Interview with Mr. José Antonio Ureta
by Almudena Martínez-Bordiú
InfoVaticana speaks with José Antonio Ureta, researcher of the Pro Europa Christiana Federation and author of the book, Pope Francis’ Paradigm Shift: Continuity or Rupture in the Mission of the Church?, about the coming Synod on the Amazon.
There is a general silence in the media regarding the coming Synod on the Amazon. Why do you think this is happening?
Most journalists are superficial and give importance to concrete and episodic issues with immediate effects and a strong emotional charge which they can turn into “sensational” headlines that increase sales (and even better if the news is directly related to their readers…).
This type of journalist lacks the acumen to realize that a religious event that will take place in a distant region within four months can have a decisive impact on the destiny of the Catholic Church and therefore on the future of the world. Now since the media do not talk about the Synod, the man-in-the-street knows nothing about it, which makes the subject even less interesting for journalists.
What are, in your opinion, the goas of the coming Synod?
Its official objective is to look for new paths for the ‘Amazonian’ Church and for an integral ecology. But its organizers affirm that the reflections of the synodal assembly have a universal dimension because the proposed measures could serve as a model for other Catholic communities and for other “biomes” (for the non-initiated, a biome is the set of ecosystems characteristic of a geographical area).
The Preparatory Document says that the Amazon’s rich biodiversity, and for being “multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious” is “a mirror of all humanity” whose preservation “requires structural and personal changes by all human beings, by nations,” and, as if that were not enough, “by the Church”! (It is laughable to imagine that preserving the Amazon from the supposed havoc caused by the “culture of waste” must be achieved through structural changes in the Church…)
In reality, this is tragic. Because what they want is to present the pagan lifestyle of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon as a model of relating with nature, with others, and with God. This reminds me of the prophetic title of a book by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, written in 1977: Indian Tribalism, the Communist-Missionary Ideal for Brazil in the Twenty-first Century.
What forty years ago were fantasies in the feverish minds of missionaries passionate about “inculturation” and liberation theologians searching for a surrogate for Castroite communism has become the official program of an Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops based on a papal encyclical, Laudato Sì.
Pope Francis has pointed out that “it is necessary to allow ourselves to be evangelized by them – the inhabitants of the Amazon – and by their cultures.” He has also said that we need their wisdom “and knowledge to be able to enter, without destroying, the treasure that this region encloses.” However, we see how, for example, the Castrimani mission, where no baptism has been celebrated after 53 years, could serve as a reference for the Synod. What consequences can this have?
On the religious level, this is an official renunciation to fulfill the mandate of Jesus to the Apostles to preach to all nations and to baptize believers in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Instead, they will integrate the aborigines’ superstitions and idolatrous rites into the life of Catholic communities on the pretext of “dialoguing with cultures” and “inculturating the faith”.
Speaking about the Amazonian Indians, in a phrase that smacks of pantheism, the Preparatory Document says that “their diverse spiritualities and beliefs motivate them to live in communion with the soil, water, trees, animals, and with day and night. Wise elders – called interchangeably “payés, mestres, wayanga or chamanes”, among others – promote the harmony of people among themselves and with the cosmos.”
Will the Church with an “Amazonian face” which the organizers long for still be the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ, or will it become an ecological-pantheistic sect to worship Pachamama, that is, Mother Earth?
At the socio-economic level, this is an official renunciation of the Social Doctrine of the Church and of the Divine mandate to “be fruitful and multiply,” replacing it with the Malthusian and sub-consumerist agenda of ecologically sustainable degrowth utopianists who use the UN to propagate their fallacies. For example, Hans Schellnhuber (who “believes in Gaia but not in God” and is regularly invited to meetings in the Vatican) defends the idea that the population of the earth should not exceed one billion…
The text presenting the Synod talks about “new paths for evangelization and a change of paradigm.” What does Pope Francis mean by this?
The traditional missionary paradigm – of which the best achievement, thanks to the Catholic Monarchs and the Spanish and Portuguese missionaries was the fact that Latin America became the region of the world with the greatest concentration of Catholics – was to preach the Gospel to obtain the conversion and baptism of pagans and a gradual penetration of Christianity into their cultures, purified with faith and enriched by the civilizing contributions of European missionaries (although Mr. López Obrador apparently would rather the Aztecs had continued to sacrifice hundreds of human victims to their idols daily…)
Conversely, the new missionary paradigm consists in recognizing that “people are the protagonists of the history of their salvation and process of evangelization” so that both “the Gospel and evangelizers respect otherness and preserve the identity of messages and cultures,” in the words of the inspirer of the Synod’s Preparatory Document, the German theologian Paul Suess. “Any claim to substitute indigenous religious memory for the memory of Israel would configure a new attempt at colonization,” he adds, without flinching.
What, then, does a missionary do? Suess says that all he does is to provide a “presence of solidarity and witness” and “accompaniment in the struggle” against the colonialist cultural hegemony of Western civilization, showing indigenous people that “the only rupture the Gospel proposes is to break with infidelity to their own life project.” In other words, we must encourage them to be faithful to paganism. “Belonging to the Guarani people,” Suess concludes, “means not only having kinship with the Guarani people but also belonging to the religion, worldview and social order of the Guarani.”
This listening attitude would supposedly modify Christianity itself by making it move from inculturation to interculturality in which “members of different religious communities relearn to confess their religious identity from the transformative experience of the pilgrimage, the exodus, in which ‘trans-religious’ spaces are created,” says Raúl Fornet-Betancourt, a Cuban philosopher based in Germany, where he has worked as director of the Latin America Department at the Missio Catholic Institute in Aachen. Interculturality “is not a mission but resignation,” a patient act of renunciation “to sacralize the origins of cultural or religious traditions,” he adds.
In the end, the new missionary paradigm is conversion to religious syncretism. Answering the question: “to what extent can we practice indigenous religions?”, the Spanish Jesuit Bartomeu Meliá, responsible for the pastoral care of indigenous people in the Paraguayan Bishops’ Conference, stated during the 2013 Missionary Week: “Yes, we can practice the indigenous religion without denying our own, this even enlarges our hearts.” I think that says it all.
You pointed out that there are “well-founded fears that the next Pan-Amazon Synod, by centering the organization of ecclesial life on the ethnic factor, may incur this ‘ethnic heresy’.” Could you explain why?
There was an early attempt in the 1970s to create an “autochthonous Church” in Zaire, promoted by Cardinal Joseph-Albert Malula in the name of an “African theology” and of blackness, under the motto, “We are the ones who have to found an African Church.”
Another attempt to establish an “Autochthonous Church” was made in Chiapas (Mexico) by the bishops of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Most Revs. Samuel Ruiz and Felipe Arizmendi, this time in the name of “Indian theology”. Paul VI told the former that “it would be dangerous to talk about theologies diversified according to continents” because “the content of the faith is either Catholic or is not!”
Later, John Paul II added that “the risk of African theology is to close oneself up.” Regarding the new Zairean rites mixing tribal elements he said that “the enrichment of the liturgy is possible provided that the meaning of the Christian rite is maintained and that the Catholic aspect of the Church appears.”
For their part, the bishops of San Cristobal de las Casas promoted an “indigenous Church” based on a Permanent Indigenous Diaconate that, according to them, should make “a synthesis between the system of indigenous traditional positions and the ministerial structure of the Catholic Church.” In turn, celebrations should be carried out with “words, symbols and gestures of their own that start from the root and heart of the communities’ cultures in harmony with the Christian mystery” (which makes it clear that the matrix of the celebration would be the ancestral cult, only syncretically harmonized with Christianity).
After a massive ordination of 103 indigenous deacons (flanked by their women, on whom the bishop also imposed his hands…), the then Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez wrote to Bishop Arizmendi on behalf of five Roman dicasteries that “It is not possible to build a predominantly diaconal model of particular Church which would not be in conformity with the hierarchical constitution of the Church.”
In the same letter of July 2000, Cardinal Medina asked him to “open” the diocesan reality to all members of the Church so that this diocese would not remain “locked up” in the preceding exclusive typology.” Five years later, his successor in the congregation, Cardinal Francis Arinze, wrote complaining, “the ideology that promotes the implementation of the project of an Autonomous Church continues to be latent in the Diocese,” and reiterated the need to “open the Diocese to other ecclesial realities proper to the universality of the Catholic Church, to help it emerge from the aforementioned ideological isolation.”
Shortly after his election, Pope Francis, on the contrary, revoked the suspension of indigenous ordinations imposed by his predecessors and went to recollect himself before the tomb of Bishop Samuel Ruiz during his trip to Mexico. Now he seems to want, through the Amazon Synod, to extend the model of “indigenous churches” to the whole pan-Amazonian region (which includes nine countries), and ultimately to the universal Church, thus realizing his dream of a “polyhedral” Church.
The difficulty of such a voluntary “amazonization” of the Church in the region (as well as the forced “sinization” of the Church in China) is that such “indigenous churches” are gradually enclosed within the ethnic-cultural framework of the local tribe while at the same time increasingly diluting their institutional and spiritual ties with the universal Church.
This is what French writer Olivier Clément called “the demonic seduction of the ethnic group,” which he points out as being the plague of the Orthodox Churches of the Balkans, whose members “developed the tendency to consider the church – which blessed their culture – as an element of the national life, a component of the local culture” (this testimony is all the more eloquent as Clement himself was an orthodox). By centering the organization of ecclesial life on the ethno-cultural factor, the next Pan-Amazon Synod runs the risk of encouraging this “ecclesiological heresy” that plagues autocephalous schismatic churches and which the schismatic patriarchs of Constantinople have rigorously condemned under the name of “ethnofiletism” because it transforms religion “into a dimension of culture, national identity, ethnic belonging.” (Notice to readers from Catalonia: any resemblance to the reality of independentist parishes is merely coincidental …)
One of the goals of the Synod on the Family seemed to be allowing access to Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried. However, the publication of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia has left nothing clear and Francis continues not responding to the cardinals who presented the Dubia. It is said that one of the goals of the coming Synod is to introduce optional celibacy to priests. Do you think this will happen or that Francis’ response will follow the ambiguous line taken so far?
Cardinal Kasper has just declared to the daily Frankfurter Rundschau that he believes that Pope Francis will authorize the priestly ordination of married viri probati in the Amazon if the bishops ask for it. Celibacy would supposedly not become optional by general dispensation but on a “case by case” authorization – like access to communion by civilly divorced and remarried people. Now, the Amazon “case” — that is, the penury of the Eucharist due to the shortage of priests – is happening in many places around the world. Thus, an ad experimentum dispensation granted in the Amazon would become current practice, as happened with communion in the hand.
However, the question of the eventual ordination of viri probati is only the tree that hides the forest. The demolition of the priesthood promoted by the Pan-Amazon Synod organizers goes much further: In the name of supposed “ministries with Amazonian faces” what they are favoring is a new type of lay leadership of Catholic communities that destroys the very foundation of the hierarchical character of the Church, based on the priestly sacrament of Order.
This is what I am going to denounce in a future article for http://panamazonsynodwatch.org/, of which the title will read more or less like this: “The Amazon as a Laboratory for a New, De-Clericalized and Egalitarian Church” (incidentally, this has always been the dream of the so-called Christian Base Communities promoted by the liberation theology of Gutiérrez, Boff et al.).
Will the October Amazon Synod mean a “rupture” in the Church so that “nothing will be the same again,” as the Bishop of Essen, Franz-Josef Overbeck, told the official website of the German Bishops’ Conference? What do you think about that?
A Church with missionaries who do not evangelize, with married native priests and lay ministers who worship pagan idols, preach a morals based on fidelity to the ancestral “life project” of the aboriginal peoples and present primitivism as a model of civilization on the pretext of respecting the sacred character of nature … amounts to a complete rupture with the Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Bishop Overbeck is absolutely right: If the Synod does what its organizers and Pope Francis show signs of intending, nothing will be the same again.
How do you think the fact that Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes has been appointed as the Synod’s rapporteur will influence events?
This is the same as if Cardinal Kasper had been the rapporteur of the two Synods on the Family… To mention only a partial but important aspect: When Cardinal Hummes was appointed prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy, in December 2005, before going Rome, he told the press: “Priestly celibacy is not a dogma,” opening the possibility of changing this discipline from his new important position.
His statements caused confusion in the Vatican. Some time later, the Osservatore Romano published a document signed by the cardinal himself, rectifying his position, and whose title spoke by itself: “The Importance of Priestly Celibacy.” But those were other times, for which many people have nostalgia…