Christ does not pander

The book, God or Nothing, by Cardinal Sarah (of Guinea, the brilliant Ratzinger appointment who remains Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in the Holy See) is cast like several of our beloved Pope Emeritus, as a book-length interview. (It is available, here.) This is a format I prefer to “ghost-written” tomes, of which I have a very low opinion — formed while knocking out half a dozen of them for ready cash, myself. Nicholas Diat served as interlocuter, in this case, and structured the interviews to elicit, among other things, a wonderful autobiographical account of Robert Sarah’s upbringing, that casts light on the explosion of Christian and Catholic faith throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Sarah is very eloquent in French, with a clarity that carries well into English translation. Much of what he says is, in its modesty and freedom from affectation, quite moving. He is a reminder that we have in our hierarchy, today, cardinals of the stature of Burke, Mueller, Pell, Napier; and bishops in reserve, of e.g. the stature of Salvatore Cordileone.

I do not believe God will ever leave us without such men, to see us through times like the present; these “ecclesiastical Churchills” as a friend calls them; men of true learning, and discernment, and courage, whose faith is unshakable. As opposed to the charlatans, and demagogues; the sell-outs, and panderers; the comfortable careerists who keep their heads down in the nosh when duty commands them to make a bold stand in defence of Christ’s own teaching. In the face of so many of these, we still have men who, as Cardinal Sarah likes to put it, “will not yield one millimetre.”

Here is what the hacks call the “money quote,” from God or Nothing, which has been resounding if not from the pulpits, then through the subterranean vaults of the Catholic Church, in the approach to October’s Family Synod:

“The idea of putting Magisterial teaching in a beautiful display case while separating it from pastoral practice, which then could evolve along with circumstances, fashions, and passions, is a sort of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology. I therefore solemnly state that the Church in Africa is staunchly opposed to any rebellion against the teaching of Jesus and of the Magisterium. …

“The Church of Africa is committed in the name of the Lord Jesus to keeping unchanged the teaching of God and of the Church.”

This is the spirit precisely opposite to our flippant, contemporary, “Who am I to judge?” posturing. Sarah is no sycophant to the Zeitgeist, and as gentle reader may guess from the tone of my prose this morning, I find that spirit exhilarating. He is a man actually accustomed to calling deep to deep; he is not another twittering, sound-biting, circus clown for the mass media.

On Wednesday, Cardinal Sarah will deliver the keynote address at the “World Meeting of Families” in Philadelphia, with a talk entitled, “The Light of the Family in the Dark World.” Dig it out when it appears. In the meantime, from a preparatory interview with a (nominally) Catholic periodical, here is something for desiccated Americans and Europeans to discover:

“Africa is part of God’s plan from the beginning. Just look at Revelation. When God chose to establish a covenant with man, he began in Egypt. It was Africa that saved Jesus: Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s edict against male children and against Jesus himself. And, again, it was an African, Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry his cross on Calvary.

“So, from the beginning, God wanted to involve Africa in the plan of salvation of the world. Africa certainly has many problems, but the Church in Africa is characterized by a vitality and dynamism that is unknown in the West today. In secularized Europe and in all the so-called developed countries, wealth has perverted men to such an extent that they do not think in any other way than to satisfy their physical and carnal desires. They only count on money and material success, and if they are not successful, they fall into depression and sadness.

“In Africa, poverty is still very strong in many of her countries, yet Africans exude happiness and joy. God is their wealth and their hope. Obviously, they also aim to combat economic misery, but not to enter into spiritual poverty of those who have driven God out of their lives.

“In this deep anthropological crisis, Africa, despite her poverty, and indeed because of this poverty, which is the poverty of Christ in the Gospel, can give to the Church her most precious treasure: fidelity to God and to the Gospel, her love of life and the family.”

How often we find Christ in the last place we look.