The following comes from a November 6 Catholic World Report article by Dorothy Cummings McLean:
It’s been a tough decade for believing Catholics. In April 2005, we lost our finest philosopher to death. In February 2013, we lost our finest theologian to retirement. In October 2014, we suffered the scandals of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, and in October 2015, we suffered the confusion of the Ordinary Synod on the Family. The revelation that various bishops, particularly from the West, believe and promote novelties has shaken the faith of Catholics in the fidelity of the episcopate to the teachings of Christ. We need assurances that the scholarship, orthodoxy and fidelity we treasured in John Paul II and Benedict XVI may still be found among our chief shepherds.
We have this assurance in a book-length interview of African Robert Cardinal Sarah with journalist Nicolas Diat. God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith, translated from the original French by Michael J. Miller, proves that classical scholarship, orthodoxy and fidelity to doctrine can be found among the African prelates.
The first chapters of God or Nothing read like an adventure story with theology deftly woven in. The American reader, saddened by decades of hearing that pre-conciliar Christian missionaries were opportunistic stooges of colonialism, will be astonished and delighted by Cardinal Sarah’s gratitude for the Holy Ghost Fathers who evangelized his remote village in Northern Guinea. I had quite a shock when, after a fascinating exploration of the religion of his ancestors, Cardinal Sarah explained what its limitations were and how Christianity brought liberation from pagan fears to his ethnic group.
Cardinal Sarah’s adventure begins in his village of Ourous, where his devotion caught the attention of the Holy Ghost Fathers who encouraged him to enter the minor seminary—at age eleven—in Ivory Coast. It continues through the turbulent years of the Marxist dictatorship of Sékou Touré, Sarah’s ordination and European education and his episcopacy to his eventual posting to Rome. Throughout the exciting saga Cardinal Sarah cites his love and gratitude for his parents, teachers, bishops and God. He is a man thoroughly amazed by and grateful for God’s plan for his life, even while recalling suffering and loss.
What makes Cardinal Sarah’s thoughts particularly fresh and interesting is his use of African culture to illuminate points of Christian doctrine. In his defense in of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, he describes a traditional African marriage ceremony in which a husband and wife consume both halves of a kola nut and are asked to rejoin them; the impossibility underscores the permanence of their bond. Cardinal Sarah is scathing on the new spiritual colonialism of the secular West, which seeks to undermine Africa’s natural religiosity or use Africa as an excuse to break down doctrine.
God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Diat
by Robert Cardinal Sarah
Ignatius Press, 2015
Paperback, 284 pages