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The Synod’s socio-political agenda has little time or room for evangelization

Very little, if anything, proposed by the Synod is a solution for the shocking truth: Catholicism is perishing in South America.

Reporters raise their hands to ask questions during a news conference after a session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 22, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

October 22, Rome: There was a discernible change in mood at the Sala Stampa today. Journalists are briefed on the daily progress by Vatican communications officers, plus selected Synod participants who make opening statements before entertaining questions from the press. Today there was a Stepford Wives shadow over the briefing.

At the opening, Rev. Giacomo Costa, S.J., the Communications Secretary, gave a short status update on the Synod document. Today is the last day for the circoli minori (small circles) to react to the draft of the final document, the Relatio, to make any new contributions, suggestions, exchanges. The draft now moves to the special secretaries and the rapporteur who produce the final document. Their work will be read to the Synod on Friday afternoon. The document comes to a vote on Saturday afternoon. Only bishops may vote. In prior synods the document required a 2/3 majority to confirm.

Selected Synod clergy and “expert” visitors were introduced by veteran Brazilian journalist Cristiane Murray, who has been Vice-Director of the Press Office since July. Murray introduced each speaker by title, then she told them what they were going to tell the press. Thus, each introduction today indicated a coordinated, managed information exercise. And the themes presented by today’s speakers repeated the themes emphasized by yesterday’s speakers.

Ms. Judith de Rocha of Brazil spoke of her advocacy for the suffering indigenous people, decrying forest destruction because of hydroelectric power plants in her region. Pollution and deforestation have displaced indigenous people and even caused death from contamination in rivers. “I invite you to stop thinking of clean power,” she said.”Energy produced like this means killing lives… we need other means of power,” she explained. Ms. de Rocha repeated a familiar phrase, “The Church invites us to cast our gaze on our Common Home…”, so much so that the term “gaze phrase” takes on a life of its own. This is an unfortunate effect because the problems that follow mismanaged development are serious and require real solutions.

Archbishop Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, O.F.M. of Peru was introduced by Ms. Murray who reminded him (and us?) of the urgency of an integral ecology, asking, “What do you propose, Archbishop?”

Vidarte offered a meditation on Saint Francis of Assisi, who has “given rise to this approach, this love for nature…he thanks God for nature, creatures, which the pope mentions this in Laudato si, he referees to Canticle [ of the Sun]. This synod is dedicated to Saint Francis…Human beings must get back to nature, and to God…we must find a brother sun, sister moon…we must be more daring…not only in the Amazonian regions…beyond national borders to fraternity, a universal fraternity…something linked to indigenous but not purely Amazon only…but at a world level.”

Bishop Karel Martinus Choennie of Suriname expressed his conviction that unless the Paris Climate accords are enacted, “we have only ten years left.” His alarm may be due to information outlined during yesterday’s general congregation when the Synod was addressed by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. Schellnhuber is a Research Fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and a Member of the German Advisory Council on Global Change. Though he is an atheist, Schellnhuber was appointed by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2015. Bishop Choennie concluded, “This is a special synod with universal consequences.”

He also told reporters that the prevailing economic model is unjust. “Riches only come to the West…,” he stated, “the natural resources that leave our country do not help us.” When asked about his economic theme, the bishop responded, “We need a new economy of solidarity.” A reporter later inquired about solutions that would have a rapid impact. “It’s a matter of education,” replied Bishop Choennie, “Europe and the United States don’t realize the urgency. When they do realize, they don’t want to give up their luxuries.” Nor, he said, do Westerners want to live simply like forest people. “Europe and China and US want to eat meat. They want cheaper meat which leads to greater deforestation. The Church and everybody has obligation to take ecological change very seriously.”

Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, O.F.M. Cap., is the archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo. His presence at the Synod as a non-Amazonian bishop is to underscore the global scope of the climate disasters ahead. “I’m here in the name of the Synod,” he stated, “but the Amazon is similar to Congo basin. I’ve learned at this synod that it’s endangered because of misuse of land. People also run risk of becoming extinct; pygmies, and others…all the countries that share the equatorial forests… In the  Synod [I learned] that we are all responsible for our common home, which is burning.” Western countries and China exploit the Congo via extraction. Yet, Cardinal Besungu said, “there is hope” because the Church has taken its responsibility to call humanity to “protect our common home so we are not burned….we must be daring.”

During the question and answer period there were more calls for new ecclesial structures, a special transnational network of bishops in the Amazon areas to monitor events and engage international institutions. An emerging theme is that transnational solutions may be discomforting for nations but an integral ecology can’t be bound by borders. Much of the discussion about a borderless world monitored by NGOs as a global solution to the perceived climate crisis could fill whole chapters in a political conspiracy novel.

Unspoken and unheard in the Sala Stampa today was any concern for the souls of the Amazonian or Equatorial people. There was no proposal for evangelization, no calls for innovative catechetical projects. Pastoral care is conceived as socio-political advocacy. For anyone possessing even a passing familiarity with liberation theology, the discussion today was clearly animated by leftist political philosophies. The “Catacomb Pact” signed by forty bishops on Sunday was no spiritual gesture. It was an aggressive announcement of their political exploitation of Catholicism.

The Pan-Amazonian Synod is an exercise in desolation. It’s a wasteland of years of preparation and expense in time and money. Very little, if anything, proposed by the Synod is a solution for the shocking truth: Catholicism is perishing in South America. The five hundred of “colonization” denounced by Synod bishops and the Instrumentum Laboris was, in truth, centuries of effective missionary work.

Pentecostals are today successfully evangelizing millions of South American Catholics. From a 2014 Pew report:

Much of the movement away from Catholicism and toward Protestantism in Latin America has occurred in the span of a single lifetime. Indeed, in most of the countries surveyed, at least a third of current Protestants were raised in the Catholic Church, and half or more say they were baptized as Catholics. For example, nearly three-quarters of current Protestants in Colombia were raised Catholic, and 84% say they were baptized as Catholics.

All the rehearsed mantras of “care for our common home” ignore the true cry of the people: “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Heb 11:16).

(Editor’s note: Cristiane Murray was originally identified as Vice-Director of Vatican Communications. She is actually Vice-Director of the Press Office.)


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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.

16 Comments

    • I think it is more neglect of proclaiming the person and Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Pentecostals do that and our people flock to them. This synod will do nothing to increase the Catholic faith in the Amazon or anywhere else.

    • except where other Christians are giving witness – they are not weakened but going gang-busters….neglect of Christ weakens witness or evangelization in the totality of life and death….blessings of JMJ, Padre

  1. It seems very clear why South American people seeking Jesus are leaving the Catholic Church in South America: the Church in South America, heavily stocked with European socialists whose families emigrated to South America in the turbulent years of the early 20th century, is run by post-Christian Marxist bureaucrats, who prefer their political programs to the Gospel of Jesus. The South American Church is like the German Bishops’ Conference, without the phony revenue (derived only by force) of the Deutsche Church Tax.

  2. “Unspoken and unheard in the Sala Stampa today was any concern for the souls of the Amazonian or Equatorial people. There was no proposal for evangelization, no calls for innovative catechetical projects. Pastoral care is conceived as socio-political advocacy. For anyone possessing even a passing familiarity with liberation theology, the discussion today was clearly animated by leftist political philosophies. The ‘Catacomb Pact’ signed by forty bishops on Sunday was no spiritual gesture. It was an aggressive announcement of their political exploitation of Catholicism.”

    They signed a “pact” alright…and appropriately, the Synod began with idolatry, “a different form of Christianity” if I may paraphrase Martin, SJ.

    Once you realize that the majority of the Jesuits and yes the “Amazon Synod Fathers” are really just apostate Marxist sophists…it all makes sense. They “discern” nothing. They present/impose their conclusions and “persuade.” Their faith in the “divinity” of Christ features an “asterisk.” And what enables all of this? Money. Yes, evil, denounced money! Riches!

    What they have really “discerned” is that the real money, the big cash is with the secularists…not with a bunch of “dummies” in Chile or Brazil looking for a straight answer within the Church or those in the slums with a “selfish” desire for salvation…and not with the “pseudo-schismatics” in America. If it’s any consolations, the first person they each succeeded in brainwashing was themselves…maybe even back in seminary. “If the Bible and the Church throughout history could be so ‘wrong’ about homosexuality…what else is ‘wrong?'”

    They would however, like the “dummies” in Latin America and even the American “pseudo-schismatics” to accept this “new church” as one of God’s “surprises” (where “God” is simply a Hegelian materialist sense of “history”) without complaint or “discernment.” It’s just “a different form of Christianity” and if you don’t accept that, you’re a racist…a Pharisee! a capitalist! And because of clerical, hierarchical (probable) statistics and their statements on the record and patterns of protection and promotion of homosexuals locally and globally, if you “disagree” or “criticize” these men and their “different form of Christianity”…you’re a homophobe.

    Were those in Latin America…who tossed “a different form of Christianity” otherwise known for FAILED, SCANDAL-RIDDEN DECADES as “liberation theology” in the figurative river in favor of a more Bible-based, Christ-centered assembly, a faith concerned with salvation…concerned with Revelation…were all these people of color a bunch of racists? They were not brought back in droves to the Catholic Faith by Bishop Barron’s crystal clear clarification (subtitled in Spanish and Portuguese) and punctuated by an amiable chuckle that Hans Urs Von Balthazar was NOT a Universalist?

    Were those who got the runaround instead of answers from Bergoglio when he was in Argentina…a bunch of “dummies” and homophobes?

    We ask why Latin America is leaving the Catholic Church and why people all over the world are leaving the Catholic Church?

    The “best” part? Bergoglio, the Jesuits, the Amazon Synod Father don’t really care about this continual exodus. And honestly, sadly, that’s not a “surprise.”

    Amazonian “particularism” is OK BTW especially when it serves the cause. And so is Muslim “particularism” and Hindu “particularism” and yes even atheist “particularism.” But the best most acceptable “particularism?” What is now termed “Ignatian.”

    • This is the third time that the barbarian aristocracy has divided our house against it, and betrayed once more, the flock they were supposed to protect.

      First the East-West schism, then Westphalia, now a heretical “religious” Marxism.

      Why trust these lying politicians? Why follow incompetent Caesars? WE are Caesar, not them. Give us back our Republic. Give us back our Tribunes with veto power over their aristocratic power grab. And send Cardinal Marx, that great coward, back to hell.

  3. I deeply appreciate all of Mrs Anderson’s work, however, I must take issue with one (and only one) of her statements in this article, where she speaks of the recent undoing of five centuries of effective evangelization in Latin America. Au contraire: the evangelization of the continent was essentially a disaster ab initio. Clergy have looked the other way for five centuries at the paganism that has been allowed to coexist with Christianity. People there have been sacramentalized without being evangelized or catechized. Violations of clerical continence have been rampant throughout — with nary a word from local bishops or the Holy See. Simply put: the current meltdown is only the logical conclusion to five centuries of pastoral malfeasance and nonfeasance.

    • What Church are we really a part of? Some always-perfect or semi-perfect utopia of 2,000 years or a guilt-ridden, sin-ridden Church that has continually and consistently triumphed over the darkest of darkest of guilt and sins, its very own? That’s why the Catholic Church has endured for 2,000 years an ever-growing hostility, sabotage and hatred, not because it has been found wanting as all the other Impostor Religions and Impostor Spiritualities, but because TRUE Catholicism has truly succeeded and is invincible just like Our Divine Founder. When we abandon it, through FALSE GUILT, we always fail.

      Jesus not only admitted Judas to the Twelve, knowing him and his future decisions full well, but even descended into Hell (to show that Jesus is strongest THERE), a taste of which we are getting now more than ever. Jesus nailed on the Cross not just all our sins and stupidity, but all those deficiencies, crass mistakes and scandalous sins that you mention about the South American Catholic Churches during 500 years and the many more committed all around the world in all of history.

      Jesus crucified our most mortal enemy: FALSE GUILT and charged straight into the mouth of Hell with a ragtag army of sinful, weak, double-minded, stupid men and women. Us Catholics adding more FALSE GUILT by focusing on the unchangeable past does not contribute to the urgently needed REAL guilt and REAL responsibility that will free us from this Satanic Tsunami of highly organized, FALSE GUILT. It is religious pornography to do so! FALSE GUILT is just an easy way out when we should be proclaiming the incredible Glory of God through a very sinful Church, an absolute, total victory of God! Enough is enough!! We must charge against the Hell of Judas Cardinals, Judas Bishops and judas Infiltrators not because we are perfect but because our Founder IS and we need to die for Him as He died for us, day by day, until we have absolutely nothing left, like Him!! Let’s start by dying to FALSE GUILT, the one Jesus destroyed on the Holy Cross!!

  4. We read that “Unspoken and unheard in the Sala Stampa today was any concern for the SOULS of the Amazonian or Equatorial people.” And, that today is the last day for the “circoli minori (SMALL CIRCLES)” to react to the constricted final draft report.

    That discarded Westerner, G.K. Chesterton, had something permanent to say about SMALL CIRCLES of this kind:

    “The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason. The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory . . . his mind moves in a perfect but NARROW CIRCLE.

    “A SMALL CIRCLE is quite as infinite as a large circle; but, though it is quite as infinite, it is not so large […] Perhaps the nearest we can get to expressing it is to say this: that his mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle. A SMALL CIRCLE is quite as infinite as a large circle, but, though quite as infinite, it is not so large […]

    “the most unmistakable mark of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction” (“Orthodoxy”, penned a full fourteen years before his own [what’s that irrelevancy, oh yes] conversion!)

    The entire Amazonia, itself, is a SMALL CIRCLE: the ideo-logical constriction whereby the distinct “human ecology” (i.e., Cardinal Turkson’s “integral HUMAN ecology”] is not only related to, but fully absorbed into the “natural ecology” under the newly coined “integral ecology.” Thinking theologically, read between the lines, dammit! Read between the words!

    OF COURSE there’s no room in this small/tautological circle for the vertical evangelization of souls!

  5. As a priest from a missionary religious order, the Institute of the Incarnate Word with a seminary in Brazil and other parts of South America. I think your analysis is right on track. Sadly, bishops in Brazil will not invite us into the most remote Amazon regions, because we reject liberation theology and seek to actually evangelize the natives, as we do in Guyana and the jungles of Papua New Guinea. I do see another sad trend among Latinos in the third generation. The parents were Catholic; the children are taken out of the Church by Pentecostals because they are more spiritual. The children of these Pentecostals often become nones or atheists, because the Pentecostals teach them, above all else, anti-Catholicism. Few of them return to the Catholic Church when they become disillusioned by the craziness in the Pentecostals because they have been taught to become anti-Catholic.

  6. Very pointed analysis of the New Age repackaged save the Native save the environment ecological love the Planet by Ms Anderson particularly the current manufactured Pachamamania [I have the irresistible feeling if we look under the sudden deluge of Pachamama idols we’ll read made in China]. Ms Judith de Rocha Brazil gives the “The Church invites us to cast our gaze on our Common Home” is legitimate. We are destroying environment and our indigenous home global concern warranted. That taken for granted my thoughts turn to spiking trees so chain saws will jolt back and maim kill NW loggers to save the spotted owl. Here a concerted effort to reinvent Catholicism by a manufactured Noble Savage rich in the West’s lost spiritual Nature wisdom. It’s attractive in context of a general loss of faith in Christ’s saving act and turn toward natural beauty and the sensual. Bishops participating there and elsewhere by simple complacency peacefully slumber enjoying Beaches advertisements spending vacation time in far more pristine settings for needed rest time unconcerned that Satan is an insomniac.

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