Cardinal Robert Sarah took everyone by surprise on the evening of May 14 in Rome, in the auditorium of the cultural center of the church of St. Louis of the French, when everyone was expecting him to present his latest book, entitled “Le soir approche et déjà le jour baisse,” on the Church’s crisis of faith and the decline of the West.
Because instead, the cardinal said right away, “this evening I will not talk about this book at all.” And the reason - he explained - is that “the fundamental ideas that I develop in it were illustrated, presented, and demonstrated brilliantly last April by Pope Benedict XVI in the ‘notes’ that he had composed in view of the summit of the presidents of the episcopal conferences on sexual abuse convened in Rome by Pope Francis from February 21 to 24.”
Cardinal Sarah continued:
“His reflection has revealed itself to be a true source of light in the night of faith that touches the whole Church. It has prompted reactions that at times have bordered on intellectual hysteria. I have felt personally struck by the wretchedness and coarseness of several comments. We must be convinced that once again the theologian Ratzinger, whose stature is that of a true father and doctor of the Church, has seen correctly and has touched the deepest heart of the Church’s crisis.
“I would therefore like us this evening to allow ourselves to be enlightened by this demanding and luminous thought of his. How could we summarize the thesis of Benedict XVI? Allow me to simply cite him: ‘Why has pedophilia reached such proportions? In the final analysis, the reason is the absence of God.’ This is the architectonic principle of the entire reflection of the pope emeritus. This is the conclusion of his long argumentation. This must be the starting point of every investigation of the scandal of sexual abuse committed by priests, in order to propose an effective solution.
“The crisis of pedophilia in the Church, the scandalous and distressing multiplication of abuse has one and only one ultimate cause: the absence of God. Benedict XVI summarizes it in another formula that is also clear. I quote: ‘It is only where faith no longer determines the actions of man that such crimes are possible.’
“The theological genius of Joseph Ratzinger here touches not only upon his experience as pastor of souls and as bishop, as father of his priests, but also upon his personal, spiritual, and mystical experience. He goes back to the fundamental cause, he allows us to understand what the only way can be for getting out of the frightening and humiliating scandal of pedophilia. The crisis of sexual abuse is the symptom of a deeper crisis: the crisis of faith, the crisis of the sense of God.”
The entire conference by Cardinal Sarah is reproduced, in French, on this other page of Settimo Cielo:
In it Sarah goes over Joseph Ratinger’s analysis step by step, agreeing with it completely. He refutes in biting terms the criticisms that have been brought against it. He emphasizes the effects of the crisis of faith in the lives of priests and in the formation of seminarians. He stigmatizes the false “guarantism” that, in tolerating doctrines contrary to the integrity of the faith, also encourages practices contrary to chastity. He invokes that profound respect for the “Eucharistic body of the Lord” without which there is no longer any respect for “the pure and innocent bodies of children.”
And this is the finale, more than ever in unison with Ratzinger:
“To conclude, I say to you again with Pope Benedict: yes, the Church is full of sinners. But it is not in crisis, we are the ones who are in crisis. The devil wants to make us doubt. He wants to make us believe that God abandons his Church. But no, this is always ‘the field of God. There are not only the weeds but also the good wheat of God. To proclaim these two aspects with insistence does not stem at all from a false apologetics: it is a service that it is necessary to render to the truth,’ says Benedict XVI. He proves it, his prayerful and teaching presence in our midst, in the heart of the Church, in Rome, he confirms it for us. Yes, in our midst is the good wheat of God.
“Thank you, dear Pope Benedict, for being according to your motto a cooperator with the truth, a servant of the truth. Your word encourages and reassures us. You are a witness, a ‘martyr’ for the truth. Thank you.”
No need to say that this impassioned apologia for Ratzinger’s analysis made by Cardinal Sarah is the polar opposite of the gelid welcome reserved for it by Pope Francis: