Card. Sarah: Worst discrimination against poor is not to give them God

His Eminence Robert Card. Sarah of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum addressed a conference of Catholic charitable organizations, having a special reference to the encyclicals of Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est and Caritas in veritate.

Here is a CNA account:

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2014 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Robert Sarah has stressed the link between charity and preaching the Gospel, saying that while the practical needs of the poor are important, Christians can give something more essential: Jesus Christ.

Cardinal Sarah, citing Benedict XVI, told CNA that “charity is very linked with the proclamation of the Gospel, and doing charity is not only giving food, giving material things, but giving God too. Because the main lack of man is not having God.


[NB] Cardinal Sarah addressed the conference about “Caritas in Veritate.” The cardinal explained that the worst discrimination against the poor is not refusing to give them food, but rather to give them only food and refuse to give them the Gospel.  [More on this, below.]

“It’s very important to express that the hunger we are suffering today is not having God in our life, in our society,” the cardinal said Nov. 7. He explained that Benedict XVI’s encyclical insists that charity is the way we express our faith. Although giving food is necessary, “the main food is God.”

He recounted a story from one of his two trips to Syria to visit refugees. He met a small child who asked him: “does God really exist? Why did he let my father be killed?”

This child had everything, the cardinal observed, including food and medicine, but still lacked the most essential thing, which is the assurance that God exists and is close to him.

“(So) charity today is not only to act for social work, for material assistance, but really to bring the Gospel to the people.” [We are a Church which has a goal our salvation, not earthly utopia.]

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Papal Household, also spoke to the leadership forum for Caritas in Veritate International. He offered some reflections on love that were taken from talks he has given to Popes throughout his time as the papal preacher.


He said that the presentation of the truth is essential alongside the giving of charitable aid.

We could translate ‘truth’ as ‘Jesus Christ,’ because he said ‘I am the truth’,” the papal preacher told CNA Nov. 7.


With bread, we must give Truth, which is Jesus Christ.

And so I ask: What, then, would it mean were the Church in some way to change her disciplines so as to admit to Communion the divorced and remarried, without a serious undertaking to know the truth of their marital situation?  Say the processes for the determination of the non-validity of marriages is greatly pared down.  Say the processes begin to aim not for moral certainty about a case, but rather mere probability.  Say confessors and bishops start turning a blind eye to reception of Communion by those in objectively problematic situations, or even begin to foster reception when is isn’t permitted according the standards of millennial teaching.

Would this not be something like giving people “bread” without giving them the Truth?

In this case, the irony would be that Truth really is being given, Christ in the Eucharistic species, true Bread, but without the truth of the sacramental effects.  Because the people would not be in the state of grace, they could be doing great harm to their own souls and those of others because of the scandal caused.  I am reminded of Our Lord’s stabbing question in Luke 11: “And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion?” Not that Our Lord in the Eucharist is a “scorpion”, for Christ Himself is the greatest good possible, but we must affirm what the old scholastics summarized, and which is undoubtedly true, “What is received is received in the manner of the one receiving.” If you are not in the state of grace, and you receive Communion, you commit a serious sin. The sin is all the more serious because the matter is not just grave, but the most grave of all: misuse of the sacred, which is sacrilege. And, in this case, not just misuse of a sacred thing, but rather The Sacred Thing, the Body, Blood, Soul and DIVINITY of the Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity. Some sins are graver because of the relationship one has with the person or thing being harmed.

It is not charity to tell people something that isn’t true. It is not charity to help them but not give them also that which nourishes the soul. Good deeds without charity, sacrificial love which is rooted in Christ’s love, are good, but they aren’t the kind of good that Christians can give and must give, because they are Christians. We can do what we Christians only can do, because we can do it as baptized people who live in grace.  That means sticking to the Truth.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Eugene says:

    What a great shepherd!
    I am so glad he is in my daily list of prayers for true and faithful shepherds at this trying time.

  2. AnnTherese says:

    Just caught this on– Vatican public restrooms to include showers for the homeless. I wholeheartedly agree with Cardinal Sarah– Let’s offer love AND faith. Let’s give food AND a place to clean up. Let’s help the poor find homes in which to live AND churches in which to pray. So grateful for Catholic Social Teaching…

  3. CatholicMD says:

    Cardinal Sarah is the man! I thought he would be elected pope at the last conclave. He seemed like the perfect candidate: he was the youngest bishop in the world when he was appointed, he served as a bishop in his diocese for over 20 years, he is a Biblical scholar, he was prefect for the Evangelization of Peoples for close to 10 years and now serves as the head of Cor Unum so he knows the Vatican well. Alas it was not to be…

  4. LarryW2LJ says:

    So much for not proselytizing, then?

  5. mparks says:

    Wonderful! And, of course, in giving them Jesus Christ, they become aware of and can live out their dignity, which results in many social and economic changes.

  6. AvantiBev says:

    Considering the long lines for Holy Communion at some parishes where the bulletin says Confession or Penance is from 4:10 to 4:25 on Saturday when it is raining in months ending in Y, I think over the past 45 years lots of people have received “the bread” without receiving “the truth”.
    Shack-ups, hook-ups, long and short term co-habitation, starter marriages; I am not hearing any of that discussed as “family” issues. Yet I assure you they all feed in to the divorce and abortion culture. Aren’t we at the point where the people – even many in the pews — reject “sound teaching” as Paul warned?

  7. Joseph-Mary says:

    Christ Himself gave the great commission to go out to the world and baptize. It is the duty of the Church to make Christ and His Gospel of salvation known. Yes, material works of mercy are important too but the cardinal has it right because the greatest poverty is to be separated from God. The “Church” as a whole has been failing in this mission in many ways in the past 50 years as relativism has claimed the day and now so many are trying to justify immorality which will bring no one to union with God.

  8. tcreek says:

    Not exactly current Catholic Social Teaching …
    “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” Matt 6:31

    If it was time for a pope from the Southern Hemisphere, its seems we choose the wrong continent.

  9. Long-Skirts says:

    Long live the Cardinals of Africa!


    When you meet
    Our Lord someday
    And when He asks of you,
    “What did you give your children
    For the shadows of the valley, to get through?”

    “Only the best
    Of everything
    No sacrifice too much!
    Digitals, sports, activities
    Through the valley they’ll be in touch.”

    But when the shadows darken
    And hearts and eyes are blind
    Can worldly touches help perceive
    What’s coming
    And what’s behind?

    For in the darkness no activities
    Digitals, sports or things
    Downloads, work-outs, artistic endeavors
    Will not
    A true peace bring.

    They still will have their failures
    But a foundation in Christ
    Will sustain –
    And Upon this Rock the shadows of shock?
    If you gave the Faith…they’ll reign!

  10. Sandy says:

    Dear Lord, what a state of affairs when we hear these wise words as the exception and not the norm in our Church! It reminds me of the “Prayers of the Faithful” at Sunday Mass. Who writes this drivel? Is it this diocese or do parishes write them up? It’s always about the worldly utopia, never mind the supernatural or heavenly petitions that are needed. Everything has become “horizontal” and the “vertical” is left out. OK, I have to stop before I get upset.

  11. acardnal says:

    Cardinal Sarah, Cardinal Napier…perhaps it’s time for an African Pope!

  12. acroat says:

    In the USA most poverty is the result of children born out of wedlock. You rarely hear anything about that from US bishops.

  13. Allan S. says:

    I have long pondered this plain speaking African gift to the universal Church. After seeing is Coat of Arms, and his episcopal motto “Sufficit Tibi gratia mea” (Your grace is sufficient for me), I prayed during the conclave for his election. Lack of such faith has pitched Church and faithful alike over a precipice – and we are still falling.

  14. JuliB says:

    When I went to a (national) volunteer training day for the St. Vincent dePaul Society we were informed that we were not to share our faith or talk about God when we meet with people. We can offer to pray with them. On one hand I understand that we don’t want to push our faith down anyone’s throat but it seems we are being hamstrung by this instruction.

    I just work by putting the donated food away and not with any of the people we assist, but that guideline truly bothered me.

  15. sw85 says:

    Very well said on Card. Sarah’s part. A logical consequence is that, since the family is the home and center of evangelization, the preservation of the family is THE definitive social justice issue of our age.

  16. AvantiBev says:

    To acroat: AMEN!!!!! If you want to fight poverty in the USA preach counter revolt to the Sex Revolution. Practice celibate dating as a single and chastity/ fidelity to your solemn vows as a married person.

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