May 2nd 2020

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Gearing up to ditch free-trade policy

EDITORIAL Post-covid19, create a national development bank

CANBERRA OBSERVED Keelty water report misses the point on water shortage

ENERGY Pandemic has exposed our overreliance on imports

CARDINAL PELL Locating the golden thread

CARDINAL PELL High Court practically shouts 'not guilty'

FAMILY Dismantling myths around family tax benefits

REFLECTION Covid19 and the Church past, present and future

OBITUARY R.I.P. Bruce Dawe: poet of the people

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Doctors of WHO let the covid19 dogs out

INDUSTRY POLICY The rise and fall of Australian manufacturing and covid19

ASIAN AFFAIRS Politics done by stealth in the UN: China and the WHO

HUMOUR Get them hug-dealers off the streets

MUSIC Farewell to an Aussie jazz legend: Don Burrows

LOCKDOWN TV CLASSIC Unique, unsurpassed: The Avengers





NATIONAL AFFAIRS Crucial to get Virgin Australia flying again

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News Weekly, May 2, 2020


by Cardinal Robert Sarah, in conversation with Nicolas Diat

Ignatius Press, San Francisco
Paperback: 349 pages

Price: AUD$38.95*

*Subject to change without notice

Reviewed by Michael E. Daniel

A few years ago when interviewing an Australian priest, a journalist asked him what he thought was the biggest challenge the Catholic Church in Australia was facing. Expecting the priest to make some comment on a “hot button” issue, the interviewer was taken aback and did not know how to respond when the priest without hesitation stated that the biggest challenge for the Catholic Church in Australia was loss of faith.

A similar thesis is central to The Day is Now Far Spent. In this extensive interview/conversation between French journalist Nicolas Diat and Robert Cardinal Sarah on the occasion of his golden jubilee of ordination to the priesthood, Sarah reflects upon the current state of Western society.

A native of Guinea, on the West coast of Africa, Sarah’s family had been converted to Catholicism by missionaries, for whom Sarah expresses his admiration through-out this work. Sensing a vocation, he was educated by Church institutions, and ordained to the priesthood.

Consecrated a bishop at a relatively young age, Sarah was an outspoken critic of the Marxist dictator of Guinea, Sékou Touré, whom he criticises throughout this work. He is currently the Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship, and is the author of numerous works, many of which have been published by Ignatius Press.

Sarah begins this work by stating that the biggest challenge the West is facing is its loss of faith, and that most of its problems can be traced back to that. He argues that one manifestation of this loss of faith is the lack of missionary impetus, and on more than one occasion contrasts current attitudes among sections of the Church with the missionary zeal of the priests who left their families and homelands to travel to Guinea to evangelise his people.

In the first chapter he also denounces unequivocally the sexual abuse by clergy, reminding readers of the untold damage it has done to victims, and also arguing that it is intrinsically linked to a loss of faith.

At the heart of this loss of faith is the loss of faith among the clergy. Addressing priests and bishops, Sarah reminds them that a life of prayer must be at the heart of their ministry and without it their work can easily slide into becoming activism.

One particular problem Sarah notes that has caused considerable damage are deconstructive approaches to the truths of the faith. He is also critical of the manner in which many Masses are celebrated, arguing that a loss of reverence has contributed to a loss of faith.

Some solutions he suggests are more celebrations of the Mass ad orientem – that is, where the priest faces away from the people – and allowing the prayers at the foot of the altar and the Offertory prayers from the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (1962 Missal) to be optional in the current Mass.

Sarah also argues that the West is in decline. As a consequence of the loss of faith, liberal democracies run the risk of losing their core values, and instead of promoting liberty are sliding into endorsing libertarianism. He argues that the West’s loss of faith is linked to its individualistic and selfish ethos, and that it has led to the liberal agenda, exemplified by abortion and euthanasia, being imposed first on Western countries and then exported to continents such as Africa.

At a couple of points in his work, he is also highly critical of gender theory. Sarah posits that this is a denial of God as creator, as humans believe that they can alter what God has given to them. Sarah argues that Western media bear a particular responsibility for this decline as many media outlets actively endorse and promote positions he considers to be decadent.

Sarah is also highly critical of unregulated capitalism, arguing it is destructive like Marxism. In particular, Sarah is scathing in his critique of how Western countries have exploited African countries for economic gain. For example, they quarry various minerals from Africa without giving countries due recompense for these items.

Similarly, some Western companies sell weapons to African groups, thereby facilitating internecine quarrels between groups and nations.

In addition, he argues that Western intervention in toppling the regimes of developing countries – for example, those of Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya – was driven largely by Western economic interests and created only further problems for these countries.

Another sign of undue Western intervention for Sarah is in some aid programs to developing countries, including in Africa. In some instances, countries are forced to accept Western social policies foreign to the African ethos and culture as a condition of receiving such aid. In this regard, he denounces in particular certain aid organisations run by prominent Western figures, arguing that they impose a secular agenda on Africa.

Sarah cites the high suicide rates in Western countries as a sign of its crisis, and contrasts this against those of African cultures. He states that suicide is almost unheard of in African culture, attributing this to its communitarian ethos.

Sarah argues that what is required is a return to faith. He also asserts that in the face of the authoritarian strain that has emerged in Western culture, what is urgently needed is courage to stand up for authentic beliefs and values. He acknowledges that in doing so people will face considerable opposition but then reminds readers that the cross is at the heart of Christianity.

The Day is Now Far Spent is an engaging, yet at times challenging and confronting analysis of the state of the Church and Western society. However, Sarah presents a controversial, yet cogent and well-reasoned critique of the crisis. His analysis is supported by his extensive knowledge of Scripture and Church documents, with him citing, in particular, the works of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.

This work is one that the reviewer found hard to put down, and its contents demand serious consideration.

Michael E. Daniel is a Melbourne-based writer.

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