Exclusive interview with the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Cardinal Robert Sarah has said the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazon Region, being a regional assembly of bishops, is not the forum to discuss priestly celibacy — a subject that is “unbearable” for the modern world because “some Westerners can no longer tolerate this scandal of the cross.”
The subject is one of many the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments discusses in this exclusive Sept. 13 interview with Register Rome correspondent Edward Pentin, including the reasons why he decided to write his latest book, The Day Is Now Far Spent (Ignatius Press).
He addresses the current crisis in the Church and society and believes it is driven primarily by atheism, not placing God at the center of our lives, as well as a prevailing wish to impose “personal opinion as truth.” Those who announce “revolutions and radical changes,” he warns, “are false prophets” not “looking out for the good of the flock.”
The Guinean cardinal also explains why Africa’s grace is to remain “a child of God,” discusses the positive and negative effects of liturgical reform, and says a “demon” wanting our “spiritual death” is what makes some prohibit Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. “How can we not be surprised and deeply shocked that what was the rule yesterday is prohibited today?” he asks, and he urges a “move away from dialectical oppositions.”
What is the primary concern you want to convey to readers in your book?
Don’t misunderstand this book. I don’t develop personal theses or academic research. This book is the cry from my heart as a priest and a pastor.
I suffer so much from seeing the Church torn apart and in great confusion. I suffer so much from seeing the Gospel and Catholic doctrine disregarded, the Eucharist ignored or profaned. I suffer so much from seeing the priests abandoned, discouraged, and [witnessing those] whose faith has become tepid.
The decline of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus the Eucharist is at the heart of the current crisis of the Church and its decline, especially in the West. We bishops, priests and lay faithful are all responsible for the crisis of faith, the crisis of the Church, the priestly crisis and the de-Christianization of the West. Georges Bernanos wrote before the war: “We constantly repeat, with tears of helplessness, laziness or pride, that the world is becoming de-Christianized. But the world has not received Christ — non pro mundo rogo — it is we who received him for him; it is from our hearts that God withdraws; it is we who de-Christianize ourselves, miserable!” (Nous Autres, Français, “We French” — in Scandale de la Vérité, “Scandal of the Truth,” Points /Seuil, 1984).
I wanted to open my heart and share a certainty: The profound crisis that the Church is experiencing in the world and especially in the West is the fruit of the forgetting of God. If our first concern is not God, then everything else collapses. At the root of all crises, anthropological, political, social, cultural, geopolitical, there is the forgetting of the primacy of God. As Pope Benedict XVI said during his meeting with the world of culture at the Collège des Bernardins on Sept. 12, 2008, “The ‘quaerere Deum’ — ‘searching for God,’ the fact of being attentive to the essential reality of God is the central axis on which all civilization and culture is built. What founded the culture of Europe — the search for God and the willingness to let oneself be found by him, to listen to him — still remains today the foundation of every true culture and the indispensable condition for the survival of our humanity. For the refusal of God or a total indifference towards him is fatal for man.”
I have tried to show in this book that the common root of all current crises is found in this fluid atheism, which, without denying God, lives in practice as if he did not exist.
In the conclusion of my book, I speak of this poison of which we are all victims: liquid atheism. It infiltrates everything, even our speeches as clergymen. It consists in admitting, alongside faith, radically pagan and worldly ways of thinking or living. And we satisfy ourselves with this unnatural cohabitation! This shows that our faith has become liquid and inconsistent! The first reform to be made is in our hearts. It consists in no longer making a pact with lies. Faith is both the treasure we want to defend and the strength that allows us to defend it.
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"The truth is that many write not to bear witness to the truth, but to pit people against each other, to damage human relations. They don’t care about the truth. The truth is that those who oppose me to the Holy Father cannot present a single word of mine, a single phrase of mine, or a single attitude of mine to support their absurd, and I would say diabolical statements. The Devil divides, pits …More
"The truth is that many write not to bear witness to the truth, but to pit people against each other, to damage human relations. They don’t care about the truth. The truth is that those who oppose me to the Holy Father cannot present a single word of mine, a single phrase of mine, or a single attitude of mine to support their absurd, and I would say diabolical statements. The Devil divides, pits people against one another. The truth is that the Church is represented on earth by the Vicar of Christ, that is, the Pope. And whoever is against the Pope is ipso facto outside the Church."