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The Instrumentum Laboris for the Amazon Synod Condemns Private Property and Exalts Poverty

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The serious and just accusations made against the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) for the Amazon Synod have focused on the fact that its text is contrary to the Tradition of the Church and the teachings of Revelation.

However, there is a central aspect in the drafting of the IL that has not been sufficiently considered:  Its position regarding private property and man’s natural longing for wealth.

As you will recall, Proudhon summed up Marxist doctrine in a single sentence: “private property is theft.” Consequently, only communal property is just and good for society.

IL is inspired entirely by the Marxist conception that private property is robbery and that private initiative is a fruit of human selfishness. It presents the Amazon as a model of communal property, and its extremely poor way of life, as an ideal for society to imitate.

Conversely, IL presents the Western world as being sick with a desire for profit and immoderate gain, which should be avoided.

These two ideas — poverty is healthy because it is the fruit of solidarity, and wealth is bad because it is the cause and consequence of human selfishness — are found throughout the entire text of IL. Hence, any attentive reader must conclude what Proudhon sustained: “property is theft.”

Let us see the text:

Already in its first part, relative to “good living,” IL says: “This integral mode expresses itself in a distinctive manner of self-organization, which starts from the family and community, and embraces a responsible use of all the goods of creation. Some speak of walking towards the ‘land without evils’ or in search of ‘the holy hill,’ images that reflect their communal movement and notion of existence.”

So the characteristic of this new “Eden” is a ‘communal notion of existence’ that rejects appropriation of land or means of production. And because of that, it is supposedly a “holy hill.”

In this new Amazonian “Eden,” the serpent comes “from economic and political interests of the dominant sectors of today’s society, especially resource-extractive companies, often in collusion with or tolerated by local and national governments…”

IL specifies in detail the characteristics of this serpent that threatens “good living”: “Appropriation and privatization of natural goods, such as water itself; (c) both legal logging concessions and illegal logging; (d) predatory hunting and fishing, mainly in rivers; (e) mega-projects: hydroelectric and forest concessions, logging for monoculture production, construction of roads and railways, or mining and oil projects; (f) pollution caused by the entire extractive industry that causes problems and diseases, especially among children and young people.”

In addition to the absurd claim that some person or company could be trying to privatize the water of the largest river in the world, the simple enumeration of the factors threatening “good living” shows that for the IL editors, any development or progress that results from private initiative is wrong and must be condemned.

Thus, IL considers the Amazon as a holy place and those who live there as a type of religious with a vow of poverty and dedication to care for “the common home”: “In the Amazon, life is inserted into, linked with and integrated with territory. This vital and nourishing physical space provides the possibility, sustenance, and limit of life. Furthermore, we can say that the Amazon – or another indigenous or communal territory – is not only an ubi or a “where” (a geographical space), but also a quid or a “what,” a place of meaning for faith or the experience of God in history. Thus territory is a theological place where faith is lived, and also a particular source of God’s revelation.”

This religious vision of the Amazonian peoples becomes even more evident when the IL states that, “The Amazon is where there’s the possibility of “good living,” and the promise and hope of new paths for life…there is no separation or division between the parts. This unity includes all of existence: work, rest, human relationships, rites, and celebrations. Everything is shared; private spaces, so typical of modernity, are minimal. Life proceeds on a communal path where tasks and responsibilities are distributed and shared for the sake of the common good.”

This idyllic presentation of the Amazonian peoples’ community life is closely linked to the fact that all in it is “shared” and that “private spaces are minimal.” That is, no one can say, “this is mine or yours.” The notion of private property is excluded.

However, for the IL, this ideal community life is in crisis “due to the imposition of mercantilism, secularization, the throwaway culture and the idolatry of money.” It generically condemns these “evils”, without distinctions or clarifications.

The IL does not clarify whether the desire for individual or family progress is idolatry of money. Nor does it say whether wanting to produce to sell and buy is mercantilism as such. Or yet if the mere desire to be able to access the goods of modern society is already surrender to the throwaway culture.

The document leaves the impression that the desire for material progress based on individual and family enrichment is the sin to avoid. This impression is further reinforced when, in the conclusion of its first part, IL again presents economic interests in general as “eager for oil, gas, wood, gold, agro-industrial monocultures, etc.”

In other words, possession of goods inevitably produces greed and is nothing but a fatal fruit of selfishness.

How is this conception different from the maxim that “private property is theft”?

Eugenia Lloris, a Valencian missionary in the Amazon: “We planted cassava with them, make the flour, eat the same food and hang the net to sleep like them; we bathe in rivers and lead the life they lead.” She says that, at first glance, this may appear as a "non-religious" task, but “isn’t the defense of life the first evangelization we are called to live?”

In the subtitle, “No to the destruction of the Amazon,” the IL affirms that those intending to destroy this communal order of “good living” are “guided by an economic model linked to production, commerce, and consumption.”

Here there is no doubt about the authors’ dislike of the right of private property and their desire for individual enrichment. IL condemns “production, commerce and consumption” as factors that destroy the Amazon paradigm. The obvious conclusion is that Amazon peoples must not “produce, trade, or consume.” This is tantamount to condemning them to quasi-religious perpetual poverty.
In an upcoming article, we will analyze other chapters of IL exalting poverty as a model of life for all humanity and condemning private property and the wealth it generates.

If any reader were to object that this love of poverty is an evangelical ideal, we answer that we would have nothing but praise for this detachment if the peoples of the Amazon renounced the goods of this earth for the love of eternal goods.

However, the reality is altogether different. Like all men, Amazonians yearn for progress and economic well-being. Agencies influenced by the Marxist vision of reality are the ones that, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, seek to replace their failed postulates with this romantic vision of poverty and the renunciation of private property.

A proof of this is the heavy fines meted out on the indigenous peoples living in the Brazilian Amazon who produce and trade on their land. In the real world, this general “ideal of poverty” is achieved only by forcibly curbing private initiative. The upshot: the Indians are rightly complaining they are trying to transform them into a society of “poor” to admire from the outside, something they do not want.

According to Greenpeace, the "agriculture is the activity that has generated greater losses of natural habitat in the Amazon in recent decades.” Their analysis concurs with the IL to avoid any wealth production.

What a pity that IL perfectly echoes the voices of those who extoll “enforced miserabilism.”

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