Idolatry, sexual confusion, and more: A talk on the Amazon Synod
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December 10, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — On Sunday, November 24, I gave a lecture entitled “A Theological Review of the Amazon Synod” at Regina Caeli Parish in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, focusing on four topics: first, the violations of the First Commandment that took place at the Vatican; second, and following closely on the first, the confusion of inculturation with syncretism; third, the proposal to abolish mandatory clerical celibacy; and fourth, the proposal to ordain deaconesses. I attempted to show the thread that connects all of these to each other and to the reforms and tendencies of the postconciliar period.
The event was attended by about 150 people and filmed so that many more could watch it. An editor prepared a version that offers running visual commentary in the form of Vatican footage and photographs of the various events or people mentioned:
Here are some highlights of the lecture (the full text may be found here).
On the commission of idolatry:
The Ten Commandments are listed in order of importance. Think about what that means: having false gods is a sin worse than adultery or murder. For this reason I did not hesitate to add my signature to the signatures of a hundred other scholars and pastors on the recent “Protest against Pope Francis’s Sacrilegious Acts,” dated November 9 and released November 12. Before continuing, we must define a key term. “Pachamama” is a South American fertility goddess or divinity, venerated for centuries by pagans, by poorly evangelized or catechized Christians, and, more recently, by some New Age cults. Some commentators have dismissed the charges of idolatry and sacrilege, arguing that the wooden figures were not idols; that they were not being venerated as gods or spirits or forces of nature; and even that they were meant to represent the Virgin Mary (however offensively portrayed). But these arguments do not hold up to critical scrutiny.
Since the Pachamama images do not represent the true God, the Blessed Mother, or any other Christian saint, the religious acts involving them stand condemned by Catholic teaching. The section entitled “idolatry” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in n. 2112 that the First Commandment, in condemning polytheism, “requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God.” Note how the Catechism uses the more general words “venerate” and “divinities,” rather than “adore” and “gods”: the Church is setting the bar relatively low as to what constitutes idolatry. While the prostrations she received strongly suggest latria or adoration, it is beyond dispute that Pachamama was at least venerated in these papally-patronized ceremonies. The Catechism’s language also renders irrelevant the heated debate over whether Pachamama, in the current Amazonian (as distinct from Incan) usage, is truly seen as a “goddess” or not. For the word “divinities” is broader than “god” and “goddess.” It covers also the animistic and/or pantheistic belief that certain objects and places are intrinsically sacred, numinous, holy, and to be religiously revered. The religious honor given to Pachamama in Rome and elsewhere makes it clear that “she,” or the “Earth Mother” represented by her images, is seen by her devotees as a “divinity” of some sort — and certainly not “the one true God.”
Finally, the next paragraph of the Catechism, n. 2113, speaks of “idolatry” in quite general terms as being constituted by falsos paganismi cultus (“false pagan worship”). Since the Pachamama religious rites carried out in Rome were clearly not monotheistic (i.e., Christian, Jewish, or Muslim), it follows that they were pagan. The fact that Jesus, Mary, or a Christian saint or two are venerated alongside traditional tribal divinities, which is technically known as “syncretism,” would not stop such cults from being pagan. Hindus and some other pagans are often happy enough to include Jesus as one god among others in their various pantheons, as indeed the ancient Romans were willing to do.
All of this has nothing to do with so-called “inculturation”; it is syncretism, the deliberate blending of pagan and Christian worship, which has been fought against by the Church and her missionaries for twenty centuries. Missionaries do not take a pagan idol and dress it up like the Blessed Virgin Mary; they tend rather to burn and destroy idols, as we frequently read about in the lives of the saints.
Bishop Erwin Kräutler, a key figure in the Synod, stated on October 30 that the Pachamama statues were “a form of expression of the indigenous people,” which could be “integrated into our [Catholic] liturgy. And if it is for many a divinity, then it is an attack upon the soul of a people to throw them into the Tiber.” This is an astonishing pair of statements, for while admitting that many still perceive and treat Pachamama as a divinity, he nonetheless advocates integrating it into the proposed Amazonian rite of Mass as a valuable symbol. I don’t know whether to marvel more at the blasphemy or at the sheer intellectual incoherence. Symbols matter; they mean something. Symbols are not haphazard things that can be interpreted any which way we want.
The “inculturation” described in the working document and reiterated in the Synod’s final document is a false approach, rooted in religious indifferentism, dogmatic relativism, and liturgical experimentalism. Ironically, if acted upon, this approach would not inspire new currents of culture in the Amazon, but merely colonize non-Europeans with the modern European angst of ex-Christian self-loathing — a hatred directed uniquely at Europe’s own past and the Church’s own traditions.
In reality, it is pagan cultures that are in need of conversion and elevation. Any elements taken from these cultures, duly purged of sin and error, will stand as matter to the “form” imparted by the life-giving Catholic Faith. It is the Church that is the agent, form, and goal in any true inculturation, while the recipient culture is the matter that receives the form from the agent for the sake of salvation in Christ. ... It is never necessary to seek, as a goal, to take elements of a heathen culture and incorporate them into the sacred culture. If there are elements worthy of elevation into the sacral domain, this will happen slowly, subtly, with discernment. Running after these elements in a kind of desperate hunt for relevancy is doomed to failure; it is a kind of prostitution to the present age and its malevolent prince. A so-called “Amazonian rite,” manufactured by committee and imposed by episcopal fiat, is contrary to the laws of organic liturgical development and the primacy of the Gospel over all cultures to which it arrives. Inculturation as it has been understood and practiced by liturgical revolutionaries is one more ploy of Satan to destabilize and denature the Church of God, to water down her distinctiveness, to poison and pollute her divine cultus and human culture.
Perhaps the most startling error in the Instrumentum laboris and in the Synod discussions is the idea of the world as a more complete divine revelation than that found in the lex orandi and lex credendi of Christianity. ... In an interview with Ross Douthat published on November 9, Raymond Cardinal Burke observes: “What was proposed in the working document . . . is an apostasy from the Catholic faith. A denial of the unicity and universality of the redemptive incarnation of our Lord Jesus’ saving work. . . . I mean the idea that Jesus’ grace is one element in the cosmos — but it’s the cosmos, the world, that is the ultimate revelation. And therefore, even in going to a region like the pan-Amazon region, you wouldn’t be concerned to preach the gospel because you recognize there already the revelation of God. This is a falling away from the Christian faith.”
Our religion comes to us from God decisively intervening in human history and giving us the message of salvation, to which every culture, like every individual, must bend the knee in a process of conversion. It is man who must submit to the truth from on high — submit in faith, in baptism, in ecclesial order, in liturgy. It is not the truth that must submit to man and reflect his inner aspirations or feelings or ideas. This latter view was espoused by the Modernists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and by their latter-day disciples, including Pope Francis. We should not be surprised that he has espoused so many heresies, dozens of them: for Modernism itself was defined by St. Pius X as “the synthesis of all heresies.”
The attack on clerical celibacy:
It is important to understand that this attack has nothing to do with a shortage of clergy. There has always been a shortage of clergy in missionary territories, but no one prior to our decadent age has ever thought that abolishing celibacy was the right solution. Rather, the Church has obeyed Christ by redoubling her prayers to the Lord of the harvest, asking Him to send more workers into the vineyard, and by purifying herself of corruption so that she may be found worthy of having her prayers answered.
We also know, as Bishop Athanasius Schneider says in his outstanding book Chrisus Vincit, that there have been heroic Christians in all ages who have persevered in spite of sacramental deprivation, because they had been taught the Faith and they remained true to it. He cites especially the example of Japanese Catholics who held on to the orthodox faith for more than 200 years without clergy or recourse to any sacraments besides baptism. When French missionaries reestablished contact with these Christians, they “were amazed to find that they knew the Apostles’ Creed and many prayers, including the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the [other prayers of the] rosary, in both Japanese and Latin.” Frankly, this is a better track record than the local churches in almost any country after the Second Vatican Council, in spite of a comparative abundance of bishops and priests.
Celibacy is one of the crown jewels of Latin Christianity; the roots of it are found in many passages of the New Testament and confirmed by abundant testimonies from the Church Fathers. Marriage is not absolutely incompatible with holy orders, since the power of order is a supernatural gift that may be conferred on any apt man by the laying on of hands. However, marriage is relatively incompatible with holy orders, which explains why from apostolic times on, there is a steady effort to enforce perpetual continence among the clergy. The Christian East bears witness to this connection in three ways: first, they hold monastic or consecrated life as the highest vocation; second, bishops may be chosen only from celibates; and third, even married clergy must abstain from marital relations the day before the offering of the Divine Liturgy, which is one of the reasons why a daily Eucharistic liturgy is rare in the East outside of monasteries or cathedrals. In truth, celibacy is profoundly fitting to the clerical state; and fittingness, in the Catholic tradition, is often the highest and strongest argument for what we believe and what we do.
The Amazon Synod’s recommendation, therefore, strikes at the Catholic Church’s imitatio Christi, her adherence to biblical teaching and patristic witness, and her fidelity to a consistent Magisterium from the earliest times until now. This novelty of the Synod must be rejected without qualification.
On ministries for women:
All traditional Eucharistic liturgies, whether of the Christian East or of the Christian West, are hierarchically structured: the roles of bishop, priest, deacon, subdeacon, lector, acolyte, and so forth are clearly delineated. Only men serve in these roles, since they are all modes of exercising Christ’s royal priesthood in the flesh. The faithful in attendance also have their role, which is not to be confused with the roles of any of the ministers. ...
What is clear is that deaconesses never exercised a properly liturgical ministry — one involved with the administration of the sacraments, especially the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Thus, to talk today of “deacons” and “deaconesses” in the same breath is simply to equivocate, like speaking of the canons of a cathedral and the Roman Canon. The word in Greek simply means “servant,” and surely, both men and women were serving in various capacities. But just as the practice of giving communion in the hand died out over a thousand years ago, so did the practice of employing deaconesses; and it is one more example of false antiquarianism to try to bring them back in a totally different context.
It was unquestionably the introduction of the Novus Ordo, itself a product of false antiquarianism, that has created the current push for women’s liturgical ministries.… For the current confusion, we have Paul VI and John Paul II to thank, since the former abolished the longstanding minor orders, the latter permitted female altar servers, and both permitted Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. The new rite of Mass is horizontal and democratic in its manner of practice: the hierarchical offices are either canceled out or confused, the distinction between clergy and laity is blurred, the roles of men and women are mingled in a way only imaginable after the Sexual Revolution, and instead of the verticality of simultaneous action directed to God, there is linear, modular, sequential liturgy in service of audience-oriented rationalism. The symbolism of separation and articulation inside the church building is not respected by the rite or its rubrics. In such an environment, there is no convincing reason to exclude women from ministries, because the entire concept of liturgy has been disconnected from tradition, homogenized, and harnessed to utilitarian and social functions, not symbolic and theological ones.
It is surely not unreasonable to think that the demons tacitly invoked throughout the Synod, before it, and after it were assiduously at work to push forward the ecclesiastical Sexual Revolution consisting in the ever-greater confusion or denial of the male and female sexes and the denigration of the gift of perpetual continence. In this way the Vatican regime sets itself against both creation at the beginning, represented by the procreative duality of sexes, and re-creation in Christ, represented by the Virgin Birth and virginal High Priest.
On the fallout from the synod and how we should react:
What can we do in these circumstances? What are we supposed to do? The answer is simply this: we must counteract the apostasy in the Church by adoring the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as devoutly and fervently as we can; we must hold fast to the one and only Catholic Faith received from tradition, and never abandon it under any pressures or threats whatsoever. We should increase our Mass attendance and rosaries; renew our consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary; do penance and make reparation, especially by fasting and going to Eucharistic Adoration. When the apostles could not cast out a certain demon, the Lord said to them: “This kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt 17:21). Are we not confronting the work of demons — no longer acting in secret, but openly?
Christian realism is supernatural realism, one that is shot through with hope and confidence. We recognize that God Himself has permitted this darkness, since nothing escapes His will, and that He is and always will be in charge, as Christ while sleeping in the boat remained in charge of the storm. When God permits evil, He does so in order to raise up saints and to expose the works of darkness for their ugliness. As long as any convenient compromise between the Church and the world remains hidden, it endures; but when the ugliness of this compromise becomes visible, then its doom is upon it. Every period of crisis in the history of the Church has yielded to a subsequent period of peace and light, thanks to the trustful prayers and strenuous efforts of the saints. Such periods of peace and light are and will always be relative and temporary in this vale of tears; “we have here no abiding city but we seek one that is to come” (Heb 13:14).
To me, this is a great consolation, because it helps me to think twice before I say something like: “the Church is crumbling before our eyes” or “the Church is being destroyed.” No. Parts of the Church on earth are apostatizing, because those who still live in this mortal life can change for the worse; but the Church of Christ in its now-existing perfection in heaven is immortal, spotless, beyond the reach of sin or the devil — and we are members of that same Church, sustained by its prayers, enveloped in its grace, drawn onward by its glory. The gates of hell cannot prevail.
Full text here.