In the last few days Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, was in Belgium for a presentation on his book, “God or Nothing.” He responded to certain tendencies to modify Catholic morality, in particular in regard to marriage and the family, as well as the teaching on life. May certain of his words be read as a response to the recent remarks of German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, of the Vice-President of the German Bishops’ Conference Franz Josef Bode, and of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna?
It seems the answer is yes. Speaking to a church full of people, including the Apostolic Nuncio Cardinal De Kesel, Mayor Woluwé-Saint Pierre, and Abbot Philippe Mawet, in charge of French-speaking pastoral ministry, who had criticized Sarah’s book a few days earlier in an article in the left-leaning daily Libre Belgique, the cardinal called out the ideologies and pressure groups that “with powerful financial means and ties to the media, attack the natural purpose of marriage and commit themselves to destroying the family unit.”
But the cardinal from Guinea, speaking in one of the most devastated local Churches of all of Europe, was not afraid to include tough words directed towards his brothers in the episcopate. “Some high-ranking prelates, above all those coming from opulent nations, are working to cause modifications to Christian morality with regard to the absolute respect for life from conception until natural death, the question of the divorced and civilly remarried, and other problematic family situations. These ‘guardians of the faith’ however ought not to lose sight of the fact that the problem posed by the fragmentation of the ends of marriage is a problem of natural morality.” But the cardinal did not stop there. He continued calmly: “The great derivations became manifest when some prelates or Catholic intellectuals began to say or write ‘a green light for abortion,’ ‘a green light for euthanasia.’ Now, from the moment that Catholics abandon the teaching of Jesus and the Magisterium of the Church, they contribute to the destruction of the natural institution of marriage as well as the family and it is now the entire human family which finds itself fractured by this new betrayal on the part of priests.”
In this year in which the 50th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae is being celebrated, without making any effort to hide or water down his words, the cardinal spoke quite strongly: “The Church needs to turn to the encyclical Humanae Vitae of Paul VI as well as to the teachings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI on these vital questions for the human race. Pope Francis himself remains in the same line with his predecessors when he emphasizes the union between the Gospel of love and the Gospel of peace. The Church needs to affirm with strength and without ambiguity the Magisterial weight of all of this teaching, display clearly its continuity [with the Tradition] and protect this treasure from the predators of this world without God [in which we live].
In an interview given to Cathobel, Cardinal Sarah testified that the Church today ought to face up to great questions, and above all to “her fidelity to Jesus, to his Gospel, to the teaching which she has always received from the first popes, from the councils…and this is not evident, because the Church desires to adapt herself to the cultural context, to modern culture.”
And then on faith: “Faith has become lacking, not only on the level of the people of God but also among those responsible for the Church, sometimes we can ask ourselves if we really have faith.” Cardinal Sarah recalled the episode of the [priest who omitted the] Creed at Mass, Fr. Fredo Olivero, and concluded: “I think that today there may be a great crisis of faith and also a great crisis of our personal relationship with God.”
And on Europe? “Not only is the West losing its soul, but it is committing suicide, because a tree without roots is condemned to death. I think that the West cannot renounce its roots, which created its culture and its values.” The cardinal continued: “There are chilling things happening in the West. I think that a parliament which authorizes the death of an innocent baby, without defense, is committing a grave act of violence against the human person. When abortion is imposed, especially on nations in the developing world, saying that if they do not accept it they will no longer receive aid, it is an act of violence. And it is no surprise. When God is abandoned, man is also abandoned; there is no longer a clear vision of who man is. This is a great anthropological crisis in the West. And it leads to people being treated like objects.”
Originally published at La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino.