A new order for society is to be based on tribal organization, for Indians live in a community of goods, a complete absence of wages, bosses, etc. The tribe alone prevails, absorbing almost all individual liberties.
Unlike the traditional Catholic view of the missions, a recent and active ideological trend of neo-missionaries, indigenists, ecologists, anthropologists and pseudo-historians preaches the dismantling of present-day society and a return to the hut. This current also has the participation of liberation theologians, pastoral workers and grassroots communities, in addition to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and the support of large universities, mainly in Europe, and of powerful international groups that help finance their activities.
While claiming to be highly advanced, these people actually preach going back several centuries in history by hoisting the primitive and pagan tribe as a model of community and social life.
Neo-missionaries, bishops and avant-garde ecclesiastical organizations such as the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) and the Pastoral Commission on Land (CPT), both agencies of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB), were actively working to foster communist-tribalism as early as the 1970s.
With great foresight, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira denounced this current at the time in his book, Indian Tribalism: The Communist-Missionary Ideal for Brazil in the Twenty-First Century, which serves as doctrinal foundation to this article.
Based on extensive documentation, the work traces the ideological physiognomy of the communist-tribal current that now seeks to gain respectability.
Progressive conception of the missions
Quite different from the traditional Catholic concept of missions, the main objective of this ‘updated missiology’ is not to evangelize the heathen for the salvation of souls, but to create a new order for society.
This current’s activists denounce “selfishness” as their main adversary, thus operating a complete reversal of values between the individual and society. According to neo-missiology, this reversal occurs inasmuch as man, breaking his bond with the collectivity, pursues the goal of creating a fruitive, appropriative and competitive situation for himself. Selfishness would thus create an unjust structure with privileges, inequalities, subjection, marginalization etc., and thus must be dismantled.
Now, according to traditional Catholic doctrine, man has a tendency to selfishness but is not all selfishness, which is only a moral deformity in him. Man has an immortal end in himself and a transcendent end in God. The solution to selfishness does not consist (as neo-missionaries claim) to have the community absorb all individual freedoms.
Many missionaries, under the influence of progressive and leftist tendencies and opinions, have spread a false idea about the living conditions of the natives, in which primitivism and stagnation are the dominant note.
To them, the Indian seems wise and his tribal organization the model to be followed by civilized people. Why? Because life is very similar to life in a utopian communist society: community of goods, complete absence of profit, capital, wages, employers, employees and institutions of any kind. The tribe alone prevails, absorbing all non-fruitive individual liberties, and men live satisfied and without problems because they have stripped themselves of their ‘self’ and their “selfishness.”
According to this neo-missiology, the Gospel already permeates the tribal sphere completely, so there is no need to announce it to the natives. The goal of the “up-to-date” neomissionary is to rid the Indian of the “contagion” of civilization imposed on him by the colonizers and missionaries of old.
Spokesmen for neo-missiology
The reader will naturally wish to get to know some texts in which neo-missiology institutions, personalities and agencies directly express their thinking. We have selected a few excerpts from a vast compilation, which we will present without comments (as Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira does in his book) due to the narrow limits of this article.
Here is one of the conclusions of the First National Assembly on Indigenous Pastoral: “The Indians already live the Beatitudes: they do not know private property, profit, competition.”
From the document titled “The Indian Y-Juca-Pirama, the One Who Must Die,” signed by bishops and missionaries: “A tribal paradise where the property of the means of production is collective and there is no authority….‘Updated’ missiology inspires a radical transformation of our society.”
From the Pastoral Plan of the Amazon Bishops: “The main mission of the Church is not to convert the Indians to the Religion of Jesus Christ, but to preserve their tribal status.”
From CIMI’s Second Region North Meeting in Mato Grosso:
“Evangelization is secondary to missionaries who despise the work of Anchieta.”
Testimony of Most Rev. Tomás Balduino, Bishop of Goiás Velho: “Indigenous peoples are the true evangelizers of the world…. Living in a communal regime, the Indians do not need the Church.”
Statement by the Indigenous Missionary Council: “The American Indian is the only true lord of the lands.”
From the Pastoral Commission on Land:
“Indians and squatters should strive to promote agrarian agitation in the country.”
Against the conquest and evangelization of America
Leading proponents of Liberation Theology and advocates of missionary and indigenist neo-tribalism have condemned the conquest and evangelization of America. They seek to denigrate the great civilizing and Christianizing work Portugal and Spain have done on our continent, claiming that this constituted the greatest physical and cultural genocide in history. They speak of a “resistance of 500 years,” demand indemnifications for the half-millennium of European “occupation”, and even propose to create territories with sovereign governments to restore tribal collectivism among Indians.
Thus, for the Bishop of Crateus, Most Rev. Antonio Fragoso, the discovery of America must be understood as “a disrespectful invasion which has caused the genocide of almost all the 70 million Indians here. We want the Church to ask public forgiveness and to try and recover the cultures that have been destroyed. The Catholic Church must admit that it was an accomplice in the destruction of Latin America, in an alliance between the colonizing and the evangelizing projects” (“CNBB Proposes Doing Penance for the ‘Invasion of America’”, in O Globo, Rio de Janeiro, May 6, 1992).
Most Rev. Erwin Krautler, Bishop of Xingu and President of CIMI: “The Church must make an examination of conscience and not celebrate discovery, for there were 90 million Indians in America and 70 million were exterminated. The Church has an historical guilt in all this. The Indians lost their identity when they became Christians, and a Church with an indigenous face does not yet exist in Latin America” (EI Pais, Madrid, April 29, 1992).
The true doctrine on evangelization
Facing the novelties preached by such neomissionaries, it is essential that the true Catholic doctrine about this matter be made known. In a striking continuity, the Roman Pontiffs, from Alexander VI to John Paul II, spoke on the theme of the controversy of history, so as not to leave doubt.
Whoever goes through the papal documents since the first century of colonization will see how much the Popes praised its great civilizing work and the meticulous care the Church took correcting abuses committed, respecting the natural rights of the Indians and their way of life in its legitimate and useful aspects.
At the close of the International Symposium on the History of America in the Vatican on March 14, 1992, John Paul II reaffirmed the teachings of his predecessors and recapitulated the “foundations of Christian colonization” developed by Friar Francisco Vitoria (1480-1546), a Spanish Dominican of the famous School of Salamanca.
The Pontiff points out that “according to the doctrine laid down by Vitoria, in virtue of their right to society and natural communication, the most gifted men and peoples had a duty to help those most backward and underdeveloped.” Vitoria thus justified the intervention of Portugal and Spain in America. Therefore, nothing is more opposed to the position of neomissionaries.
Note: This is the last of a three-article series. The previous two were published in Catolicismo n° 530, February 1995: “The Catechesis of the Indians in the History of Brazil” and n° 533, May 1995: “The Epic Missionary Endeavor to Form Portuguese-Brazilian Christianity.”
1) Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Tribalismo indígena, ideal comuno-missionário para o Brasil no Século XXI, Editora Vera Cruz, São Paulo, 1979.
2) Gustavo Gutierrez et al., “1492-1992, A Voz das Vítimas”, Concilium, n° 232, Vozes, Petrópolis, 1990.
3) “Culturas oprimidas e a evangelização na América Latina”, 8° Encontro lntereclesial de CEBs, Santa Maria (RS), 1992.