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The Catholic Church Has Lost Its Sense of the Sacred - part 2


Part 2 of an exclusive interview with the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.


Why do you think more and more young people are attracted to traditional liturgy / the extraordinary form?

I see it; I am a witness to it.  And young people have entrusted me with their absolute preference for the extraordinary form, more educative and more insistent on the primacy and centrality of God, silence and on the meaning of the sacred and divine transcendence.  But, above all, how can we understand, how can we not be surprised and deeply shocked that what was the rule yesterday is prohibited today?  Is it not true that prohibiting or suspecting the extraordinary form can only be inspired by the demon who desires our suffocation and spiritual death?

When the extraordinary form is celebrated in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, it reveals its full fruitfulness: How can we be surprised that a liturgy that has carried so many saints continues to smile at young souls thirsty for God?

Like Benedict XVI, I hope that the two forms of the Roman Rite will be mutually enriching.  This implies getting out of a hermeneutic of rupture.  Both forms have the same faith and the same theology.  To oppose them is a profound ecclesiological error.  It means destroying the Church by tearing it out of its Tradition and making it believe that what the Church considered holy in the past is now wrong and unacceptable.  What a deception and insult to all the saints who have gone before us!  What a vision of the Church.

We must move away from dialectical oppositions.  The Council did not wish to break with the liturgical forms inherited from Tradition, but, on the contrary, to better enter and participate more fully in them.

The Conciliar Constitution stipulates that "new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing."

It would therefore be wrong to oppose the Council to the Tradition of the Church.  In this sense, it is necessary that those who celebrate the extraordinary form do so without a spirit of opposition and therefore in the spirit of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

But, above all, how can we understand, how can we not be surprised and deeply shocked that what was the rule yesterday is prohibited today?

We need the extraordinary form to know in which spirit to celebrate the ordinary form.  Conversely, celebrating the extraordinary form without taking into account the indications of Sacrosanctum Concilium risks reducing this form to a lifeless and futureless archaeological vestige.

It would also be desirable to include in the appendix of a future edition of the missal the Penitential Rite and the Offertory of the extraordinary form in order to emphasize that the two liturgical forms illuminate each other, in continuity and without opposition.

If we live in this spirit, then the liturgy will cease to be the place of rivalries and criticism and will finally lead us into the great heavenly liturgy.

In many parts of Africa, although liturgies are often long, they are also characterized by free expressions of song, dance and applause — which some would describe as an abuse of a more reverent, dark and prayerful liturgy.  And yet, orthodoxy is alive and well on the continent.  How do you explain this? 

In Africa, the faithful sometimes walk for hours to go to Mass.  They are hungry for the Gospel and the Eucharist.  They walk for miles and come to Mass to stay with God for a long time, to listen to his word, to be nourished by his Presence.  They give to God their time, their lives, their fatigue and their poverty.  They give to God everything they are and everything they have.  And their joy is to have given everything.

Their joy sometimes manifests itself too externally, and Africans must learn interiority and silence.  They must ban applause and shrieking that have nothing to do with the mystery of God; they must eliminate speech, folklore, the exuberance of words that hinder the encounter with God.  God dwells in man's silence and interiority; man's heart is the Temple of God — because I know that Africans know how to get down on their knees and commune with respect and reverence.

I believe that Africans have a deep sense of the sacred.  We are not ashamed to worship God, to proclaim ourselves dependent on him.  Above all, Africans are happy to let themselves be taught the faith without contesting or questioning it.  I believe that Africa's grace is that of knowing itself and remaining a child of God.

Gender ideology is a Luciferic refusal to receive a sexual nature from God.

I underline in this book that at the heart of modern Western thought there is a refusal to be a child, a refusal to be a father, which is basically a refusal of God.  I discern in the depths of Western hearts a deep revolt against the creative fatherhood of God.  We receive from him our nature as men and women.  It has become unbearable to modern minds.

Gender ideology is a Luciferic refusal to receive a sexual nature from God.  The West refuses to receive; it only accepts what it builds itself.  Transhumanism is the ultimate avatar of this movement.  Even human nature, because it is a gift from God, becomes unbearable to the Western man.

This revolt is in its spiritual essence.  It is Satan's revolt against the gift of grace.  Basically, I believe that the Western man refuses to be saved by pure mercy.  He refuses to receive salvation and wants to build it by himself.  The "Western values" promoted by the U.N. are based on a refusal of God that I compare to that of the rich young man in the Gospel.  God looked at the West and loved it because it did great things.  He invited the West to go further, but the West turned away, preferring the riches it owed only to itself.  Africans know that they are poor and small before God.  They are proud to kneel, happy to be dependent on an Almighty Creator and Father.

The Church in Africa is well-known for her sense of community, sharing, transcendence and respect for the magisterium.  How can these forces best be used to show the way forward for the universal Church, especially in those parts where secularism and nihilism have taken root?

The West was at the root of the crisis.  It is up to it to implement the antidote.  To do this, we must start from the experience of the monasteries.  They are places where God is simply and concretely at the center of life.  God is the Life of man's life.  Without God, man resembles a huge and majestic river that would have cut itself off from its source.  Sooner or later, this river will dry up and die permanently.

We must create places where virtues can flourish.  It is time to regain the courage of non-conformism.  Christians must have the strength to form oases where the air is breathable, where, quite simply, Christian life is possible.

I call on Christians to open oases of gratuitousness in the desert of triumphant profitability.  Yes, you cannot be alone in the desert of society without God.  A Christian who remains alone is a Christian in danger.  He will eventually be devoured by the sharks of the trading society.

Christians must gather in communities around their churches.  They must rediscover the vital importance of an intense, continuous and persevering life of prayer.  A man who does not pray looks like a seriously ill man who suffers from total paralysis of the arms, legs, and has lost the use of speech, hearing, sight. ... This man is cut off from all essential relationships.  He is a dead man.  To renew our relationship with God is to breathe, to live fully.

We must create places where the heart and mind can breathe, where the soul can turn to God in a very concrete way.  Our communities must put God at the center of our lives, our liturgies and our churches.

In the avalanche of lies, one must be able to find places where the truth is not only explained but experienced.  It is simply a question of living the Gospel!  Not to think of it as a utopia, but to experience it in a concrete way.

In many countries, the loss of popular piety seems to have accelerated the process of de-Christianization, especially among the working classes.  How do you explain this loss of religiosity?

In this book I explain that we dreamed of a "pure" and intellectual Christianity.  We have refused to allow God to incarnate in our lives.  The poorest are the first victims.  I believe that the false theological opposition between faith and religiosity is the root of this error.  The first manifestation of faith is our religious worship.  The Rosary, pilgrimages, prayer on one's knees, devotion to the saints, fasting have been despised and ridiculed as semi-pagan practices.  Today, the Lenten fast, that is, the 40 days of abstinence and food deprivation, exists for many only in the ritual.  This practice is abandoned.  However, there is still medical fasting for the well-being of our body.  Without concrete religious attitudes, our faith risks becoming an illusory dream.

Why is the Pan-Amazon Synod so preoccupying to many people, including some respected cardinals?  What are your own concerns about the Oct. 6-27 meeting?

I have heard that some people wanted to make this synod a laboratory for the universal Church, that others said that, after this synod, nothing would be the same as before.  If that is true, this approach is dishonest and misleading.  This synod has a specific and local goal: the evangelization of the Amazon.

I am afraid that some Westerners will confiscate this assembly to move their projects forward.  I am thinking in particular of the ordination of married men, the creation of women's ministries or giving jurisdiction to laypeople.  These points concern the structure of the universal Church.  They cannot be discussed in a particular and local synod. The importance of its subjects requires the serious and conscious participation of all the bishops of the world.  Yet very few are invited to this synod.  To take advantage of a particular synod to introduce these ideological projects would be an unworthy manipulation, a dishonest deception, an insult to God, who leads his Church and entrusts him with his plan of salvation.

Celibacy inscribes the cross into our flesh.  That is why celibacy is unbearable for the modern world. 

In addition, I am shocked and outraged that the spiritual distress of the poor in the Amazon is being used as a pretext to support projects that are typical of bourgeois and worldly Christianity.

I come from a young Church.  I knew the missionaries going from village to village to support the catechists.  I have lived evangelization in my flesh.  I know a young Church doesn't need married priests.  On the contrary.  She needs priests who will give her the witness of the lived cross.  A priest's place is on the cross.  When he celebrates Mass, he is at the source of his whole life, that is, at the cross.

Celibacy is one of the concrete ways in which we can live this mystery of the cross in our lives.  Celibacy inscribes the cross into our flesh.  That is why celibacy is unbearable for the modern world.  Priestly celibacy is a scandal for the modern, because the cross "is foolishness to those who are perishing" (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Some Westerners can no longer tolerate this scandal of the cross.  I think it has become an unbearable reproach to them.  They come to hate the priesthood and celibacy.

I believe that bishops, priests and the faithful everywhere in the world must rise up to express their love for the cross, the priesthood and celibacy.  These attacks against the priesthood come from the richest.  Some people think they are all-powerful because they finance poorer churches.  But we must not be intimidated by their power and money.

A man on his knees is more powerful than the world.  It is an impregnable bulwark against atheism and the madness of men.  A man on his knees makes Satan's pride tremble.  All of you who, in the eyes of men, are without power and influence, but who know how to remain on your knees before God, do not be afraid of those who want to intimidate you.

We must build a bulwark of prayers and sacrifices so that no breach will hurt the beauty of the Catholic priesthood.  I am convinced that Pope Francis will never allow such a destruction of the priesthood.  On his return from World Youth Day in Panama on Jan. 27, he told journalists, quoting Pope Paul VI: "I would rather give my life than change the law of celibacy."  He added: "It is a courageous phrase, in a more difficult moment than this, 1968/1970. ... Personally, I think that celibacy is a gift for the Church.  Second, I don't agree with allowing optional celibacy, No."

See part 1 of this interview here




pentinEdward Pentin, "Cardinal Sarah's Cri de Coeur: The Catholic Church Has Lost Its Sense of the Sacred." National Catholic Register (September 23, 2019).

This article is reprinted with permission from National Catholic Register. To subscribe to the National Catholic Register call 1-800-421-3230.

Photo: Edward Pentin

The Author

Epentin.jpgdward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. Since then, he has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications including Newsweek, The Sunday Times, the National Catholic Register, the U.K.'s Catholic Herald, and Zenit, a leading Catholic news agency. Edward is the author of The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, published by Ignatius Press.

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