movement has its own priestly seminary and is present in 27 countries, among them being Spain, the U.S., Canada, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Poland, Holland, Sri Lanka, and Italy.
In light of his own recent firm interventions, it is not surprising that Father Martin’s own website published excerpts from Father Weinandy’s own fine and polite criticism of Pope Francis. Father Martin himself also recently posted his own rebuke of the German bishops’ decision to admit Protestant spouses of Catholics to Holy Communion, and only in individual cases; he revealingly entitled his article with the words: “When the exception destroys the rule.”
Update: Pedro Luis Llera, Professor of Spanish language and literature and contributor to the Spanish website Infocatólica, sent to us, after reading this report, the following appreciative and confirmatory message about Father Martin:
“Thank you very much. Indeed, Fr. Santiago Martin is one of the most lucid voices when denouncing the current crisis of the Church. He isone of the few voices that are being raised in Spain, along with Bishop Reig Pla de Alcalá de Henares and a few more. The others remain silent or are carried away by the current modernist tide.”