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From Liberation Theology to Ecofeminist Theology: A Revolution Encroached in the Church (X)

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Introduction:

The expression “Pachamama” or “Mother Earth” has become commonplace as the appreciation for indigenous things grows.

However, ecofeminist theologians have sought in it a deeper meaning than the one attributed by pagan pre-Columbian peoples.

We do not know if the writers of the Synod’s Instrumentum Laboris agree with the theses of ecofeminists, but the fact that they removed Our Lord Jesus Christ from the center, as the bishop emeritus of Marajó, Monsignor Azcona has just denounced, puts them on the slippery slope of heterodoxy.

Mother Earth, or the “deconstruction” of Marian devotion

Pantheistic representation of “Mother Earth”

After the worship of latria due to her Divine Son, the Blessed Virgin Mary is certainly the object of greatest devotion of Catholics. Her privileges and merits are such that the Church says “all the tongues of men, even if all their members were changed to tongues, would not be sufficient to praise her as she deserves.”[1] She is the Universal Mediatrix of all graces, and with her intercession, we can achieve everything.

For these reasons and many others that Catholic Mariology has taught over the centuries, the Virgin Mary is the archetype of the Mother who, with perfect humility, crushed the head of the snake and atoned for the guilt of our first parents. Among her most excellent qualities is that of “having alone crushed all heresies.”[2]

Since ecofeminist theology is but one of the latest and certainly most radical versions of the “modernist” heresy condemned by Pope Saint Pius X,[3] there can only exist “complete enmity” between the Virgin and these theologians and their accomplices.[4]

Ecofeminists propose “deconstructing” devotion to the Mother of God as their first strategic objective. For this end, they have tried to “prove” that devotions to the various Marian invocations are nothing but “myths” imposed by the patriarchal church to the detriment of the indigenous peoples’ devotion to a primeval and hypothetical “mother goddess.”

To “demystify” the most ingrained devotion of popular piety, the “Con-spirando Collective,” in coordination with the “Latin American Network of Catholics for the Right to Decide” conducted an investigation and subsequent printing of a book titled Virgins and Goddesses in Latin America. The Resignification of the Sacred.[5]

The 264-page publication strives to undermine the authenticity of the main Marian devotions in Latin American countries: “The proposal was to investigate the female deities or characters that underlying the Virgins of Latin American countries, rescuing the sacred image of women in our mestizo cultures before the Conquest.”[6]

The reader may wonder what relationship the “Latin American Network of Catholics for the Right to Decide, ”that is, an entity dedicated to promoting abortion in our continent, could have with Marian devotion?

The authors of the book answer that the Virgin is an “archetype of the giver/mother, which points out aspects related to the image of motherhood’ that we have internalized and also revealed aspects of the way we have experienced sexuality.”[7] In order to demolish the concept of maternity and virginity, it is necessary to eliminate or adulterate the image of the Virgin Mother so that these virtues are not recognized.

The research proposal arose “… from reflections made … in the four sessions of the School of Ecofeminist Ethics and Spirituality (EEEE) held annually in Santiago, Chile, for ten days in January from 2000 to 2003,” which was funded by an entity calling itself “German Commission for the Women’s World Day of Prayer.”[8]

To carry out the proposed task, theologians began to raise a “suspicion,” as we saw is characteristic of the hermeneutics of this theology: “… our first reaction was to suspect this woman’s profile. Historically, this image of a pure, selfless and self-sacrificed woman has reinforced the cultural stereotype of Latin American women … in some way, the cultural repression of the Conquest managed to displace the indigenous worldview with its goddesses and divinities … as happens in the Andean culture with the Pachamama worship…”[9]

In simpler words, these ecofeminists (some of whom are nuns), who claim to cling to “Catholic tradition,” plan to tear the Blessed Virgin from altars and replace her with pagan idols.

The Introduction to the book states: “The collective research about Virgin-Goddesses gave us the possibility of re-knowing and re-building Latin American deities or ancestral female characters … The Virgins exposed here can be considered as a product of historical patriarchal conceptions resulting from ethical and political intentionality.”[10]

Note that the authors of the book do not mention any exceptions. According to ecofeminists, all images are an imposition. Obviously, then, so is the one represented. Who was harmed by this imposition? The original cosmology, that is, the pagan representations of ancient indigenous deities, and their worldview.

The head of “Catholics for the Right to Decide” in Buenos Aires gives this reason for publishing the book: “… with the Co-spirando Collective, we want to promote feminist theological production in Latin America, and this is one of the lines that challenge us to go beyond … Being able to compare the myth of Mary, which reinforces a model and place for women in a patriarchal society, in which motherhood would be the main vocation, with the ancient myth of Odú, the bird that symbolizes feminine power, opens the doors to other understandings of ourselves… ”[11]

The only way to “dissolve models that do not interpret us” is to revalue those that do, that is, indigenous goddesses or those of African origin such as the myth of Odú. To this end, the authors of the book clearly state that the first step taken by this research is to “rescue, starting from subjectivities, a new look that will be a great contribution in the journey of rediscovering our roots and identity.”[12]

La Virgen de la Tirana (Marian devotion of Northern Chile), a myth that hides the Pachamama

Two representatives of Capacitar Chile, a Catholic entity under the Maryknoll Congregation,[13] are tasked with “demystifying” devotion to the Virgin of Carmel of la Tirana: “All these (Inca) rites were related to the Pachamama cult, which leads us to think that the celebration would contain this cult as a secret icon syncretized in the Virgin of Carmel. The Pachamama is the one to whom they are offering rituals and sacrifices … On the other hand, the exploitation of saltpeter … in the heyday of Latin American capitalism increased the presence of the Virgin of Tirana … There is an obvious contradiction: a great popular feast only to ask the Virgin to be an intercessor … This tricky conception is not only tied to a lack of popular recognition but also forgets the ancestral cult of Pachamama, she who fertilizes, creates, and bears fruits.”[14]

Comment: According to these representatives of “Capacitar,” the true object of celebration in Tirana would not be the Virgin but the Pachamama. Also guilty for that replacement would be the salt-extracting capitalists said to have spread devotion to Our Lady of Carmel in the nineteenth century. In this way, the women religious reduce the largest religious feast in the North of Chile to a twofold religious-business falsification, and thus “deconstruct” Marian devotion.

 

A “gender course with religious from different congregations”

Do not think this “deconstruction” of devotion to the Mother of God is limited to publishing a book. From liberation theology, ecofeminists learned the importance of “praxis.” They know that Marian devotion is deeply rooted in the soul of Chileans and that, in order to achieve their goal, they need to act at all levels of the Catholic Church.

One of the practices employed in this work of “deconstruction” of Marian devotion was to promote a course for several religious congregations in Latin America. About this course, the theologian Ute Seibert, of the “Con-spirando Collective,” commented during the Book Fair (November 2009): “… Last week, at a Course on gender and theology with religious from different congregations in several Latin American countries, we worked on criticism of the patriarchal images of the Judeo-Christian God. A question was raised about the role of the Virgin Mary as a feminine referent of divinity. Aren’t the image, understanding, and memory of the Goddess behind the virgin? Could the Goddess be a reference for these women, but there was concern … We chose a simple dynamic: the participants divided into three groups, each representing a character: the woman, the virgin, the goddess. After talking in their single group for a while, they all entered into a dialogue.  

“Since they were mothers, most of the time the women used words such as care, delivery, sacrifice, strength… the goddess offered to accompany, teach, and support them, strongly questioning the stereotyped behaviors of women and showing them other paths, while the Virgin hesitated between putting herself next to the woman, the goddess, or god the father. But, beyond words, the body posture, voice, and gestures of the goddesses made the greatest impact. The mere act of putting themselves in the place of the goddess made them sit firmly, upright, speak clearly and decisively; finally, one said with a face of pleasure, ‘I am a goddess, and I am powerful.’ The subsequent conversation showed that in this simple exercise, something changed; the goddesses experienced in their body a different possibility, and the other women witnessed this change and experienced a different relationship.”[15]

Comment: As the reader will be able to perceive, the course for women religious of “several congregations” in Latin America, far from resembling Catholic courses, raises some disturbing questions: Which ecclesiastical entity organized it internationally? Was the Archdiocese aware of it? Did the Mother Superiors of participating Congregations agree with that kind of course? What were the final goals with which the nuns left for their respective missions? What will they comment in their convents and apostolate about the discovery of the “goddess”?

“We all came from a Mitochondrial African Eve”

Ecofeminists do not limit their work to “deconstructing” devotion to the Blessed Virgin. They also seek – as they state – to reconstruct the original female goddess. The magazine Con-spirando devotes an issue to a “pilgrimage” in France by two women religious and two laywomen in search of the black goddess.[16] “For ten days, in August 2005, four women – Rachel Fitzgerald, Margarita O’Ruke, Maruja González and Catherine Busch-Johnston traveled through France and Italy in search of the Black Madonna / the Dark Mother / María Magdalena and her daughter Sarah. ”[17]

  • [1]http://www.themostholyrosary.com/the-glories-of-mary.pdf
  • [2] “The holy Church herself attributes to the Virgin, by the merit of her faith, the destruction of all heresies: ‘Rejoice, oh Virgin Mary, for thou alone hast destroyed all heresies throughout the world.’ Saint Thomas of Villanova also says, explaining the words of the Holy Spirit, ‘Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse . . .  with one of thy eyes’(Ct 4, 9), that the eyes signify faith, by which the Virgin gave the greatest pleasure to the Son of God.’ Cf. The Glories of Mary, St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori http://www.themostholyrosary.com/the-glories-of-mary.pdf).
  • [3] Concerning immanence it is not easy to determine what Modernists mean by it, for their own opinions on the subject vary. Some understand it in the sense that God working in man is more intimately present in him than man is in even himself, and this conception, if properly understood, is free from reproach. Others hold that the divine action is one with the action of nature, as the action of the first cause is one with the action of the secondary cause, and this would destroy the supernatural order. Others, finally, explain it in a way which savours of pantheism and this, in truth, is the sense which tallies best with the rest of their doctrines” (Cf. Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Pope Saint Pius X, 1908 – http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-x/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-x_enc_19070908_pascendi-dominici-gregis.html).
  • [4] “God has established only one enmity – but it is an irreconcilable one – which will last and even go on increasing to the end of time. That enmity is between Mary, his worthy Mother, and the devil, between the children and the servants of the Blessed Virgin and the children and followers of Lucifer. Thus the most fearful enemy that God has set up against the devil is Mary, his holy Mother. From the time of the earthly paradise, although she existed then only in his mind, he gave her such a hatred for his accursed enemy, such ingenuity in exposing the wickedness of the ancient serpent and such power to defeat, overthrow and crush this proud rebel, that Satan fears her not only more than angels and men but in a certain sense more than God himself ” (Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort,  Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, http://www.montfort.org/content/uploads/pdf/PDF_EN_26_1.pdf).
  • [5] Cf. Vírgenes y diosas en América Latina, La resignificación de lo sagrado, Coordinated by Verónica Cordero, Graciela Pujol, Mary Judith Ress, Coca Trillini, © 2004, Colectivo Con-spirando / Red Latinoamericana de Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir. 1st edition, November 2004, printed in Uruguay.
  • [6] Cf. Ibid. Vírgenes y diosas en América Latina, Introduction, p. 9.
  • [7] Cf. Ibid. p. 9.
  • [8] The publication thanks “A Women’s World Day of Prayer – German Commitee, which gave financial support for carrying out this research and publishing the book” (Cf. op. cit. p. 19). “The World Day of Prayer is a movement of Christian women of many traditions who unite to observe a day of prayer in common every year, maintained by women in over 170 countries and regions, who have a continuing relationship of prayer and service gathering women of different races, cultures, and traditions in ecumenical fraternity” (Cf. http://www.iee-es.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=382&Itemid=1).
  • [9] Cf. Op. cit., Vírgenes y diosas en América Latina, La resignificación de lo sagrado, p.10.
  • [10] Cf. Ibid. p. 11.
  • [11] Cf. Op. cit., Vírgenes y diosas en América Latina, La resignificación de lo sagrado, pp. 17-18.
  • [12] Cf. Ibid. p. 15.
  • [13] “Capacitar Chile originates from the Center for Popular Education and Reflection (CRP), founded by the Maryknoll Fathers (a Missionary Religious Congregation of the US) in 1980 to facilitate a training space for popular leaders along the lines of liberation theology and popular education. During the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), this work allowed the creation of a true solidarity support network, playing an important role in supporting the work of subsistence and solidarity at the level of Christian communications and social and political organizations in the north of Santiago, later extended to other cities around the country (Linares, Chillán , Temuco, Puerto Montt). In 1990, as the government was transferred from the military to civilians, CRP is restructured into three areas: Bible Theology, Ecology and Women Area, with two transversal objectives as an institution: the gender perspective and the ecological perspective” (Cf. http://www.tremonhue.cl/quienesomos.htm).
  • [14] Cf. Op. cit. Vírgenes y diosas en América Latina, La resignificación de lo sagrado, pp. 21-44, emphasis ours.
  • [15] Cf. http://www.conspirando.cl/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=133:con-spirando-en-mesa-redonda-qel-retorno-de-la-diosa-en-la-cultura-y-espiritualidad-en-america-latina&catid=38:con-spirando
  • To read the entire testimony: “El encuentro con Afrodita – orgasmos total”, Maria Raimunda Da Silva Oliveira Centro De Estudos Teologicos Feminista Norte E Nordeste Do Brasil, en Erotismo y espiritualidad, Revista Con-spirando Nº 53, pp. 44-45, emphasis ours.
  • [16] Cf. Con-spirando, n° 59, December 2008. “Rutas de mujeres.”
  • [17] As we saw in the retreat preached by Rachel Fitzgerald and commented by J. Ress (see note 111), this Jungian psychologist “lives in California … has made important contributions on female archetypes to our school of Ecofeminist Spirituality and Ethics (2000-07). Margarita O’Ruke, a nun of St. Joseph, is a retired teacher … [who] has lived in Chile for 21 years. She is a member of Capacitar-Chile. Maruja González, a Maryknoll lay missionary, is a herbalist, healer and educator. She is a member of Capacitar-Chile” Cf. “Con-spirando”, n° 46, April 2000.
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