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Indian Tribalism: The Communist-Missionary Ideal for Brazil in the Twenty-First Century (XIII)

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PART III
“Aggiornate” Missionary Voices

Section V

Evangelization is Not Necessary

For “updated” catechists, tribal life is so meritorious that the Gospel – and the Christian Civilization derived from it – are relegated to a second level.[1]

Symptoms of this have already appeared in texts numbered 11-16. Concerning this subject it would be possible to cite many other missionary pronouncements equally or even more significant.

17. Living In a Communitarian Regime, the Indians Do Not Need a Church.

Interview of Msgr. Tomás Balduíno, Bishop of Goiás and President of CIMI, with the weekly Opinião:

“Today missionary work finds evangelical values in the Indian culture such that not only is the Indian evangelized but he is also capable of evangelizing us through the fraternal relations among themselves [sic], through their appreciation for children and the weak, through their education for freedom [sic], through their ties to religion. The world of the Indian is not shut up within itself; on the contrary, it opens itself up in a world of mystery, something which brings a great equilibrium to tribal groups …

“Evangelization can discover the presence of Christ in the tribal group, which lives in a more Christian way than we do, with our baptism and with our religious practice. Without professing the name of Christ, the Indians live in a much greater fullness of the life announced by Christ like an evangel of liberation, than we who live like pagans in our relations with each other” (Doc. 14).

Commentary

With a communitarian regime, the Indians need nothing, not even the Church, since they already possess the fullness of evangelic life.

If one admits that things are as Bishop Balduíno describes, it would be appropriate to ask what is catechesis good for?

Perhaps for this reason, catechesis is presented as merely concerned with an earthly duty, which is to preserve the tribal state, as seen in the following text.

18. The Main Purpose of the Church Is Not to Convert the Indians to the Religion of Jesus Christ But to Preserve Their Tribal State.

Pastoral plan of the Amazonian Bishops:

The Bishops defend the thesis that the main mission of the Church is not to catechize and convert the Indian but to guarantee his values and to guide his cultural process such as to avoid conflicts and syncretisms (Doc. 15).

19. The Updated Catechesis: To Bring to the Surface the Religious Message That the Indian Carries in His Subconscious

Interview with Msgr. Tomás Balduíno, Bishop of Goiás and President of CIMI, for the newspaper Voz do Paraná:

We do not understand catechesis as in the past: The transmission of a doctrine in preparation for entrance in a given period of time – initiation for worship, baptism, receiving the sacraments, etc. Today we understand catechesis as a global manner [sic], in which the evangelizing aspect, more oriented towards the restoration of the image of God in man than towards the bracketing of the individual within a definite religion, prevails. So, instead of being drawn by baptism towards the religious group or fraternity, the Indian is approached and encouraged to become conscious of and live the message already within him. This is, as I was saying, to stand beside [him]. The aim is to make the Indian understand that he can be the announcement [sic] and the denunciation [sic] of modern society which, although calling itself religious, Catholic, and I don’t know what else, is egoistic, individualistic, hedonistic, greedy. As for the Indian, be is none of these things; he gives his life for the other (Doc. 16, Col. 638).

Commentary

The “new” catechesis consists much more of making the Indian conscious of the religious message that is already in his subconscious than in teaching him the Good News, brought by Our Lord Jesus Christ to all peoples.

20. Evangelization Is Secondary for Missionaries Who Disparage the Work of Anchieta.

San José Anchieta italiano e Saint Joseph of Anchieta
Saint Joseph of Anchieta

Report on the CIMI’s Second Regional Meeting of North Mato Grosso:

In parallel, the work of “pacification and catechesis” – as the missionaries themselves now recognize – developed with a foundation in the spirit of Anchieta [Saint José de Anchieta, Jesuit missionary of the XVI Century] and without taking into account the need of preserving the native culture, also contributes towards instilling in the Indian a fatalistic disdain for his cultural values…

The participants of the Diamantino meeting established this revitalization of tribal values as fundamental, defending as a first step a better preparation of the missionaries, reaffirming that, in the process of integration, it is vital that the whole cultural structure of the groups be respected and that evangelization be only a secondary part of this process (Doc. 17).

Commentary

It is no wonder that the “updated” missionaries scorn the work of the great Anchieta. He did not treat catechesis as only a secondary part of his mission.

21. The Indian Peoples Are the True Evangelizers of the World.

Statement by Msgr, Tomás Balduíno, Bishop of Goiás and President of CIMI:

The profound conviction of the missionaries linked to the Church is that these peoples (and I am thinking, for example, about the Indian peoples) are the true evangelizers of the world. We, the missionaries, do not go to them as someone who takes a doctrine or an evangelization that Christ brought and entrusted to us, and that we fitted out with civilized rites and cults. But we go to them knowing that Christ already preceded us in their midst, and that there are the Seeds of the Word. We have the conviction that they live the Beatitudes. For this reason, a conversion to their cultures is imposed on us, knowing that the Good News of the Gospel becomes incarnate in any culture. And beginning with the most marginalized and oppressed, it becomes the universal Good News with prophetic value for all men (Doc. 18, p. 16).

[1] Vicente Cardinal Scherer, Archbishop of Porto Alegre, showed his disagreement with this position of neomissiology. His Eminence said: “One notices a tendency to restrict the action of missionaries to the defense of the Indians … putting aside with some disdain the primary essential goal of illuminating their intelligence with the light of the Gospel and leading them to integrate themselves with the community of Faith? (Cf. Correio do Povo, 10/25/1977).

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