The highest-ranking African cardinal said this week that the Church risks becoming just another NGO if it focuses on “horizontal” issues like immigration and ecology rather than preaching Jesus Christ.
Some Catholic leaders urge the Church “not to speak about God, but to throw itself body and soul into social problems: migration, ecology, dialogue, the culture of encounter, the struggle against poverty, for justice and peace,” said Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah in an interview this week with La Nef.
While all of these problems are, of course, important, “a Church such as this is of interest to no one,” said Sarah, who heads up the Vatican’s liturgical office.
“The Church is only of interest because she allows us to encounter Jesus,” he continued. “She is only legitimate because she passes on Revelation to us. When the Church becomes overburdened with human structures, it obstructs the light of God shining out in her and through her.”
While never mentioning Pope Francis by name, a number of observers on social media were quick to take the cardinal’s words as an indictment of Francis, who devotes enormous attention to the social problems Sarah highlighted.
“The crisis of the Church is above all a crisis of the faith. Some want the Church to be a human and horizontal society; they want it to speak the language of the media. They want to make it popular,” the cardinal said in his interview.
“We are tempted to think that our action and our ideas will save the Church. It would be better to begin by letting her save herself,” he said.
Sarah further suggests that the world is under assault from a “virulent atheism” that affects everyone, including those in the Church.
“It permeates everything, even our ecclesiastical discourse. It consists in allowing radically pagan and worldly modes of thinking or living to coexist side by side with faith,” he said. “And we are quite content with this unnatural cohabitation! This shows that our faith has become diluted and inconsistent!”
“The first reform we need is in our hearts. We must no longer compromise with lies. The Faith is both the treasure we have to defend and the power that will permit us to defend it,” he said.
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