In a wide-ranging interview with journalist Edward Pentin, Roman correspondent of the National Catholic Register, Cardinal Gerhard Müller commented that in the Instrumentum laboris for the next Special Synod for the Amazon “not all of the ideas accord with basic elements of Catholic theology, especially the conception of religion”.
In his momentous statement of June 27, published by kath.net, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller was more candid and accused the coming Special Synod’s Instrumentum laboris of none other than heresy and a call to apostasy. According to the German prelate, the document invites Synod participants to sing the hymn of adoration to nature that once thrilled National Socialist youths, to praise fetishist religions and healing rituals as a model of relationship with the cosmos and the divine, to canonize the abolition of celibacy and to introduce female ordination; in short, to transform the Mystical Body of Christ into a vulgar eco-communist NGO.
This vigorous statement was met by an astounding silence from the accused party. As Thomas More would have put it: Qui tacet consentit, “silence means assent”.
The problem for those who penned the Instrumentum laboris is that they could not deny, and not even dispute Cardinal Brandmüller’s indictment. The synopsis here below proves it.
1. A panentheistic cosmology
The Instrumentum laboris affirms that Indigenous theology and Ecotheology ought to be integrated in the formation of ordained ministers as well as in all educational institutions (n°98). Indigenous theology wishes to incorporate the panentheistic cosmology and religious myths of the Amerindians into Catholic theology. Ecotheology is openly panentheistic, i.e. it holds the belief “that God resides in the world God made, and all creation resides within God who made it since nothing can exist outside of God. Therefore, creation is reverenced as a worthy gift of a loving and generous God” (Sr. Sharon Therese Zayac, O.P., Earth Spirituality, p. 37-38). As a consequence of their panentheism (which is nothing but a disguised form of pantheism), both theologies and the Instrumentum laboris promote a newly pagan re-sacralisation of “Mother Earth” or Gaia and praise the Indigenous cosmology and religious myths:
– Life and “good living” are characterized by “inter-communication”, by “the connectivity and harmony of relationships” between “the whole cosmos – nature, men, the supreme being” (with lower case!) and the “various spiritual forces” (???) (n°12 & 13). This worldview is captured in the “mantra” of pope Francis: “everything is connected” (n°20 & 25) and free people “from a fragmentary vision of reality, which is not capable of perceiving multiple connections, inter-relationships and interdependencies” (n°95);
– The contemplative look of the aboriginal people allows them to discover how all parts “are dimensions that constitutively exist in relation, forming a vital whole” (n°21) and therefore helps them to walk towards the “holy hill”, the “land without evil” where men “live in communion with nature as a whole” (n°18) and where “a cosmic dimension of experience palpitates within the families”, teaching them how to enter “in dialogue with the spirits” (n°75);
– The knowledge and wisdom of the “elderly healers” (n°88 & 89) and their beliefs and rites regarding the “actions of spirits”, of the “many-named divinity” acting with and in relation to nature (n°25), are essential for integral health, because “they create harmony and balance between human beings and the cosmos” and “help to cure diseases” (n°87);
– On the opposite, “to abuse nature is to abuse the ancestors, the brothers and sisters, creation and the Creator” (n°26); therefore we must listen “to the cry of ‘Mother Earth’” (n°146), stop the extermination of “Mother Earth” (n°17) and respect the Amazon people right to live healthily in harmony with “Mother Earth” (n°85).
2. Indigenous pagan myths are part of God’s Revelation and an alternative pathway for salvation
From the panentheistic concept of a God intertwined in his own creation and not transcendent to it derives a heterodox concept of Revelation akin of that of Modernism and Liberation Theology, i.e. that God continues to self-communicate throughout history in the conscience of the peoples and particularly in their earthly struggles. Therefore, the Church must listen to the voice of the Spirit speaking mainly through the sign of the times.
Following the tenets of Indigenous Theology, the Instrumentum laboris considers the pagan myths of the Amazon tribes as an expression of God’s Revelation and calls for an attitude of dialogue and acceptance of those superstitions. In accordance with Ecotheology, the document considers nature as another place of Revelation and encourages listening to “the cry of the Mother Earth”:
– The Amazon is an “epiphanic place,”i.e. “a place of meaning for faith or the experience of God in history,” a theological place where faith is lived, and also a particular source of God’s revelation,” a place where “the ‘caresses of God’ become manifest and become incarnate in history” (n°19);
– The Synod of the Amazon “is a great opportunity for the Church to discover the incarnate and active presence of God” in “the spirituality of original peoples” (n°33), recognizing in them “other avenues / pathways that seek to decipher the inexhaustible mystery of God” (n°39);
– Actually, “the Creator Spirit who ﬁlls the universe (Wis 7:1) is the one that has nurtured the spirituality of these peoples for centuries, even before the proclamation of the Gospel, and moves them to accept it from within their own cultures and traditions”, where the “seeds of the Word” present in them have “grown and borne fruit” (n°120);
– Therefore, “it is necessary to grasp what the Spirit of the Lord has taught these peoples throughout the centuries: faith in the God Father-Mother Creator; communion and harmony with the earth; (…) the wisdom of civilizations going back thousands of years that the elderly possess and which inﬂuences (…) the living relationship with nature and ‘Mother Earth’ (…) relationships with ancestors” (n°121);
– A sincere “openness to the other” (n°39), foundation of a true dialogue, must then avoid imposing “petrified doctrines” (n°38), i.e. “formulations of faith expressed with other cultural referents that do not respond to their [the aborigine’s ] lived reality” (n°120), as well as “the corporatist attitude, that reserve salvation exclusively for one’s own creed,” acknowledging that “love lived in any religion pleases God” (n°39);
– Because of “the inscrutability of the reality and mystery of the presence of God,” as well as because “dialogue is Pentecostal,” it is in this “encounter with the other” that the Church will be journeying “in search of its identity towards unity in the Holy Spirit” (n°40);
– From the Amazon people, she will particularly learn “the sacred meaning of the territory” (n°121) and how to listen to “the cry of Mother Earth” (n°146), i.e. “the Amazon’s cry of pain” which “echoes the cry of the people enslaved in Egypt whom God does not abandon” (n°23), because “the Spirit speaks in the voice of the poor; the Church must listen to them because they are a locus of theological thought” (n°144).
3. Inculturation and intercultural dialogue must replace evangelization
For the Instrumentum laboris, since aboriginal people already received God’s revelation through their own ancestral wisdom and already experience God’s immanent presence in the cosmos, the Church in the Amazon shall undergo a “missionary and pastoral conversion”: instead of “imposing” from the outside a “monolitic faith” that does not correspond to the traditional culture of the people, She must recognize the value of their narratives, enter into an intercultural dialogue with them and adopt a syncretistic, “Amazonian face” by enriching herself with their original myths, symbols, and rites.
– The proclamation of Jesus Christ presupposes “a welcoming and missionary Church that is incarnated in cultures”(n°105): “Christians from one culture go out to meet people from other cultures (interculturality)”, “discovering there ‘seeds of the Word’” and thus opening “new paths of the Spirit” (n°108);
– Such “outgoing Church” rejects “a monocultural, clericalist and colonial tradition that imposes itself” and avoids the risk of “pronouncing a univocal word [or] proposing a solution with universal value” and the application of “a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance” (n°110);
– “The inculturation of faith is not a top-down process or an external imposition, but a mutual enrichment of cultures in dialogue (interculturality). The active subjects of inculturation are the indigenous peoples themselves” (n°122).
– To achieve that mutual enrichment, it is appropriate to start, not from the Gospel, but “from the spirituality lived by the indigenous peoples in contact with nature and their culture,” recognizing “indigenous spirituality as a source of riches for the Christian experience” and undertaking “a catechesis that assumes the language and meaning of the narratives of the indigenous and Afro-descendant cultures”(n°123);
– By mutually sharing “their lives, their struggles, their concerns and their experiences of God,” believers engaged in interreligious dialogue make “their differences a stimulus to grow and deepen their own faith” (n°136) [Thus, the neo-missionary supposedly deepens his Christian faith, while the aboriginal people deepen their ancestral paganism…]
4. A “Church with Amazonic face” must recognize the ministries that already exist in indigenous communities and adapt hers
An Amazonian-born provincial superior of religious Sisters declared: “When I go to an indigenous community that has a shaman, who has his ministers in different ways, I wonder what we have to take to the ministries we learned with the Western Church.” The Instrumentum laboris supports that approach and intends to open the door to the ordination of married leaders of the community as second-class priests who will have a similar status of one Protestant pastor:
– “Room is now opening up to recreate ministries appropriate to this historical moment” (n°43). This demands “’brave’ proposals” and “deepening the ‘process of inculturation’” (n°106) overcoming “the rigidity of a discipline that excludes and alienates” (n°126);
– As “communities ﬁnd it difﬁcult to celebrate the Eucharist frequently because of the lack of priests (…) change is requested in the criteria for selecting and preparing ministers authorized to celebrate the Eucharist” (n°126);
– Since cultures of the Amazon have “a pronounced sense of community, equality and solidarity” and “a rich tradition of social organization where authority is rotational”, it would be opportune “to reconsider the notion that exercise of jurisdiction (power of government) must be linked in all areas (sacramental, judicial, administrative) and in a permanent way to the sacrament of Holy Orders” (n°127);
– The possibility of priestly ordination should be studied “for older people, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by their community, even if they have an existing and stable family” (n°129);
– Local Protestant pastors “are showing us another way of being church where the people feel that they are the protagonists and where the faithful can express themselves freely without censorship or dogmatism or ritual disciplines”, because “they are people like the others, easy to meet, who live the same problems and become ‘closer to’ and less ‘different from’ the rest of the community” (n°138). This model of light priesthood is better suitable since “clericalism is not accepted in all its guises” (n°127);
– Furthermore, the Church must “identify the type of ofﬁcial ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role they play today in the Church in the Amazon” (n°129);
– “The celebration of the faith must be carried out in an inculturated way so that it may be an expression of one’s own religious experience (…) a sounding board for the struggles (…) and a transforming impulse towards a ‘land without evil’” (n°125);
– “Rites, symbols and styles of celebration of indigenous cultures in contact with nature” need to be integrated into “liturgical and sacramental rituals” that favour “communion with nature and with the community” (n°126); therefore, “it is proposed to value traditional medicine, the wisdom of the elders and indigenous rituals” (n°89);
– Because “the Amazon people have the right to health and to ‘live healthily’, which means harmony ‘with what Mother Earth offers us’” (n°84), recognition should be given to “indigenous rituals and ceremonies [that] are essential for integral health because (…) they create harmony and balance between human beings and the cosmos (… and) they help to cure diseases that harm the environment, human life and other living beings” (n°87).
– To this end, indigenous peoples rely on “elderly healers” who “specialize in observing nature and in listening to and collecting the knowledge of the elderly, especially women” (n°88).
5. Degrading the human person in the name of “integral ecology”
Following the canons of Ecotheology, the Instrumentum laboris rejects Christian anthropocentrism in creation and considers the human person just a link in the ecological chain. It views socioeconomic development as an aggression to nature and calls for an integral ecological conversion which entails a penurious lifestyle.
– “The culture of the Amazon, which integrates human beings with nature, constitutes a benchmark for building a new paradigm of integral ecology” (n°56), according to which “human beings are part of the ecosystems”, the care of which “is essential” (n°48) and “entails acknowledging the proper limit of creatureliness and therefore an attitude of humility since we are not outright owners” (n°55);
– “In the words of the indigenous people themselves: ‘We, the indigenous people of Guaviare (Colombia), are part of nature because we are water, air, earth and life of the environment created by God. Therefore, we ask that the mistreatment and extermination of ‘Mother Earth’ cease. The earth has blood and is bleeding, the multinationals have cut the veins of our ‘Mother Earth’. We want our indigenous cry to be heard by the Whole world” (IL, n°17).
– “A fundamental aspect of the root of human sin is to detach oneself from nature and not recognize it as part of the human and to exploit nature without limits”” (n°99), while “the wisdom of indigenous peoples” and their daily life “teach us to recognize ourselves as part of the biome and as co-responsible for its present and future care”(n°102);
– “The original peoples of the Amazon have much to teach us. We recognize that for thousands of years they have taken care of their land, water and forest, and have managed to preserve them until today so that humanity can beneﬁt from enjoying God’s free giﬁs of creation” (n°29).
– We should “listen to the cry of ‘Mother Earth’ assaulted and seriously wounded by the economic model of predatory and ecocidal development” and “change our consumption habits” (IL, n°146), undertaking “a personal and communal asceticism that allows us to ‘cultivate a sober and satisfying life’ (LS 225)”.
6. Collectivism of tribal communitarian structures
The “good living” promoted by the Instrumentum laboris refers to the collective social model of the aboriginal tribes – where individual personality and freedom are compressed – and is judged to be the one that better expresses both their panentheistic cosmology and their integral ecological attitude towards nature.
– “The sumak kawsay [‘good living’] concept has been forged from the ancestral wisdom of the indigenous peoples and nations. It is an experienced, older and more actual Word, which proposes a community lifestyle where all FEEL, THINK and ACT the same, like a woven thread that sustains, wraps and protects, like a poncho of different colors” (Appeal “The Cry of the Sumak Kawsay in Amazonia” referred to in note 5 of n°12).
– “The Amazon is where there’s the possibility of ‘good living’, and the promise and hope of new paths for life. Life in the Amazon is integrated and united with the territory; there is no separation or division between the parts. This unity includes all of existence: work, rest, human relationships, rites and celebrations. Everything is shared; private spaces, so typical of modernity, are minimal. Life proceeds on a communal path where tasks and responsibilities are distributed and shared for the sake of the common good. There is no place for the idea of an individual detached from the community or its territory” (IL, n°24).
– The Church must “respect the proper mode of community organization” and assist processes that “start from the family/clan/community to promote the common good, helping to overcome structures that alienate” (n°79).
In view of everything that precedes we cannot but make ours the closing paragraph of Cardinal Bandmüller’s statement:
“The Instrumentum Laboris for the Amazon Synod constitutes an attack on the foundations of the Faith, and in a way that has not heretofore been thought possible. Thus it must be rejected with all decisiveness.”