On October 6, 2019, on the occasion of the opening of the Synod on the Amazon, Pope Francis gave his instructions to 185 bishops who have three weeks to reflect on the following theme: “the Amazon: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.”
This synod has been under preparation since 2014 by REPAM (Panamazonian Ecclesial Network), an organization created by local bishops to develop a common pastoral plan for the Amazon and strongly supported by the German agencies Misereor and Adveniat. These are the points for consideration coming from the numerous meetings organized over the years by REPAM, which together with the preparatory document and the results of the additional questionnaire, have fueled the Instrumentum laboris, the working document which should guide the work of the Synod Fathers.
In his opening sermon, the pope indicated with what spirit he wished the synod fathers would treat the subjects presented to them. According to him, they must not have a “defensive attitude” but rather seek to discern to be sensitive to the “novelty” proposed by the Holy Spirit. He warned them against the temptation to impose the Gospel instead of offering it, which, according to him, amounts to “colonization.” “May God preserve us from the greed of new colonialism!” Adding, “how often the gift of God, instead of being offered, is imposed? how many times has there been colonization instead of evangelization!” Francis also denounced two attitudes that he dreads for this synod: a defense buttressed by practices and the imposition of a “Western” model on the Amazonian territory.
On October 7, in the Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Nico Spuntoni notes the use of Francis’ favorite image, that of a Church “always on the way, always going out.” “If everything stays motionless, if the rhythm of our day is ‘we have always done it like that,’ the gift disappears, suffocated by the ashes of fear and by the preoccupation of defending the status quo,” said the Pope. And the Italian journalist comments: “Words that do not seem to exclude the possibility that the assembly that opened yesterday is not clearing the way for the introduction of significant innovations in the life of the Church.”
A Synod for a Church with an “Amazon Face”
On October 6, at the Atlantico site, Edouard Husson did not hesitate to state: “the synod for the Amazon: when the Catholic Church takes the risk of leaving Christianity.” Analyzing the Instrumentum laboris, he writes: “The document goes far beyond the context of habitual discussions on the aggiornamento of the Church of Rome. They have visibly emerged from a very broad interpretation of the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath.”
“You have to read this document in extenso to realize that they have switched to something else. They are no longer into the ‘reform of Catholicism.’ To put it bluntly, they are no longer in Christianity. The document proposes a new religion to us, a new messianism, ‘Amazonian,’ neo-Rousseauist and even, to put it bluntly, of pagan inspiration.”
“It creates an unprecedented situation. Apparently, a mutation has taken place in a part of the Catholic Church, which produces something completely foreign, not only to the tradition of the Church but to Christianity itself. In fact, they lack the essentials of Christianity. Christ is not presented as the Redeemer, come to bring by His voluntary sacrifice the salvation of humanity. The Passion and the Resurrection, without which there is no Christianity, are marginal in the working paper. Jesus, when He is mentioned in the text,—and this rarely and never organically with developments—is seen as the pretext for a conversion to “integral ecology.” For Christians, Jesus is the “true Man united to the true God.” However, it is difficult to discern the divinity of Jesus in the Instrumentum laboris.
“There is no distinction between Creation and its Creator. The text is in fact pagan, pantheistic—God merges with nature: the Holy Spirit, when the working document speaks of Him, is not, in the Christian sense, the uncreated Eternal continuing His creation until He conforms man to Christ to make him a participant in the divine life. When the text speaks of life, it is mixed up with biodiversity; there is never any question of supernatural life. Amazonian wisdom is communion with nature and with a god who is not distinct from this nature. There is no distinction between the spirit of Amazonian cultures and the divine spirit.”
And the French academic emphasizes the influence of liberation theology on the Instrumentum laboris of the synod: “We find in the working document of the synod a whole phraseology borrowed from liberation theology: the basic communities, the cry of the earth and the poor, etc. In the end, far from returning to Christianity, as the Roman condemnations of the 1980s invited them to do, the old liberation theologians seem to have embraced the movement of the era. The environmentalism, the phraseology of the ‘common home’ and ‘mother earth’ has become the big subject. And the big difference with what happened in the 1980s is that this time, at the Holy See, they are inviting the proponents of the new Mother Earth theology to come and install their non-Christian thinking in the very heart of the Catholic Church.”
According to Edouard Husson, the responsibility of the pope cannot be avoided. “It is no longer possible to go around the question of Pope Francis’ engagement behind the movement in progress. Editor in 2007 of the text of Aparecida, Cardinal Bergoglio has not stopped since he became pope encouraging the ‘Amazonian’ movement within the Latin American Church. In July 2013, when he traveled to Brazil, then in January 2014 and 2018, during trips to Peru, he spoke of the ‘Amazonian face’ of the Church. [In fact, this “Amazonian face” announces a syncretistic shift. Ed] In December 2013, he encouraged, in a letter, a meeting of the ‘basic ecclesial communities,’ militant cells of Marxist inspiration—now converted to ecology—dating back to the time of liberation theology. Between 2014 and 2016, he discreetly followed the work of the REPAM network. Convinced by his first results, in 2017 the pope called for the Synod for the Amazon, two years in advance. It was Francis who chose the participants in the preparatory work for the synod as well as in the synod.”
Hence a radical conclusion on the working document that the Synod Fathers will study for three weeks: “The choice to be made is perfectly clear. A Catholic, a Christian, must not even discuss this text, which has nothing to do with their faith. They must refuse it.”
Towards a New Cesaropapism?
About the personalities who are participating in the synodal assembly, Nico Spuntoni in the Nuova Bussola Quotidiana of September 23, 2019, noted: “Brazil will carve out the lion’s share with the largest delegation in which stand out the figures of Cardinals Claudio Hummes and João Braz de Aviz, respectively general recorder and deputy president of the assembly...Among the guests of honor, we find the names of Jean-Pierre Dutilleux, president of Forêt Vierge, a French association created for the ‘indigenous’ cause and active in the territory against the deforestation of the Amazon; Mgr. Pirmin Spiegel of Misereor and Fr. Miguel Heinz of Adveniat, the two NGOs of the German Bishops’ Conference who have provided the most support—including financial—to REPAM, an organization founded in 2014 to organize precisely a synod of this type.
“The other special guests belong to a fairly homogeneous cultural background: the list includes figures from major international agencies, such as the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; René Castro, FAO Assistant Director-General for Climate and Biodiversity; Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Reporter on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE Secretary General (Catholic International Alliance of Development Agencies); José Gregorio Díaz Mirabal, the indigenous representative of COICA [Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin]; Jeffrey D. Sachs, Columbia University economist; Professor Hans J. Schellnhuber, the ‘good prophet of climate change’ and former adviser to Mrs. Merkel; Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist; and Luis Libermann, the Argentine businessman, who is considered in his homeland as one of those closest to the pope.”
“A whole company united by public attention to the theme of climate change, which seems to reflect the ecologico-indigenist content of the Instrumentum laboris. This orientation is also familiar to the majority of auditors, consultants, and collaborators on the list of participants. There are also the ‘fraternal delegates’—i.e., representatives of the different evangelical confessions present in the Amazon region—mainly Brazilian: pastors of those evangelical communities who are the protagonists of rapid [Protestant] growth in the South American countries, which for the first time has caused the retreat of Catholicism.”
On September 25, the Vaticanist Aldo Maria Valli returned to some of these names: “Who do we find in the list of participants in the synod for the Amazon? Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is neither a cardinal nor a bishop nor a missionary. And besides, to look more closely, we do not even know if he is a believer or to what religion he belongs, because he always preferred to skip over the subject. So why is a former secretary-general of the UN at a synod of bishops of the Catholic Church? In what role? Could this be a recognition of the obedience of which we spoke above? [Valli quotes here Carlos Esteban’s thesis in Infovaticana of September 23, on a new Caesaropapism where civil authority takes precedence over religious authority to the point that the first (Caesar) also decides the disciplinary and theological issues of the second (the Pope).]
“And the American economist Jeffrey Sachs, a convinced abortionist? And what about the atheist climate scientist Hans J. Schellnhuber, considered an extreme ecologist even by the international scientific community? Why are they also at a synod of Catholic bishops? Carlos Esteban observes: ‘as unanimous as may be (and it is not) the consensus on the climate change theory, the Church must not base her preaching on the acceptance of a scientific thesis, which does not fall within not her competence.’”
“According to Esteban, we are confronted with precisely a kind of return, in new forms, to ancient Caesaropapism, with the pope submitting to the civil and scientific power. With one difference: at that time, Caesar, whoever he was, was Christian, at least nominally, whereas the powers to which the pope now believes must have obedience are very far from a vision of faith, and are even hostile to him.”