The “historic” Amazonian Synod, revisited

It appears that Cardinal Hummes is reimagining the recent Catholic past in order to make certain points about the Catholic present and the Catholic future.

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)

Given that he was one of the principal planners and prominent leaders of last October’s special Synod on Amazonia, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, is understandably enthusiastic about the results of that exercise. Indeed, the enthusiasm of the emeritus archbishop of São Paulo and prefect emeritus of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy seems virtually boundless: Cardinal Hummes recently claimed that “The Synod for the Amazon was historic; no previous synod was as synodal and reform-oriented as this one.” High praise indeed.

But is such fulsome applause really warranted? How does the cardinal’s claim measure up against the historical record? Not very well, I fear. Which suggests the possibility that Cardinal Hummes is reimagining the recent Catholic past in order to make certain points about the Catholic present and the Catholic future.

The 1974 Synod on evangelization was a donnybrook, reflecting the turbulence in the Church a decade after the Second Vatican Council. The synod fathers couldn’t agree on a final report, so they handed the synod’s materials to Pope Paul VI with the request that he do something. Pope Paul responded with the great apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (Announcing the Gospel). It was Paul VI’s last pastoral testament to the Church and the first summons to what John Paul II would call the “New Evangelization:” the grand strategy that animates the living parts of the world Church today.

Was the Amazonian Synod more “historic” than that?

The 1990 Synod debated priestly formation and seminary reform. The propositions adopted by the synod fathers helped shape John Paul II’s 1992 apostolic exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis (I Shall Give You Shepherds). Where it was taken seriously (as in the United States), that exhortation helped apply the brakes to the silly season in seminaries and laid the foundation for the reformed seminaries of today.

Was the Amazonian Synod more “reform-oriented” than that?

The 1994 Synod explored the renewal of consecrated religious life in light of Vatican II’s teaching on the subject. Its reflections helped John Paul II write the 1996 apostolic exhortation, Vita Consecrata (The Consecrated Life). Throughout the world Church today, religious communities of men and women that embraced Vita Consecrata are vibrant and making real contributions to the New Evangelization; those that ignored Vita Consecrata are moribund or dying.

Was the Amazonian Synod more “historic” than that?

And then there was the special Synod of 1985, which met on the 20th anniversary of Vatican II’s fourth and final session to explore what had gone right, and what had gone not-so right, in implementing the Council. Its final report’s description of the Church as a communion of disciples in mission provided the thread that wove the 16 documents of Vatican II into a coherent, compelling tapestry of Catholic faith. Like Evangelii Nuntiandi, the special Synod of 1985 was a crucial moment in the journey from Vatican II – the council Pope John XXIII called to give the Church new missionary energy – to the New Evangelization.

Was the Amazonian Synod more “historic” and “reform-oriented” than that?

As for the Amazonian Synod itself, others who were in Rome last October may remember the proceedings somewhat differently than Cardinal Hummes evidently does.

Some will remember that the roster of synod participants reflected a narrow bandwidth of Catholic opinion. Some will remember the rather stifling atmosphere within the Synod Hall, which reinforced the impression created by the synod’s managers that (to vary Orwell) some viewpoints were more equal than other viewpoints. Some will remember the extraordinary things that were said in the synod assembly and in the synod’s press conferences – including the boast by a venerable missionary bishop that he hadn’t baptized an indigenous person in 35 years. Still others will remember that Rome in October 2019 was awash in German money and full of German-financed non-governmental organization, which functioned more like political lobbies (or theatrical companies) than ecclesial communities.

Time will tell whether the special Synod for Amazonia made a significant contribution to the proclamation of Jesus Christ and the Gospel in a largely unevangelized region, or whether that synod was a stalking horse for a host of other agendas, ecclesiastical, ecological, and political. One thing only seems clear now: Querida Amazonia [Beloved Amazonia], Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation completing the synod’s work, gravely disappointed those who imagined the Amazonian Synod as the decisive pivot to the Catholic revolution they had long sought.

So one must wonder, again, just what Cardinal Hummes had in mind by describing the Amazonian Synod as “historic.”

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About George Weigel 419 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent books are The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), and Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021).


  1. The seminaries of Catholic Church are now “reformed,” and the “silly season” is past. (?)

    Characterizing the corruption of seminaries as a past, temporary “silly season” isn’t treating things seriously.

    Cardinal Hummes, being from the OFM Franciscans, is a case in point. The OFM (Order of Friars Minor) Franciscans seem to be a very troubled group. Indeed, their current Director, Brother Michael Perry, has disclosed in Nov 2014 that the OFM was in “grave, and I underscore grave” financial distress, because of “irregularities” involving tens of millions of USD, during the 10-year term of his predecessor, now Archbishop, Jose Carballo, whisked away to Rome in 2013, and appointed as head of the Congregation for Consecrated the Pontiff Francis, where he can propagate his OFM “silliness” (incompetence or worse…fraud) across the all priests and nuns around the world..

    I will post a link on the story in a few moments, in another comment.

    The problems with the Church are not given serious treatment with tidy, time-worn narratives like Mr. Wiegel’s here.

    And while we’re at it, if Cardinal Hummes is such a poor example, who made him a Bishop and then a Cardinal?

    • The simple fact is that the seminaries are miles ahead of where they were. They did get reformed, and are turning out JPII priests, who on the whole, are very good. Orthodox, which is not what was there before the reform. There are still problems, but I have to say, I am so sick of this crap about “Who appointed so and so cardinal?” The fact is, JP II appointed something like 213 Cardinals during his time in office, and there are maybe five that did not turn out well. This is hardly surprising the five could sneak through, because JP II had to rely on bishops throughout the world who hated his guts, were super liberals who opposed him at every turn, and the ability of a pope to predict what his appointees will do in the future is limited. Some were very good at publicly being very pro orthodoxy until they could get away with being liberal. So tired of total cheap shots.

  2. Did I skip over a reference to it and miss the fact that this Synod will be remembered for its worship of pagan idols and the faithful tossing Pachamama into the Tiber? The Vatican ought to wake up. Few are playing “follow the leader” anymore.

    • I know I’ll also remember a great deal from the Synod that strikes my as “historic,” in addition to the paganism. A group of high prelates sitting around a conference press table tongue tied and shoulder shrugging and unable to give any sort of coherent moral response then and in all the intervening time since to the moral subject of children being buried alive in the Amazonian utopia. I’m still waiting for Weigel and Pope Francis to give any indication of taking offense as well.

    • Haaa! Indeed, deacon, that’s the only memorable thing about the whole bit, and it wasn’t even done by the participants 🙂

    • I missed the part where the pagan idols were mentioned also. At least it’s final result did not ask for a female priesthood….yet.

  3. Let’s be honest: The Amazon Synod was a Goat Rodeo and complete waste of time. IT accomplished absolutely nothing other than to cause scandal to the faithful and hand ammunition to anti-Catholic Fundies by it’s open heterodoxy and Idolatry.

  4. You can tell where someone’s head is at by how he uses the word “historic” as a synonym for “wonderful”. In the real world, everything is historic. History is just one dang thing after another, and there’s nothing special about something being historic. But progressives don’t live in the real world.

  5. Symbolism over Substance. The word “historic” has been bandied about today like the word “robust” and “hero” so much by a certain section of society.That the words mean nothing to the audience or reader.

  6. We READ that “Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation completing the synod’s work, gravely disappointed those who imagined the Amazonian Synod as the decisive pivot to the Catholic revolution they had long sought.”

    Maybe the synod [actually Amazonia/Germania] actually was historic—but in the sense that Pope Francis might be recalling history’s ST. THOMAS MORE, as portrayed by playwright Robert Boldt.

    While Pope Francis has since formed an (oxymoronic?) deaconess commission—because some think it a matter capable of question—he might also know the relevant HISTORIC record in “A Man for All Seasons.” Thomas More confronting the ever-present ecclesial termites:

    “Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question [!]. But if it is flat, will the King’s command make it round? And if it is round, will the Kings command flatten it? No I will not sign.”

    So, as we calculate the global geometries of center versus periphery, “communal hierarchy” (the historic Vatican II!) versus polygon, and Germania’s “synodal path” versus Christ’s “narrow gate” (Mt 7:14) . . . AND as we now recall More’s lay history—we are at least preserved from SQUARE CIRCLES.

    Ho Hummes, it’s not about “imagined” Amazonia/Germania theology at all, but rather the universal and non-demonstrable “first principle of non-contradiction.”

  7. Reading Amazonia requires study of a process begun 2013. What are the major accomplishments [value assessment left to the reader] and what was the method employed. Listing is unnecessary, although for sake of argument I cite one the Pontifical John Paul II Institute. An Amazonia Synod priority not approved in Querida Amazonia was a female diaconate. Recently the Pontiff called for a renewed study of female deacons. Cardinal Claudio Hummes is neither fool, nor traditional, rather a savvy progressive Papal confidant well aware of Pope Francis’ soft shoe, slow walk method of accomplishing progressive goals. A prime example of such is a polygonal Church [Cardinal Kasper’s dream Church] already to his delight accomplished in Germany. It may appear to some this occurred contrary to pontifical favor. Following Querida, Hamlet like brooding Cardinal Reinhard Marx resigned. Replaced by someone as determined to create an independent German church. The process was long, back and forth demands, refusals, reconsideration until today’s prototype German church afflicted with acute polygonic schismaticism with quasi moral features secondary to chronic progressive Catholicism. Amazonia Synod the touchstone. Do we sigh in dismay. No. We call a spade a spade for our own integrity and for sake of the disillusioned.

  8. Deacon Rd said it first, but to second his nomination, the truly thing “historic” moment of the AS was the Pontiff Francis presiding over and promoting idolatry, and then he and his gaslighting cohort lying to themselves and the world that they worshipped Pachamama “without idolatrous intent.”

    The Pontiff Francis and his team will be REMEMBERED for their cult goddess PACHAMAMA (along with McCarrick and the secret China Accord, among other abominations).

  9. The Amazon Synod was historic alright. Historic because never in the 2,000 year History of the Catholic Church has a synod or council been so full of compromising delusions, treason, idolatry and the humanistic heresy of SELF-GLORIFICATION, and finished their work without a direct and strong condemnation from the Pope. That’s infamously historic, as in despicably unique in Catholic History.

    Pope Francis’ “Querida Amazonia” apostolic exhortation, despite all appearances, was a watered down slap of approval of the Judas Pachamama Amazon Synod, given that it did not in any way, form or manner, condemn the public, direct injection of the spirit of this world, the Satanic Gospel of Self-Glorifying Anti-God Activism, into the Catholic Church.

    SUGGESTED PRAYER: “Lord JESUS, we thank you for the privilege of being alive on this day and give you all praise, worship, love and thanks in all things, as our Only and Absolute God, Creator, Lord and Judge. We are de-converting every day so, in your Mercy, give us your Almighty Grace to re-convert deeply to you daily, every single moment, repenting quickly when we fall. Help us to be totally united to your Victory on the Cross and be invincible in the Faith, even if we must be humiliated and diminished so that you are increased in Glory on this Earth and in all that exists (John 3:30). Thank you, Lord.

    Make us one with your Saving Cross. May I not live, but only you live daily in me (Galatians 2:20). JESUS, Lord God Almighty, our One and True Pope, True and Absolute Head of the Mystical Body of the Church, may your Divine Authority crush and destroy any and all demonic influence, control, oppressions, infiltrations and infections on us and the Catholic Church resulting from the abuse and morbid self-glorifying use of the spiritual gifts of ordination by some of our Clergy in the Amazon Synod, or anywhere, at any time. Thank you, Lord.

    May you protect us and give us Victory over all the effects of any and all possible compromise and idolatry committed by the Clergy and Pope Francis in the secret chamber of their hearts, which you know so well. May you cancel and destroy any and all witchcraft and occultism coming from Clergy or Laity secretly committed to the Evil One, Satan, and disguised as false love and false mercy. May you lead them and all of us to total, daily and full repentance, conversion and surrender to you, Lord JESUS Christ, for your absolute and only Glory. Thank you, Lord, amen!!”

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