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Week 2 of Synod ends with buzz words, rehashed goals, talk of “conversion”

Many questions from the press tramped old ground without turning up new answers from the Communications panel.

Richard Coll, director of the office of Domestic Social Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, participates in a smudge ceremony as Rita Means, tribal council representative with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, holds a smoking bowl at the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina in Rome Oct. 18, 2019. The ceremony was held at the start of a Kairos Blanket Exercise, which detailed the history of indigenous peoples and was a side event to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

October 18, Rome: Today’s press briefing focused on the progress made in the circoli minori, the small group discussions that followed the first ten days of General Congregation meetings of the Synod. The circoli members are grouped by language.

Briefing began with a reminder from Fr.Giacomo Costa, S.J. that the reports are still developing. “Nothing is right or wrong,” he pointed out. “Each contribution is important.” Circoli members have simply shared their reactions to the proposals heard in the General Congregation.

These group discussion reports are tabulated by an in-group secretary, then added to the work of all the circoli. Group reports are then bundled into a rough draft by the drafting committee.

The midpoint draft is the basis of a final document, the Relatio Final, to be voted on Sunday, October 27th. If the final document passes by a 2/3 majority of the voting members, it is given to the Pope. The Pontiff takes it as advisement. He is free to dismiss it or to incorporate it into a post-synodal exhortation. Amoris Laetitia, for example, is the post-synodal exhortation of the 2014-2015 Synods On the Family.

Journalists heard first from Sister Daniela Adriana Cannavina, S.C.M.R, Secretary General of CLAR (Confederation of Latin American Religious). Her statement underscored the message of the past week: this Synod is focused on the Amazon, but its thrust is for the universal Church. It seeks an ecological conversion that transcends personal concerns. Sr. Adriana described her group’s progress with the familiar buzz phrases: “listening respectfully,” “fruitful dialogue,” “interculturality,” “value of women’s roles,” “sensitivity to pain and suffering,” “making synodality visible,” “missionary zeal”. Her group added that “religious life is service, not power.” Spiritual formation, it was indicated, should be part of whatever roles for women come from the Synod.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella is President of the Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization. Each synod (this is his eighth), he said, evokes “great emotion.” Though this is the Synod on the Amazon, it “causes us to reflect on catholicity, the universality of the Church… the respect for all cultures and all people… the Church is one, but made up of many different people.” His comment underscores a growing refrain: the Amazonian theme or “face” will reorient the Church Universal.

His Italian group proposed that the Amazonian people start toward an Amazonian rite by drawing on Lumen Gentium. In doing so, a new rite doesn’t detract from the center (or central?) Church. His context, perhaps, is LG #13: “Moreover, within the Church particular Churches hold a rightful place; these Churches retain their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity and protects legitimate differences, while at the same time assuring that such differences do not hinder unity but rather contribute toward it.”

Bishop Mário Antônio da Silva of Brazil recounted proposals from his circoli which included Pope Francis’ desire for path toward an integral ecology. The provisions of the Synod will “grow in the hearts of the people,”he said, “leading us to new responsibilities” His group, he said, acknowledges the need for more ordained ministers and looks for a path, but he also stated that the “precious gift” of celibacy isn’t just a discipline but a grace.

An extended enumeration of rehashed goals and hopes was given by Mr. Mauricio Lopez, Director of REPAM in Ecuador. His recitation of the background against which press ought to receive Synod proposals was punctuated by his instruction that we “look in our hearts” for thirty seconds of Ignatian silence. Following sixty seconds of reflection he began again, “God invites us to find meaning beyond our limited personal opinions, to adopt the perspective of God.”

Lopez assured the press that the “periphery doesn’t take the place of [the] center, but enlightens the center from the periphery.” For homework, he suggested that journalists read Evangelium Gaudi and Laudato Si. Lastly, Lopez echoed yesterday’s biblical example of the blind man who cast aside his coat to follow a new path, the three lane [Nuevo Francesco] path of Conversion to Synodality, Ecological Conversion, and Pastoral Conversion.

New to this week’s briefing topics was a request for concrete examples of “ecological sin”. A journalist posed the question to each member of the panel, “Give an example of this type of sin and will it be in the final document?”

The panel was unprepared for the inquiry and no concrete example was forthcoming. Each in turn gave a broad conceptualization of ecological attitudes that cause “The cry of the poor,” companies that oppress, structural sins that cause inequality, the pain of powerless peoples, destruction of “our common home,” and greed that strips the earth of resources meant to be shared.—but no one personal act that is defined in Synod discussions as a sin. Abp. Fisichella redirected the question: “I prefer a reduction of sins, not to add new ones.” He condensed the matter to a single sin of individualism as a barrier against God, for God can be known through works of Creation. “If you don’t recognize this you fall into sin…it’s a global attitude…”

More questions from the press tramped old ground without turning up new answers from the Communications panel. Diane Montagna of LifeSiteNews asked Dr. Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery of Communications, if he had any clarification as promised on the wooden statue of a naked pregnant woman used in the the Vatican Garden during the inauguration ceremony for the Synod. Videos of people bowing before the statue have caused some to suggest that it is an idol or, at the very least a confusing and problematic symbol.

Dr. Ruffini repeated his comment of the preceding day: “It’s just a statue that represents life.” To her question about Synod bishops’ response to the report that the Ford Foundation (which promotes abortion and gender ideology) had given over $2,000,000 to REPAM, and “what was the Pope’s reaction to that?” the panel offered a clearly rehearsed reply: the Ford Foundation gave grants to numerous organizations, and the money received by REPAM went to pro-life causes such as food security.

Bishop de Silva added, “As Catholics we are against abortion… I can tell you the funds given to CIMI are used for life.” And, Lopez of REPAM tossed the question of Ford Foundation grants aside, stating, “It’s pro-life to protect the Amazon.”

Journalists might have predicted this unconcerned response to inquiries about monies from institutions whose ethics conflict with Catholic moral teaching. For instance, Fiat Lux, the laser light show splashed across St. Peter’s Basilica in 2015 to showcase the theme of Laudato si, Our Common Home, was not paid for by Peter’s Pence. It was the donation of the World Bank which also funds anti-life projects throughout the world.

The Synod is now adjourned for the weekend.

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About Mary Jo Anderson 31 Articles
Mary Jo Anderson is a Catholic journalist and speaker whose articles and commentaries on politics, religion, and culture appear in a variety of publications. She is a frequent guest on EWTN's "Abundant Life." She was appointed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops National Advisory Council (NAC), 2010-2014 and served as member of the NAC Executive Committee in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @maryjoanderson3.


  1. Asked to give even one example of “ecological sin” (the theme of the entire synod!), we read that “The panel was unprepared for the inquiry and [that] no concrete example was forthcoming.” Unprepared as in NO ADVANCE SCRIPT?

    Might at least one voice have responded that the dominant ecological sin is to fully CONFLATE the “natural ecology” with the “human ecology” into an “integral ecology” (Hans Kung’s very problematic “world ethic”?) as if these realms are not only related and overlap, but are the very same kitchen-blender thing. (A distinction wisely and prudently retained in Centesimus Annus, nn. 37-40).

    In pre-modern (and now comparable) times the term for such blather and heresy was MONISM—the denial that there exists any distinction between, say, mind and matter or God and Nature. Global ecology, yes, an urgent message and Amazonia is even a good case study, but also a pack mule…

    All is one; so maybe we’ll just call it “life” and hum together around a naked female statue! Or maybe an Old Testament Golden Calf, or today (possibly still “abreast” a small crucifix) maybe a pair of golden “calves.”

    The Youth Synod has been mentioned—but do we not recall that at that event the fourteen discussion groups, ALL of them, “demanded” successfully that the loaded and pivotal slogan “LGBTQ” be banned from the final report?

    This time the code language for “MONISM.” Kumbaya!

  2. @ Peter D. Beaulieu

    I suspect the briefing panel was too busy preparing for questions about Cimi and REPAM $ from pro-abortion Ford Foundation to even guess the question of ecological sins might be posed.

    Much of the language/terminology used to expand upon concept of integral ecology is drawn from decades old “world spirit” babble used by various iterations of New Ageism.

    Meanwhile, the discussion group led by CDF ++Ladaria is giddy for an Amazon Rite with theological and spiritual elements of the region.

  3. Are we searching for clarity of direction in a Synod ending to date with buzz words and rehashed goals? What precisely is “conversion” if the Pope calls it trophyism? Let’s then consider that, “Pope Francis desires a path toward an integral ecology. Mauricio Lopez of REPAM tossed the question of Ford Foundation grants aside, stating, It’s pro-life to protect the Amazon” (Anderson). Ecology is that branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. Man in his natural environment Amazonia is the proving ground for Francis’ “integral ecology”. Concisely formulated by Lopez in integral ecological terms as saving the Amazon environment. The new more relevant Pro Life standard. Conversion. Cardinal Brandmüller in a recent translation by Maike Hickson LifeSite sheds light. “Brandmüller points out that there are two meanings of the word religion. In the first, religion is the product of man’s confrontation with the mystery of existence in which he is immersed, therefore ultimately with himself. In the second, however, which is the Christian meaning, religion is a dialogue of man with a God who reveals himself to him, who reveals to him an otherworldly truth” (Cardinal Brandmüller address to Austrian new agency in Sandro Magister 10.18). Conversion in the mind of Pope Francis references Cardinal Brandmüller’s first meaning of religion the product of man’s confrontation with the meaning of existence ultimately with himself. Conversion is anthropocentric in nature rather than the former Christocentric meaning called trophyism. The toting of canoes ritual paraphernalia from the Vat garden circular worship ceremony bishops chanting gleefully singing swaying to new liberating sonnets into St Peter’s up to the Main Altar enshrining goddess Pachamama for veneration is that foreboding Antichrist direction. So what do we Christocentric believers do, if not pray for reconversion of the converted and buckle up for all out spiritual combat.

  4. What a group of fools. So the only sin is embodying the sanctimonious caricature from Abp. Fisichella who holds that those who possess a “global attitude” that values the hard work that goes into expanding the large scale efficiencies of human productivity from modern industry, which actually benefits the environment, are not only guilty of an intrinsic evil but compound that evil by refusing to believe their evil is an evil. Globalism is good when it promotes the universal tyranny Pope Francis seems to think would create utopia on earth, but evil when there is shared technological creativity among nations.

    I do not judge with certainty, such would be evil, but I suspect a lot of unacknowledged Eighth Commandment defying sinfulness went into the reasoning process of Abp. Fisichella and any other eco-idolatrous fool willing to believe such foolishness.

    When you reach a point of faithless idolatry towards secularity, you’re capable of believing anything. The old adage that there are some ideas that are so stupid only intellectuals can believe them applies to the bored but active pseudo-religious as well.

    If an engineer in a modern factory makes an unintended error that leads to the death of someone using a product, is that automatically worse than the “pure and saintly” primitive peoples of the world murdering their children for a tiny deformity that would be correctable by the fruits of civilization? Do the constant unrecycled pollutants from peoples living “simply” never count as anything bad for the environment? Are all their other sins from which they need to be saved not worth mentioning?

  5. I know that conjuring the spirits of the deceased is gravely sinful, but one is sorely tempted to call up the fathers of the Council of Trent and send them post-haste to Rome to put an end to this madness. Barring that, pray unceasingly that a modicum of orthodoxy at least come out of this ecclesiastical farce.
    The fact that the Holy Father even allowed a synod to go forward based upon the working document’s pantheism is disheartening and disgraceful in the extreme.

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