Cardinal Robert Sarah has said the devil is “intent on destroying the family”, and that Christians must fight ideologies which deny the importance of children having a mother and father.
Speaking at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, Cardinal Sarah, head of the Vatican’s liturgy commission, said that the world was “increasingly cut off from God through ideological colonialism”.
In a wide-ranging speech, covering religious persecution, the neglect of the elderly, “our closing our eyes and hearts to the poor and vulnerable”, and American politics, the Guinean cardinal focused on the threat to the family.
He quoted Pope St John Paul II as saying that the family was where the Gospel is first preached. “The generous and responsible love of spouses, made visible through the self-giving of parents, who welcome and nurture children as a gift of God, makes love visible in our generation,” said Cardinal Sarah.
But the cardinal said the devil wants to destroy the family in order to make it harder for people to hear “the Good News of Jesus Christ: self-giving, fruitful love.”
He said divorce, cohabitation and gay marriage “cause damage to little children through inflicting upon them a deep existential doubt about love.
“They are a scandal – a stumbling block – that prevents the most vulnerable from believing in such love, and a crushing burden that can prevent them from opening to the healing power of the Gospel.”
Cardinal Sarah said that legalising these situations – as, he said, the US has done – could not resolve social problems. It was necessary to “fight to protect the family”, he said.
He said that Pope Francis “openly and vigorously defends Church teaching on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, reproductive technologies, the education of children and much more.”
The cardinal said that restrictions to religious freedom were equivalent to violent persecution. “The violence against Christians is not just physical, it is also political, ideological and cultural,” he said. “This form of religious persecution is equally damaging, yet more hidden.”
The cardinal advised the audience: “Be prophetic. Be faithful. Pray.”
The other keynote speaker at the 12th annual Prayer Breakfast, House Speaker Paul Ryan, also criticised attacks on religious liberty. He referred to the ongoing court case between the Little Sisters of the Poor and the US government.
Ryan said he thought religious liberty would make a “comeback”, because there was a growing awareness of the need for God. He said the fight for religious freedom should go hand in hand with helping those in poverty.
Ryan said: “When you meet people who have beaten addiction, most of them say, ‘It wasn’t me, it was God.’ They know the true source of their success. In their struggles, they have to come know Him—and find happiness.
“Every good work is the work of God. It is His grace working inside us. And when you realize that, you not only lose your pride, you lose any sense of despair. That’s the meaning of true happiness—at least in this world. It is not a cheap thrill or temporary exuberance: It is a deep, abiding inner peace.”