Cardinal Sarah on the “Shamazon” Synod: Naïveté, a Rhetorical Pose or Willful Blindness?

Fatima Perspectives #1339

Sandro Magister reports on the critical comments by Cardinal Robert Sarah on the imminent Synod on the Amazon in which he himself will participate, thus bringing to three the number of cardinals who have sounded a warning about this looming disaster (Walter Brandmüller and Gerhard Müller  being the other two).

Sarah expresses his fear 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.” Noting that the Synod is stacked with Western bishops assigned to the Amazon region who are clearly disposed to adopt both ruinous novelties, Sarah protests that “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.”

All true, of course.  Quite dubious, however, is Sarah’s confidence that “Pope Francis will never allow such a destruction of the priesthood.”  In support of this claim he cites Francis’ remark during an in-flight press conference, quoting Pope Paul VI, that  “I would rather give my life than change the law of celibacy” and that “Personally, I think that celibacy is a gift for the Church. Second, I don’t agree with allowing optional celibacy, no.”

But what about the rest of what Francis said, which Sarah conspicuously avoids mentioning?  To wit: “There remains only some possibility for very far places. I think of the Pacific islands, when there is a pastoral necessity, the pastor should think of the faithful.” So, Francis admits that he views as a possibility that which Sarah maintains he would never allow.  But more than a possibility, an idea worthy of serious consideration!  As Francis further observed:

“There is an interesting book by Fr. Lobinger — this is an issue of discussion between theologians, it is not yet [!] my decision… Fr. Lobinger says that the Church makes the Eucharist and the Eucharist makes the Church. But where there is not the Eucharist, do you think Caroline, in the Pacific islands, maybe there…

“In many places, says Lobinger, who does the Eucharist? The directors, the organizers of those communities are deacons or sisters, or directly, the laity. And Lobinger says: you can ordain an older married man, it is his thesis, but only that exercise the munus santificandi, that is, that celebrate the Mass, that administer the sacrament of reconciliation and of unction.

“Priestly ordination gives three munera [functions]: regendi [governing], that that commands; docendi [teaching], that that teaches, and santificandi [sanctifying]. This comes with ordination. But the bishop gives them [the viri probati] only the license of santificandi. The book [of Lobinger] is interesting.

“And maybe it could help to think about the problem. I believe that the problem should be open in this sense: where there is a pastoral problem due to the lack of priests. I do not say that it should be done, because I have not reflected, I have not prayed sufficiently on this. But the theology should be studied….

I make this example to show the places where it should be done. [!] I was speaking with an official of the Secretary of State, a bishop, that had worked in a communist country at the beginning of the revolution. When he had seen the crisis of the Revolution arrive it was the 1950s. The bishops secretly ordained peasants, of good religious faith. The crisis passed and 30 years later the thing was resolved. And he told me the emotion that he had when during a concelebration of the Mass he saw these farmers with their farmer hands put on their shirts to concelebrate with the bishops. This has been given in the history of the Church. It is something to study, think, rethink, and pray about.

Where in these words does Cardinal Sarah see a papal determination never to allow the ordination of married men?  The quoted remarks indicate quite the opposite: a defense of the idea, supposedly limited only in application to certain places but meaning yet another novel exception that will swallow the traditional rule.  Worse, Francis clearly contemplates ordaining “utility priests” who can dispense the sacraments but would have no theological formation nor any authority to teach or govern, as if there could be a priest with only one of the three charisms of the priesthood.

Thus, a prudent skepticism, borne of six years of bitter experience with this progressivist Pope, would indicate that the ordination of married men, at least by way of “exception,” is exactly what Francis has in view and may well already have arranged as a fait accompli.

It is the same with female deacons.  During another in-flight press conference, this one on the return to Rome from Macedonia, Pope Francis waxed ambiguous about whether women can be “ordained” to the diaconate. Said Francis concerning the deliberations of his semi-secret commission on the matter:

“There were women deacons at the beginning. But was it a sacramental ordination, or not? It’s what they [the commission] are discussing and are not seeing clearly. It is fundamental that there is not certainty that it was an ordination with the same formula and the same finality of men’s ordination. We arrived at a certain point. But now each member of the commission is studying, according to their own thesis. This is good.”

There is no possibility whatsoever that women can receive a “sacramental ordination” to any degree of the priesthood.  There were no ordained women deacons “at the beginning” of Church history. There were no deaconesses at all.  This is merely a Modernist fiction Francis has clearly embraced.

So what, really, is the basis for Cardinal Sarah’s conviction that Francis “will never allow” what he has made clear he views sympathetically: the ordination of married men and some version of female “deacons”?   I see only three alternatives:  inexplicable naïveté, a rhetorical pose (in the hope that Francis will take the hint), or willful blindness. 

If the last, one can only suppose that, understandably enough, the good cardinal cannot quite bring himself to recognize the prospect of a Pope who is literally attacking the Church.  But when even a commentator as sober as Philip Lawler has finally been forced to recognize that “the current Pope’s leadership has become a danger to the faith” and that “I’m afraid of this Pope,”  I respectfully suggest that it is long past time for Cardinal Sarah to remove the blinders and do what a Prince of the Church must do in such circumstances, following the example of Saint Paul: withstand a wayward Pope “to his face.” (Gal 2:11)


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