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Cardinal Robert Sarah
Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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Cdl. Sarah: Amazon synod would ‘definitively break’ with tradition in allowing married priests, female ministries

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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September 3, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – African Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, wrote in his most recent book that if the upcoming Amazon synod allowed priestly ordination of married men and fabricated “ministries for women and other such incongruities,” the situation would be “extremely serious” on account of the synod fathers breaking with Catholic teaching and tradition. 

“If by a lack of faith in God and by an effect of pastoral short-sightedness the Synod for the Amazon were to decide on the ordination of viri probati, the fabrication of ministries for women and other such incongruities, the situation would be extremely serious,” he wrote. 

“Would its decisions be ratified on the pretext that they are the emanation of the will of the synod fathers?  The Spirit blows where it wants, of course, but it does not contradict itself and does not create confusion and disorder. It is the spirit of wisdom. On the question of celibacy, it has already spoken through the Roman councils and pontiffs,” he continued.

“If the Synod for the Amazon took decisions in such a direction, it would definitively break with the tradition of the Latin Church,” he added 

Cardinal Sarah made the comments in his book Le soir approche et déjà le jour baisse, (“It is almost evening and the day is now nearly over”) which was published in March. The book will be published in English on September 22. LifeSiteNews has translated relevant quotes from the book below. 

As the Amazon synod approaches (Oct. 6-27), an increasing number of Catholic cardinals and bishops are expressing their concern over how the synod is being used to push for priestly ordination of married men in Amazonia along with the beginnings of female ordination, if not by creating women priests, at least by inventing a form of female diaconate. 

Cardinal Sarah addressed both issues head-on in his book, specifically expressing his opposition to a practical evolution of priestly celibacy and of the role of women within the Church in the context of the upcoming Amazon synod.

The Cardinal criticized the Amazon Synod working document for presenting “anything but a solution” to problems in the Amazon region, stating that giving these people less than what the Church normally ordains is no answer to the specific difficulties they face.

Earlier in the book, Cardinal Sarah had spoken at length of the value of celibacy and complete chastity for those who, being “configured to Christ,” should follow His example in giving themselves, body and soul to the Church, in the same way that Jesus-Christ is truly the Spouse of the Church. Quoting the ancient practice of the Catholic Church of requiring complete continence from married men who became priests, even if they did continue to live under the same roof as their wife, the Cardinal made a clear link in these earlier passages between the celebration of the Eucharist and the constant practice of the Church that has since been upheld by its Latin part, even suggesting that the Catholic Church of oriental rite would do good to “evolve” to a return to that situation.

In his comments on the situation in the Amazon, Cardinal Sarah remarked: “I have heard it said that throughout its 500 years of existence, the Latin American church has always considered indigenous people as incapable of living in celibacy. The result of this prejudice is visible. There are very few indigenous bishops and priests, even though things are beginning to change.”

Whether this is true, and if it is true, whether this judgment on the part of the Church was a valid one is not under discussion here. What is certain is that a closer look at the “Indian theology” the Preparatory document of the Amazon Synod was already promoting in 2018, the concept of celibate celebrants of the liturgy is rejected on the grounds of indigenous traditions.

Cardinal Sarah’s remarks about the upcoming Synod were published in March, several months before the “Instrumentum Laboris” was made public last June.

Below is LifeSite’s working translation of the main passages concerning the Amazon Synod in Le soir approche et déjà le jour baisse

***

I note with dismay that some people would like to create a new priesthood whittled down to a human scale. If Amazonia lacks priests, I am sure that we will not resolve the situation by ordaining married men, viri probati, who have been called by God not to the priesthood, but to married life so that they may manifest the prefiguration of the Union of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32). In a missionary impulse, if each diocese of Latin America generously offered a priest for the Amazon, this region would not be treated with such contempt and humiliation through the creation of married priests, as if God were unable to raise in this part of the world generous young people who are willing to give totally their bodies and hearts, all their capacity to love, and all their being in consecrated celibacy.

I have heard it said that, throughout its 500 years of existence, the Latin American church has always considered indigenous people as incapable of living in celibacy. The result of this prejudice is visible: there are very few indigenous bishops and priests, even though things are beginning to change.

If by a lack of faith in God and by an effect of pastoral short-sightedness the Synod for the Amazon were to decide on the ordination of viri probati, the fabrication of ministries for women and other such incongruities, the situation would be extremely serious. Would its decisions be ratified on the pretext that they are the emanation of the will of the synod fathers?  The Spirit blows where it wants, of course, but it does not contradict itself and does not create confusion and disorder. It is the spirit of wisdom. On the question of celibacy, it has already spoken through the Roman councils and pontiffs.

If the Synod for the Amazon took decisions in such a direction, it would definitively break with the tradition of the Latin Church. Who can honestly say that such an experiment, with its risk of adulterating the nature of the priesthood of Christ, would remain limited to the Amazon? Certainly, the idea is to confront emergencies and necessities. But necessity is not God!  The current crisis is comparable in its severity to the great haemorrhage of the 1970s, during which thousands of priests left the priesthood. Many of these men no longer believed. But do we still believe in the grace of the priesthood?

I want to make an appeal to my brother bishops: do we believe in the omnipotence of God's grace? Do we believe that God calls workers to his vineyard or do we want to replace him because we are convinced that he has abandoned us? Worse still, are we ready to abandon the treasure of priestly celibacy under the pretext that we would no longer believe that he gives us the opportunity to live it to the full today?

(…)

I also want to emphasize that the ordination of married men is anything but a solution to the lack of vocations. Protestants, who accept married pastors, also suffer from a shortage of men who give themselves to God. Moreover, I am convinced that if in some oriental churches the presence of ordained married men is endured by the faithful, it is because it is supplemented by the massive presence of monks. The people of God intuitively know that they need men who give themselves radically.

It would be a mark of contempt of the inhabitants of the Amazon to offer them second-class priests. I know that some theologians, such as Father Lobinger, are seriously considering creating two classes of priests: one would be constituted by married men who would only give the sacraments, while the other would be constituted by fully-fledged priests exercising the three priestly offices: sanctifying, preaching and governing. This proposal is theologically absurd. It implies a functionalist conception of the priesthood, in that it considers separating the exercise of the three priestly offices, the tria munera, thus taking the opposite approach to the major teachings of the Second Vatican Council that stipulate their radical unity.  I do not understand how one can engage in such theological regressions. I believe that, under the guise of pastoral concern for poor mission countries lacking priests, some theologians are attempting to experiment with their whacky and dangerous theories.  Basically, they despise those peoples. A recently evangelized people need to see the truth of the whole priesthood, not a pale imitation of what it means to be a priest of Jesus Christ. Let us not despise the poor!

The people of the Amazon have a deep need for priests who do not just do their work at fixed times before returning to their families to care for their children. They need men who are passionate about Christ, burning with his fire, devoured by the zeal of souls. What would I be today if missionaries had not come to live and die in my village in Guinea? Would I have wanted to be a priest if they had been content with just ordaining one of the men of the village?

Translated by Jeanne Smits, LifeSiteNews

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