Cardinal Robert Sarah accuses Western bishops of becoming worldly and giving in to the lure of ‘practical atheism’

The 78-year-old Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, former prefect of the Vatican’s Congregations for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, “has accused Western bishops of worldliness and of succumbing to the temptation of ‘practical atheism’ as they lose faith in the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

He said that “so many bishops desired to be ‘loved by the world’ that they have forgotten that Christianity calls them to be ‘signs of contradiction.’

He “also repeated his criticism of Fiducia Supplicans, the Vatican document that provides for the blessings of couples involved in same-sex unions, insisting that it’s not just traditional African culture but Catholic teaching itself which makes the document unacceptable.”

Speaking to the Cameroonian episcopal conference, Cardinal Sarah charged that many bishops had shown “a failure of nerve” in the face of the multiple cultural revolutions roiling the West. He said: “Many Western prelates are tetanised [paralysed] by the idea of opposing the world. They dream of being loved by the world; they’ve lost the desire to be a sign of contradiction.”

He told the Cameroonian bishops he believes “the Church of our time is experiencing the temptation of atheism”.

“Not intellectual atheism,” he explained, “but that subtle and dangerous state of mind [of] fluid and practical atheism.”

He added, “The latter is a dangerous disease, even if its initial symptoms seem benign.”

Cardinal Sarah claims that practical atheism is more pernicious than intellectual atheism since it permeates every sphere of modern culture, including religious discourse, rather than coming out as an explicit statement.

“He asserted that the church and its leadership has been guilty of ‘accommodating, of complicity with this major lie that is fluid and practical atheism’.

‘We pretend to be Christian believers and men of faith. We celebrate religious rites, but in fact we live as pagans and unbelievers,’ said Cardinal Sarah.”

He characterized “fluid and practical atheism” as a slippery slope that is difficult to grasp. He likened it to getting entangled in a spider’s web, where trying to break free simply makes it tighter. He contends that this particular form of atheism is a cunning trap laid by Satan. He emphasized that this particular type of atheism preys on human weakness and man’s propensity to fall for its tricks. He insisted that there be no divisions or self-styled saviors within the Church since these things only serve to strengthen the hands of the enemy. He said:

“We don’t have to create parties in the Church; we don’t have to proclaim ourselves the saviours of this or that institution. But each of us can decide today: the lie of atheism will no longer pass through me; I no longer wish to renounce the light of faith; I no longer wish, out of convenience, laziness or conformism, to allow light and darkness to cohabit within me. To maintain the spirit of faith is to reject anything that undermines it and to view the world solely through the lens of faith, holding steadfastly to God’s hand.”

Cardinal Sarah criticized the “bitterness and partisanship” that have afflicted the Church, arguing that these problems are signs of a more serious spiritual crisis. He emphasized that in a world torn apart by lies and strife, only a spirit of faith can nurture true brotherly love and usher in peace.

In response to Western misrepresentations, he also urged the African episcopate to uphold the “unity of faith.”

Cardinal Sarah highlighted the vigorous defense African Church leaders have waged of traditional doctrine and values, referring to the October 2023 session of the ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality.

He said, “At the last Synod, the church in Africa forcefully defended the dignity of the man and woman created by God. Her voice was ignored and scorned by those whose sole obsession is to please Western lobbies. The Church in Africa will soon have to defend the truth of the priesthood and the unity of the faith. The church in Africa is the voice of the poor, the simple and the small.”

The cardinal observed that although the African Church is vital to the preservation of God’s truth in the present era, wealthy Western Christians tend to be duped into thinking they are modern and enlightened.

Cardinal Sarah emphasized the special role that African bishops play in defending the universality of the faith and denouncing those who distort the facts and encourage a relativism-based society. He commended them for their position as divine truth bearers, implying that God frequently uses the weak and unpopular to confuse the powerful and well-liked.

Additionally, he applauded the bishops of Cameroon for opposing Fiducia Supplicans, calling their action a “bold and prophetic move” that maintains the Church’s unity and the veracity of its teachings.

The cardinal dismissed as intellectual neo-colonialism the idea put forth by the Vatican that the African bishops’ objection to Fiducia Supplicans has its roots in traditional African culture.

Sarah instead referred to the statement made by the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar, which outlined theological and doctrinal grounds—such as prior pronouncements on homosexuality, the Catholic Catechism, Sacred Scriptures, and reservations regarding the wording used in the Vatican document—for the African continent not to adopt such blessings.

X (Formerly Twitter)