Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


The Clarity of Cardinal Sarah’s Words — Part III

June 19th, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Continuing in the review of Cardinal Sarah’s Book “God or Nothing,” this Part III covers his observations regarding several popes, liturgy and prayer.  Robert Cardinal Sarah has known every pope personally since Pope Paul VI, and has up-close impressions of the men, as well as their effects in the Church. Cardinal Sarah is unafraid to speak out on contemporary threats within and outside the Church.

Comments on recent Popes

Pope Paul VI —  is the pope who named Cardinal Sarah as Bishop of Conakry, which directly put his life at risk under the dictatorship then in power in Guinea. (How he escaped execution is a powerful read on Divine Providence!)

“Paul VI had to cope with extraordinarily difficult upheavals.  The world was changing very quickly, and the Council did not bring the much-awaited in-depth understanding.  The progressive hermeneutic was even leading the  faithful into dead ends. Many priests left the priesthood. Convents emptied out, and many nuns started to put aside their habits.  Little by little, the spirit of the age caused the disappearance of the signs indicating that God’s hand had been placed on those who had devoted their lives to the Lord.  There was a widespread impression that, even among consecrated persons, the presence of God was forbidden!  For the pope, this meant terrible suffering.”

  • “The pope [Paul VI] was a prophet.” “[He] intended to preserve the deposit of revelation from the reformist or revolutionary aberrations of the ideologues in attendance.  He did all he could to fend off very violent attacks.” 
  • “Despite the challenges [regarding Humanae Vitae], the pope never intended to get involved in a debate that was distorted by libertarian thinking.  Paul VI published his document, then he remained silent, bearing with all the difficulties in prayer.  Until his death, on August 6, 1978, he never wrote another encyclical.”

Pope Saint John Paul II — when the newly elected John Paul II met Bishop Sarah, and learned that he was the youngest bishop in the entire Church, he called him a “baby bishop.”

  • “The Polish Pope showed there is no pastoral success without sharing in Christ’s sufferings.” … “I think his last moments on earth were a sort of unwritten encyclical.  The pope was carrying the Gospel in his broken body…. He had entered into the silence of God.”
  • “And despite so many sufferings … the mystery of the apostolic tenacity of John Paul II and of his serene death reminds of this remark by Saint Bernard: ‘The faithful soldier does not feel his wounds when he lovingly contemplates the wounds of his King.'”
  • “The relation of trust that he had with Cardinal Ratzinger was immense, while at the same time these two giants remained disarmingly humble….we walked with a saint who is now a protector of the Church in heaven.”

Pope Benedict XVI –due to the incapacity of his superior, Bishop Sarah was attending meetings with Pope Benedict, and developed a deep respect for His Holiness.

  • “Quarere deum, to search for God, is the true synthesis of the pontificate of Benedict XVI.”
  • “Joseph Ratzinger did not change after his election. He remained a very sensitive, modest, and reserved man …. This pope was incapable of an authoritarian or preemptory act.”
  • “If we are seeking the truth, Benedict XVI is an exceptional guide.  If we prefer lies, silence, and omissions, Benedict XVI becomes an unacceptable problem….”
  • “Benedict wrote in Caritas in veritate: ‘Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is….'”

Search for Church

“We have seen all sorts of ‘creative’ liturgical planners who sought to find tricks to make the liturgy attractive, more communicative, by involving more and more people, but all the while forgetting that the liturgy is made for God.  If you make God the Great Absent One, then all sorts of downward spirals are possible, from the most trivial to the most contemptible.”… “Benedict XVI often recalled that the liturgy is not supposed to be a work of personal creativity. If we make the liturgy for ourselves, it moves away from the divine; it becomes a ridiculous, vulgar, boring theatrical game.”

The elimination of God within Western cultures is a tragedy with unsuspected consequences. … The lack of a connection with God has remained the major concern of all the popes since John XXIII, an abyss that continues to yawn ever deeper.” … “Joseph Ratzinger saw at the root of the crisis of faith a defective understanding of the idea of Church …. The crises in the Church always have their origins in a crisis of the priesthood.”

“The Council’s (Vatican II) intentionnot the ‘spirit’ of those who misinterpret it — was to give back to God all his primacy.” .. .”The Church must radiate Christ exclusively, his glory and his hope.

“Today how can anyone deny the fact that some men of the Church are in a state of moral ruin? Clerical narcissism is not just a literary theme.  The sickness can be deep-seated.” … “I could mention many examples of priests who seem to forget that their life is centered solely on God. They devote only a little time to him during the day because they are swamped in what I would call the ‘heresy of activism.’ … Christians themselves. on many occasions, have settled down to a silent apostasy.”

Regarding contemporary issues

“…we would commit a grave sin against the unity of the Body of Christ and of the doctrine of the Church by giving episcopal conferences any authority or decision-making ability concerning doctrinal, disciplinary, or moral questions.”

“…the current difficulty is threefold and one at the same time: the lack of priests, gaps in the formation of the clergy, and an often erroneous idea about the meaning of mission…. There is a missionary trend that emphasizes political involvement or struggle and socio-economic development; this approach offers a diluted interpretation f the Gospel and of the proclamation of Jesus.”

“I sometimes have the sense that seminarians and priests are not doing enough to nourish their interior life by founding it on the Word of God, the example of the saints, on a life of prayer and contemplation, all rooted in God alone. There is a form of impoverishment or aridity that comes right from the interior of the Lord’s ministers.”

“Nowadays the unity of the Church is threatened at the level of revealed doctrine, for there are many who consider their own opinion to be the real doctrine!”

“God did not ask us to create personal projects but to transmit the faith …. Men of God are conveyors, not interpreters; they are faithful messengers and stewards of the Christian mysteries…. God alone should be our point of reference…. Too often we are opposed, each one enclosed in his little chapel.”

Prayer is essential

“One of the major difficulties at present is found in ambiguities or personal statements about important doctrinal points, which can lead to erroneous and dangerous opinions…. Confusion about the right direction to take is the worst malady of our era…. The variety of opinions in a society that is flooded with news ought not to make us forget the centuries-old tradition of the Church.  The best way to understand and transmit it is the interior life in God.”

“Silence is the path to close personal encounter with the silent but living presence of God within us.”

“True prayer requires us to cultivate and preserve a certain virginity of the heart….”

“We must not fall into the trap that tries to reduce the liturgy to a simple place of fraternal conviviality.”

“We live now in an era that is intensely seeking what is sacred but because of a sort of dictatorship of subjectivism, man would like to confine the sacred to the realm of the profane.”

“God is still calling as many men as in the past; it is the men whose hearing is not what it used to be.… there are many to hear the good news, there are only a few to preach it.” … “We need priests who are men of the interior life, ‘God’s Watchmen’ and pastors passionately committed to the evangelization of the world, and not social workers or politicians.” … “What matters most is the quality of a priest’s heart, the strength of his faith, and the substance of his interior life.”

“… the worst thing is the behavior of unfaithful priests … The ideological spirit is the opposite of the Gospel spirit. That is why priests who choose to follow or to propagate political ideas are necessarily on the wrong path, since they make sacred something that is not supposed to be.”

“…the Church will always have to confront ideological lies. Today, she must address gender ideology… gender, the product of reflection by American structuralists, is a deformed child of Marxist thinking…. Gender ideology conveys a crude lie, since the reality of the human being as man and woman is denied.  The lobbies and the feminist movements promote it with violence… it is interested above all in the deconstruction of the social order … to abolish Christian civilization and construct a new world.”

“The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.”

“Reform, therefore, is this interior work that everyone must accomplish, at both the personal and the ecclesial level …. Only the contagion of sanctity can transform the Church from within.”

“… our world is going through an unprecedented moral crisis … The great challenge lies in this unquenchable thirst for the beyond.”

“… both the clergy and the laity today are in urgent need of conversion.”

More to come………..



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