PHILADELPHIA, September 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — Backing away from God’s plan for marriage and family is not the answer to sin in the world, a senior African cardinal in Pope Francis’ Vatican told those gathered for Wednesday’s World Meeting of Families keynote address.
Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea also spoke about the need for repentance from sin, expressed how the family today needs the defense of heroic witness, and criticized the idea of separating the Church’s teaching on marriage and family from pastoral practice.
“Even members of the Church can be tempted to soften Christ’s teaching on marriage and the family,” the cardinal said. “To varying degrees, the idea would consist in placing the Magisterium in a pretty box and separating it from pastoral practice, which could evolve according to such circumstances, fashions and emphases.”
The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments referred to the idea as “a form of heresy” and “a dangerous, schizophrenic pathology,” according to Catholic News Agency.
Everyone needs Christ, Cardinal Sarah continued, everyone is capable of sin, but they can also receive God’s mercy if they authentically repent.
“This is why repentance is good news,” said Cardinal Sarah. “The acceptance of the roots of sin within our hearts is wisdom.”
The cardinal’s keynote remarks at the international Catholic family event in Philadelphia come just weeks before the Ordinary Synod on the Family is scheduled to convene at the Vatican.
The October assembly will be the follow-up gathering of bishops to last year’s contentious Extraordinary Synod, where some bishops endeavored to present a dissenting approach to pastoral practice as it relates to marriage and family. Specifically at issue are homosexual unions and Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.
Cardinal Sarah pointed to the results of original sin for societal evils and troubles such as relationship breakdown, personal strife, addiction, abortion, religious persecution and terrorism.
“If we do not go to the source, which is sin, nothing changes,” he said.
Sin is the root of the breakdown in the God-given understanding of the family at the beginning of creation, the cardinal continued, and also “the darkness that has entered, contrary to his plan of the love and unity found in the Trinity.”
Cardinal Sarah listed for example things such as homosexual unions, cohabitation, the lack of openness to life, abortion, divorce and unwillingness to care for sick or older family members, further making a connection between the crisis today in the family and laws that degrade it.
“Laws are passed that fuel this breakdown,” he said, “from those killing the innocent form of life in the womb, to new form of unions, to euthanasia and assisted suicide.”
According to the cardinal, it will be “the healing of the human family” that “makes us ready to receive the Good News, to welcome the mercy of God.”
Reconciliation is available through the Church, he said, which must welcome wounded sinners.
“We pass from death to life, through the power of the Holy Spirit,” Cardinal Sarah said. “This is not moralism. God’s grace comes before one’s duty.”
“We reply to a divine initiative,” he continued, “all those wounded by personal sin, and the sin of others, the divorced and separated, those who have cohabited, who live closed in on themselves, or in all kinds of self-seeking unions, can and must find in the Church a place for regeneration, without any finger being pointed at them.”
Cardinal Sarah shared the story of a family of 10 whose father was a firefighter that died in the September 11 terrorist attacks, leaving their mother alone to raise the children. The mother, who at first didn’t want children and at one point had left the faith, forgave the terrorists, herself later dying of cancer. The family’s youngest child was raised by her siblings and the oldest son will soon be ordained a priest.
The cardinal said that in spite of the challenges of married life and family life, they were “granted the grace to love selflessly to the end … first by repenting, then by receiving and believing in the kerygma, the Good News.”
“The family becomes the place where solitude, selfishness, egoism, find healing,” he said.
The family is the conduit by which good will come into the world, the cardinal said, and called for its defense.
“The world today needs saints with heroic witness to defend and nurture the family,” said Cardinal Sarah. “By opening ourselves to God’s grace and his Holy Spirit living in us, our homes and families can allow goodness to enter the world.”
Pope Francis is wrapping up his U.S. visit with an appearance over the weekend at the world Meeting of Families.