Querida Amazonia combats caricatures, presents a robust Christocentrism

Pope Francis offers a reconciliation rooted in a profound incarnational theology that goes beyond the binaries and into the deeper waters of contemplative, poetic, and prophetic critique.

An unidentified man presents a neckerchief to Pope Francis at the start of a session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 15, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In the midst of all of the attention given to the Pope’s failure in his apostolic exhortation, Querida Amazonia, to positively endorse married priests in the Amazon, and of his more explicit rejection of the ordination of women to Holy Orders, a deeper truth about the significance of the document is being ignored. Namely, that the currently reigning popular narrative concerning Pope Francis is an exaggerated caricature—a caricature that has been manufactured largely by the more extreme factions in the Church with an eye toward using this unnuanced image to further their own agendas.

That narrative, and with due regard to various shades of difference, boils down to the following: Pope Francis is a true “modern” (if not a “modernist”) and he is far more “liberal” than any of his predecessors, and he seeks to change the Church in radical ways, conforming it to the norms and ethos of modern sensibilities. Progressives have appropriated this image and thus popularize the view of Francis as a true champion of radical change. And of course, for them, “radical change in a liberal direction” equals “reform”. On the other side of the table sit the curmudgeons of the Right, who agree with the progressives that this is precisely who Francis is, and who therefore accuse him, variously, of fomenting everything from mere “ambiguity”, to “heresy”, to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. Okay, I made that last part up, but it nicely encapsulates their approach to Francis, which is to see in him nothing but nefarious categories, and who view his “Jesuit tricks” with such raw hostility that it would have made Jack Chick blush.

Of course, my own description here of the extreme factions is a bit of a caricature, but not by much, since the toxic binaries in the Church today are very real, catalyzed in large part by the magisteria of a thousand internet popes. And so it was predictable that Querida Amazonia, with its non-mention of celibacy, and its downplaying of women’s ordination, would be greeted by both factions with a combination of derision and suspicion. For example, certain representatives of the “binding synodal path” in Germany accused the Pope of cowardice for not climbing on their particular theological hobby horses (celibacy and female ordination). And right-wing bloggers immediately threw cold water on the enthusiasm from many conservatives, who had been fearful of the worst, by stating that the worst was still coming, and that this was just a “Peronist” tactic to pacify the Right, even as the Pope was plotting to send his Freemason flying monkeys into the Church through different doors.

Finally, and most telling (it seems to me), is that both of these binaries, obsessed as they are with the ecclesiastical furniture, have largely emitted a collective “yawn” at the bulk of the document, which turns our focus away from the fever swamp of debates over clerical issues, and toward a deep and rich theological analysis of the relationship between the Gospel and the Amazonian cultures. Therefore, I concur with the analysis of Cardinal Mueller, who described Querida Amazonia as a document of “reconciliation”. And here I hasten to add that it is not a superficial reconciliation, characterized by anodyne bromides designed to please everyone, but a reconciliation rooted in a profound incarnational theology that goes beyond the binaries and into the deeper waters of contemplative, poetic, and prophetic critique.

In other words, it is a reconciliation rooted in the truth of the incarnate God.

The focus of the document is not so much on the Amazonian region in general as it is on the situation faced by the indigenous peoples who have lived there for millennia, and whose traditional way of life—a way of life characterized by a pro-cosmic spirituality and a close, almost symbiotic, relationship with the natural forces of the Amazon—has been decimated by the juggernaut of modern, capitalist consumerism, and the raping of the land by major corporations, both domestic and international. Querida does verge at times on an over-romanticization of indigenous culture, ignoring the many bestial features of all ancient “nature spiritualities”, but this can be at least partly excused by the fact that the overall aim of the document is to accentuate the need for the Gospel to be truly inculturated into the Amazon instead of acting as an extension of Euro-American colonialism. Such a project necessarily requires a careful adjudication of both what is positive and negative in a culture, with Christ as the rule and measuring rod.

But this is a principle the Pope makes explicitly clear, much to the consternation of the religious relativists and syncretists. The Pope, it turns out, is a Catholic after all and he explicitly states in the text that Christ is the unique and sole savior of the human race. Nevertheless, and all over-romanticizations of indigenous cultures aside, the Pope wants to make it abundantly clear that the supremacy of Christ as the unique savior does not equate to the cultural hegemony of Europe, and what is positive in the Amazonian cultures must be our starting point, given that we are now centuries into the effacing of their culture by both the Church and the State.

Querida Amazonia is also a document that stands in continuity with the message of the last two popes. I think this is important. Pope Francis quotes his predecessors quite often, drawing upon the rich teaching of John Paul II on the necessity of inculturation (rooted, I might add, in his careful appropriation of Vatican II on that topic), and the many statements by Pope Benedict on the deep relationship between the ecology of nature and the ecology of the human social and moral environment. The continuity Pope Francis is seeking appears to be quite deliberate and his own emphasis on the necessity of spiritual conversion as the prerequisite of any true “environmentalism” places him squarely in the deep tradition of meditation on the cosmic Christ and Catholic contemplative discourse in general. Hopefully, this will quiet some of the hysterics surrounding the “Pachamama” affair. The latter was indeed handled in a ham-handed way by the Vatican at the Synod, but in my view it wasn’t so much a nod toward “paganism” as it was simply a lame attempt at inculturation that was mired in kitsch and the optics of public relations. Still, the Pope does manage a defense of the event by criticizing those who say that indigenous symbols cannot be appropriated by the Church in the service of the Gospel.

His silence on the issue of celibacy is indeed curious, given the attention that was paid to that issue at the Synod and the recent dust-up over the book by Cardinal Sarah/Benedict XVI on the topic. My own view is that he is still leaving the door open to further discussion on that topic and it may be his way of simply waiting for the bishops of the Amazon themselves to make a formal request for married viri probati. This may very well happen since Francis makes it clear in the text that he wants to make the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, more readily available in the Amazon region. And if he does decide in favor of that request, should it come, it would not necessarily imply a general opening to all for the same.

Furthermore, it would be well within his rights as the Supreme Pontiff to make such an adjudication, and should in no way further the false narrative of “Francis the modernist”. Finally, it may well be that the Germans are their own worst enemies on that score, as Francis may have been well-disposed to ordaining married viri probati in the Amazon, but held back as a message to the Germans who have been quite open that they would view any such concession as an open invitation to do the same.

Of much greater significance is his more explicit rejection of the ordination of women. Because if he had green-lighted the ordination of women to the diaconate (and by that I mean the real diaconate of Holy Orders and not some ersatz ministry with that title merely applied to it as an “honorific”) there would be open rebellion in the ranks and even the possibility of schism. Pope Francis knows this and shows himself to be a true man of the Church by closing the door on that topic. All I can say on that score is: “Peter has spoken through Francis”.

I think it is also important to address some of the mild criticisms of the text that I have seen in various reviews from conservatives concerning the Pope’s use of terms like “encounter” and “dialogue”. For example, Rusty Reno, in First Things, opines that he wishes the Pope had avoided such terms, freighted as they are with the weight of so much Leftist, secular drivel, and calls upon the Pope to use theological language drawn from the Church’s tradition instead. But I disagree. Those terms, though overused and misused in the secular sphere, are, nevertheless, perfectly understandable terms and there is no necessity to read them uncharitably as a nod toward the secular Left.

Indeed, in Querida Amazonia, the Pope specifically rejects a view of the Church as one more United Nations, philanthropic, “NGO” and posits a meaning for those terms rooted in the logic of the incarnation. By way of comparison, I recall that there were many similar criticisms of Pope John Paul’s appropriation of the modern language of “human rights” owing to the close affinity of that language to the secular humanism of political Liberalism. But John Paul, as with Francis now, was simply drawing upon a perfectly useful term and applied it with great effect in the service of the faith.

Finally, as the owner and manager of a Catholic Worker Farm in the tradition of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, I am perhaps also a bit more appreciative than most for the Pope’s words concerning the devastating effects of runaway capitalist consumerism in the Amazonian region. The Pope spares no words in his harsh and prophetic denunciation of the gods of mammon that have driven the destruction of the Amazonian forests and rivers. He locates the rapacious lust for ever-greater profits by the corporate Titans of the world within the hermeneutic of Augustine’s libido dominandi and calls us all to a life of evangelical simplicity and solidarity with the poor. This is most welcome and those who complain that the Pope has no special expertise in economics need to be reminded that neither did the prophets. Or Jesus.

My fervent hope therefore, is that a new and more nuanced narrative with regard to Pope Francis will emerge. A narrative rooted in his robust and full-throated Christocentrism. And, I will add, in his manifest love for the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

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About Larry Chapp 51 Articles
Dr. Larry Chapp is a retired professor of theology. He taught for twenty years at DeSales University near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He now owns and manages, with his wife, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. Dr. Chapp received his doctorate from Fordham University in 1994 with a specialization in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. He can be visited online at "Gaudium et Spes 22".


  1. “My own view is that he is still leaving the door open to further discussion on that topic and it may be his way of simply waiting for the bishops of the Amazon themselves to make a formal request for married viri probati.”

    Ummm – that’s pretty much what those “curmudgeons of the right” have said, as far as I can see. You’re agreeing with them while disparaging them.

    In between your “bit of a caricature” of the “toxic binaries” are those who think it would be very nice to have precision and clarity, and statements written or oral that do not have to be explained or explained away by someone else.

    • Hi Leslie. Thanks for the thoughtful reply. My description of the more toxic critics does not include every critic on the Right. Francis is rightly criticized for his ambiguity. And should he allow the ordination of married viri probati I think that would be a mistake, even though I would accept it as an exercise of his legitimate authority. But there are many critics on the Right (you can probably surmise who some of them are) go far beyond a reasoned and respectful critique and engage in hateful polemics. I have read blogs that accuse him of secret Freemasonry, of being an illegitimate and invalid Pope, of heresy, and even some who assert that he mentally ill and unstable. I just think those are toxic and are harmful to the Church.


      • Mr. Larry Chapp, your reply is as filled with sharp-back-and-forth-contradictions as your article is. In the reply here, first you say, “My description of the more toxic critics does not include every critic on the Right” but then you say, “…But there are many critics on the Right…” and you go on a half-paragraph attack against those straw men and straw women. They are straw because you totally base all you article on those and on the false assumption that they are the overwhelming majority of those not bowing blindly to Pope Francis.

        That is the very same, TOTALLY false assumption Francis makes by insulting any level-headed critic who refuses to see him as a TOTAL replacement of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man. Then you say, “And should he allow the ordination of married viri probati I think that would be a mistake, even though I would accept it as an exercise of his legitimate authority”. That’s a double-mind-twisting statement that is unacceptable to a True Catholic and based on a false argument of total, absolute, political, Protestant-like, God-replacing authority for Pope Francis.

        As Pope Benedict XVI said, “The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. … He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word”. That is True Core Catholicism, which is totally opposite to Protestant-style, autocratic monarchy, which is what is really “…toxic and harmful to the Church!

        • Whatever one thinks of my essay, there is no doubt that I am not attacking straw men and women. There are many critics on the Right who argue that Benedict is still the real Pope, that Francis is a heretic and, therefore, an anti-pope, that Francis is mentally unstable, and that he is probably a secret Freemason. For evidence, look no further than the comments below in response to my essay where most of those accusations against Pope Francis are made. And the problem is that in the age of the internet, it is the most extreme voices that seem to be setting the tone. I am not an uncritical cheer leader for Pope Francis. I am a very orthodox theologian of the school of Ratzinger and de Lubac, and I find Pope Francis to be, quite often, a complicated and vexing figure. I think he is too vague and is squishy in moral theology. I think he has flaws that are harmful to the Church. Nevertheless, he is the Holy Father and I think he deserves more respect than what he is being given by the far Right wing of the Church.

          • Mr. Chapp, not only do you attack straw men in your article, presenting Radical-Traditionalists (Rad-Trads) as totally influential and absolutely dominant in the Church, a VERY FALSE statement and tactic advanced by Pope Francis himself (for someone now claiming to not be his cheerleader you copy him perfectly), but in every reply to the comments here under your article you insist on presenting again and again the Rad-Trads as “toxic and harmful to the Church”, etc., etc.

            While there may be a small minority of exaggerated, boisterous, hard traditionalists in the Church, those are people we can all talk to without losing any part of our True Catholic Faith and falling for Pope Francis Weaponized Ambiguity, Confusion and Compromise, and which have opened wide doors to the true and present threats to the Church like willfully extremist Cardinal Reinhard Marx and all those like him.

            Your Rad-Trad Straw Men, again, are nothing but a DISTRACTION from the real threats, just like the anti-Catholics in the society at large demonize individuals so their nefarious works are well disguised, not focused upon and not revealed for the destructive darkness that they are. You even include a total falsity when you respond to “Leslie” below and you say, ” People like Spodaro [Spadaro] are empowered by such Right wing American polemics”.

            Ultra-Liberal Spadaro is empowered by the likes of Cardinal Marx and those in the Clergy and Laity like him, who totally forget about Christ and treat the Catholic Church like a generic charity group that “must” conform to the standards of modern Neo-Paganism in a Protestant Ever-More Compromising World-Pleasing Style through blind obedience to the Pope. That’s the REAL threat and True Catholics don’t follow those wolves disguised as sheep, as “holy” protectors and as “compassionate” saviors of humankind and the Church (Matthew 7:15), and that cunningly manipulate language and reality, and yell that the biggest threat against the Church is our solid faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ in the 2,000 years old Spirituality and Doctrine of the TRUE Catholic Church (John 10:11-18)!!

          • Mr. Clapp, two very prominent theologians – whom even you would not associate with anyone on your fictional “toxic right” – have privately stated to me their belief that the Pope’s declaration on religious diversity is FORMAL heresy.

          • Ugh, in the space of a few comboxes you used the words “toxic”, “hateful”, and “extreme”. These are not words from the lexicon of a Catholic. They are political words drawn from a secular, pagan, anti-Christian, left-wing, mindset that is antithetical to Catholicism. It’s hard to read you when your vocabulary is permeated with such imprecise terms that are meant to convey emotion and generate more heat than light.

      • Mr Chap, those who have accused the Pope of heresy have grounds to believe so.

        I don’t know if heresy is worse than idolatry but he’s managed to do both.

        What is harmful to the Church are not those who call the spade a spade, but the spade that turned out to be a dirty shovel.

      • So then what’s the point of giving free rein to the worst liberal excesses in the Catholic Church from the last 50 years by this Pope today? Those issues were supposed to be settled after 35 years of JPII/BXVI. One cannot help but agree with the disappointed Germans who read Querida Amazonia as a “nightmare”: What was the point of the whole rigmarole process of the Synod with the parading of clownish “theological” characters to get Querida Amazonia as an outcome? Ask yourself: would JPII or BXVI behave this way? And we’re supposed to be relieved that “The Pope is Catholic after all” because that wouldn’t rattle us too much… ? I post this fully aware that you – Larry Chap – are a Communio author. I am also aware of your previous criticisms of Pope Francis – which I think are accurate. The extreme opinions on Pope Francis by the “rad-trad” did not come about in a vacuum…

    • I also think that should one care to tilt at critics of the current pontiff it should be done without a generalized, blanket “gotchas”. Opposing views should be presented, discussed and argued within reasonable specific discourse. Surely Cardinal Muller’s assessment of QA is worthy of more that a blurb. The tears of the abused parents and children shed in Argentina decades ago as a result of the well documented actions of His Holiness are real and I assure you are not from hysterics. And I believe an honest discussion of the document would give a fuller consideration to the ameliorating
      affection of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal Prefect Sarah.

  2. In the Brazilian Amazon as many as 85% of the people are Penticostal. How did this happen? Shouldn’t the Church, including PF be concerned about that? I have recently been in the Peruvian Amazon region and from what I could ascertain, those who live there are very much similar to the rest of the Peruvian population. Again, there is a notable presence of Protestant sects who go from door to door with their Bibles in hand attempting to coerce people to join their sect. I have had occasion to talk to people in Peru, both there and in big cities who have joined these sects. I found that in the case those who were born Catholic if one talks to them about the Eucharist, their First Communion, the fact that their ancestors were Catholic, that there is no way that Jesus wanted 33,000 sects, that the Catholic Church was founded by and these sects were founded by some American Johnny come lately, they realize that all of this is true. I also explain to them that nowhere does the Bible state that it is the ultmate authority on the faith, that it actually says that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, that the frist part of the NT, the First Letter to the Thessalonians was written around the year 50 so the Church began without any NT, and that Luther accepted the Pharisees version of the Canon of the OT, some of them see that this is true. Of course, we need to realize that what characterizes Protestantism since Luther himself is hatred of the Catholic Church. In my opinion, we don’t need Synods or Papal documents but REAL EVANGELIZATION, cathechesis, building of communities and even if there is a shortage of priests, and they have Mass only once a month, I have seen that they have a great appreciation of celibate priests. Also, where I visited, the Church makes a big effort to train those called “animators”, who leads the community where there is no resident priest and are in constant contact with him. WE DON’T NEED MORE SYNODS OR DOCUMENTS. WE ALREADY HAVE EXCELLENT ONES PRODUCED UNDER POPES PAUL VI (EVANGELII NUNTIANDI) AND JOHN PAUL II (REDEMPTORIS MISSIO). What is needed is to get working and less infighting in the Church. How much energy is being wasted by these fights? There should be a moratorium on Synods and also documents. It seems that the Vatican folks when they see a problem, they throw a document at it, much of which is made up of quotes from previous documents. This document mania came with Vatican II. Compare the “wordy” doucments of Vatican II with those of Trent. After Trent we got the resurgence of Catholicism and the great Barque cuture, not to mention a host of great saints. After Vatican II it is not necessary to describe what we got and what we now have, empty churches, attempts to bring the Church to comply with the rubbishy culture we suffer these days etc.

    • Joseph
      I agree with your assessment of the Amazonian region and also with your comments on Pentacostalism. I too spent time in that area in my youth (in the 80’s) and that trend was just beginning. Apparently it is now a huge problem. What strikes me about that is that it shows that people have a desire for a true supernatural element in the Church. And so perhaps the overemphasis on Liberation Theology and social justice, while good in some ways, muted these more mystical elements of the Church and drove people out who were seeking a more vertical and charismatic encounter with the Lord. I have no idea if Pope Francis shares that view and Querida Amazonia does not address it so that is disappointing. But I do take some encouragement from his emphasis on the need for an encounter with Christ as central to evangelization. Finally, I do think Synods and documents are helpful, but you are entirely correct that chit-chatting away in Rome in a discussion organized and led by clueless Germans can be a distraction from the true needs of the Church in that region.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  3. Dear Mr. Chapp –

    The author of QA, the Pontiff Francis, is pleading to the faithful, in defending himself, that it is possible to perform acts of idolatry without any idolatrous intent, and he invites Catholic people around the world to imitate him.

    The Pontiff Francis in October 2019 fully revealed himself as a madman.

    A slow-motion horror movie began playing in 2013, when this pontificate began with the unveiling of the Pontiff Francis, and unbeknownst to most all the faithful, standing next to the Pontiff Francis was the sex abuse coverup Cardinal Danneels of Belgium, who just 3 years earlier was retired in disgrace, when the Belgian press (De Staandard, etc) exposed that Danneels had powerfully intervened to refuse justice for the Vangelhuwe family, who were pleading with the bishops of Belgium to bring their own uncle, Bishop Roger Vangelhuwe, to justice, because he was guilty of raping their brother, his very own nephew, for some 10 years, when he was a boy and a teenager. Simultaneously, unbeknownst to us, there followed the “liberation” by the Pontiff Francis of the sociopath serial sex abuser and fraud McCarrick, and the “liberation” of the sociopath serial sex abuser “Rev.” Inzoli. And then followed the Pontiff Francis smearing of the faithful in Chile, for daring to seek justice. And the Pontiff Francis smearing of Cardinal Mueller, calling him “a child,” because, among many other offenses to the Pontiff Francis, Mueller took sex abuse investigations as a serious duty in pursuit of justice. Sociopath abusers like “His Excellency” Zanchetta are “preferred.”

    Indeed, Marie Collins of Ireland and her lay colleagues rightly witnessed against the pontificate of Francis when resigning from his “committee” on sex abuse, knowing that bringing abusers to justice is not the objective.

    2000 years ago, St. Paul gave witness that idolatry and sexual decadence go hand in hand.

    In April 2019, the Bishops Conference journal Missio began the path to idolatry in behalf of the Pontiff Francis, by publishing its prayer to the “re-purposed” pagan goddess Pachamama.

    Then followed the staged managed idolatry of the Pontiff Francis in October, presiding over the worship of the demonic pagan totem statue of Pachamama, the processing of the pagan idol into the churches of Rome, and the abominable and diabolical act of taking the black bowls of pagan offerings to the “alternative deity,” and placing them on the altar of the sacrifice of Our Lord.

    What began in 2013 with injustice against the victims of powerful and well-placed ecclesial sex abusers and coverup artists, has now culminated in the Pontiff Francis’ delusion that he can dress in white costume, and make mockery of the First Commandment, and get away with doing injustice even to God.

    Trusting in the words and deeds of the Pontiff Francis would require a very long re-education project designed to confect a completely infantalized Church.

    Despite the delusions of the Pontiff Francis, reality is happening. We are called to be sheep for The Good Shepherd, and not debased cattle for the Pontiff Francis.

    Now we have learned

    • Sorry Chapp but everyone who has defended this exhortation has got themselves into contortions in trying to avoid the obvious – this Pope is a wrecking ball who has pressed the pause button while he has a tea break.

      Anyone who believes otherwise needs to go to the optometrist and get the rose tinted glasses changed to clear.

  4. Dear Dr. Chapp,

    Seconding the comments by Leslie and Chris and adding my own:

    1) “The Pope, it turns out, is a Catholic after all” – it is beyond dispute at this point that he isn’t – “and he explicitly states in the text that Christ is the unique and sole savior of the human race” – yet the apostate abu Dhabi Document on Human Fraternity remains unchanged and uncorrected. What kind of sick game is this?

    2) Those who accuse him of links with Freemasonry have provided documentation of him signing as one in the 70s. You would do well refuting this evidence instead of presenting this as an unwarranted accusation.

  5. Seven paragraphs in we are told “The Pope, it turns out, is a Catholic after all.”

    And that is supposed to be what? A relief? I don’t even know what to say.

    The new document is a relief, for sure, but a vindication. Spare me.

    Whatever Pope Francis actually believes, his public rhetoric is riddled with ambiguities and offers no assurances. He might as well be Karl Barth as a Catholic pope. His utterances to date are nothing short of a scandal, and this new one is another example of orthodox phrases arranged as to communicate a a pastiche of verbose opaque nothingness comprised of Christian phrases. He might as well be Episcopalian.

  6. Many thanks Dr Chapp for a well-balanced and insightful essay. Pope Francis, as with all popes, requires our ongoing prayers and goodwill. As a European, this is something ever rarer encountered in many of the US Catholic fora, that I like to read. The constant cheering (liberals) or perennial faux-outrage (traditionalists) appears to be a predominantly American experience. There has of course been an internal ‘culture war’ of sorts *within* the church, debating the whys, wherefores, effects, the ‘spirit of’, and the meanings of what has been happening since Vatican II, if not before. This perhaps was inevitable given the pace of change in so many areas of the modern world, and perhaps also due to the fact that the council was one that dealt not with the major doctrines of the faith per se, but with the nature of the church herself. It seems to me though that this binary internal debate has of late melded with the perennially partisan nature of US political discourse, and super-charged by the internet has now created the ultimate ‘thousand popes’ storm. It is unhealthy, as both ‘tribes’ appear to define their ‘defeats’ or ‘victories’ solely based on the action/reaction of their opponents, and seems to be fertile ground for conspiracies. There is a lot of theory to this business and an ever growing gap between that and reality amongst many. As can be seen from the comments, there are many keeping a running tab of all of this pope’s sayings and doings. One hopes they are doing the same with their own souls. Decontexualized and arranged or rearranged according to one’s preconceived assumptions or ‘desired’ outcomes this becomes powerful ammunition in the hands of the prosecution.

    I am still reading Querida Amazonia so will refrain from commenting, I am not qualified, other than to say it is a bit long, but very well-written. A profound meditation in many ways.

    I am no expert in the history of that part of the world, but as a professional historian would suggest that one major factor, often overlooked, re the faith in S.America – aside from the usual American laundry list: liberation theology, base communities, etc. was the length of time that the numerous Spanish and Portugese colonials kept a firm grip on the reins of the church’s hierarchy and life in that region. This was very different from the role of say the Dutch, Irish or French in Africa or Asia, where after the first, at most second, generation (when the seed had been planted and the saplings watered) the Europeans missionaries moved aside and the local church was *allowed* inculturate at its own pace; most noticeable in the rise of native clergy to the episcopacy. This native V ‘newcomer’ dynamic is largely invisible to many of us Westerners outside Latin America. The left V right civil wars in Argentina et al. largely divided along similar ethnic/social class lines. In QA the pope however appears to be well-aware of this and its long-term effects.

    • “As a European, this is something ever rarer encountered in many of the US Catholic fora, that I like to read. The constant cheering (liberals) or perennial faux-outrage (traditionalists) appears to be a predominantly American experience.”

      While I do see your point, how much of the even-handedness in Europe is based on complete indifference about the Faith? Church attendance numbers there seem to be even more abysmal than the abysmal ones in the US.

    • Thank you for this kind reply. I do not think Pope Francis is beyond criticism. Indeed, I myself have engaged in some rather pointed criticisms of some of his statements. I think he is too vague on too many things and is a bit of a sentimentalist in moral theology. But there is no doubt that there is a very significant and influential minority of hyper-traditionalist Catholic fundamentalists in the United States who are setting the tone for the conversation. That is most unfortunate, because they are drowning out the more reasonable criticisms of Francis from more moderate American commentators. They also feed a certain paranoia in the Vatican by officials who do not like, nor understand, America. People like Spodaro are empowered by such Right wing American polemics.

      • So now you are going to blame “right wing” Americans for Bergoglio’s disastrous appointments, including the flourishing of a sodomite cabal right under his very nose, with his approval and protection? And you want to be taken seriously?

  7. Dear Mr. Chapp:

    I was encouraged to comment again when I saw your comment inclining to Joseph Ratzinger, having read many of his books, and admired him as Pope.

    I read one of your comments and am curious about the category you have employed called “hyper-traditionalist fundamentalist Catholic.”

    I was taught in my Catholic high school days that fundamentalist meant the peculiar belief among some American Protestants that every word in the Bible is to be interpreted literally.

    But in recent years, the word is used in some circles, including some inhabited by the unfortunate “Rev.” Spadaro, without that meaning.

    To help understand what you mean, perhaps you could define fundamentalist?

    What does this word convey to you when you hear it and use it?

  8. Mr. Chapp, blessings of the Lord!

    Paraphrasing, inversely, Chesterton, are we really sure “that it combats, and is robust”? – hopefully and prayerfully, may it not turn out to be like ‘birth control,’ ‘where there is neither birth nor control”. Yes, there is the absence of Christ and His witnessing ‘with reverence and gentleness, the reason for our hope’, by both, at times, of the left and right.

  9. It is amusing, but not persuasive, when you begin by protesting against ‘caricatures” in your essay, and end by defending it with a protest against “a very significant and influential minority of hyper-traditionalist Catholic fundamentalists in the United States.”

    That doesn’t sound very level-headed.

    What many others find more influential are facts about the behavior of the Pontiff Francis. The Pontiff Francis has by his actions repeatedly demonstrated his preference for ecclesial sex abusers and coverup artists, like Danneels and McCarrick and Inzoli and Zanchetta. In the 1st 3 cases the it is perfectly obvious that the Pontiff Francis knew what these criminals had done, and he liberated and restored all 3 to full function. And reports indicate he very likely knew about Zanchetta, since Z was his close confidant in Argentina. And the Church at large knows that the Pontiff Francis undermined Cardinal Mueller’s CDF sex abuse investigation efforts, fired 2-3 trusted investigators, and then fired Mueller, and returned the authority for sex abuse investigations back to the utterly corrupt Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin, from the very same Congregation that, under Pope Paul VI and then John Paul II, and led by the corrupt Cardinal Sodano, spent 40+ years stifling sex abuse investigations.

    And we all watched the Pontiff Francis preside over idolatry in October 2019, and we now know that he had arranged it a long time comimg, thanks to Phillip Lawler disclosing the publication by the Pontiff’s very own Italian Bishops Conference, of their prayer to Pachamama in April 2019, at link here:


    And we know what the idolatry of Pachamama is all about, from this political blog here:

    Phillip Lawler has not, to the best of our knowledge, been “found out” as part of the secret “hyper-traditionalist fundamentalist” cult besieging you. And our socialist friends at “Nature Needs Half” are certainly all cheering the Pontiff’s option to market their very own re-purposed pagan idol, and wish the Pontiff great success in his “integration” of paganism into our Catholic Church. So even reasonable people can conclude that the Pontiff has contempt for the 6th and 1st Commandments, unaided by the “powerful influence” of the secret ‘hyper-traditionalist fundamentalists.”

    Until we meet again, I bid you farewell, and God’s blessings…

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