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But Are Amazon Natives Already Saved?

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In previous posts about the upcoming Amazon Synod, I have repeatedly expressed the well-founded impression that the Amazonian peoples do not seem to need salvation. The Instrumentum laboris and official media hype present them as already saved and that it is the Church that should expect salvation from them. The Church must acquire an “Amazonian face,” rather than give the Amazon a “Catholic face.” The independent variable is the Amazonian context and not the apostolic faith. One rightly wonders: But then why do they need more priests in the Amazon to the point of ordaining even married men, as Andrea Tornielli recently pointed out? This question is far from stupid: Why do we need more priests if the problem is not to baptize people but dialogue with their culture and let them teach us how to solve the problems of Mother Earth?

When asking these curious questions, we become increasingly aware that the synod will touch upon many doctrinal and even dogmatic contents of the Catholic faith. Hence, the great alarm and prayer initiatives such as the one scheduled for October 5 in Rome. One of these primary contents is the question of “pure nature” and the relationship between nature and supra-nature. These are formidable theological questions on which the synod will be measured, although many believe it will only be about protecting biodiversity in the “green lung of the earth” and the various indigenous minorities.

So why raise the “pure nature” question? If the Amazon peoples do not need salvation and conversion, it means their nature is not pure (being only nature) but is already grace and therefore they are already saved or otherwise ordered ontologically to salvation. From this it follows that the life of grace is “due” to them by virtue of their nature, which is constitutively made such by grace. It also follows that grace is not gratuitous but in some way due to everyone by virtue of nature. Here then it would make sense to believe that the Amazonian peoples are somehow already saved.

Certainly, few think that the Amazon Synod has to do with things so fundamental as to require great names of the past like Henri de Lubac. He was the first to deny the possibility that a “pure nature” could exist. He did so in his famous 1946 book, Surnaturel, and in 1965 with his work, The Mystery of the Supernatural. Let us recall that in his encyclical Humani generis, of 1950, on “False opinions threatening to undermine Catholic doctrine,” Pope Pius XII warned against a new theology (nouvelle théologie), which endangered the gratuitousness of divine grace concerning human nature, and some false opinions “threatening to destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order, since God, they say, cannot create intellectual beings without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision.”

There was a complex discussion about Henri de Lubac. Cardinal Siri, in his 1980 book Gethsemane is certain that by denying the doctrine of pure nature, the Jesuit theologian confuses the natural with the supernatural, considers the supernatural order as a debt to nature, and opens up to absolute anthropocentrism, in that God would reveal his Son in man. Salvation would already be contained in human nature. If the discussion on de Lubac can still be considered open, the one on Karl Rahner cannot. In the latter, it is very clear that men are already saved by nature, and the distinction between natural and supernatural disappears. Man’s nature consists in always being placed within a historical context in which the supernatural is always present. The Spirit is in the world; man is intimately ordered to the supernatural present in his existence previously ordered to grace; man has the capacity to receive the grace present in the context of his existence. Nature is never pure but always in the supernatural order even if man is incredulous, an atheist, believer in other religions, a sinner, nor can man ever leave it. If this is so, we understand that the historical and existential situation of the Amazonian peoples is already in supernatural grace, and those brothers of ours are already saved.

In his manual of Catholic dogmatics titled La verità è sintetica (The Truth Is Synthetic) (Cantagalli, Siena 2017), Mauro Gagliardi clearly explains the correct doctrine about nature and supra-nature. On pages 334 and following, he explains that grace is neither added to nature nor requires it. Man was created religious, and this natural dimension can, but does not have to be, filled by grace: “God manifests the intention to give grace to nature and therefore already predisposes nature to receive it, although this passive capacity or predisposition is part of nature, and not grace as such.”

Many elements suggest that the Synod’s Instrumentum laboris does not fit correctly into this vision of the relationship between natural and supernatural but expresses the theological deviations begun by de Lubac and concluded by Rahner.

SourceLa Nuova Bussola Quotidiana

Translated by the staff of panamazonsynodwatch.com

© Reproduction is authorized provided the source is acknowledged.

Positions and concepts emitted in signed articles are the sole responsibility of their authors.

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