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Shortly after the Synod
concluded, the Web site of the
German bishops' conference
posted an article by one
Björn Odendahl,
proposing that the great success
of the New Evangelism in Africa
is "because the people are
socially dependent and often have
nothing else but their faith."
Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, retired prefect of the
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, and
Archbishop Valerian Okeke of Onitsha, Nigeria, gather for
a group photo with Nigerian pilgrims after the closing
Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family in St. Peter's
Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Given the politically-correct hysteria
that typically surrounds any
discussion of racism these days, I
hesitate to use the term. But it's hard
to find another that fits certain
reactions to Synod-2015 from the
port side of the Barque of Peter.
Exhibit A: Shortly after the Synod concluded, the Web site of the German bishops' conference posted an article
by one Björn Odendahl, proposing that the great success of the New Evangelism in Africa is "because the
people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith." Moreover, Herr Odendahl wrote, this
"romantic, poor Church" is growing "because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level
and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions." As for all those African vocations, well, "the
growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the
priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent."
Exhibit B: In the aftermath of the Synod, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop-emeritus of MechelenBrussels, looked down his nose, cleared his throat, harrumphed -- and then told the Church in Africa that it
ought to stop criticizing the infidelity and rampant individualism of post-Christian Europe, because "it is
possible that the crisis we have had here will spread there, too, with all this entails. Africans may also
experience a situation similar to ours. Then they might call us up to see how we dealt with it."
Exhibit C: Five weeks after the Synod, Paul Vallely, author of an admiring biography, Pope Francis: The
Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism, took his subject to the woodshed in a New York Times op-ed column
entitled "The Pope's Failure in Africa." What was that failure? Pope Francis didn't challenge what Vallely
regards as African homophobia. And that, pace Mr. Vallely, was a missed opportunity, because Africa must
"embrace" a "message of love, mercy, and inclusion" if it is "to become an accepted member of the universal
To Herr Odendahl: It may be unfashionable in German Catholic circles to read the New Testament as any sort
of reliable record of early Christianity, but do give it a try. Then, you might find out that the Lord Jesus himself
chose apostles of a "rather low" educational level, and that many people, perhaps simple by your standards but
not by the Lord's, flocked to him, and later to his apostles, because they found in the community of the friends
of Jesus new forms of "social security." (P.S. The term "dark continent" has certain malodorous connotations.
Do try to avoid it in the future.)
To Cardinal Danneels: If we begin from the fact that Sunday Mass attendance in your country is something on
the order of 4% (as I'm told by one of your brother-bishops), it does seem somewhat cheeky, and perhaps
downright preposterous, to suggest that Africans take lessons in churchmanship from their putative Belgian
betters. African Catholics are not interested in learning what to do with empty churches, convents, and
seminaries. As for blaming the ambient cultural environment for Euro-Catholicism's collapse, that's bad form,
especially among those for whom learning to make an examination of conscience was an integral part of their
sacramental formation. Please consider another possibility: that Belgium, and other Catholic wastelands in 21stcentury Europe, did not hear the Gospel and reject it because of cultural pressures; might it be that these faithfree zones haven't heard the Gospel preached for quite a while?
To Mr. Vallely: You and those of your ideological tribe do not determine who is "an accepted member of the
universal Church." Moreover, if such acceptance requires retrofitting the Gospel, ignoring the Magisterium, and
diving into the quicksand pits of moral subjectivism, I don't think you'll find too many folks interested: in
Africa, or elsewhere, for that matter. And for you to describe Cardinal Robert Sarah as an exponent of "bigotry"
because he doesn't accept the New York Times' view of the moral life and cautions against the dictatorship of
relativism borders on calumny.
Thus a proposed new year's resolution: no more of these Stepin Fetchit knockoffs from progressive Catholics,
or indeed any Catholics, in 2016.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
“I think upon that day and hour when we shall all stand naked, like men condemned, before the Judge who accepts no
man’s person. Then shall the trumpet sound aloud and the foundations of the earth shall quake, the dead shall rise from the
tombs and all shall be gathered together from every generation. Then each man’s secrets will be manifest before thee: and
those that have never repented shall weep and lament, departing to the outer fire; but with gladness and rejoicing the
company of the righteous shall enter into the heavenly bridal chamber.
How shall it be in that hour and fearful day, when the Judge shall sit on his dread throne! The books shall be opened and
men’s actions shall be examined, and the secrets of darkness shall be made public. Angels shall hasten to and fro,
gathering all the nations. Come ye and hearken, kings and princes, slaves and free, sinners and righteous, rich and poor:
for the Judge comes to pass sentence on the whole inhabited earth. And who shall bear to stand before his face in the
presence of the angels, as they call us to account for our actions and our thoughts, whether by night or by day? How shall
it be then in that hour! But before the end is here, make haste, my soul, and cry: O God who only art compassionate, turn
me back and save me.
Daniel the prophet, a man greatly beloved, when he saw the power of God, cried out: “The court sat for judgment, and the
books were opened.” Consider well, my soul: dost thou fast? Then despise not thy neighbor. Dost thou abstain from food?
Condemn not thy brother, lest thou
be sent away into the fire, there to
burn as wax. But may Christ lead
thee without stumbling into his
Let us cleanse ourselves, brethren,
with the queen of the virtues: for
behold, she is come, bringing us a
wealth of blessings. She quells the
uprising of the passions, and
reconciled sinners to the Master.
Therefore let us welcome her with
gladness, and cry aloud to Christ
our God: O risen from the dead,
who alone art free from sin, guard
us uncondemned as we give thee
— Four Stichera at the Praises, Matins,
Meatfare Sunday, Lenten Triodion