On the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the American continent in 1992, the inter-TFP Committee of Spanish-American Studies, coordinated by Alejandro Ezcurra Naón, launched a work of great importance: Authentic Christendom or Tribal-Communist Revolution – The Great Dilemma of our Time).
In this series of articles, taken from this study, we will see that those who today defend the heretical ideas of the Intrumentum Laboris (as Cardinal Brandmüller and others put it), have since that time (and even earlier) upheld a worldview at variance with the traditional doctrine of the Holy Roman Apostolic Catholic Church.
For example, Most Rev. Erwin Kräutler, one of the greatest exponents of this Amazon Synod, told the Madrid newspaper El Pais on 4/29/1991: “Indigenous peoples lost their identity when they became Christians, and in Latin America, there is still no Church with an indigenous face.”
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In this first article, we present a compendium of the main accusations of the Catholic left against the evangelization and colonization of America. Later articles will refute this torrent of false accusations with abundant documentation. We wish Pan-Amazon Synod Watch visitors a good read!
The Offensive Against
The Fifth Centenary of the Discovery of America
Revolutionary sectors led by elements of the old political left, the new cultural left, progressive and liberationist churchmen, surprisingly neo-racist indigenous groups (adepts of an extreme cultural apartheid whose application could lead to the social and political fragmentation of the nations in which they live), leaders of a mishmash of religious sects, and so on have been promoting a strident media offensive against the celebrations of the Fifth Centenary of the Discovery and Colonization of America.
This ideological banter exhumed the corpse of the old anti-Spanish ‘black legend,’ which had hitherto laid buried, mummified, and deservedly forgotten. In order to give it new life, updated revolutionary arguments extoll the “holiness” of extinct indigenous religions, presumably trampled-upon ecological and environmental “rights,” and the devastation of a 40,000 years old culture.
Above all, they resurrected the old liberal accusation that the Church allied itself with Portugal and Spain to commit a series of collective crimes that made the 1492 “invasion” of America a painful and ominous event, rather than a glorious one worth celebrating.
The most singular aspect of this avalanche of accusations against the Church is that churchmen of the Catholic Left are the ones who decisively take the lead from lay elements of the classical left.
These accusations (of which we will give a few demonstrative examples) can be reduced to four basic arguments:
1. Christianity was a source of misfortune for America
The first accusation is that the evangelization of America did not mean salvation but rather a disgrace for the continent. Take, for example, the following quotes:
The Gospel, a harbinger of misfortune – The recently secularized Franciscan theologian Leonardo Boff says: “Christian Europeans who invaded the continent caused the greatest genocide in history, reducing the population by [a factor of] 25 to 1. They usurped the lands, disintegrated the social and political organization, repressed the indigenous religion, and disrupted the internal logic of the growth of indigenous cultures…”
“Christianity presented itself to the natives and enslaved Africans as the religion of an enemy that subjugated and killed. The gospel, for them, could not be an Announcement of Joy, but rather an announcement of misfortune” (Boff, Adista, p. 6).
The doctrine of Christ: “bad news” – The preparatory text of the 8th Meeting of the Basic Christian Communities of Brazil (August 1992) reads: “The Gospel, which meant Good News…appeared in the eyes of indigenous peoples and blacks as bad news – the arrival of destruction, suffering, and untold tears. On the pretext of the doctrine of Christ, they ended up losing their families, all their people, their lands, their religious cult, their language, their feasts, their joy, and finally, their freedom. The colonizers and missionaries usually saw them, both Indians and blacks, only as superstitious and idolatrous people, practitioners of devilish cults, infantile ignorants.The missionaries believed it was their duty to educate these peoples from the ground up, from the most elementary language and customs, as if they were little children. And if necessary, they used military force to do it. The good news became bad news. This historical perversion is the great wound of evangelization, which, after centuries, is still bleeding” (BCCs, September 1991, p. 9).
Instead of a blessing, a nightmare – Mexican-American theologian Virgilio Elizondo – the leading figure of the so-called “Chicano liberation theology” and member of the “Ecumenical Association of Third-World Theologians” and Leonardo Boff, published in 1990 a statement against the celebrations of the Evangelization of America. They say: “On October 12, 1492, a Good Friday of pain and blood began for Latin America and the Caribbean, which continues until now without knowing Resurrection Sunday… 1492 is the date of the conquerors and not that of indigenous populations. It is not the memory of a blessing, but the nightmare of a genocide” (“La voix des victimes, qui l’entendra?,” in Concilium, No. 232, 1990, pp. 7-8, cited by Berten and Luneau, pp. 17-18).
2. The cause of this misfortune: the Church, complicit with the oppressive and exploitative Spanish and Portuguese powers
This misfortune stems from sin: the Church’s alliance with the exploiting powers (Iberian monarchs) to plunder and oppress the Indians. Some examples of this accusation:
The Church legitimized genocide – the Argentine theologian and historian Enrique Dussel, member of the Church’s Commission for Historical Studies in Latin America (CEHILA), maintains that in America, “Evangelization was, in fact, an ambiguous process to justify violent conquest” and “ was nothing but the legitimation of genocide” (Dussel, p. 84).
This “genocide” and other evils were perpetrated for 500 consecutive years – The Geneva-based General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), which brings together the main Protestant and Greek-schismatic churches, stated: “1492 means the beginning of five hundred years of genocide, racial oppression, and destruction of the environment of the Americas, and also the beginning of the slave trade”(ABC, Madrid, March 16, 1991).
The name of God taken in vain – In October 1989, CEHILA met in Santo Domingo. The final declaration of this meeting states: “The invaders, to legitimize their proud and so-called superiority around the world, used the Christian God by turning him into a symbol of power and oppression.” According to the document, this characterizes idolatry, “the idolatry of the West.”
As a result, CEHILA proposes not to celebrate the Discovery but anti-colonization rebellions such as those of the Indian Tupac Amaru in Peru or the black Zombie in Brazil (1492-1992, 500 Anos de Evangelização, France-Latin America Bishops Commission, doc. nº 1, Paris, March 1990, pp. 52-54, apud Berten and Luneau, p. 94).
A “contaminated” gospel – At the request of CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Council), in 1989 the Latin American Confederation of Religious (CLAR), which claims to represent 43,000 men religious and 130,000 women religious from Iberian America, prepared a draft text on the Fifth Centenary titled, “Word and Life.” It states that “the proclamation of the gospel [in America] very often was contaminated by power projects, and alliances with the power of the sword were concluded to oppress entire peoples” (apud Berten and Luneau, p. 169). “More than celebrating the Discovery, the CLAR draft invites us to reread the Bible with the poor in the Grassroots Communities, in light of the history of Latin America” (idem, pp. 93-94).
Blaming the Church for a ‘threefold imperialism’ – Ethnic, Cultural and Religious – The President of the Conference of the Oblates of Immaculate Mary in Canada, Br. Doug Crosby, publicly apologized “for the participation we [ecclesiastics] had in cultural, ethnic and religious imperialism which was part of the mindset with which European nations initially encountered Aboriginal people, and which remains a constant in the treatment given the native peoples of Canada by civil governments and churches” (Scottish Catholic Observer, Edinburgh, August 25, 1991).
The Church showed “lack of understanding” for indigenous cultures and religions – The Bolivian Bishop’s Conference (CEB) published a “Contribution to the Fourth Conference of the Latin American Episcopate – Santo Domingo, 1992.” In it, though employing ambiguous language, they take an openly critical (if not opposed) position on the evangelizing and civilizing work of the Church in the New World and on Church doctrine regarding paganism: “The lack of understanding of cultures, the theology of political Augustinism, the mentality of the Spanish crusaders makes the inhabitants of these lands to be considered ‘idolaters’. Thus, as they arrived in the new world and discovered the religious expressions of those peoples — human sacrifices [sic!], plurality of spirits, etc., without seeking to understand these cultures, they concluded that these lands were dominated by the devil” (CEB, p. 5).
This wording seems to infer that the “crusader mentality” was a defect and that it was mistaken to regard the Indians as idolatrous and dominated by devils, a point reinforced by this paragraph:
“The resemblance between some indigenous religious content and the History of Salvation has been interpreted as ‘devil’s traps’ rather than seeds of Revelation or seeds of the Word, as they can be interpreted today” (ibid.).
Evangelization destroyed the soul and identity of the natives – Pablo Richard, a secularized Chilean priest, and prominent revolutionary theologian directs in Costa Rica the “Department of Studies and Investigation” (DEI), which belongs to the World Council of Churches. In September 1991, he attended in Madrid the 11th congress of the “John XXIII Association of Theologians,” a rallying point for the revolutionary ecclesiastical “avant-garde”. The congress’ central theme was “Fifth Centenary, Memory and Liberation.”
On this occasion, Father Richard made a violent accusation against the Catholic Church: “The Church has a tremendous historical responsibility towards the indigenous peoples of America.” He continues: “The first evangelization was the genocide of the Conquest and colonization …. that evangelization profoundly damaged indigenous peoples. It destroyed their soul and their identity” (Recorded lecture – TFP-Covadonga Archive).
3. Therefore, the Church should not celebrate, but repent of her sin and do penance.
Spanish Bishop feels “ashamed” of conquerors and evangelizes – Most Rev. Iniesta, Auxiliary Bishop of Madrid, states: “As heir to these Spaniards, so many discoverers and settlers, as well as to the evangelizers, founders and pastors, I am ashamed and ask forgiveness to the Americas for our arrogance and domination, for the violence and oppression of so many peoples, for the unjust exploitation of their persons and wealth, for the authoritarianism or paternalism with which they were treated as minors, while their human values and culture were ignored” (Statements to Vida Nueva, January 28, 1989, apud Berten and Luneau, pp. 23-24).
Asking forgiveness for “complicity”– In an article titled “Towards the 5th Centenary,” the priest Gustavo Gutierrez, so-called “father of Liberation Theology” proposed to organize “penitential celebrations in the course of the acts that will take place regarding the 5th Centenary” to “humbly ask forgiveness from God and the victims of history for our complicities – explicit or tacit, past and present, as persons and as Church” in oppressing the indigenous (apud Berten and Luneau, pp. 95-96 ).
Asking forgiveness for the “destruction of Latin America” - For the Bishop of Crateus, Brazil, Most Rev. Antonio Fragoso, the discovery of America must be understood as “a disrespectful invasion, which caused the genocide of almost all 70 million Indians here.”
“We want the Church to publicly ask forgiveness to try to recover the cultures that were destroyed.” “The Catholic Church must admit that it was complicit in the destruction of Latin America in an alliance with both the colonialist and evangelizing projects” (Fragoso, “CNBB Proposes Penance for the ‘Invasion’’ of America, O Globo, Rio de Janeiro, May 6, 1992, p. 10).
A “great mea culpa” – For his part, the Spaniard Pedro Casaldáliga, Bishop of Sao Felix do Araguaia in Brazil, in an interview with Father Benjamin Forcano (a Jesuit who suffered sanctions from Spanish ecclesiastical authorities because of his teachings on sexual morality opposed to Catholic doctrine), states, “The worst thing the Catholic Church could do in Latin America and the the First World on its 500 anniversary would be to refuse to acknowledge the truth. The Church must chant a great mea culpa”(Forcano, SJ, p. 52).
Later, the prelate adds. “A commemorative act that does not recognize the massacre, the denial of cultures, the colonialism, the imposition, the dependence, is a wicked act even if celebrated at the foot of an altar with a pontifical Mass” (idem, p. 54).
In the same interview, Bishop Casaldáliga makes a suggestive revelation of his thought: “I believe that God is not even a judge. After all, God’s problem will be to condemn someone. Recently I made a ‘sonnet to Judas’. And I call Judas, brother Judas, comrade. Do you believe – he asks his interviewer – that Judas was worse than me?” (idem, p. 40). This question is hard to answer indeed…
Begin with a penitential act – The Venezuelan magazine SIC, published by Jesuit priests at the Gumilla Center, a notorious stronghold of the Catholic left, carries a critique of the CELAM preparatory document for the 1992 bishops’ meeting in Santo Domingo. Its author, Wagner Rafael Suárez, points out that CELAM’s text “errs by not recognizing past sin, disrespect for indigenous cultures and [church] participation in the process of domination. Ignoring past sin can lead it [the Church] to ignore its present errors. The most beautiful thing the universal Church and particularly the Latin American Church could do in the face of 1992 and the celebration of the Fourth Bishops’ Conference, is to begin with an act of penance, profoundly recognizing their guilt” (Suarez, p. 321).
Days later, the 356 bishops attending the General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate asked God’s forgiveness for the sins committed in the process of evangelization. This request evidenced the existence of a deep divergence of opinion among them. On the one hand, some Brazilian and Guatemalan bishops who wanted a “sharper” statement were unsatisfied. On the other hand, several prelates spoke out frankly disagreeing with it. While the Archbishop of Valencia (Venezuela), Most Rev. Jorge Urosa expressed his fear that such request would be inopportune and could be used “against the Church because we would be making a self-incrimination against our predecessors,” the Archbishop of San Juan de Cuyo, Argentina, Italo di Stefano, said that the Church “must not fall into guilt complexes that might dampen the new evangelization” (EI País, Madrid, October 24, 1992) .
4. To make reparation for this past, embrace the communist-indigenous revolution in America
In order to mend its “guilt,” the critics of the evangelization of America claim that the Church must not limit itself to acts of contrition but must also abandon its alliance with “oppressors” and make common cause with the “oppressed” by propelling the new indigenous revolution taking place on the continent. A few quotes to illustrate this design:
The Church must end its “genocidal and ethnocidal alliance” with the ruling system – The second ecumenical consultation of Latin American indigenous pastoral was held in Quito in July 1986. On this occasion, representatives of 30 indigenous “nationalities” from 13 countries of the continent supported by the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI, an agency of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil), Protestant sects grouped in the “Latin American Committee of Churches” (CLAI) ) and EATWOT (Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians), launched an Indigenous Manifesto.
Its text officially states their “total refusal of the triumphalist celebrations” of the Fifth Centenary and calls for a commitment by the “churches” to end “an evangelization and pastoral alliance with the dominant system, genocidal or ethnocidal of natives and others oppressed sectors” (Cultures et foi, no. 130-131, summer 1989, pp. 17-18, apud Berten and Luneau, p. 92).
Should the Church “assume” pagan religions? – The Bishops of Bolivia recommend “insisting to focus on … evangelization from the standpoint of oppressed cultures.” “Our Church,” they add, “must enter into dialogue with the Native Religions [NR: caps from the original] to understand their profound meaning, valuing and assuming what is positive, and offering the Gospel as a fullness of God’s Revelation” (BCCs, p. 24).
Towards “a Church with an Indigenous Face”? – The Bishop of Xingu (Brazilian Amazon) and president of CIMI (Indigenous Missionary Council, attached to the CNBB), Most Rev. Erwin Kräutler, stated to the Spanish daily EI País: “The Church must make an examination of conscience and not celebrate a discovery which Bartolomeu de Las Casas called a ‘coverup’” (El Pais, Madrid, April 29, 1991).
He stated that “you only discover what did not exist and [that] in America there were 90 million indigenous people and 70 million were exterminated,” and “the Church has historical blame in all this.” And he added that “Indigenous peoples lost their identity when they became Christians, and in Latin America there is still no Church with an indigenous face,” which we must now move towards (ibid.).
Promoting a total revolution – Most Rev. Leónidas Proaño, Bishop of Riobamba (Ecuador), said: “The Indians of America – more than 40 million – have begun to open their eyes and become aware of themselves. They began to recover their speech and to speak forcefully They began to stand and walk. … They consider that the celebration of the 500 anniversary of the ‘discovery’ of America cannot be the object of pompous and triumphalist festivities, as the governments and Churches of Spain, Europe and Latin America claim” (Culture et Foi, no. 130-131, summer 1989, pp. 17-19, apud Berten and Luneau, p. 93).
The goal of this indigenous mobilization is a total revolution: “The only way left for the peoples of Latin America to change the so-called ‘established order’ is an authentic revolution … global, radical, rapid” (Proaño, p. 15).
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From the lips of some of its leading exponents, these are some essential and extremely serious accusations that the Catholic left hurls at the missionary and civilizing work of the Church in America.
As the Bishop of Lomas de Zamora (Argentina), Most Rev. Desiderio E. Collino pointed out, these accusations are “the product of two mental situations: ignorance and ideologies” of a revolutionary character (AICA, May 6, 1992, p. 4).
In the next chapters of this work, the reader will see how the Church gives these accusations a luminous and triumphant denial.
(Excerpts from the book, The Fifth Centenary Facing the Twenty-First Century – Authentic Christendom or Tribal-Communist Revolution, pp. 15- 26)