Why speak up once more? In my last book, I invited you to silence. However, I can no longer be silent.
If these were silent, the very stones would cry out.
A traitor ... is one that swears and lies.
—William Shakespeare, Macbeth
I must no longer remain silent. Christians are disoriented. Every day from all sides, I receive calls for help from those who no longer know what to believe. Every day I meet in Rome with priests who are discouraged and wounded. The Church is experiencing the dark night of the soul. The mystery of iniquity is enveloping and blinding her.
Every day the most terrifying news reports reach us. Not a week goes by without the revelation of a case of sexual abuse. Each one of these revelations comes to rend our hearts as children of the Church. As Saint Paul VI used to say, we are being invaded by the smoke of Satan. The Church, which ought to be a place of light, has become a dwelling place of darkness. It ought to be a secure, peaceful family home, but look: it has become a den of thieves! How can we tolerate the fact that predators have entered among us, into our ranks? Many faithful priests behave every day as attentive shepherds, kindly fathers, and sure guides. But some men of God have become agents of the Evil One. They have sought to defile the pure souls of the littlest ones. They have humiliated the image of Christ that is present in every child.
Priests throughout the world have felt humiliated and betrayed by so many abominations. Following Jesus, the Church is experiencing the mystery of the scourging. Her body is lacerated. Who is inflicting the lashes? The very ones who ought to love and protect her! Yes, I make so bold as to borrow the words of Pope Francis: the mystery of Judas hangs over our time. The mystery of betrayal oozes from the walls of the Church. The acts of abuse committed against minors reveal this in the most abominable way possible. But we must have the courage to look our sin in the face: this betrayal was prepared and caused by many other less visible, more subtle ones that, nevertheless, were just as profound. For a long time, we have been experiencing the mystery of Judas. What is now appearing in broad daylight has deep-seated causes that we must have the courage to denounce clearly. At its root, the crisis through which the clergy, the Church, and the world are going is a spiritual crisis, a crisis of faith. We are experiencing the mystery of iniquity, the mystery of betrayal, the mystery of Judas.
Allow me to meditate with you on the figure of Judas. Jesus had called him, like all the other apostles. Jesus loved him! He had sent him to proclaim the Good News. But little by little, doubt had taken hold of Judas' heart. Imperceptibly, he started to judge the teaching of Jesus. He told himself: This Jesus is too demanding, not very effective. Judas wanted to make the Kingdom of God come to earth right away, by human means and according to his personal plans. However, he had heard Jesus tell him: "Your thoughts are not my thoughts, your ways are not my ways" (see Is 55:8). Despite everything, Judas distanced himself. He no longer listened to Christ. He no longer accompanied him during those long nights of silence and prayer. Judas took refuge in worldly affairs. He busied himself with the purse, money, and commerce. The liar continued to follow Christ, but he no longer believed. He murmured. On Holy Thursday, the Master washed his feet. His heart must have been quite hardened, for he was not moved. The Lord was there in front of him, on his knees, a humbled servant, washing the feet of the one who was to hand him over. Jesus looked at him one last time, his eyes full of kindness and mercy. But the devil had already entered into Judas' heart. He did not lower his eyes. Interiorly he must have pronounced the ancient words of rebellion: Non serviam, "I will not serve." During the Last Supper, he took Communion even though his plan was set. This was the first sacrilegious Communion in history. And he betrayed him.
Judas is for all eternity the traitor's name, and his shadow hangs over us today. Yes, like him, we have betrayed! We have abandoned prayer. The evil of efficient activism has infiltrated everywhere. We seek to imitate the organization of big businesses. We forget that prayer alone is the blood that can course through the heart of the Church. We say that we have no time to waste. We want to use this time for useful social works. Someone who no longer prays has already betrayed. Already he is willing to make all sorts of compromises with the world. He is walking on the path of Judas.
Someone who no longer prays has already betrayed. Already he is willing to make all sorts of compromises with the world. He is walking on the path of Judas.
All sorts of things are challenged, and we tolerate it. Catholic doctrine is called into question. In the name of so-called intellectual positions, theologians amuse themselves by deconstructing dogmas and emptying morality of its profound meaning. Relativism is the mask of Judas disguised as an intellectual. How then can we be surprised to hear that so many priests break their commitments? We relativize the meaning of celibacy; we claim the right to have a private life, which is contrary to the priest's mission. Some go so far as to claim the right to perform homosexual acts. Scandals follow one another, among priests and among bishops.
The mystery of Judas is spreading. Therefore, I want to say to all priests: stay strong and upright. Certainly, because of a few ministers, you will all be labeled as homosexuals. They will drag the Catholic Church through the mud. They will present her as though she were made up entirely of hypocritical, power-hungry priests. Let not your heart be troubled. On Good Friday, Jesus was charged with all the crimes in the world, and Jerusalem shouted: "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Notwithstanding the tendentious investigations that show you the disastrous situation of irresponsible churchmen who have an anemic interior life yet are in command of the very government of the Church, remain calm and confident like the Virgin and Saint John at the foot of the Cross. The immoral priests, bishops, and cardinals will in no way tarnish the luminous testimony of more than four hundred thousand priests throughout the world who, every day and faithfully, serve the Lord in holiness and joy. Despite the violence of the attacks that she may suffer, the Church will not die. This is the Lord's promise, and his word is infallible.
Christians are trembling, wavering, doubting. I want this book to be for them. To tell them: do not doubt! Hold fast to doctrine! Hold fast to prayer! I want this book to strengthen faithful Christians and priests.
The mystery of Judas, the mystery of betrayal, is a subtle poison.
Cardinal Robert Sarah. "Interpreting the Present Time" from The Day Is Now Far Spent (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2019): 11-14.
Reprinted with permission of Ignatius Press.
Robert Cardinal Sarah (born 15 June 1945) is a Guinean Cardinal Prelate of the Catholic Church. He was appointed as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Pope Francis on 23 November 2014. He previously served as Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. He is the author of The Day Is Now Far Spent, The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise and God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith.Copyright © 2019 Ignatius Press
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