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Björn Odendahl, an editor at, writes the following in the course of commenting on the Pope's plans for Africa in a piece entitled “The Romantic, Poor Church”:

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions(of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added “easy to command”) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah; they must really fear him. (The link goes to a report on Cardinal Sarah's bracing words on homosexual practice at the recent Synod on the Family.) 

Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism, and the piece itself is the anguished whimper of a desiccated cultural and institutional form of Christianity which doesn't yet know it's beaten, and which, Laus Deo, is about to be swamped by the vibrant, joyous fidelity of the Catholic Church of the majority world.

Update: I hadn't noticed at first, but the header image for Odendahl's piece is a black pawn.

Update 2: Apparently the black pawn is automatic for all posts in this category. It's singularly unfortunate, in any event.

Leroy Huizenga is administrative chair for human and divine sciences at the University of Mary.

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