Editor’s note: The following is the second half of a March 27, 2019, interview with Robert Cardinal Sarah, originally conducted in French by Laurent Dandrieu; it is reprinted here with kind permission of Culture à Valeurs Actuelles. The first half of the interview can be read here.
What do you think about the book Sodom [by homosexual activist Frédéric Martel]? Do you think that we are presently witnessing an all-out offensive against the priest figure, who is a stumbling block for a hyper-sexualized society?
I have not read that book. But I think that there is a specially orchestrated plan to destroy the Church by cutting off her head: the cardinals, the bishops and the priests. There is a persistent campaign to destroy the priesthood, and in particular to destroy celibacy, which is supposedly impossible and contrary to nature: because if they destroy celibacy, they irreversibly affect one of the greatest riches of the Church. Abandoning celibacy would further aggravate the crisis of the Church and would diminish the position of the priest, who is called to be not only another Christ, but Christ himself: poor, humble and celibate. If celibacy disappears, what dies will be the witness the Jesus intended to give.
There are some who want to weaken the Church, to modify her teaching on sexuality. But when we see the enormous number of faithful priests in the priesthood, we should remain calm and continue our witness of total self-giving to God through celibacy. This witness is not understood. Is it detested? Jesus Christ himself was not accepted, since he died on the Cross. Jesus told us: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (Jn 15:20).
There are men of the Church, some of them high-ranking, who have tarnished the Church, disfigured the face of Christ, but Judas must not lead us to reject all the apostles. These serious failings do not condemn the Church: on the contrary, it shows that God trusts even weak persons, so as to show the power of his love for us. He does not entrust his Church to exceptional heroes, but to simple men, to show that He is the one who acts through them.
On the subject of pedophilia, you speak about a “mystery of Judas”, explaining that this abominable betrayal of the priesthood was preceded by many others: what are they?
A priest who has lost his bond with Jesus, does not pray, and does not take the time to be with Christ before the Blessed Sacrament, is a weakened priest. “Apart from me, you can do nothing,” Christ said (Jn 15:5). A worldly priest, who no longer has the time to meditate on the Word of God, who rushes through his Mass or celebrates it in a profane manner, who has no interior life, cannot stand. The reason why someone can stoop to such serious intrigues is because he first detached himself from Jesus, from the force [= strength, force, fortitude] that keeps us in contact with him. In order to avoid administering the sacraments like a mere official, as though they were simply human phenomena, one needs an energy that comes from our relation with the Holy Spirit. And unfortunately, many among us have lost this intimate relationship with Jesus. Priestly activism leads to clerical autism, the source of all the excesses.
What do you think of the condemnation of Cardinal Barbarin [, Archbishop of Lyon]?
I have been acquainted with him for a long time. I have a lot of admiration for him. He welcomed me very kindly when I came to Lyon to present my book La Force du silence [The Power of Silence]. I cannot help but suffer from the martyrdom to which he is being subjected, all the more because I am convinced that he is innocent. The whole Church is bearing this suffering collegially. The Pope really was right to make the decision not to accept his resignation so as to respect the presumption of his innocence while awaiting the judgment on appeal. And Cardinal Barbarin was courageous to withdraw, going off to a monastery, for the good of the diocese and to bring peace to the victims of those abominable acts. But I am shocked that people have condemned Cdl. Barbarin while the horrible priest who committed those unspeakable crimes has still not been judged…. I stand beside Cardinal Barbarin in prayer, just as I stand beside the victims.
Many of our contemporaries see the Church as a totalitarian organization, which is going to impose a way of life on them. You declare on the contrary that the Church is the rampart against contemporary totalitarianism.
I mean the new ideologies that impose a radical change of morality and of human anthropology, a new vision of the family and of sexuality, with considerable financial and media pressures. The Church imposes nothing; she only proposes. But it is her mission to propose God’s teaching to the world.
You go so far as to dismiss “Islamist barbarity” and “materialist barbarity” in the same breath, at the risk of shocking your readers.
In any case, that is my conviction! They are two devils which may have different methodologies but are acting toward the same end. Materialism separates us radically from God and from the interior life. Islamism does too. God cannot inspire barbarity. Killing someone because he does not share your faith? Setting off a bomb in a bus and killing innocent people in the name of Allah? Such things are impossible for God.
But materialist barbarity does not have destruction as its stated purpose; it claims to lead human beings to the happiness of liberation.
To say to a human being: “You are free to choose your sex,” is to destroy him. In reality it is the freedom to destroy oneself. But God alone makes us free! Nowadays how much human destruction there is, under the pretext of freedom! In the name of this same freedom, many young people have been destroyed by pornography. Man self-destructs; God, on the other hand, creates, so that men might have life and have it abundantly.
You also write that the modern world destroys by attacking [national and religious] identities. You, on the contrary, defend this rootedness that Simone Weil described as the first need of the human soul. That makes you a somewhat isolated voice in a Church that sometimes seems to have become a mere auxiliary of the pro-immigration party.
When I went to Poland [in October 2017], a country that is often criticized, I encouraged the faithful to affirm their identity as they have done for centuries. My message was simple: you are first Poles, Catholics, and only then Europeans. You must not sacrifice these first two identities on the altar of a technocratic Europe that acknowledges no fatherland. The Brussels Commission thinks only of constructing a free market in the service of the major financial powers. The European Union no longer protects the peoples [within it]. It protects the banks. I wanted to restate for Poland its unique mission in God’s plan. She is free to tell Europe that everyone was created by God to be put in a precise place, with its culture, its traditions and its history. This current desire to globalize the world by getting rid of nations with their specific characteristics is sheer madness. The Jewish people had to go into exile, but God brought them back to their country. Christ had to flee from Herod into Egypt, but he returned to his country upon the death of Herod. Everyone must live in his country. Like a tree, each one has his soil, his milieu where he flourishes perfectly. It is better to help people to flourish in their culture than to encourage them to come to a Europe that is completely decadent. It is false exegesis to use the Word of God to improve the image of migration. God never intended these rifts.
You write that Italy and the countries of the Visegrad Group [Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia] are going in the right direction, whereas many voices in the Church condemn them. Don’t you think that the Church in doing so is endangering its future: how can she evangelize the nations while condemning their concern about remaining themselves?
Are leaders who speak as I do in the minority today? I do not think so. There are many countries that are going in this direction, and that ought to lead us to reflect! All the migrants who arrive in Europe are penned up, without work, without dignity…. Is that what the Church wants? The Church cannot cooperate with this new form of slavery that mass migration has become. If the West continues down this disastrous road, there is a great danger that, for a lack of a replacement birth rate, Europe could disappear, invaded by foreigners, as Rome was invaded by the barbarians. I speak as an African. My country has a Muslim majority. I think I know what I am talking about.
Some people in the Church seem to have resigned themselves to crossing out Europe, writing it off as a loss. You, on the contrary, write that the paganization of Europe would lead to the paganization of the world.
God does not change his mind. God gave a mission to Europe, which received Christianity. Then the European missionaries brought Christ to the ends of the earth. And this was no accident, but rather God’s plan. This universal mission, which He gave to Europe when Peter and Paul came to settle in Rome, from which city the Church evangelized Europe and the world, is not over. But if we put an end to it by sinking into materialism, godlessness and apostasy, then the consequences will be serious. If Europe disappears, and with it the inestimable values of the old continent, Islam will invade the world, and we will totally change our culture, anthropology and moral vision.
You quote at great length Benedict XVI, when many people consider that interrupted pontificate to be a failure. In what ways was it fruitful, in your opinion?
God saw that the world was sinking into a disastrous confusion. He knows that no one knows any more where we are going. He knows very well that we are still losing our national identities, our beliefs, our vision of man and of the world…. In order to prepare us for that situation, God gave us solid popes: he gave us Paul VI, who defended life and authentic love, despite very strong opposition, with the Encyclical Humanae vitae; he gave us John Paul II, who worked on the marriage of faith and reason so that they might be the light that guides the world to an authentic vision of man—the life of the great Polish Pope was itself a living Gospel. He gave us Benedict XVI, whose written teaching has an unequalled clarity, depth and precision. Today he gives us Francis who literally wants to save Christian humanism. God will never abandon His Church.
This is why we should stay calm: the Church is not in crisis; we are the one who are in crisis. Her teaching remains the same; her clarity remains the same. It is true that Benedict XVI was neither understood nor accepted; because of his years at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he was regarded as a traditionalist, a reactionary, but he remained calm, serene and humble. He was a stronghold [socle] for doctrine, for the interior life, for the future of the Church.
In an address to Catholic young people, you quote this very beautiful line by the English poet T. S. Eliot: “In a world of fugitives, the person taking the opposite direction will appear to run away.” Are young believers dedicated to being part of a Catholic resistance?
It is necessary for us to be in every respect part of a resistance, to take the direction opposite that of the secularized world, in other words, the path of Christ, the one Savior of the world. I encourage young people to look to Christ. In Hemingway’s novel The Old Man and the Sea, we watch the hero try to tow into port a huge fish that he has caught. But he cannot lift it out of the water alone; by the time he arrives in port, the sharks have devoured the fish. Young people nowadays are weakened by so many demands that if they become isolated they run the enormous risk of being devoured. Today, if you are alone, there are many sharks that will devour your faith, your Christian values, your hope. Jesus created a community of twelve apostles, and when it was necessary to send them on a mission, he sent them two by two. From now on, in order to defend our beliefs, in order to be firm, we will have to support each other in the faith and walk as a community united around Christ: “Where two or three are gathered, I am in the midst of them.” From this presence we can draw our strength. The Day is Now Far Spent is a thoughtful, carefully argued response to this emergency.
(Translated by Michael J. Miller with the permission of Culture à Valeurs Actuelles, which published the interview in French. The Day is Now Far Spent by Robert Cardinal Sarah with Nicolas Diat is available September 1, 2019 from Ignatius Press.)
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