“Aggiornate” Missionary Voices
Idyllic and “Evangelical” Description of Indian Life
The idyllic description of native societies made by the “aggiornati” missionaries, although they defend themselves against this, brings to mind the myth of the “noble savage” with which Rousseau charmed, excited, and inflamed France near the end of the XVIII Century.
In the swell of dithyrambic praise for the tribal life, these texts show a glimpse of the propensity towards communism, as well as the desire for a new world inspired in the primitive societies.
11. A Tribal Paradise, Where Ownership of the Means of Production Is Collective and Authority Does Not Exist
The document Y-Juca-Pirama-O Índio: Aquele Que Deve Morrer, “Documento de Urgencia” signed by the Bishops of Cáceres (MT), Msgr. Maximo Biennes; Viana (MA), Msgr. Hélio Campos; Marabá (PA), Msgr. Estevão Cardoso de Avellar; São Félix (MT), Msgr. Pedro Casaldáliga; Goiás Velho, Msgr. Tomás Balduíno, and Palmas (PR), Msgr. Agostinho José Sartori, and six other missionares states:
Without espousing the idyllic vision of Rousseau, we feel the urgent need to recognize and publish certain values that are more human and thus more evangelical than our ‘civilized’ values and constitute a true contestation to our society:
1. In general, the Indian peoples have a system of using the land – based in sociality and not on the individual – in profound consonance with all biblical teaching in the Old and New Testaments concerning the ownership and use of land (Msgr. Franzoni, La Terra E Di Dio). In this way, the possibility of the domination of some over others based on the private exploitation of the means of productionis cut at the root. Antonio Cotrim Neto notes that ‘with the arrival of the white man, the concept of private property was established, provoking conflicts in the Indian settlements’ (Estado de S. Paulo, 8/20/1972).
2. All production [whether it be the] fruit of labor or the proper use of natural wealth and therefore, the whole economy, is based on the needs of the people and not on profit. One produces to live, and labor is not exploited for profit. Jesuit Adalberto Pereira teaches the Indian does not bother with accumulating goods of any kind, nor does be have economic incentive in the sense of acquiring prestige or improvement of social status. He is ignorant of economic competition and has no thoughts of ambition. He lives according to a Communitarian systemof production and consumption, with the division of’ labor made according to sex.” (Adalberto Holanda Pereira, Questões de Aculturação in Essa Onça – Federal University of Mato Grosso – 1973, 18).
3. The social organization’s only purpose is to guarantee the survival of the rights of all, not the privileges of some. The community prevails over the individual. All cultural expression aims at celebrating and strengthening this sense of community. Behold the source of peace and harmony of the backwoodsman’s longings: ‘Our brothers of the jungles’ – says Cláudio Villas-Bôas – ‘without having all that technological sophistication, are fulfilled and happy, living a balanced and harmonious life’ (Estado de S. Paulo, 4/29/73). Francisco Meireles dreams: Personally, I wish they could be kept in their villages and that we, the civilized, rather than instructing them with our cultural standards, would learn from the Indians, who always live in harmonynot only with the tribal group but with nature.'(Estado de S. Paulo, 6/26/1973).
4. The Process of education is characterized by the exercise of liberty. ‘They learn to be free from infancy,’ says Luiz Salgado Ribeiro, ‘since a father never obliges his son to do what he doesn’t want to do. A father never beats his son, however great his mischief might have been … the Indian is, above all, a free man. He does not depend on anyone for the support of his family– be himself bunts and fishes while his woman looks after the little garden – and this frees the Indian from owing favors or obligations to anyone: neither to this father nor to the chief of his tribe.'(A Voz do Paraná, 10/29/73).
5. The organization of power is not despotic but shared. Thus the chief is not one who commandsbut rather a wise man who advises what should be done … whether the Indians follow his counsels or not is not the chief’s problem. He is only a leader who counsels; he is not a master who determines what has to be done. Even in case of war, the chief can never determine that all men will participate in the battle. This shows that, among the Indians, all authority is really a service to the community; it is not domination. It is clear that under these circumstances there is no place for institutions of policing and coercion.
6. The Indian peoples live in harmony with nature and her phenomena, in contrast to our integration with the various pollutions [sic] and ruins of nature ravaged and replaced by the habitat in which we live: the Indians, unlike the white man, have always lived in perfect harmony with nature, there being no cases of tribes that have destroyed the flora and fauna of any area inhabited by them. This is the position of anthropologists and specialists in native matters” (Estado de S. Paulo, 3/5/1972).
7. The discovery, evolution and ‘feeling’ of sex are part of the normal rhythm of the Indian’s life, in an atmosphere of respect, without the characteristics of taboo or idol that are manifest in our society and condition it so much.
This list of values does not pretend to be exhaustive nor are they uniformly practiced simply because each native group constitutes a people, with its own characteristics and whose greatest expression is language, We are not unaware that the native also shows signs of the shadow of sin which, under different forms of common selfishness, binder the full attainment and the authentic integration of these human values” (Doc. 9, pp. 21-23).
Interview Bishop Tomás Balduíno, President of CIMI, gave to the newspaper Panorama of Londrina:
The positions of Dom Tomás, however, are not his alone, but of CIMI as a whole, which early this month participated in a seminar with FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) in Manaus … on that occasion, the opinion was again expressed that the missions also had a harmful effect on the Indians to the degree that the missions attempted to impose on them a new religion and moral standards completely different from those they already had. Bishop Balduíno:
I agree with that opinion. But since the CIMI began, four years ago, we have been instructing all Catholic missions to correct this catechetical function, respecting the organization of the Indians. . .
… the ideal would be for them to co-exist with our civilization, but without losing their communitarian, religious, and tribal values; without losing the right to build their houses, to continue to plant the way they always have and without being swallowed up by the voraciousness of the consumer society where private and financial interest is above all else …
The Indians are being marginalized, losing their place, this is the truth. This integration that the government proposes will only transform them into outcasts from society, which is deplorable, knowing that today they have a social status much superior to many parts of our society. Their lives are fulfilled, their chiefs are true chiefs, but with the knowledge that they are chiefs of oppressed peoples …
However, this is not the worst: greed is even more hostile. What they really seek is not to exterminate the Indians but to appropriate their lands at any cost. There were even attempts to poison the tribes … mortal hatred of the white man was explained …
At the time of Brazil’s discovery, they [the Indians] were more than two million. Today, it is estimated that there are about one hundred thousand, or one hundred and fifty thousand … the latter figure being very optimistic (Doc. 10).Claudio Villas Boas
13. “We Have Only to Learn From the Indians”
Statements of Fr. Egydio Schwade, counselor to the Indian Missionary Council:
“It is our civilization that is barren and condemned, and not that of the Indian.” With these words, Father Egydio Schwade, a CIMI advisor, interpreted yesterday in Sao Paulo the declarations of Orlando Villas-Bôas, who affirmed the previous day, that the end of the Indian civilization is inevitable and the Indian himself is aware of this.
Father Schwade said that “confronting the values of the indigenous society with those of our society, which is called civilized, we see that we can only learn from them. The irreversible march of history shows, with so many examples that now begin to appear in the world, that human societies are opening themselves up to values which the Indians always had, values such as the communittarian spirit, solidarity and respect for one’s neighbor.”
Schwade believes that “the more we endeavor to respect, defend, and preserve the physical, cultural, and even ecological identity of the native peoples, the greater the possibility of finding and saving ourselves, of overcoming the alienation into which the rhythm of life in our civilized society plunges us.”
The CIMI advisor added that “the whole world revolted, and justly so against the recent condemnation of five men to death. With how much more reason should the national and world consciences raise their voices against the extermination of our Indians, which have a history as sacred as the holy history of the people of God, revered by Jews and Christians” (Doc. 11).
The absurdities in this document are disconcerting. For example, those who live in “our society which is called civilized,” can only learn from the Indians. That is, all the Indians have a lesson for civilized man. For example: “the communitarian spirit, solidarity, and respect for one’s neighbor.” Something obvious in this topic is the admiration some “up-to-date” missionaries have for the roughly communist character they attribute to tribal life.
After the eulogy of such primitive societies and the disdain for contemporary civilization, the affirmation that “history is irreversible” is laughable.
The affirmation that the history of the Indians is “as worthy and sacred as the holy history of the people of God” leads to the following questions: How do the Indians profit by being evangelized? What are the missionaries for?
14. Indians Are Models For Our Society.
“The Indian communities should be received as evangelizers so that they may become a model for our society that has much to learn from them,” Archbishop Fernando Gomes de Oliveira stated yesterday upon opening the course on Perspectives on the Integration of the Indian into the National Community, organized by the Indian Missionary Council and the Institute of Socio-Economic Research of the Catholic University of Goiás.
Bishop Fernando Gomes … spoke on the importance of the meeting, showing its necessity for the formation of a better vision of the Church regarding Indian matters, stressing the fact that their communities should be received as evangelizers, in the sense of becoming models for our society (Doc. 12).
If the small “Indian communities” ought to serve as models for our society, one asks how those models can be imitated by the cyclopic contemporary societies except by imposing a roughly or perhaps an entirely communist regime?
This must be so if one admits as true the image of the native societies presented by “updated” missiology.
15. The “Aggiornata” Missiology Inspires a Radical Transformation of Our Society.
From the document Y – Juca – Pirama – O Índio: Aquele que deve morrer, [The Indian: He Who Must Die], signed by bishops and missionaries:
If we had the courageous humility to learn from the Indians, perhaps we would be led to transform our individualist mentality and corresponding economic, political, social, and religious structures so that, instead of some dominating the rest, we would be able to build the solidary world of collaboration” (Doc. 9, p. 24).
A horizontal solidarity established in the tribal societies – disregarding the principle of authority – is the ideal the Indians teach us.
This egalitarianism, which involves community of goods, absence of social classes, etc., if transposed to the great, modern, human concentrations, is translated in terms of communism.
Even the religious structure, instituted sacrally hierarchic by Our Lord Jesus Christ, must be leveled under the steam roller of Indian “wisdom.”
16. Mission of the Indian: “To Help the Civilized Rediscover Civilization”
“The Indian has a mission to accomplish: to help the civilized rediscover civilization …
“It is not the Indian’s problem, it is the national society’s. It is not the Indian who should be conditioned by an educational system foreign to his culture and history, but it is the nation’s society that should be prepared to accept the Indian as he is; to understand and respect the Indian’s world and not to coerce him into approaching our world …” (Doc. 13, pp. 20 and 22).