On an African note

“Your mission is not to save a dying world. No civilization has the promises of eternal life. Your mission is to live out with fidelity and without compromise the faith you received from Christ.” The quote is from Robert Cardinal Sarah, and jumped to my attention while examining a Twitter thread this morning.

The gentleman is sometimes mentioned as “papabile” (a candidate for pope). It is observed that he has all the qualifications. He is a human male, with Catholic beliefs. Apparently, this last is no longer insisted upon very strictly.  That Cardinal Sarah is a practitioner of the old liturgy (which is conventionally sung in Latin), and an advocate of traditional marriage, &c, makes him controversial. He is also opposed to miscellaneous violent, tyrannical creeds, thus making him unpopular among the Woke.

A product of rural French Guinea, the son of Christian converts from animism, Cardinal Sarah enjoyed a remarkable education as a Catholic seminarian within “third world” institutions constantly threatened or being terminated by Marxist anti-colonialists; ending more peacefully in Rome after a year in Jerusalem, where I think I may have caught a glimpse of him in 1971. In the field, as priest, he earned his way onto Sékou Touré’s death list (an African dictator who was once the embodiment of revolutionary coolness), but miraculously outlived him. He is old now, has survived a prostate operation, and been retired by Pope Francis. Still, he is lively.

His “African” qualities appeal to me. These are evident in many of his common-sensical rejections of the fashionable nostrums that the modern West tries to impose on African countries, by making them conditions of aid programs. The African response is, marvellously, not to engage in convoluted ideological resistance to them. It is rather to call them “stupid.” By this means i.e. abortion and homosexuality are simply dismissed.

This is what peasant Africans have in common with middle Americans and the European working class. They are out of tune with the bureaucratic chorus of progressive, Western elites. Old-fashioned Catholicism and native African conservative values overlap. They are approximately the same in outlook, to an apex in God. These are the principles of civilizational order recognized by all known religions (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindoo, &c). The human animal was wired for them, “from the beginning.”

It is because the Church gives the highest “liturgical” expression to the poetry of this order, that Christianity has spread “like wildfire” across the African continent — within memorable time. It would do so here, once again, given the freedom. For it once did, right across Europe, then America.

(One thinks of the freedom of the Gregorian reform.)

Cardinal Sarah: “There reappears a new struggle between priesthood and empire. But the empire is now the relativist, hedonistic, and consumerist culture that has infiltrated everywhere. It is time to reject this, because it is irreconcilable with the Gospel.”