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Patriotism, Poland, and Cardinal Sarah

There is a sociocultural and even spiritual “big picture” which must be kept in mind by those who would battle against specific problems such as abortion, transgenderism, and militant scientism.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is pictured after a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 16, 2018. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

From the standpoint of those of us concerned about questions of nationality, sovereignty, and rootedness, it is only logical to find that the most resolute upholders of Catholic tradition should also be among the most prominent opponents of globalization. For in its own way, the patriotism which stands in opposition to globalism is a critical part of Catholic tradition, as Blessed Stefan Wcysynski realized full well. “We should wish to help our brothers,” the cardinal once told his countrymen, “to feed Polish children, to serve them here and to do our duty rather than succumb to the temptation to ‘save the world’ at the cost of our own fatherland.”

Robert Cardinal Sarah of Guinea seems to agree. During a 2017 conference hosted by the very Polish university named in honor of Wycszinski, Cardinal Sarah insisted that communities as well as individuals must be respected: “In what manner is it possible to remove the rights of the nation to distinguish between a political or religious refugee, who must flee from his homeland, and the economic migrant, who wants to change his address without adapting himself, identifying with, and accepting the culture of the country in which he will live?” As if directly retorting to the popular slogan “welcome the stranger,” the cardinal admonished all who “exploit the Word of God to justify the promotion of multiculturalism and gaily take advantage of the excuse of hospitality to justify the admission of immigrants.”

In a 2019 interview with a French journalist following said visit to Cardinal Wyszyński University, Cardinal Sarah explained his views on the patriotic question in greater detail:

When I went to Poland, a country which is often criticized, I encouraged the faithful to affirm their identity as they had done over the centuries. My message was simple: You are first Poles, Catholics, and only afterwards Europeans. You should not sacrifice the two first types of identity on the altar of a nationless, technocratic Europe. The Brussels Commission thinks of nothing except the construction of a free market in the service of great financial powers.

As if to drive home the point that he is no proponent of the ideology of democratic capitalism, His Eminence goes on to lament that “the European Union no longer protects peoples. It protects banks.” Cardinal Sarah goes on to sum up the proper role of Saint John Paul II’s fatherland in the disordered mess that is 21st-century Europe. As part of her “unique mission in the plan of God,” says the cardinal, Poland

is free to tell Europe that each was created by God to be placed in a particular place, with its culture, its traditions, its history. The current drive toward globalizing the world by doing away with nations is pure madness. The Jewish people endured exile, but God brought them back to their country. Christ fled from Herod and into Egypt, but he returned to his country upon the death of Herod. Each should live in his own country. Like a tree, each to his own soil, his place where he flourishes perfectly. It would be better to help people to flourish in their own cultures, than to encourage them to come to a Europe filled with decadence. It is a false exegesis that uses the Word of God to celebrate migration. God never wanted this tearing away.

Whether Poland will follow the heroic path outlined by Cardinal Sarah or instead succumb to the “great financial powers,” only time will tell. What is clear is that the stakes are high, and that the author of The Power of Silence and The Day Is Now Far Spent exhibits concerns more reminiscent of Jean Raspail than of the USCCB:

The Church cannot cooperate with this new form of slavery that has come of mass migration. If the West continues on this disastrous course, there is a great risk that, with declining births, it will disappear, invaded by foreigners, as Rome was invaded by the barbarians. I speak as an African; my country is mostly Muslim. I think I know the reality of which I speak.

For my part, all I would add to His Eminence’s penetrating reflections is the observation that those Catholics who dissent from time-honored Church precepts about sex, human nature, and the primacy of the Magisterium are usually the ones most sympathetic to the idea of a borderless world. This in turn suggests that there is a sociocultural and even spiritual “big picture” which must be kept in mind by culture warriors who would battle against specific problems such as abortion, transgenderism, and militant scientism. However deplorable such afflictions may be, we will never get beyond ineffectually complaining about them unless we can summon the nerve to connect them with the globalist elephant in the room.

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About Jerry Salyer 59 Articles
Catholic convert Jerry Salyer is a philosophy instructor and freelance writer.


  1. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

    ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  2. The article and Cardinal’s rhetoric are big on sensationalism but short on substance. What’s worse is, ir reported correctly, the way they mock scripture. One bread, one body? One lord of all? Hospitality? Refuge? We are all brothers and sisters? Try as I might, I do not see anything in the Bible that says humans are trees planted in one place where we are supposed to remain the rest of our lives. We grow, we explore, we uproot, we move, we make changes, we learn. That’s our anthropological history both as humans and Christian humans.It makes little to no sense to assert that constantly changing national borders are, as they stand right now at this moment, the actual boundaries that “God intended.”

    • This issue is the EU Administrative State overpowering nations with their own dictates. Not sure what God intended each countries borders to be. Over time there has been drastic changes. However one thing I don’t think is likely is that God has designated the EU Administrative State to establish or destroy existing boundaries.

      • I don’t understand what you are trying to say. The EU has never changed any borders. The EU sets rules of commerce much like American administrative agencies do in the US. The only difference is that the EU cooperates among nations and the US cooperates among states.

        • The big difference is this: U. S. are based on some residual conservatism and active knowledge of living God. You cannot compare US and EU by pointing to some superficial similarities between agencies. In fact, the “only” difference is that the EU and US are planted inside different civilizations.

        • Meant to imply that European nations have changes it borders over time not that the EU changed borders. The EU essentially dictates the rules of commerce much more than just merely sets the rules of commerce and other rules. Each country must abide by the EU rules, meaning that each country cannot govern themselves, just ask Greece. Also I think that was the driving force for Great Britain for leaving. If you love central control of your life than your home is in the EU. If you love Liberty and from that your ability to live your faith, than your love for the EU is not so much.

  3. “The Brussels Commission thinks of nothing except the construction of a free market in the service of great financial powers.”
    I will not say I am an expert in European affairs, but the “free market” they have is not “free”–it is highly regulated, just as the market is in our own USA. And then there is the tax code.

  4. Interesting article. The EU while may have started out with good intentions has seemingly morphed into a godless dictatorial entity. The administrative state in the US is the same thing. Over time societies grant too much power and control to central authorities (Kings, Dictators and Administrative State). The end result is the same they want to run your life, by their rules. Their rules are anti God, anti Family anti Freedom and certainly anti Catholic.

    • What are those anti-God policies? I have religious friends in Europe. I’ve never heard any complain about having to follow any anti-God rules.

  5. john,
    We may all be members of the Body of Christ but we’re also entitled to preserve our own unique cultures. That makes the world richer and more interesting I think.

    • We manage to maintain our culture in the United States but we are still a melting pot. There is no reason why other countries can’t do the same. All of us here, save for a small population of native Americans, are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. We bring our culture and merge it with American culture. It works out beautifully.

      • john,
        What may work in America isn’t required for the rest of the world. We don’t dictate culture.
        And truthfully, America is much less of a melting pot than we imagine.

      • Ok. Great. We can allow some Middle Eastern, Africa, and Indian groups to bring “female circumcision” to our country. We can, and probably should, allow polygamy and child brides.

  6. Y’all missed the Cardinal’s point. As one who has lived outside her native country (the US) for more than 30 years (most of my adult life (most of it in Poland, by the way) and as one who is actively involved in the pastoral care of foreign Catholics (and would-be Catholics) in Poland, I can tell you that living in an alien culture is TOUGH. Mind you, in my case, being white and of European background, a professional who was invited to Poland because of my particular skills (needed just after the fall of communism), I have had a relatively easy road.
    However, it is HARD. Every day, in every possible way, you chip away at yourself in order to fit into the new society. You can’t express yourself as freely, because of the language gap; you learn that your sense of humor has to be adapted to the particular kinds of jokes that English-speaking Poles can understand; you learn to shop in a different way, get medical care and a driving license and greet your neighbors and do every aspect of daily life differently – even at home – because it’s all different. Corporations who send valuable staff abroad give them lots of training before they go, because it’s so common for people to burn out, give up, and return home after 3-6 months in a foreign country. The research shows that moving to a foreign culture is a huge risk (families may break down; I have seen this). Cardinal Sarah’s remarks are backed up by lived experience of emigrants and by decades of research.
    I work with people from literally every continent on the globe, who have come to Poland usually for work or an education that is better here than where they come from. Many of them come here because it it one of the safest (read ‘least Muslim’) countries in Europe (this is expressed especially by those who come from countries with a long history of Islam). Those who do not look European – Asians and Africans especially – encounter racism ranging from simply being stared at to being spit upon or beaten – and they have to see their children sometimes rejected because of skin color. But here, if they have the education, they can work for a multi-national firm and make a decent living in a place where there is no war or tribal violence and the government isn’t likely to be overthrown regularly. It’s safer; it’s more secure. It’s harder.
    Cardinal Sarah knows what he is talking about. There are great advantages to living in a society that does not pretend to be ‘diverse’ (no culture in history EVER flourished for long by opening itself to cultural – which includes religious – diversity, and if you think the US is not rapidly heading down the toilet of history, just ask anyone from a culturally cohesive country who has lived there for some time). It is a relief to live in a culture where you can pretty much rely on people having a common identity, common standards of morality and manners, etc. At the same time, ‘Poland is for Poles’ as the graffiti says, and if you are a foreigner living here, adjust or go elsewhere. That can be tough, but for many of us the advantages of living in a traditionally Catholic country, and a country with a clear, cohesive cultural identity far outweigh the losses of adaptation.
    Most of the non-Poles I work with who come from developing countries have no intention of returning to their home countries because life is simply better here – safer, more opportunities, more peaceful (there is no gun violence, for one thing). They can’t flourish ECONOMICALLY in the political context in their home countries, so they feel lucky to be here. But if they could flourish economically and live in peace at home, they would have stayed. They miss their culture, their language, fitting in and feeling normal, being understood and not having to adjust every minute of the day to a very different culture. And just being able to buy food you are familiar with… Little things add up. Then you have children, and want to pass on your culture, and realize that two people cannot really pass on a culture: it takes a culture to pass on a culture. (Americans, are you passing on the same culture to your children that your neighbors up and down the street are passing on to their children? In traditional mono-cultures, the answer is a comforting Yes, of course.) It’s hard to adjust to another culture, but at least in a mono-culture, it’s clear what you are adjusting to. In the US, every single person believes that he is nothing like anybody else in the US, so with every encounter you are adjusting to – and risk offending – another ‘culture.’ That can be more exhausting than emigrating to a mono-culture, which is why many people I work with who could be in the US, prefer to be here (including some Americans)
    Ideally, people would not feel like they have to emigrate in order to have a decent life. People from ancient cultures have to do that nowadays – and it’s hard; it dilutes and frays the fabric of the culture they move to, and impoverishes the culture they move from.
    I believe that is what Cardinal Sarah is talking about.

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