Syncretism refers to the meeting or fusion of the doctrinal issues of various religions, or the bringing together of cults of diverse origins, as practiced for example by pagan Roman which assimilated religious elements from conquered countries.
A Word on Syncretism
From the Catholic point of view, syncretism refers to the introduction of foreign elements into the doctrine or the worship of the Church. The apostles and missionaries often had to combat this pernicious tendency among newly converted peoples from the beginning of the Church’s history. A famous example is reported in the New Testament when converted Jews wanted to continue to practice the Old Law. It took the energy of a St. Paul to put an end to this deviation which threatened to corrupt the true religion, that of “adorers in spirit and in truth” (cf. Jn. 4:23), from that point forward free from Mosaic prescriptions.
Throughout the ages, the syncretistic danger has arisen regularly, both in Europe and in the other continents. Missionaries paid with their lives for their zeal for the purity of doctrine and worship among the insufficiently-converted populations who did not want to abandon certain pagan customs.
In South America, as elsewhere, the Church has always fought against the various idolatrous cults by forbidding to the faithful any action or participation in what is opposed to the faith or ecclesiastical discipline. But that was before the arrival of liberation theology and its substitutes, like Amerindian theology.
The Principles Involved
The Church is particularly severe and vigilant in preserving the purity of the faith. She has struggled during her history against a considerable number of heresies, deviations, compromises, or introductions of foreign elements in her doctrine. The reason is obvious: the faith is a revelation, supernatural, of divine origin, and it does not belong to anyone to change or to alter. It was given to men by Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate, and by all those who were associated with Him, both in the Old Testament, especially the prophets, and in the New Testament through the Apostles.
This doctrine which comes from Heaven, given by God, is absolutely untouchable. No one can add to or take away from what God Himself has revealed. There is an explicit threat from God on this subject, in the book of the Apocalypse: “For I testify to every one that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from these things that are written in this book” (Apoc. 22:18-19).
It is the same with worship, which is the expression of the faith according to the well-known formula of St. Prosper of Aquitaine: “Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi,” “The law of the faith founds the law of prayer.” This is why the Church is extremely jealous of the purity of divine worship. When the rites of the sacraments are celebrated, the confession of true faith in God and in Jesus Christ is at stake. This is why all the elements that compose them must be carefully chosen so that this confession is right, pure, and honest.
“Missio” and Syncretistic Propaganda
Included in the Italian Episcopal Conference is a pastoral organization called Missio that is dedicated to foreign missions. In April 2019, this organization published an online brochure to help the faithful prepare for the Synod on the Amazon. It contains a lot of information about the Amazon, its land, its peoples, and of course about the Church in Amazonian territories, with “its witnesses and its martyrs.”
On page 17 of this document is the following prayer: “Pachamama of these places, drink and eat this offering at will, so that this earth is fruitful. Pachamama, good Mother, be propitious! Be propitious! Make sure the oxen work well and do not get tired. Make the seed grow well, so that nothing bad happens to it, so that the frost does not destroy it, so that it produces good food. We ask you: give us everything. Be propitious! Be propitious!” Such is the prayer to the Earth Mother of the Inca peoples that the brochure presents to its readers.
This prayer sweeps away the explanations advanced by the Vatican to try to counter the accusation of having encouraged idolatrous cults at the Synod on the Amazon. Indeed, we do not ask for an abstraction or symbol to be propitious. As for the Earth to which this prayer is addressed, she is not our mother. She is a creature, who will one day be our tomb.
Several questions remain. What is an idolatrous prayer doing in a Catholic missionary bulletin? The typography highlights it as equal to the other prayers cited, such as the final prayer to God, One and Triune, inserted at the end of the encyclical Laudato si’. The prayer to a pagan idol is put on the same footing as Christian prayer.
Does the Italian Episcopal Conference wish to suggest that Amazonian Catholics use this prayer? That they live in such crude syncretism that they see no problem in reciting it? That one can with impunity, in an official episcopal publication, make God and the Pachamama equal?
Do the Italian bishops finally want to propose that their faithful adopt this syncretism by offering prayers to the South American goddess? Do they want, contrary to their predecessors who were valiant preachers of the faith, to return to a kind of polytheism? The infoCatólica website reports that the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Verona used this prayer during an evening gathering for missionaries on Friday, October 25, 2019, duly announced by the parish. A local newspaper, the Corriere del Veneto of October 29, reported protests to the local bishop.
When the Example Comes From the Top
These syncretistic manifestations where pagan rites mingle with Catholic worship or coexist with it are reminiscent of the scandal of Assisi in 1986. Organized by Pope John Paul II on October 27, 1986, this day of prayer for peace saw the Vicar of Christ place several places of worship at the disposal of the representatives of false religions. Without doubt, the most outrageous event happened when a group of Buddhists installed a monstrous statue of Buddha on the tabernacle of St. Peter’s Church in Assisi.
The origin of the present doctrinal and liturgical relativism can be found at that day in Assisi, which was a dreadful humiliation of the Holy Church. That is the source of the paganization of minds, even if it is more visible today.
A Shipwrecked Bishop
Bishop Erwin Kraütler, a long-time bishop of Xingu, Brazil, a figurehead of progressivism and considered as a “living martyr” (sic) of the forest and indigenous peoples, offers an key model of this paganization of minds. In an interview with Tagespost, he said he considers the Pachamama idols as “an expression of the indigenous peoples” that could be “integrated into our liturgy.” During the Synod on the Amazon in Rome, he described those who carried in these statues as being “Catholic Christians who are far from venerating them as deities. It is a symbol of fertility. [A symbol to which they have rendered worship, we must remember.] And if for many it is a deity, then it is an attack against the soul of a people to throw them into the Tiber.”
This is how Bishop Kraütler insults the memory of the innumerable multitude of martyrs, who offered their lives for refusing to worship idols, or who did not hesitate to destroy them when the evangelized peoples continued to turn to them. It is all Catholic tradition that this bishop emeritus ignores, despises, and attacks. It is in this way that a bishop who was shipwrecked in faith somewhere on the bank of the Rio Xingu, destroyed it in the souls of the faithful.