A Little More from Robert Cardinal Sarah


If you've read this blog for a while, you will know I was blogging excerpts from Robert Cardinal Sarah's book The Day is Now Far Spent. Somewhere along the line I stopped doing that, but it's a beautiful and peaceful sabbath today and my mind is drawn once more to that book. The cardinal is originally from Guinea, in West Africa, and even though he has retired, I think his voice is still an important one. It's the voice of orthodoxy in an age when all is liquid.

Sarah posits that the contemporary world has three idols, one of which is an ancient idol--money. However, he also points to "liberty" as the second, and "democracy" as thie third idol. The "liberty" he speaks of, of course, is liberty from all moral constraints--life is about rights, not responsibilities. As for "democracy," he notes that "Westerners [have] shed rivers of blood in order to impose the worship of her throughout the world" (253).

Sarah then quotes at length from a scholar, Gregor Puppinck, regarding how human rights have been twisted into something unrecognizable in the modern day:

"Human rights? After World War II, they appeared as a universal promise of peace and justice. Today they have become an ideological battlefield, the terrain on which clashing civilziations confront each other. For the rights of man are the reflection of our concept of man in the first place. Now, the latter has changed a lot since the composition of the Universal Declaration in 1948. Whereas that postware declaration was still inspired by natural rights, the affirmation of individuals has generated new anti-natural rights, such as the right to euthanasia or abortion, or to homosexuality, leading in turn to the emergence of transhuman transnatural rights that today guarantee the authority to transform and to redefine nature, such as the right to eugenics, the right to have a child or to change one's sex. At work at the heart of this transformation we note an evolution that testifies to a profound transformation of the concept of human dignity, which tends to be reduced to the individual will alone, regardless of the body, or to the mind as opposed to the body, and which regards any negation of nature and conditioning as a form of liberation and progress. Furthermore, human rights discreetly accompany transhumanism, working to make representative democracy outmoded." (253)

He encourages us to be dissidents in the face of these idols: "Love for God and for others and the patient, stubborn search for the good are more than ever the kinds of dissidence the world needs" (254). We must dissent by repenting, and then by speaking the truth of things as they are.

Sarah quotes Pope Benedict XVI, who speaks of the responsibility of the Church to teach, teach, and teach again that which will save mankind from self-destruction. The passages from Benedict are worth quoting:

"The Church has a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere. In so doing, she must defend not only earth, water, and air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. She must above all protect mankind from self-destruction. There is need for what might be called a human ecology, correctly understood. The deterioration of nature is in fact closely connected to the culture that shape human coexistence: when "human ecology" is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits. Just as human virtues are interrelated, such that the weaking of one places others at risk, so the ecological system is based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature.

"In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of the society. If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of the society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themsleves. The book of nature is one and indivisible it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development."

Yes, the nature around us and our own natures are intertwined. I am reminded what Joseph Smith said about how the creatures at at each other's throats because of human sin:

"We crossed the Embarras river and encamped on a small branch of the same about one mile west. In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prarie rattlesnakes, which the bretheren were about to kill, but I said, 'Let them alone--don't hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.' The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the bretheren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger." (Joseph Smith, HC 2:71-72; President Spencer W. Kimball, CR, Oct. 1978, p. 65)

All nature waits upon the redemption of the hearts of men and women. When our hearts are cleansed of pollution, then the world will be cleansed of it, also, or as Sarah puts it:

"The fight against air and water pollution and the conservation of natural resources have become a respectable concern of society and tehe object of a new science ecology. But there are other serious dangers for our future: the many forms of moral pollution, They, too, poison the air we breathe. They distort our conscience, pervert our judgment and our sensitivity, corrupt the reality of love, and lead to man's decline. The West is the shief point of departure of this moral pollution; this is why, like ancient Rome, it runs the risk of dying . . . The confusion between good and evil is the greatest tragedy of our time. The intellect no longer seems capable of making such a distinction. Reason no longer knows what is harmful to human nature, to human existence, and what is not (283-4).

"The suicide of the West is tragic. Its rejections are leading all humanity to a dead end. It has no more strength, no more children, no more morality, no more hope. Its only hope of survival is to rediscover the One who said: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (286).

Interestingly, one way he suggests to rekindle an understanding of the laws of human ecology as God made them is the teaching of history. Modern man, he says, "detests his culture and the values of the past. . . It is time to given them back the freedom to receive from their forefathers certitudes and rules based on experience. It is exhausting to have to reinvent everything ceaselessly. Receiving [the wisdom of the past] is a form of freedom" (284-5).

I am helping to homeschool our children this year, and am in charge of history. I am amazed at how ignorant our children are about history, and it has been delightful to walk them through the annals of the past, and point out the good, the bad, the ugly, and the progress. There are indeed so many lessons to be learned. I often think that in the next life, our course of instruction will be the history of us all--the history of the world. But we won't be seeing it from a bird's eye view, but rather we will somehow see all the infinite number of individual decisions that led to history unfolding as it did. I think it impossible that after taking that course we would be confused about right and wrong, truth and lies, good and evil. It will be the ultimate education!

In the meantime, teach your children both the Restored Gospel and their own history, from family to nation to humanity-wide. Give them an identity that does not depend on the whims and fancies of the day. Root them.

If you do, God will support you. You will find, as Sarah puts it, that "the dark night of this world is still beautiful because God exists" (271).

Happy sabbath to you!