Daily Thought For May 27, 2019

Cardinal Sarah Weighs In On Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Article — And Hits The Nail On The Head!

“The theme of God seems so unreal, so far removed from the things that concern us.” With these words Benedict XVI is describing a style of priestly life that is secularized and profane, a life in which God passes into the background. Pope Benedict gives several examples. The first concern of bishops became no longer God himself but a “radically open relationship with the world” (II, 1). Seminaries were transformed into secularized places in which, Pope Benedict says, the climate “could not provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation.” The life of prayer and adoration was neglected, and the understanding of priestly life as consecration to God was all but forgotten. The Pope Emeritus points out several symptoms of this forgetfulness: an unhealthy mixing with the lay world, which introduced noise and denied the fact that every priest is by his priesthood a man separate from the world, set aside for God (II, 1). He also points out that homosexual cliques became established in seminaries. This is not so much a cause as a sign of the forgetfulness of God that was already reigning. Seminarians who live in open contradiction of natural and revealed morality show that they were not living for God, that they do not belong to God, that they are not seeking God. Perhaps they have found a career, perhaps they like the social aspects of the ministry. But they have forgotten the essential: a priest is a man of God, a man for God.

What is most grave in this situation is that their formators said nothing or voluntarily promoted this horizontal and mundane conception of the priesthood. It was as if the bishops and formators in seminaries had themselves renounced God’s centrality. It was as if they too had made the faith a matter of secondary concern, making it ineffective; as if they too had replaced the primacy of life for God and after God by the dogma of openness to the world, of relativism and subjectivism. It is shocking to see how the objective reality of God has been eclipsed by a form of religion worshipping human subjectivity. Pope Francis has aptly spoken of it as auto-referentiality. I think that the worst form of auto-referentiality is one that denies our relation to God and his objectivity and retains only the relation of man to himself in his subjectivity.

In the current climate, how is one to live an authentic priestly life? How are we to limit the temptation to regard ourselves as omnipotent? A person who has only himself as a reference point, who does not live for God but for himself, not according to God but according to his own desires, will end up falling into the logic of the abuse of power and that of sexual abuse. Who will rein in his desires, even the most perverse of them, if his subjectivity is all that matters? Forgetting God opens the door to every form of abuse. We can already observe this in our society. But this forgetfulness of God has entered even into the Church, into her priests and bishops. Inevitably, abuses of power and sexual abuse have spread among priests. Sadly, there are priests who practically do not believe any more, who no longer pray or only very little, who no longer live the sacraments as a vital dimension of their priesthood. They have become lukewarm and practical atheists.

Practical atheism facilitates an abusive psychology. The Church has allowed herself for a long time now to be invaded by this all-pervasive atheism. It should not surprise us to discover perverts and abusers in her ranks. If God does not exist, then all things are permitted! If God does not exist concretely, then all is possible!

Address given in Rome on May 14, 2019 by Cardinal Robert Sarah, at the presentation of the French edition of his book The Day Is Now Far Spent. Full Text Can Be Read HERE.

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