Cardinal Sarah: Ideological Push in Amazon Synod Is an ‘Insult to God’

Cardinal Sarah called the proposal of combating priest shortages in the Amazon by ordaining married, respected men ‘theologically absurd.’

Cardinal Robert Sarah
Cardinal Robert Sarah (photo: CNA file photo)

VATICAN CITY — The push by some Westerners to use the Vatican’s Amazon Synod to advance their personal agendas is an insult to God and his plan for the Church, Cardinal Robert Sarah said in an interview published this week.

“This synod has a specific and local objective: the evangelization of the Amazon. I fear that some Westerners are seizing this assembly to advance their plans,” Cardinal Sarah told Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera Oct. 7.

The cardinal mentioned in particular synod discussion of the ordination of married men, the creation of women’s ministries and the jurisdiction of the laity.

“These points touch the structure of the universal Church. Taking advantage to introduce ideological plans would be an unworthy manipulation, a dishonest deception, an insult to God, who guides his Church and entrusts to it his plan of salvation,” he stated.

Cardinal Sarah, who is participating in the synod in his capacity as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, noted that he has heard that some people want this synod assembly to be a “laboratory” for the universal Church, and others think after the meeting everything will have changed.

“If this is true, this is dishonest and misleading,” the cardinal commented.

He added that he was “shocked and indignant that the spiritual distress of the poor in the Amazon was used as an excuse to support typical projects of bourgeois and worldly Christianity. It is abominable."

Cardinal Sarah called the proposal of combating priest shortages in the Amazon by ordaining married, respected men — so-called viri probati — “theologically absurd” and said it was implying “a functionalist concession of the priesthood.”

The proposal contradicts the Second Vatican Council’s teaching, he said, by seeming to separate within the priesthood participation in Christ’s identity as priest, prophet and king.

He added that to ordain married men “would mean in practice to question the obligatory nature of celibacy as such.”

Cardinal Sarah said no one fears the viri probati proposal, but the synod will study it and Pope Francis will draw his conclusions, though he noted Francis’ use of a quote from Pope St. Paul VI in a speech in January: “I prefer to give my life before changing the law of celibacy.”

Cardinal Sarah said “the question is another: to understand the meaning of the priestly vocation. Ask yourself why there are no more people willing to give all of themselves for God, for the priesthood and for virginity.”

He argued that people prefer to think of “ploys,” instead of addressing the larger problems.

The idea, he said, that instituting the married priesthood would end pedophilia, or that because there are few vocations lay ministries should be expanded is the “presumption of men.”

He added: “And, frankly, it does not seem to me that the churches where priestly celibacy does not exist today are much more prosperous than the Catholic Church, if that is the purpose.”