Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s most senior liturgical official, has accused some senior Catholic prelates from rich countries of trying to dilute Christian morality by changing teaching on abortion, euthanasia and “other problematic family situations”.
The Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments said such Catholic leaders were abandoning Jesus’s teachings in a new "trahison des clercs". This represented a betrayal of standards by those who were supposed to be guardians of these standards.
Cardinal Sarah, who had a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome this morning, was speaking about the betrayal of Jesus' teachings at a presentation of his book “God or Nothing” in a suburb of Brussels early last month. Little reported on at the time, his address was later posted as a video on the website of his host, the Notre Dame de Stockel parish.
After condemning what he called the “crisis of God” in western societies, he said: “The Church is in a surprising situation. Some high-ranking prelates, especially those from rich countries, are working to modify Christian morality concerning the absolute respect for life from its conception to natural death, the divorced and civilly remarried, and other problematic family situations.
“These guardians of the faith, however, should not lose sight of the fact that the fundamental problem posed by the fragmentation of the purposes of marriage is a problem of natural morality.”
The cardinal, speaking in the parish church after Brussels Cardinal Jozef De Kesel celebrated Mass, referred to the general acceptance of abortion and euthanasia in Belgium, but his criticism appeared to apply to Church figures in the developed world in general.
“The great drift began when some prelates or Catholic intellectuals began to write or say ‘green light for abortion’ and ‘green light for euthanasia’,” he said. “They now contribute to the destruction of the natural institutions of marriage and the family. It is now the entire human family that finds itself fractured by this new trahison des clercs."
The conservative cardinal has courted controversy by saying priests should celebrate Mass facing away from the congregation, ad orientem, and insisting the Vatican must review liturgical translations, a statement for which Pope Francis publicly corrected him.
In the foreword to an Italian book last month, he urged Catholics to return to receiving the host on the tongue while kneeling, saying this was “more suited” to the sacrament.
The cardinal had sharp words for Europe and the United States in his address, saying they had created chaos in the Middle East and Africa by trying “to install democracy, peace and freedom everywhere by force”.
Westerners had “given up God in favour of goods” and were imposing abortion and the gender theory on poorer countries as a condition for aiding them.
“More than half the countries in Africa have had to create ministries of gender to get aid from the West,” he said.
In an interview with the Belgian Church’s Cathobel news agency, Cardinal Sarah said the Church in Europe “wants to adapt to its surroundings, to modern culture”.
He said: “Faith has collapsed not only among the people of God, but even among Church leaders. One can wonder sometimes if we still have the faith."
He said his dicastery “is trying to promote the beauty of the liturgy”.
“The (Second Vatican) Council provoked a different vision of the Church’s place in relation to the world, but I think that if we had respected the texts, we would not have what we see today,” he said. “Some things were implemented well, but we implemented the Council as we wanted it to be, without any rule.”
Speaking to the Flemish Catholic weekly Tertio, he said: “On the pretext of making access to God easier, some wanted to immediately make everything in the liturgy intelligible, rational, horizontal and human. So some priests speak endlessly, daring to abusively add their improvisations to the sacred texts. By doing so, we run the risk of reducing the Sacred Mystery to good feelings.”
Fr Philippe Mawet, a curate at the church where Cardinal Sarah spoke, criticised the prelate’s book “God or Nothing” in an interview before the ceremony.
“I know it’s the title of one of his books but, in the name of my faith and my fidelity to the Gospel, I absolutely cannot support such a proposition,” he told the daily La Libre Belgique. “It’s probably supposed to be a winning slogan (but) this title is the opposite of the Gospel. This way to present Christian faith seems to be hardly respectful – actually it’s totally disrespectful – of all our brothers and sisters in humanity who do not share our faith.”
Pic: Cardinal Robert Sarah. PA