Cdl. Sarah: ‘If There’s No Repentance, There’s No Mercy’

by Ryan Fitzgerald  •  •  October 2, 2015   

The head of the Congregation for Divine Worship is clarifying binding doctrine

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PHILADELPHIA, October 2, 2015 ( - Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship, is saying the Pope can be wrong on immigration, the environment and the economy, among other things.

In a recent interview with Aleteia, when asked about Pope Francis' tendency to speak out on economic, environmental and political subjects, Cdl. Sarah stated, "If the Pope speaks about the economy or politics, it is not his field of expertise. He can offer his vision or opinion, but it's not dogma."

"He can err," Cdl. Sarah declared.

On the other hand, "[W]hat he says about Christ, about the sacraments, about the Faith," the cardinal noted, "must be considered as sure."


"If he speaks about the environment, the climate, the economy, immigrants, etc., he is working from information that may be correct, or mistaken, but [in these cases] he is speaking as Obama speaks, or another president," Cdl. Sarah explained. "It doesn't mean that what he says on the economy is dogma, something we need to follow. It's an opinion."

"But, if what he [the Pope] says is illustrated and illumined by the Gospel, then we ought to regard it seriously," he added. "'God wills this; this is what the Bible says.' Or 'God wills that; this is what the Gospel says.' Thus politics is illumined, the economy is illumined by the Gospel."

"That, too, has some surety," said Cdl. Sarah, "because it is not his own thought. It is the thinking of the Bible, the mind of God."

The interview then turned to the question of whether the Church might allow Communion for divorced and "remarried" adulterers. The orthodox African cardinal answered quite plainly, "This isn't possible."

The reason, Cdl. Sarah elucidated, is "because God has said there can be only one marriage. If they are separated, they can't enter into another marriage. If they do so, they cannot receive Communion."

But now, some are saying, that this may be done in order "to care for them pastorally, to heal them" ... but we can't heal someone without truly curing him, without reconciling him with God.

If someone has already entered into a second marriage, it's difficult to cure him. We cannot abandon him; certainly we can accompany him, saying: You should continue to pray and go to Mass; you must form your children in the Christian faith; you can participate in parish activities and charitable service. But you can't receive Communion.

The confused rationalizations given for pushing the Church to invite adulterers to Communion are indicative of how important it is not to separate pastoral practice from sound doctrine. Cardinal Sarah has emphasized that point in the past. So has Pope Francis.

The answer doesn't lie in vague language about whether the Church should be merciful toward sinners, either, but in whether a sinner has repented and returned to true communion with the Church. Ultimately, said Cdl. Sarah, "If there's no repentance, there's no mercy."

What if the sinner, the unrepentant adulterer, decides to receive Communion anyway?

Cardinal Sarah, citing St. Paul, warned, "If he does so knowingly, and does it of his own will, he eats unto his own condemnation."


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