Imperial and Royal Highness, Highness,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have been collaborating with the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute for many years and thank its directors for honoring me with the invitation to address such a select audience today.
The theme I will cover is titled, “The Amazonian Face: a Mask that Hides an Apostasy.” The preparatory documents for the Synod that begins tomorrow use the expression “a Church with an Amazonian face” twelve times in various contexts, meaning an “’outgoing’ Church rejecting a monocultural, clericalist and colonial tradition that imposes itself” (no. 110).
This deliberate formulation — “Church with an Amazonian face” — raises a previous question: does the Church have a face? What is her expression? The answer seems easy to me: if the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, her face can only be that of her Head. Accordingly, Most Rev. Marian Eleganti, auxiliary bishop of Chur, in an interview with LifeSiteNews rightly stated:
“As the face of the Church, I wish that we have the Face of Christ as presented to us in the Gospels. In this sense, there exists for me not a Church ‘with an Amazonian face’ … Rather, the Face of Christ should become visible in all cultures of the world. But for this, they first have to convert to Him.”
In his meditation for the sixth station of the Via Crucis, “Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus,” Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira explains the main aspects in which the Church reflects the Divine Face of Our Lord in all its splendor:
“There is a grace which is more valuable than having the Holy Face of the Savior stamped on a veil. The representation of the Divine Face was made on the veil as in a painting. In the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, His Face is reflected as in a mirror. In her institutions, in her doctrine, in her laws, in her unity, in her universality, in her unsurpassable catholicity, the Church is a true mirror in which our Divine Savior is reflected.”
Now, it is precisely in the above aspects that the “Church with an Amazonian face” cherished by the Synod’s promoters no longer reflects the sacred Face of Jesus Christ:
– The new ecclesial institutions promoting it aim to eliminate not only priestly celibacy, but the hierarchical character of the Church;
– It is based on a doctrine which merely an indigenous derivative of Liberation Theology;
– The new proposed laws will even allow shamanic rituals in the liturgy;
– They also deny the unity of the Church by creating indigenous churches, each closed in its cultural ghetto;
– They deny the universality and catholicity of the Church because they reject evangelization in the name of “intercultural dialogue” and place proclamation at the service of paganism, pantheistic ecologism, and tribal collectivism.
In short, it is a true invitation to apostasy, as Cardinal Walter Brandmüller has denounced when referring to the Instrumentum laboris.
Does this assessment appear too severe? I think that, after briefly studying only two aspects of the heresies mentioned by the German cardinal – Indigenous theology and the new egalitarian and tribal priesthood that it promotes – it will become clear that it is not.
1. Indigenous Theology and Intercultural Dialogue, Prelude to a Return to Paganism
Paragraph 98 of the Instrumentum laboris formally requires “The teaching of Pan-Amazon indigenous theology is requested in all educational institutions” since this “will allow for a better and greater understanding of indigenous spirituality … to take into account the original myths, traditions, symbols, knowledge, rites and celebrations that include transcendent, community and ecological dimensions.”
Well, what is the indigenous theology that should now be taught?
After being condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and, even more so after the collapse of the Soviet empire, Liberation Theology fell into such discredit that it had to be re-invented in the form of various currents. These currents correspond to the so-called visible minorities, which in Marxist parlance should act as the new historical agents of the revolution: feminist theology, queer theology, African theology, eco-theology, etc. Indigenous Theology is nothing but one of these various derivatives.
As the indigenous priest and theologian Vicente Zaruma of the Cañari ethnic group in Ecuador underlined, “while liberation theology” emphasized “social class” and “was concerned about the material aspect of the human being,” Indigenous Theology “is concerned about the spiritual part of the people …. The arena of struggle is above all culture and religion” (Gramsci would say it is the struggle for “cultural hegemony”). However, according to Father Zaruma, “the two concerns do not contradict each other but are complementary” because “Indigenous theology cannot take place without liberation.”
Class struggle remains the key to interpreting reality, but this time it is the struggle of aboriginal peoples, who must preserve their ancient pagan culture against the European colonialism of missionaries. The Mexican indigenous priest Eleazar López, who calls himself the “obstetrician” of this theological school, explains that Indian Theology seeks to “recover the religious thought of indigenous peoples before their encounter with Christianity.” He says that today indigenous theology has two major aspects: “Indigenous-Indigenous Theology, which is done without intervention of the Christian element [i.e., patently pagan] — some call it Original or Purely Indigenous Theology — and Indigenous-Christian theology developed in the context of the dialogue between what is indigenous and what is Christian” to “rescue or innovate theological schemes that allow the peaceful coexistence of both religious and theological forms.”
In reality, since it would be illusory to reach a syncretistic synthesis between the indigenous element and the Christian element at the theological level, Indigenous-Christian theology functions as a slippery slope leading to the paganism of Indigenous-Indigenous theology.
Father Eleazar López recognizes that “most of today’s indigenous myths … are of nomadic origin” and that “in the religious and theological scheme of nomadism, God is everything and everything has to do with God. God is the “Original Energy of life,” and mountains, rivers, caves, trees are nothing but members of his body. In other words, the indigenous religions of America are a form of pantheism under the guise of primitive polytheism, invoking sun and moon, spirits of the mountains, rivers, trees, etc.
The myths of aboriginal peoples are incompatible with the God of our Creed. As Father Joseph Goetz S.J., a professor at the Gregorian University once explained, “That which corresponds to the religious traditions of Amazonians is precisely what the Old Testament struggles against with prophetic violence. … A ‘supreme being’ … (very ambiguous word) is not automatically God for being superior to others. He must be the Creator of others and have absolute, universal sovereignty above any power: be ‘the Lord.’ If this idea is new, it cannot be silenced.”
Instead, Indigenous Theology teaches that one must silence the God of the Bible in the name of “intercultural dialogue.”
That is very clear in the writings of Father Paulo Suess, a German priest who lives in Brazil, professor of missiology and counselor at the Indigenous Missionary Council of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference. He is also a member of the pre-synodal Council and one of the Lineamenta editors.
According to Father Suess, “For human beings, the perception of reality always passes through a cultural ‘filter’ so that ‘extra culturam’ there is no revelation or salvation.” Note that salvation is not impossible outside the Church as the Fourth Lateran Council teaches, but rather outside one’s own culture. Therefore, he says, in a monocultural society that “lives its religion intimately united to its culture,” preaching the Gospel is tantamount to disconnecting religion from culture: “A Guarani who adheres to Christianity,” Father Suess complains, “must not only change religion. He is also obliged to change his cultural reference.” Because “the revelation of Jesus Christ as logos, for example, is an absolutely contextual and therefore cultural and historical ‘discovery’ valid for the Greek cultural world but not for Amazonian natives.”
Therefore, proclaiming the Gospel is equivalent to “introducing a new, competing or parallel memory” and “replacing indigenous religious memory with the memory of Israel.” Of course, this “would constitute a new attempt at colonization.”
Conversely, intercultural dialogue aims at having a “presence of witness and solidarity” with a people, “collaborating to strengthen their identity” and “accompanying them in the struggle.” Rather than conversion leading to purification and abandonment of false cultural values resulting from sin, “the only rupture that the Gospel proposes … is the duty to break infidelity to one’s life projects.” So for example, for the Yanomami Indians and twenty other ethnic groups, abandoning infanticide would be anti-evangelical because it would represent “infidelity to one’s life projects.”
It is not surprising that the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) of the Brazilian Bishops still keeps on its website the defense of infanticide presented by anthropologist Rita Segato at the Commission for Human Rights of the Brazilian House of Representatives, based on the principle that the right to life of indigenous peoples as a collective subject and their cultures has priority over the individual right to life of sacrificed children!
This false concept of “intercultural dialogue” leads the new missionaries to participate in pagan rituals and worship indigenous mythological divinities. Spanish Jesuit Bartomeu Meliá, the first head of indigenous pastoral ministry at the Paraguayan Bishops’ Conference, asked during Missionary Week 2013, “How far can we practice indigenous religions?” He replied: “The indigenous religions seem strange to us, but this does not eliminate the challenge of participating in religious spaces; yes, we can practice indigenous religion without denying our own, it also enlarges our hearts.”
The Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán denounced this renunciation of Christianity back in March, 2001 during the fifth plenary meeting of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. The then-president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care sternly lamented Indigenous Theology claims, that, “In Indian cultures, there is a real revelation. Therefore, there are two revelations, that of (Indian) traditions, and that of the Bible. First comes the history of the indigenous people then the Bible to support it. Indigenous traditions take precedence over the Bible. These traditions are the other Bible, a criterion of the Christian Bible. Traditions are the other revelation of God. The History of the indigenous people is their Old Testament. … We must not announce the Gospel, we must let the natives develop their religion so they discover Christ in their own values … We must free non-Christian Indigenous religions so they deal with Christianity on an equal footing … The Church must recognize that the path she has proposed is only one of many. Christianity must abdicate its claim to being the only way…The role of churches is not really so save man but to form his indigenous conscience. Indigenous culture is itself a savior.”
This denunciation did not have the expected effect. Now, not only avant-garde theologians and missionaries exalt paganism, but even a pre-synodal document asks that its writings be studied.
The Instrumentum laboris openly advocates the Indigenous’ pantheistic vision of the world: “The life of Amazon communities not yet influenced by Western civilization is reflected in the beliefs and rites regarding the actions of spirits, of the many-named divinity acting with and in the territory, with and in relation to nature. This worldview is captured in the ‘mantra’ of Francis: ‘everything is connected’” (No. 25).
Therefore, the Amazon region is an “epiphanic place,” a “theological place,” a “particular source of God’s revelation” (n ° 19). We must therefore listen to “the cry of ‘Mother Earth,’” that is, Pachamama, the totemic goddess of the Incas mentioned three times in the document (nos. 17, 85 and 146), for otherwise “To abuse nature is to abuse the ancestors, the brothers and sisters, creation and the Creator” (n. 26).
The Instrumentum laboris also embraces the fallacy of “intercultural dialogue” by stating that, “The Creator Spirit … 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” (no. 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” (No. 121).
The document also denies the uniqueness of the Gospel. Listening to the Spirit, it claims, leads to “recognizing other avenues / pathways that seek to decipher the inexhaustible mystery of God” and avoid “a corporatist attitude that reserves salvation exclusively for one’s own creed” (n. 39). Hence, “The inculturation of faith is not a top-down process or an external imposition, but a mutual enrichment of cultures in dialogue” (No. 122).
The word “conversion” appears 34 times in the Instrumentum laboris, but not once does it refer to a possible conversion of the natives (as is known, there are bishops and missionary congregations who boast of not having baptized any Indian for several decades). It always encourages an “integral ecological conversion” of the civilized, who are predators of nature on behalf of their supposed superiority. It also deals with an “ecclesial conversion” requiring the Church to make a self-criticism that leads her to “unlearning, learning and relearning” (No. 102). In other words, in the so-called “intercultural dialogue,” we are the ones who must be “evangelized” by letting ourselves be “surprised by the wisdom of indigenous peoples.” Why? Because they “teach us to recognize ourselves as part of the biome” (No. 102), which in turn forms “a real theological locus with great evangelizing potential” (No. 126). Welcome to the new church, adorer of epiphanic places!
2. The New Tribal Priesthood
Let us now see the very serious consequences that the planned “Amazonian and indigenous face” would have for the hierarchical structure of the Church. The latter is based, as is known, on the sacrament of Orders, which establishes not only a degree but also an ontological difference between the ministerial priesthood of clerics and the common priesthood of the faithful.
The proposal that “the possibility of priestly ordination be studied for older people, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by their community, even if they have an existing and stable family” (No. 129) has aroused much anxiety and great debate – and with good reason – as Bishop Athanasius Schneider has explained.
The paragraph of the Instrumentum laboris which states that “it would be opportune to reconsider the notion that the 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” (No.127) could cause even greater anxiety.
This paragraph takes up with technical jargon the proposal of Bishop Fritz Löbinger to invent a low-cost, temporary priesthood, limited to the borders of a community, through the ordination of people with the sole faculty of celebrating Mass and administering the sacraments, but lacking the power to teach or govern. On his return flight from World Youth Day in Panama, Pope Francis called this proposal “interesting.”
This proposal was already put forward in the years after the Council by condemned authors such as Hans Küng and Leonardo Boff, who asked that Eucharistic celebrations be presided over in rotation by members chosen by their communities.
Jesuits like Joseph Moingt and Paul de Meester – uncensored by the ecclesiastical authority – have also imagined this type of low-cost, local, and temporary priesthood parallel to the universal and permanent priesthood of seminary-trained celibate priests, who would assume the role of itinerant supervisors of the communities.
To avoid confusion between these two types of priests, Bishop Fritz Löbinger suggests that wherever different community leaders are ordained they form a team and take responsibility together so that all of them can continue to live like the rest of the local citizens. For Bishop Löbinger, it is “possible to combine two things: a secular profession and the priesthood.” Proof of this is that “there are thousands of part-time priests in many Christian churches” (he thus indirectly admits that his “community priests” are no different from a Protestant pastor).
The idea of a temporary priesthood limited to the community that chose it is heretical in that it denies that the sacrament of Holy Orders impresses an indelible character on those who receive the imposition of hands. It also denies that priesthood is for the whole Church and not just for a particular community.
Also theologically impossible would be the ordination of priests ad aeternum institutionally deprived of the munus regendi and munus docendi. The salvific mission of Jesus, Our Lord and Redeemer, was one, and so is the threefold power to teach, govern, and sanctify. The Sacrament through which this unique mission and unique power are transmitted is also one, and, therefore, inseparable.
Full ordination with a permanent canonical limitation of the exercise of some of its powers also would completely distort the notion of priesthood that Christ instituted in the eyes of Catholics and the public. Traditional priests would be a small minority and have only sporadic contacts with the communities, while low-cost priests would be the vast majority, in continuous contact with the faithful.
However, the offensive against the Catholic priesthood goes even further. They also seek women’s ordination and the granting of a variety of official ministries to the laity. Consequently, the difference between clergy and laity would practically disappear, transforming the Catholic Church, at best, into a Protestant church.
I say “at best” because the promoters of Indigenous Theology advocate granting official ministries to shamans and introducing witchcraft rituals in the liturgy.
According to the Instrumentum laboris, the rites of indigenous cultures “needs to be integrated into liturgical and sacramental rituals” (No. 126) because “They create harmony and balance between human beings and the cosmos” (No. 87). The LIneamenta evokes witchcraft by stating that, “Wise elders – called interchangeably “payés, mestres, wayanga or chamanes”, among others – promote the harmony of people among themselves and with the cosmos” (No. 6).
Sister Guaracema Tupinambá, born in the Amazon, and provincial superior of a religious congregation, is more explicit: “We need to understand what the existing ministries are and how we can … welcome (them) … When I go to an indigenous community that has a shaman, I wonder what we must bring back to the ministries we learned from the Western Church.”
According to the missionary Karl Arenz, SVD, the only precaution to take is to give sorcerers much autonomy in the exercise of their ministry because “as shamans, they do not depend on structures … to legitimize their gift, but only on the ‘mystical company’ of ‘caruanas’ [invoking spirits of the forest]. This makes them independent from any institution.”
The contours of the indigenous face that the inspirers and editors of the Instrumentum laboris intend to give the Bride of Christ are therefore clearly defined: an Amazonian church with the face of a witch.
We must reject this prospect – Eminence, Excellency, Reverend Priests, Highnesses, ladies and gentlemen – with all the vigor of our souls!
We cannot allow the one universal Church to be broken into an archipelago of indigenous churches that do not reflect the face of Christ!
We cannot allow her liturgy to become an idolatrous ritual to Mother Earth with the invocation of “spirits” that can only be vassals of the devil!
We cannot allow the Catholic priesthood to be degraded into a vulgar rotational service by little chieftains with a merely presidential function!
We cannot allow Catholic missionaries to refuse to teach the sweet truths of the faith, to regenerate the natives’ poor souls with the water of Baptism, and to limit themselves to listening to their superstitious beliefs and condoning their sinful and sometimes monstrous practices!
We cannot allow our brothers in the Amazon region to be forcibly segregated into cultural apartheid and confined to a human zoo like objects of study for anthropologists, or tourist attractions for visitors eager for excitement and nostalgic for the noble savages of Rousseau!
We cannot allow humankind, created in the image and likeness of God, redeemed by the Precious Blood of our Divine Savior, and therefore placed as kings of Creation to be reduced to the humiliating condition of a mere link in the ecological chain, unjustly accused of being predators of nature and irresponsible promoters of an imaginary environmental apocalypse!
We cannot allow all this, not because it clashes with our personal ideas and preferences but because it is an assault on the revealed truth entrusted to the Apostles and their successors and also to us, who have infallibilitas in credendo.
Just as many missionaries shed their blood to take the light of the Gospel to the natives, we too must be willing to do so if necessary to preserve the virgin face of our Mother, the One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, in her virginal purity — “a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish” Eph. 5:27).
If, by a mysterious design of Providence, there is an eclipse in the official teaching of the Church and a clear or ambiguous acceptance of the heresies of Indigenous Theology, our voices will continue to proclaim the truths of the Faith like thousands of stars whose brightness increases when the sky darkens during a solar eclipse.
Moreover, strengthened by the prophetic declaration of resistance of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, our souls will continue to resist the concrete application of the unfortunate measures that may result from this Synod.
That is the grace I desire for us all and ask of the one true God, of the one true Church, through the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary, destroyer of all heresies.
Thank you for your attention.
Translated by the staff of Pan-Amazon Synod-Watch.
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