In March 2015, MICHAEL published excerpts from Cardinal Robert Sarah’s book, “God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith”, written with Nicolas Diat. In it, the cardinal sought to rekindle the Christian faith. On March 20, 2019, Cardinal Sarah’s third book, also written with Nicolas Diat, was published in France, by Editions Fayard. Titled, “Le soir approche et déjà le soir baisse” (Evening approaches and the day is now far spent), the book deals with the profound spiritual, moral and political crisis in today’s world. Cardinal Sarah directly addresses the crisis of sexual abuse in the Church, and what attitude we should take toward it. The title of the book is taken from the New Testament account of the disciples’ encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:29).
Cardinal Sarah, born in 1945, is an exceptional man. At the age of 34, Pope John Paul II appointed him bishop of Conakry in Guinea, making him the youngest bishop in the world. In 2001, he was called to Rome by Pope John Paul II. In October 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” and he was made a cardinal a few weeks following. Since November 23, 2014, Pope Francis assigned him to the position of prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and for the Discipline of the Sacraments, a post he holds to this day.
The following excerpts, translated by MICHAEL, are borrowed from the introduction of Cardinal Sarah’s most recent book. “Of the three books I have written, this will be the most important. I believe that the decadence we witness today has all the attributes of a deadly peril.”
by Robert Cardinal Sarah
In my last book I called the reader to silence. Yet, I can no longer remain silent. I may no longer remain silent. I cannot keep quiet while Christians are disoriented. Every day, I receive calls from all over the world from people seeking help. People no longer know what to believe. Every day in Rome, I meet discouraged and wounded priests. The Church is wrapped and blinded by the mystery of iniquity.
We hear terrifying news everyday. Not a week passes without the reporting of a case of sexual abuse. Each accusation lacerates the heart of the Church. In the words of Saint Paul VI, the smoke of Satan has invaded the Church. The Church, ordinarily a place of light, has become a den of darkness. It should be as safe and peaceful as a family home but it has become a den of thieves.
How can we tolerate the fact that predators have infiltrated our ranks? Many faithful priests are good shepherds and act as loving fathers and solid guides. Yet, some men of God have become traitors who have become agents of the Evil One like Judas Iscariot. They have sought to defile the pure souls of the littlest ones. They have humiliated the image of Christ present in each child, at the same time humiliating and betraying so many faithful priests.
Priests around the world have felt betrayed and ashamed by the abominations in the Church. The Church is going through the mystery of the flagellation at the hands of those who should love and protect Her. The body of the Church is lacerated. Who has been striking the blows? The very same ones who should be loving and protecting Her. I dare to borrow Pope Francis’ words that the mystery of Judas is the mystery of our times. This is a mystery of treason oozing from the walls of the Church. The abuse of minors reveals this in the most abominable way.
We must have the courage to look our sins in the eye. The treason was arranged and caused by many others who were less obvious and more subtle in their treachery. Even so it has been a deep wound. We have survived a long time in the Judas Mystery. What is evident today had profoundly troubling causes. We must clearly denounce this. The crisis which the clergy, the church and the world are going through is radically a spiritual crisis, a crisis of faith. We are living the mystery of iniquity, the mystery of treason and the mystery of Judas.
Judas will remain for eternity the name of treason and his shadow hangs over us. Yes, we also have betrayed; we have given up on praying. The evil of effective activism has infiltrated itself everywhere. We seek to copy the organization of large companies. We have forgotten that prayer alone is the blood that can irrigate the heart of the Church. We assert we have no time to lose. We want to invest this time in useful social works. He who does not pray has already betrayed. He is already prepared for every compromise with the world. He walks in the steps of Judas.
We tolerate any calling into question. The Catholic doctrine is challenged, and in the name of self-styled intellectual postures, theologians take pleasure in deconstructing dogma and in emptying morals of their profound meaning.
The mystery of Judas is spreading. I wish to say to all priests: remain strong and righteous. Because of a few ministers you will all be accused of being homosexual. The Catholic Church will be dragged in the mud. It will be shown to be comprised of hypocritical and power-hungry priests. Let your hearts not be troubled. On Good Friday, Jesus was accused of all of mankind’s sins, and Jerusalem was shouting: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Notwithstanding the false enquiries that portray the disastrous situation of irresponsible churchmen who have anemic interior lives, and who are at the very helm of the Church, remain serene and have faith as did the Virgin Mother and Saint John at the foot of the Cross.
Priests, bishops and cardinals without morals will not in any way tarnish the luminous witness of more than 400,000 priests in the world who each day loyally, joyously and in a saintly manner serve the Lord. Despite the violence of the attacks that She weathers, the Church shall not die. That is the promise of the Lord, and His word is infallible.
Christians tremble, waver and doubt. This book was written for them: Doubt not! Hold on to the doctrine! Keep praying! This book was written to give comfort to Christians and to faithful priests.
The mystery of Judas, the mystery of treason is a subtle poison. The devil wants to cast doubt upon the Church. He wants us to see the Church as a human organization in crisis. Yet She is much more than that: She is the living Christ continuing Himself. The devil foments division and schism. He would have us believe that the Church has betrayed. But the Church does not betray. The Church, full of sinners, is without sin! There will always remain enough light in Her for those who seek God. Do not fall prey to hatred, division and manipulation. The goal is not to create a grouping, nor to fight each other. The Master has warned us against these dangers to the point of telling us about bad shepherds; we were not to leave the Church — the foundation of truth — because of them. Let us not fall prey to division because of those who are evil, as Saint Augustine explained (Letter 105).
The Church suffers, She is trampled upon, her enemies are within. Let us not abandon Her. All pastors are sinners, but they carry within them Christ’s mystery.
What can we do? It is not a matter of organizing ourselves and planning strategies. How can we believe that by ourselves we can make things better? This would lead us once more into Judas’ deadly illusion.
Faced with a flood of sins in the Church’s ranks, we might be tempted to take things into our own hands. We might wish to purify the Church through our own means. This would be a mistake. What would we do? Found a grouping? A movement? The trappings of division is the gravest of temptations.
Under pretext of doing the right thing, we divide ourselves, we criticize one another and we tear ourselves apart. And the devil laughs. He has succeeded to tempt good people under the disguise of truth. We cannot reform the Church through division and hatred. We reform the Church by first changing ourselves! Let us not hesitate to denounce sin by starting with our own.
In this book, I will not hesitate to use strong language. With the help of writer and essayist Nicolas Diat, without whom little would have been possible and who has been, since the writing of God or Nothing, truly faithful, I wish to inspire myself with God’s word which is a two-edged sword. Let us not be afraid to say that the Church is in need of a profound reform and that this reform is tied to our conversion.
Forgive me if some of my words shock you. I do not want to put you to sleep using soothing and deceitful talk. I seek neither success not popularity. This book is a cry of the soul! It is a cry of love for God and my fellow man. I owe to you Christians the only truth that saves. The Church is dying because pastors are afraid to speak the truth clearly. We are afraid of the media, public opinion; we fear our own brothers! The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
I am often asked ‘what can we do?’ When division is at hand, we must strengthen our unity. This has nothing to do with the ‘esprit de corps’ found in the world. The unity of the Church finds itself in the heart of Jesus Christ. We must stand near Him and in Him. The heart that was pierced by a lance so that we might find shelter will be our home. The unity of the Church rests upon four pillars. Prayer, Catholic doctrine, the love of Peter and mutual charity must become the priorities of our soul and all of our activities.
“He who prays not dams himself”, said Saint Alphonsus. I must insist on this point, since a Church who does not consider prayer her most precious possession is bound to fail. If we do not return to long and patient time awake with Our Lord, we will betray Him. The apostles betrayed Him. Do we think ourselves better than they? Priests in particular need to have a soul of prayer. Without this, the most effective social action would be useless and even harmful. It would give us the feeling of serving God when all the while doing the work of the Evil One. It is not a question of accumulating devotions. It’s a question of being silent and adoring, of being on our knees, of entering with fear and respect into the liturgy. Liturgy is the work of God. It is not a theater.
I would like my brother bishops never to forget their grave responsibilities. Dear friends, do you want to put the Church back on its feet? Get down on your knees! It is the only way! If you proceed otherwise, what you do will not be of God. Only God can save us. He will do so only if we pray to Him.
I am afflicted by the sight of so many pastors who shed off Catholic Doctrine and who cause division among the faithful. We owe the Christian people a teaching that is clear, firm and constant. How can we accept that Bishops’ Conferences contradict one another? Where there is confusion, God cannot reside!
The unity of faith supposes the unity of magisterium in space and in time. When a new teaching is given us, it should always be interpreted in coherence with the teaching that precedes it. If we introduce ruptures and revolutions, we break the unity that governs the holy Church through the centuries.
The hermeneutics of reform taught by Benedict XVI is a sine qua non condition for unity. Those who loudly announce change and rupture are false prophets. They do not seek the good of the herd. Our unity will be forged in the truth of Catholic doctrine. There exists no other means. Seeking to gain mediatic popularity at the cost of truth is the same as doing Judas’ work.
Let us not fear! What better gift to offer mankind than the truth of the Gospel? Jesus demands much of us. To follow Him we must bear our cross each day. The temptation for cowardice is everywhere. It awaits pastors foremost. Christ’s teaching seems too difficult. How many among us are tempted to think: “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” (John 6: 60). The Lord looks at those He has chosen, us priests and bishops, and asks us anew: “Will you also go away?”(John 6: 68).
He looks us straight in the eye and asks each of us: “Will you abandon me? Will you renounce teaching the faith in all its plenitude? Will you have the courage to preach my real presence in the Eucharist? Will you have the courage to call these young people to consecrated life? Will you have the strength to say that without regular confession, sacramental communion risks losing its meaning? Will you have the audacity to recall the truth about the indissolubility of marriage? Will you have the charity to do so even if you are found at fault for doing so? Will you have the courage gently to invite the divorced and remarried to change their lives? Do you prefer success or will you follow me?” Please God that with Saint Peter we may answer, full of love and humility, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6: 69).