Though counter-globalist, Cardinal Robert Sarah’s “The Day Is Now Far Spent” is not anti-Western, but is an emphatic rejection of liberal anthropology—which strikes him as blasphemous, positing a decontextualized individual, one who needs neither family nor neighbor nor even God Almighty.
The Day Is Now Far Spent, by Cardinal Robert Sarah (385 pages, Ignatius Press, 2019)
“Globalized humanity, without borders, is a hell.” So Robert Cardinal Sarah bluntly informs Nicholas Diat in The Day Is Now Far Spent. “The standardization of ways of life is the cancer of the postmodern world. Men become unwitting members of a great planetary herd, that does not think, does not protest, and allows itself to be guided toward a future that does not belong to it.” Grim words, to be sure, but also curiously heartening for lay Catholic defenders of national identity and sovereignty, who have been marginalized for some time now. After being systematically ignored and even misrepresented, in some cases even by our own pastors, it is a welcome relief to find that one of the foremost ecclesial champions of prayerful silence and traditional liturgy has openly and frankly acknowledged the validity of our concerns.
In this context, I can’t help pointing out how recent book reviews have conveniently overlooked the cardinal’s opposition to globalization, even though said opposition is unambiguous and pertains to an issue lying at the very heart of burning controversies in America, continental Europe, and Britain. This is to say nothing of Cardinal Sarah’s really politically-incorrect positions. I.e., he condemns the West’s “unheard-of arrogance” toward the Kremlin; he supports the Visegrad Four countries against the technocrats of the European Union; he expresses sympathy for the gilets-jaunes. “Why should American democracy be exported to the four corners of the world?” he demands, before going on to tell the Western powers that it “is absurd to impose the same rules on all countries,” and that in any event he respects “the family policy of Russia more than that of Great Britain, Canada, or France.” Even if it is true that the American government “tried to bring freedom to the Syrians,” the fact is that “today the country resembles an expanse of ruins . . . Without Russia’s intervention, an Islamist regime would have ended up winning the day. The Christians of that country owe their survival to Moscow.” Let us repeat His Eminence’s very last statement, just so readers who yearn for Cold War II make no mistake about where he is coming from: The Christians of that country owe their survival to Moscow.
Just to be clear, being counter-globalist does not make Cardinal Sarah anti-Western, at least not in the same sense that we might apply the term to a leftist, a Muslim, or even Fyodr Dostoevsky. To the contrary, the cardinal is explicitly thankful for French colonialism, whereby he not only received the Catholic Faith from missionaries but also became heir to the wisdom of iconic French figures, Catholic and otherwise, ranging from Bishop Bossuet and Pascal to Camus and Francois Mauriac. It is strange, yes, but also somehow appropriate that a Guinea native steeped in distinctively French Catholicism should now be one of the chief benefactors of a Europe that has lost its way. As a friend of Europe His Eminence stands in sharp contrast to those elites he identifies as “neo-colonial.” For the neo-colonialists are inspired neither by an authentic European patriotism nor by Christian zeal, but by a perversely messianic Enlightenment mania for tearing down inconvenient distinctions between nations, between religions, between the sexes, and even between man and machine. If anything is anti-Western, it is the liberal West itself.
Returning to Cardinal Sarah’s censure of globalization, it is worth observing how his critique is grounded not in mere politics, but in an ultimately theological conception of diversity:
Men do not resemble one another. Nature, too, is multifariously rich, because he ordained it so. Our Father thought that his children could be enriched by their differences. Today globalization is contrary to the divine plan. It tends to make humanity uniform. Globalization means cutting man off from his roots, from his religion, from his culture, history, customs, and ancestors. He becomes stateless, without a country, without a land. He is at home everywhere and nowhere.
We might characterize the cardinal’s outlook as an emphatic rejection of liberal anthropology, which strikes the cardinal as blasphemous insofar as it posits a decontextualized individual, one who needs neither family nor neighbor nor even God Almighty. While this radical anthropology theoretically relies upon the rhetoric of liberation, in practice it points toward an hedonistic ethics of consumption.
Here I urge those inclined to regard capitalism and socialism as diametrically opposed sociopolitical persuasions to recognize that His Eminence deems capitalism and socialism to be two sides of the same globalist coin. Only by keeping the cardinal’s counter-globalist outlook in mind may we comprehend how the same man who unequivocally denounces the evils of “Marxist dictatorship” should also make clearly anti-capitalist comments, such as the following:
Capitalism tends to reduce humanity to one central figure: the consumer. All economic forces attempt to create a buyer who can be the same anywhere on the globe. The Australian consumer must resemble the Spanish or the Romanian consumer exactly. Cultural and national identities must not be a hindrance to the building of this interchangeable man. The standardization of consumer products is the perfect reflection of the aridity of this soulless civilization.
To be sure, His Eminence concedes that economic liberty is a value. He does not deem it the supreme value, however, and would probably distinguish a free but bounded market from an insatiable supermarket which aspires to spread everywhere and absorb everything. In any event, global finance capitalism and international socialism have at least one thing in common, insofar as both aspire to create a New Man liberated from history, tradition, and the divine.
Even as both Catholic and secular mainstream conservatives have tended to dismiss hometown loyalties as trivial, we of the dissident persuasion would heartily agree with Cardinal Sarah’s teaching that “God wanted man to be rooted.” The point here is not that colonization, migration, or exploration are bad, but that such activities ought always be considered with an eye toward the long-term moral, cultural, and religious functioning of real communities. On a more personal and immediate level, we might ask whether people lacking a sound sense of who they are and where they come from can derive any lasting benefit from trekking around the world. If not, then the hypermobility of the 21st-Century West may well be a spiritual affliction rather than a virtue. Perhaps what we ought to strive for is a world where men are pilgrims, not tourists.
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The featured image is a detail from “The Ambassadors” (1533) by Hans Holbein (1498-1543), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.