CNS/Paul Haring

Cardinal Sarah blasts ‘lazy’ criticism of Pope Benedict XVI

  • May 22, 2019

ROME -- Cardinal Robert Sarah has blasted what he called “lazy” and “superficial” reactions bordering on “intellectual hysteria” to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s recent notes on the clerical abuse scandal.

Speaking at the French Institute of Rome May 14 to launch his latest book Le soir approche et déjà le jour baisse, Cardinal Sarah said he would not speak about his book, but instead addressed the former pope’s reflection written for the February sexual abuse summit and published in April with the permission of Pope Francis.

Speaking in French, the cardinal said Benedict was a “true source of light in the night of faith that touches the whole Church,” and the negative reactions indicated the previous pope had “aimed right and touched the nuclear heart of the crisis of the Church.”

“The crisis of pedophilia in the Church, the scandalous and frightening multiplication of abuses has one and only one ultimate cause: the absence of God,” Cardinal Sarah said, summarizing Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI’s main point.

“Some commentators, whether malevolent or incompetent, pretended to believe that Benedict XVI asserted that only doctrinally deviant clerics became child abusers,” he said, noting there are no such “simplistic shortcuts” in the text.

“He states that a climate of atheism and absence of God creates the moral, spiritual and human conditions of a proliferation of sexual abuse.”  

The cardinal also criticized “lazy and superficial comments” that tried to undermine Benedict’s theological reflection by “accusing it of confusing homosexual behavior and the abuse of minors.”

No where does the Pope emeritus do so, the cardinal said, and “it goes without saying” the “overwhelming majority of homosexuals” have no desire to abuse anyone.

“But it must be said that investigations into the abuse of minors have revealed the tragic extent of homosexual practices or simply contrary to chastity within the clergy,” Cardinal Sarah said, calling the phenomenon a “painful manifestation” of the absence of God and the loss of faith.

Other critics have accused Benedict XVI of “historical ignorance on the pretext that his demonstration begins with the evocation of the crisis of 1968,” Cardinal Sarah said, but the former pope knows this and 1968 was itself a symptom of the absence of God, not a cause.

The cardinal said Pope Benedict pointed out how the destruction of an objective natural law as the foundation for moral theology underlies the crisis of the absence of God.

 The first stage had a “laudable” intention of basing moral theology on the Bible instead of natural law, but this had the effect of leading to consequentalism and the notion that nothing is bad or good in itself, but is relative to the time and circumstances, the cardinal said.

“Finally, the third step is the affirmation that the magisterium of the Church would not be competent in moral matters, “Cardinal Sarah said. “The Church could infallibly teach only on matters of faith.”

“I would like to emphasize how from the beginning of this process it is the absence of God that is at work,” Cardinal Sarah said. “From the first step, the rejection of the natural law manifests the forgetfulness of God.

“Indeed, nature is the first gift of God. It is in a way the first revelation of the Creator,” he said. At stake is the objectivity of the faith and of God’s existence.

“If God exists, if he is not a creation of my subjectivity, then there is, in the words of the Pope Emeritus, ‘values which must never be abandoned.’"

Cardinal Sarah’s book will be published in English in Sept. 2019 under the title “The Day is Now Far Spent.”

He said his new book analyzes “the crisis of faith, the priestly crisis, the crisis of the Church, the crisis of Christian anthropology, the spiritual collapse and the moral decadence of the West and all the consequences.” These ideas were summed up in the recent reflection by Pope Benedict, a theologian the cardinal described as a Doctor of the Church.

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