The Instrumentum Laboris for the next Synod on the Amazon, to be held in Rome from October 6 to 27, is drawing serious criticism. Lately, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, a prominent Church historian, issued an authoritative critique of it.
In order to delve deeper into this matter, I interviewed Msgr. Nicola Bux, an expert on Synods. In fact, John Paul II appointed him as an expert to participate in the preparation of the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist, and so did Benedict XVI to prepare the 2010 Synod on the Church in the Middle East. Msgr. Bux is a consultant theologian of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He was previously a consultant for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that for Divine Worship, and for the Pontifical Celebrations Office. He is also a scholar on the Orient, having obtained a doctorate from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. He stayed and taught in Jerusalem and collaborated with the Islam expert, Father Samir Khalil Samir.
Sabino Paciolla: Msgr. Nicola Bux, why in your opinion has the Instrumentum Laboris for the coming Amazon Synod received so many criticisms?
Msgr. Nicola Bux: Pope Benedict has recently given the answer, in a way: this is yet another attempt to “create another Church, an already tried and failed experiment.” Clerics do not ask themselves the great question at the base of Christianity: what did Jesus really bring us if – as we can see – he did not bring peace to the world, well-being for all, a better world? Jesus Christ came to bring God to earth so that man could find his way to Heaven: and for this purpose, he founded the Church. Yet today’s clerics take care of the earth as if it were man’s permanent homeland. The symptom? They do not speak about the soul and therefore about its salvation. Thus, the crisis of the very idea of Church, denounced by Joseph Ratzinger in his famous Report on the Faith, reaches maturity. The Church is no longer considered the mystical body of Christ and the people of God ordained to salvation, but a sociological phenomenon. So, it must deal with economics, ecology and politics, fields in which it could intervene only for a moral judgment. Here one can observe the influence of modernism: adapting the Gospel to the modus hodiernus of thinking and acting. People say that times have changed. However, this new dogma does not answer these questions: who has decided that the times have changed? And: is change always good?
Some passages of the Instrumentum contain expressions such as, “Insincere openness to the other, just like a corporatist attitude, that reserve salvation exclusively for one’s own creed, are destructive of that very creed. … Love lived in any religion pleases God” (n. 39), and, “Education in the Amazon does not mean imposing cultural parameters, philosophies, theologies, liturgies and strange customs on the Amazon peoples” (n. 94). Could these expressions be the result of a wrong concept of inculturation directly derived from the idea that God has willed the diversity of religions – namely, religious pluralism? Does this not risk making an adaptation and a one-way conformation to Amazon culture, forgetting the transcendent proprium of faith in Christ?
Ever since the Council, the doubt that the Lord Jesus is man’s only savior has been creeping through the Church. For some Church sectors, “evangelizing” has come to mean, “being evangelized”. The trend is to invite to parishes and seminaries, atheists, doubtful thinkers, Muslim imams and Jewish rabbis rather than plain Catholics. This has caused disorientation and confusion because it ignores the fact that a majority of practicing Catholics have been taught, as children, a generic catechism in which the truths of faith and morals are poorly and partially understood, if at all. There is no other explanation for the display of vices and corruption gripping nominally baptized Italian and European society. We must ask pastoral and liturgical agents to be especially rigorous when admitting young and older catechumens to the sacraments of initiation, for otherwise everyone at Mass receives communion regardless of whether or not they are in the state of grace; Protestants, Muslims and others who have not been initiated in the sacraments are also allowed in Eucharistic liturgies.
Church pastors must expound in the apostolic form the doctrine with which they have been entrusted (Rom 6:17). As Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has recently answered in an interview, “Unruly rebels are those who presume to break or change the perennial tradition of the Church.” Otherwise, we hurt ourselves and demolish the Church from within. The inculturation of which the Instrumentum Laboris speaks is presented in reverse: we want to make Church in the Amazon return to animism and spiritism, retreating from the Word that evangelization had announced to it. In a recent speech, Cardinal Brandmüller defined this as “a natural religion with a Christian mask.”
The Instrumentum often speaks about an “Amazon cosmovision” and often gives you a feeling that it is pervaded by a certain pantheism that seems indistinguishable from upright respect for the order of creation. Is this feeling well founded?
We are facing a dimming of reason, a return to natural religion, Spiritism, calling it dialogue with nature. Yet, the very development of nature, which takes place in an organic way (and thus, what was false yesterday cannot be true today) should help us understand that Church teaching constitutes a doctrinal, organic corpus. Instead, clerics are infected by a sort of Darwinism that runs into doctrinal and moral evolutionism (as Brandmüller has written); this is the opposite of the organic development of a subject that remains faithful to its own identity. This body alone can be called Church, at least according to the Constitutions of the First and Second Vatican Councils, Dei Filius, Lumen Gentium, and Dei Verbum.
Take the sacrament of holy Orders, for example. After the entire pre- and post-conciliar debate on the indivisibility between order and jurisdiction, the Instrumentum Laboris affirms the opposite in order to justify the ordination of women, moving further away from the Orientals. The so-called deaconesses – a Greek term that means “servants” – helped baptized women to undress and get dressed, something men could not do; sometimes they received a blessing, not an ordination; later, they disappeared. The episcopal, priestly and diaconal identity must be understood as coming from God, Who calls them, and the Church, which confirms them with ordination. This identity does not come from the community as if the Church were a democracy. The post-conciliar accusation made against the sacramentalism of the pre-conciliar Church is now forgotten. The proposal of viri probati – laymen to whom they would like to attribute priestly functions – represents the much-deprecated clericalism. Conversely, the history of the Church teaches that the crisis of priestly vocations is resolved with the life of faith: where there is faith, missionary vocations are born and institutes for the formation of indigenous clergy are established. The Lord is always calling people to follow him!
The sacraments are not commodities placed at our disposal so that we could imagine creating new ones from below to the point of changing the matter for the Eucharist. The Roman rite, transmitted to various peoples, is an expression of the communion of all believers in Christ, beyond language, nation or race. While respecting cultures, the liturgy invites them to purify and sanctify themselves. In fact, this is an ill-concealed opposition to the Church of Rome: ‘we do not want to celebrate as they do in Rome; we want to break away, marking a difference.’ Oddly enough, they want to do this after so many centuries after the evangelization of the American continent and the assumption of the Roman rite. Who made the natives of the Amazon aware that “they were deprived” of their own ritual?
The rupture with the Roman rite implies a detachment from the liturgical symbolism of biblical revelation and ecclesial tradition (e.g. Saint Cyprian explains that Christians pray without shaking their hands, as pagans do, because Christian prayer is humble and composed). Sacramental signs only can be understood through Scripture and the life of the Church. The use of wheat for the Eucharist does not derive from the culture in place among Mediterranean peoples, but from what Jesus invisibly did by using it. The adoption of religious customs other than Christian ones is incompatible because it is contradictory and causes hybrids and syncretism that mislead the faithful. As Cardinal Brandmüller stated, this violates the depositum fidei. We are faced with an attempt to genetically change the Church, calling into question the faith and unity of the Roman rite that expresses it (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, nos. 37-38).
Some people claim that the Instrumentum laboris opens the gates to Indian Theology and Ecotheology, two Latin American derivatives of Liberation Theology. What do you think about it?
The incredible thing is that we have come so far as to consider the Amazon as a “theological place”, that is to say, a special source of Revelation. By questioning Divine Revelation, as Brandmüller wrote, the document breaks away from the truth of the Catholic faith, which, in technical parlance, is an “apostasy”. In fact, it does not consider the Amazon a simple geographical and cultural area, but a “theological place”, an “epiphanic place” and a “source of God’s revelation” (nos. 2, 18 and 19). Significantly, it has received the enthusiastic approval of (and perhaps counseling from) Leonardo Boff, a former Franciscan priest and historical exponent of liberation theology who, in the 1970s, was admonished by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His brother, Clodovis Boff, a Servite priest, was removed from his teaching post at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.
In 1984, the then cardinal prefect Joseph Ratzinger, at the request of Cardinal Eugenio A. Sales, asked Father Luigi Giussani for a priest with a clear knowledge of Catholic doctrine who could positively argue about the assumption that ecclesial communion cannot be a necessary and sufficient subject to liberate man, let alone from sin. They proposed this task to Fr. Filippo Santoro, professor of theology and initiator of Comunione e liberazione in Puglia, who accepted it and spent about 27 years on a mission to Brazil. Because of this, he acquired a close knowledge of the different versions of liberation theology. After he was made auxiliary bishop of Rio and later bishop of Petropolis, Benedict XVI appointed him archbishop of Taranto. Finally, having succeeded Clodovis Boff in the chair of theology in Rio, he also inspired and followed the latter’s evolution (which led him to distance himself from his brother Leonardo), with an essay published in 2003 in Revista Eclesiàstica Brasileira. Therefore, Don Santoro, a Ratzingerian bishop, is among the most authoritative persons to speak about this Instrumentum Laboris and its statements, which meander between heresy and apostasy.
The Instrumentum laboris reads: “The Amazon is where there’s the possibility of “good living”, and the promise and hope of new paths for life.” The document as a whole contains a one-way praise of the Amazon peoples’ “ancestral wisdom”, “spirits” and goodness, in contrast to the corruption brought by Western civilization. Does this not seem to you an approach that is very close to the myth of the “noble savage” of Rousseau? What risks and damages could such an approach cause to faith?
In my opinion, with his famous book on the religious sense (Il senso religioso) he has offered a Catholic method to get closer to that Latin American world and beyond. He fought tenaciously to have Communione e liberazione (starting with Brazil, where he sent the first missionaries of the movement) announce that the Church is the subject of Christian liberation; she is Catholic because she embraces all peoples through conversion to Jesus Christ. There is no liberation without conversion to Christ. The Instrumentum Laboris never mentions this term, which in principle is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But as cardinals, priests and faithful have already observed, it can be classified as heretic because it contradicts on decisive points the binding teaching of the Church (in which every true Catholic is required to believe). It is an attack on the foundations of faith, which reduces the Catholic religion to pure subjectivism. It almost seems that Jesus Christ himself must convert to the Amazonian neo-deity. Is this “the Catholic faith transmitted by the Apostles,” as the Roman Canon prays?
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