The old saying, “tell me who you are with and I will tell you who you are” has no absolute value for individuals, who may have legitimate reasons to relate to evil people (although that rarely happens). But it does absolutely apply to institutions and initiatives that promote a religious creed or a philosophical or political doctrine, because in that case the “bad companions” reveal a dangerous ideological affinity.
This is what happened this week in relation to the coming Synod for the Pan-Amazon region, which many senior prelates and renowned intellectuals have accused of favouring a “green” rehash of Liberation Theology, always with a Marxist tone. Sole difference: the Amazon rainforest is now the “oppressed class”.
On August 3, the Italian communist newspaper Il Manifesto (one of the few papers that still proudly boasts of being a “Communist daily” ), published a report by Guido Viale titled “L’Amazzonia, riserva di senso, cuore del Sinodo di Francesco” [The Amazon, reserve of meaning, heart of the Synod of Francis].
The author was one of the leaders of the 1968 student revolt and leader of Lotta continua [the fight continues], one of the main organizations of the extra-parliamentary extreme left which, during the early “Years of Lead” [years of terrorism] politically supported the ideal of an armed struggle against the bourgeois-democratic regime. Later, this philosopher, researcher and journalist converted to ecology but never gave up his communist ideals.
In a recent article titled, “Change the Climate or Change the System?” Viale explained the need for a “paradigm shift” – to “transition from an economy in which power is concentrated and centralized thanks to the control of hydrocarbons (and the capital necessary to exploit them) to a system of diffused powers made possible by the energy autonomy of communities and territories fed by renewable sources.”
According to Guido Viale, the Marxist class struggle continues, but with new protagonists: “The struggle (or commitment) for the climate has ruthless enemies (or adversaries), and for a long time to come, it will have to develop in terms of “we” against “them”. These enemies are not only the “deniers” of man-caused global warming but also those who think it is enough to have “solar panels and wind turbines instead of oil wells and gas pipelines” or who content themselves with planting “a few million trees” but continue “riding automobiles, eating meat every day, going on vacation by airplane and holding Olympic Games with artificial snow…”
From this radical ecological perspective, we understand his enthusiasm for the next Amazon Synod, which presents tribalism and indigenous culture as a model, and the fact that his article appears on the pages of Il Manifesto.
Viale begins by highlighting the universal value of the next Synodal Assembly by saying, on the one hand, that “two recently-published preparatory documents drawn up by the bishops of the Amazon under the guidance of Pope Francis – Instrumentum laboris (IL) and New Paths for the Church and for Integral Ecology (NP) – present various core issues already central to the encyclical Laudato si (2015),” and on the other hand, that “the synod is held in Rome and not in Latin America because the themes at the centre of the debate concern the whole world and not just the Amazon.”
He goes on to show the ideological affinity between the preparatory documents and his eco-Marxist conception. “Read by a layman” — he insists — the synodal documents “develop the approach based on integral ecology already central in Laudato si‘, raising the socio-environmental Amazon ecosystem (the inextricable connection between nature, the life of the peoples of the forest, and the culture that springs from this connection) to the paradigm of a turning point to be imparted not only to the Catholic religion but to the thinking of anyone intending to fight for the salvation of the Earth.”
It would be laughable — if it were not tragic — to see a self-proclaimed “layman” doing theology (but taking care to refer to God in lowercase) and lavishing praise on the central concept of Indian Theology and the Synod’s organizers:
“Inculturation,” Viale states, “is the term the two documents in question adopt to illustrate this purpose and process, echoing the theme of incarnation, the central node of the Christian faith: the god who becomes man in a defined socio-cultural context — Palestine at the time of Herod — who does not deny but rather adopts it in order to transform it.”
The preaching of our ‘sixty-eighter’ is not purely theoretical but descends to the pastoral consequences of the new paradigm: “The mission of Christians is to understand and make those cultures [of the peoples of the forest and river] their own, also and above all in their spiritual and religious dimension, including their divinities. In fact, even religious rites are expressions of a spirituality to which neither faith in Christ nor modern thought can continue to remain extraneous, lest one should renounce to establish contiguity, continuity, and sharing between the human being and the Earth, the living, the ‘created’.”
After providing such a “dogmatic” argument, he could not fail to give an argument of authority: “A relationship that Pope Francis had already placed at the centre of his message with Laudato si, subverting the anthropocentric approach that has dominated centuries of Western culture.”
In support of his thesis that it is not enough to have “solar panels and wind turbines,” he stresses the call of the synod’s documents to an authentic “ecological conversion” that must not be limited to individual behaviour but also include “structural changes.” He emphasizes they are “an explicit appeal to fight against a domination that destroys lives and the environment,” hence “this approach appears to be openly in conflict with the powers that dominate not only the Amazon, but the whole world.”
He emphatically concludes that “therefore, the Amazon, the world’s largest biodiversity reserve and ‘lung of the Earth’, along with its inhabitants, culture, spirituality linked to natural cycles, but also and above all with its struggles to safeguard both the forest and its communities, constitutes a reserve of meaning from which to draw in order to move towards a sustainability rich in discoveries and promised attitudes and behaviours of all humanity.”
The enthusiasm of Guido Viale and Il Manifesto for the upcoming Synod’s preparatory documents undeniably are proof positive that the accusations of heresy and apostasy of which the latter have been the object are true.