Sunday, March 8, 2015

Cardinal Robert Sarah Speaks

His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah
On March 5th, His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah delivered an address to more than 200 faithful gathered at St. Eugene's in Paris on the topic of Liturgy and the New Evangelization. In attendance was Jean-Marie Vaas of Riposte Catholique, a leading on-line resource for Catholics in France, who recorded his impressions of the conference in an article published this past Friday. While I recommend the original article to my Francophone readers, I would like to provide my own brief summary of the conference, in particular those parts which touched upon issues near to the hearts of faithful Catholics everywhere.

The Cardinal spoke at length about his journey of faith: his childhood experience of Catholic religious missionaries in Guinea with their impressive witness to the faith and their dedication to a life of service and prayer; his time at seminary in Ivory Coast; his travels to France and Senegal; his ordination in 1969; his appointment as Bishop of Conakry in the midst of the long standoff between the Holy See and the then communist government of Guinea; his time as Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of People. Cardinal Sarah's personal experience allows him to speak with authority on the role of persecution in the life of the Church: "It is when the Church is persecuted that the Church blossoms; it is when the Church is suffering that she is most beautiful."

The Cardinal also spoke about Vatican II, and offered his own thoughts on how to approach the documents of that Council. The context of the Council documents, he said, is one in which society had begun to distance itself more and more from God. The documents themselves, when read from a "God-centered perspective," are an attempt to facilitate a repair of the relationship between God and mankind. In this way, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which treats of sacred liturgy, is essentially about rediscovering the sense of genuine adoration, which, at heart, is about rediscovering God. Lumen Gentium, which treats of the Church, is seen as a call to return to the source of the vitality of the Church, which is her intimate bond to God. The value of the conciliar documents, then, resides not so much in their attempt to bring the Church closer to the world, but rather in their attempt to bring the world closer to God. However, talk of God, said Cardinal Sarah, cannot remain on the level of a theoretical discussion: "God is the one with whom I am to dialogue: He speaks to me, and I speak to Him."

Cardinal Sarah also had sharp words of criticism for the current crisis of faith in the West, a culture "clinging to its technological and scientific accomplishments," and lamented that modern man has set himself up as the arbiter of morality, thinking, "It is we who decide what is evil and what is good." The Cardinal stressed the danger of such thought and proposed that the only solution is to be found in returning to God, for "without God, man knows neither who he is nor where he is going."

One of the most important themes of Cardinal Sarah's address was what he described as the need for "reconciliation between Catholics" - a reference to the split among the laity in France and beyond between those who welcome the novelties which followed in the wake of Vatican II and those who reject them and seek to return to the Church's perennial traditions - particularly the Traditional Latin Mass. Cardinal Sarah said the key to this reconciliation is genuine prayer, which is rendered impossible when man is consumed with hatred for his brother. To pray without this love, said the Cardinal, is to blaspheme God.

Cardinal Sarah went on to underscore the efforts of Pope Benedict XVI towards reconciliation in his issuing the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, and announced that he would be working in his capacity as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship to continue the vision set forth by the Pope Emeritus. The sacred liturgy, he said, is a work of love; let us, therefore, love one another, and allow the liturgy to strengthen us in the love of God.

The Cardinal also spoke on the need to give witness to Christ in our lives, recalling the words of Our Lord: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another" (John 13:35). Specifically in regards to the debates of the 2014 Synod regarding the issue of permitting public adulterers, i.e. the so-called "divorced and remarried," to Holy Communion, he lamented that there is a clear tendency "to reduce the Gospel to a bare minimum." He contrasted this with the dramatic testimony of those Christians in Africa and the Middle East who are facing the most horrible of persecutions, and yet who remain loyal to the words and commandments of Christ. In particular, he related the plight of Nigerians, suffering under the savage barbarism of Boko Haram, who go to church in the morning not knowing whether they will return alive in the evening.

In the round of questions which followed the address, one of the faithful inquired as to the status of the Tridentine Mass. The words of the Cardinal were clear: we cannot abandon the rite of St. Pius V, the rite which formed so many of the Church's Holy Saints.

Another of the faithful asked regarding a term made famous by Pope Francis: the "peripheries." The Cardinal's answer, though subtle, was equally clear: we must always remain mindful of the "center," which is none other than Jesus Christ, Our Lord. "The center of humanity is the cross, which is the very heart of the love of God."


  1. I'm always puzzled about the so-called loss of relationship with God, and lack of 'going out to preach to the world' that we are told was the Church prior to Vatican II. I believe this is a lie. What specifically was wrong? When I've asked this question of those who should know, there is never a specific answer. We get vague generalizations which I know personally are false. We're even told that Catholics simply sat, dumb, in the pew and paid lip service to what was going on. Another lie.
    As well, bringing the world into the Church ended up being a watering down of Church teaching on all levels instead of preaching truth in season and out of season. What is it about the truth that makes it unpalatable to modern man? He wants to sin.
    Cardinal Sarah also said something that grates on the ear (paraphrase) that God speaks to us, and we speak to God. In the good old days the 'relationship' was a tad more vertical: God speaks to us, and we listen to Him.

  2. Dear Barbara,

    In my research into the subject of popular devotions in the time prior to Vatican II - something I'm planning on posting about in the near future - I've come to discover that the 'experts' behind Vatican II mistrusted and, in some cases, even feared acts of popular piety being performed during the Mass for the simple reason that the people practicing them were not focused on the priest. Many of the changes which followed that Council - not only to the Mass itself, but also to things like architecture and music - were specifically done in order to funnel every aspect of the spiritual life of the parish into the person of the priest. And this, in turn, led to clericalism of the worst sort. Unam Sanctam has a good article regarding this "New Clericalism":

    Just a few days ago, Pope Francis scolded people for engaging in private devotions like the Holy Rosary during Mass. Yet, not a century ago, handbooks published by good and holy priests were filled of private devotions specifically designed to be prayed during the Mass, following the rubrics but with prayers composed for a specific devotion, such as that of the Immaculate Conception or the Most Sacred Heart. I have several beautiful examples in my own collection. To the "new clerics," this is a horrible thing, because such a person is not "paying attention" or "actively participating," to use the language of the Council documents.

    A fruitful Lent to you and yours!


  3. The essential difference between the pre and post Vatican II Church is that before Vatican II, all Catholics were catechised to believe in the dogmas of the faith. During the Arian heresy one bishop saved the Church, Saint Athanasius who clung to the dogmas of the faith and we have his infallible creed to prove that the doctrine of EENS was always the doctrine of the Church.
    The best description I have read about the importance of dogmas is in the book " Liberalism is a Sin "by Dom Felix Sarda e Salvany which is free on the internet.
    I am a witness to the fact that none of the ordinary faithful Catholics expected or desired the changes introduced by Vatican II. We were bewildered and confused, but we had been trained to obey the Pope,bishops and priests. They also craftily introduced the changes incrementally, so that Catholics began to think that change was the norm and not a heinous aberration.
    The revolution which was Vatican II was enforced from the top down. I couldn't comprehend why there hadn't been more of rebellion against Vatican II by the priests and bishops and then after reading the encyclical against Modernism, Pascendi Dominis Gregis and the book "Desire and Deception" by Charles Coulombe, I understood that the priests and bishops had absorbed the ecumenical heresies in the seminaries and that by Vatican II, they no longer believed in the catechism they taught the faithful.
    The Vatican II Church is heretical and SO ARE ALL the so-called traditional sects.
    Dom Lefebvre in his "Letter to Confused Catholics" wrote that Protestants, Buddhists and Muslims (idolators) could be saved by the desire to do God's Will. He not only denied the dogmas of the faith but also the first commandment! And the traditional sects are worse than the Vatican II Church, because they hide their heresies under the cover of their attachment to the Latin Mass and their exclusive,sanctimonius, gnostic puritanical behavior, which is just as heretical as their ecumenical beliefs, as it denies the dogma of the faith that God created a good world.
    Their attachment to puritanism astounds me, as puritanism was born from the rejection of the retention of "Popish" ceremonies by the Anglican Church. The puritans were persecuted by the Anglicans, not the Catholics.
    Under Cromwell, puritans starved to death, enslaved, persecuted and killed the Irish Catholics. Irish Catholics, like the Japanese Catholics, went for years without access to the Mass, priests and the sacraments, but they did not lose their faith because they clung to their catechisms, the dogmas of the faith. That is why the destroyers of the Church knew that they had to destroy or "evolve" the dogmas of the faith, particularly those concerning baptism faith and salvation, if they were to be successful in their objective. I am convinced that nothing will change until ordinary Catholics learn, believe in and proclaim the dogmas of the Catholic faith, the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Apostles, refined with the apppearance of each heresy by Holy Men so that the original meaning remained incorrupt,
    and handed down and taught to generations of Catholics until Vatican II. The dogmas of the faith are the rock on which the Church was built.

  4. A good book to read, which faithfully describes the bewilderment felt by ordinary Catholics at Vatican II, is "While the Eyes of the Great are Elsewhere " By William Biersach. This book should be read by all post Vatican II Catholics. Biersach and Coulombe have also made some podcasts which can be downloaded for free.


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