Synod on the Amazon, or ‘amazonization’ of the Church?
Imagine the consequences for civilization and the world’s progress had Saint Remigius told Clovis: “There’s no need to burn the gods you worship because they represent immemorial values of the original culture of your people.”
Or if Saint Boniface, the apostle of what would become Germany, had not burned before the Germanic people the oak they worshiped for considering that hiding in it were forces in harmony with nature that should be respected.
Even worse, imagine that Saints Peter and Paul, upon arriving in Rome, had said that the gods Manes, Lares and Penates represented ancestral cultural values that should not be lost.
Had the early apostles done so, following their example, the missionaries who later traveled with Hernan Cortes, instead of washing the blood off the pyramid of human sacrifices would have found in those bellicose Indians some highly recoverable aspects of the “seeds of the Word.”
For their part, Pizarro’s companions would have considered that the Incas should not abandon their customs and, rather than receive the Gospel, they themselves should be taught by those Indians so full of innate wisdom.
Had all that happened, there would have been neither civilization nor Christendom. Today we would be nomadic peoples mired in backwardness, barbarism and multi-secular stagnation.
Actually, this hypothesis is so absurd that it is even hard to imagine that if it would be possible.
However, the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) for the Synod on the Amazon, released last week, holds positions very similar to those imagined above.
Its whole writing is impregnated with an outdated vision of Rousseau’s ‘noble savage’. It sees the Indians in general and Amazon tribes in particular as peoples untouched by the corruption of the West, from whom we must learn, rather than teach.
Let us see some of its statements:
On evangelization, it argues that, “The indigenous 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 to this day so that humanity can benefit from the joy of the free gifts of God’s creation. The new paths of evangelization must be constructed in dialogue with these ancestral wisdoms in which the seeds of the Word are manifested.”
Tribal communitarianism in communion with the environment is the kind of civilization to which the IL seems to aspire: “The life of the Amazonian communities not yet reached by the influence of Western civilization is reflected in beliefs and rites regarding the action of the spirits, of the divinity – named in countless ways – with and in the territory, with and in relation to nature. This worldview is summarized in Francisco’s ‘mantra’: ‘Everything is integrated’.” Note that “divinity named in countless ways” refers to the general pantheistic vision of those tribes, for whom God is confused with all things visible and with the earth, which Pacific tribes call “Pachamama”.
However, for the IL’s editors this reality is characterized by “the original diversity offered by the Amazonian region – biological, religious and cultural – [which] evokes a new Pentecost,” “a paradigm, a hope for the world.”
Naturally, if admiration for Amazon tribal life means “a new Pentecost,” civilization and progress are the “Old Man” of whom Saint Paul speaks and from whom we must free ourselves: “Both the accelerated phenomenon of urbanization and the expansion of the agricultural frontier through agribusiness and even the abuse of natural assets … add to the aforementioned injustices.”
Note that the document puts urbanization and agriculture on the same level with the “injustices” of abusing natural assets. This gives the impression that all that must end, as “it provokes a crisis of hope.”
The IL editors’ euphoric enthusiasm for this type of tribal life leads them to present it as a lesson for the Church and the world: “This is a great opportunity for the Church to discover the incarnate and active presence of God: In the most different manifestations of creation; in the spirituality of the original peoples; in expressions of popular religiosity; in the different popular organizations that resist the big projects; and in the proposal of a productive, sustainable and solidary economy that respects nature.”
The expressions used by the Synod’s Working Document present as bad any “big project” without distinction and exalt “popular organizations that resist” them as an example to imitate. This condemnation of any mining investment that uses resources in an industrial and lucrative way is aligned, among others, with the speeches of the extreme left of the Continent.
The Working Document presents the divine mandate “Going therefore, teach ye all nations,” on a “dialoguing” key. One must “recognize the other paths that seek to unveil the unfathomable mystery of God. An insincere opening to neighbor and a corporatist attitude that reserves salvation exclusively to one’s own creed are destructive of the same creed.”
In other words, Revelation and the message of salvation that Our Divine Redeemer taught us is only one of the many ways of “unveiling the unfathomable mystery of God.” Clinging to Him in a “corporatist” — read Catholic – attitude is to “destroy one’s own creed,” that is, Catholicism. This completely upends the entire mission that the Church carried out in her twenty centuries of apostolate.
While this article lacks the space to transcribe the various proposals of the Working Document, it is enough to show that the latter can subvert all the centuries-old fruits of civilization and progress, returning us to a situation like the imagined at the beginning of this commentary:
“Do not burn what you adore,” fiery Sicambrian; rather, let us dialogue.