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African Catholicism and the Universal Church

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Writing at Crisis Magazine, Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg, recently discussed the significance of the Catholic church in Africa and Cardinal Sarah’s new book. At the 2014 Synod on the family, German theologian Cardinal Walter Kasper, argued that Africans “should not tell us too much what we have to do” regarding challenges facing the modern family. Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Robert Sarah, recently wrote “Dieu ou Rien” (“God or Nothing”) with French journalist Nicolas Diat on why the opposite is true. Gregg describes the book:

the universal Church should be listening more to Catholics who come from cultures where the faith is flourishing, and much less to those preoccupied with the concerns of particular Western European churches: churches that are fabulously wealthy in material terms but spiritually-moribund by any standard.

He goes on:

“Man’s greatest difficulty is not,” Sarah writes, “what the Church teaches on morality; the hardest thing for the post-modern world is to believe in God” [my translation]. Drawing on sources ranging from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, Greek philosophers, the Church Fathers, Jewish references, Russian literature to modern French thinkers, Sarah outlines a powerful case to suggest that choices against the God who reveals Himself in the Bible are laying waste to much of the world, especially the West and even more specifically Western Europe. And in doing so—for, as anyone who has met Sarah will attest, he’s a genuinely humble man—the Cardinal born in the obscure African village of Ourous inadvertently reveals a formidable intellect that’s matched by years of pastoral experience and a profound knowledge of, and direct personal contact with, the many different challenges confronting the Catholic Church throughout the world.

For Sarah, it matters little whether the nothingness is expressed via militant atheism, Marxist materialism, secular liberalism, or the politically correct non-entity worshiped by what another Cardinal, Blessed John Henry Newman, famously condemned as “the spirit of Liberalism in religion.” The denial of God, Sarah maintains, can only lead to one thing: an enormous void that’s invariably filled in destructive ways. These include self-absorption, hedonism, and techno-utopianism. Sarah isn’t afraid to draw an analogy between these trends in the West and the ways that he believes animist African religions fabricated false gods to help people divert themselves from the fear that grips man when he thinks he’s truly alone in the universe.

Significantly, Sarah suggests that another way of filling the emptiness is through the relentless embrace of egalitarianism, whether in the economy or through promoting gender theory. Making such an argument is unlikely to win Sarah many friends in our equality-obsessed world: a fixation that includes more-than-a few Catholics. Given, however, that Sarah spent much of his life as an archbishop in the former French colony of Guinea facing down one of the worst post-colonial Marxist despots ever to inflict himself on Africa, Ahmed Sékou Touré (who placed Sarah on a death-list just prior to the dictator’s death in 1984), Sarah’s unlikely to be especially worried by the fulminations of Western liberals.

Read Gregg’s full analysis at Crisis Magazine.

 

 

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Sarah Stanley

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