Vatican theologian: Church ‘slips into pantheism’ with Pope Francis’ Amazon exhortation
February 19, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – On February 12, Monsignor Nicola Bux, a prominent theologian and former consulter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during Benedict XVI’s pontificate, commented on Pope Francis' new post-synodal exhortation Querida Amazonia, saying that the document has “problematic openings that are perhaps far greater than the theme of celibacy itself.”
In further comments to LifeSiteNews (read full statement below), the Italian theologian explains that he sees in the new exhortation a lack of concentration on God Himself and the salvation of souls and, instead, sees in the document a danger of allowing the Church to slip into “pantheism without noticing it.”
In the exhortation released Feb. 12, Pope Francis makes statements about “indigenous” symbols and “certain religious practices” that could be interpreted as a defense of the use of the controversial “Pachamama” statues during the synod in Rome last year.
In section 78 of Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis states that people should “not be quick to describe as superstition or paganism certain religious practices that arise spontaneously from the life of peoples.” In section 79, the Pope continues that it is “possible to take up an indigenous symbol in some way, without necessarily considering it as idolatry,” adding that a “myth charged with spiritual meaning can be used to advantage and not always considered a pagan error.”
Speaking with the Italian website Il Pensiero Cattolico, Monsignor Bux criticizes the new papal document, predicting that the Amazonian bishops will use the papal text to go ahead with their own agenda. He says that they “will ask the competent authority, the Pope – as provided for in the Exhortation – because of their particular situation, to use the Final Document of the Synod to meet the needs of the communities, since what it says about it can be understood, from the canonical point of view, as an approval expressed in the light of the Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis Communio of September 2018.”
LifeSiteNews, in its initial report on Querida Amazonia, had also pointed to this constitution and to the possibility that Pope Francis will thereby make the Amazon Synod's final document into a magisterial text. This 2018 Vatican text states: “If it is expressly approved by the Roman Pontiff, the Final Document participates in the ordinary Magisterium of the Successor of Peter.”
But besides this aspect, Monsignor Bux added in his February 12 interview that “there are in this exhortation problematic openings that are perhaps far greater than the theme of celibacy itself, which has almost completely absorbed the debate, putting the other critical issues concerning the Amazonian synod in the background.”
LifeSiteNews reached out to Monsignor Bux, asking him to expand his thoughts concerning these “problematic openings.” In his response, the respected theologian refers to a quote by Saint Athanasius who pointed out that we need to focus on God “the Eternal Logos,” upon Whom all creatures depend. It is God “who directs and sustains the whole world.”
This dependency and orientation toward God, for the sake of salvation, is not duly presented in the new papal exhortation, according to Monsignor Bux. Not the vision of God the Word, but the “cosmos vision” is at the center of the new document.
“The post-synodal document lacks this view,” he explains, this “'Logos vision' that would make it Catholic. Well, if the Church renounces the Logos, renounces Jesus Christ, or quotes Him only marginally, everything stands on sand. Thus, instead of redeeming cultures, they are simply accepted, and so one slips into pantheism without noticing it.”
Such a “cosmic vision” which is not centered on God Himself will affect the rest of the document, according to Monsignor Bux, “including the planned 'Amazonian rite.'” “Is the Exhortation a social message or a proclamation of salvation?” Bux asks.
There have been several critics of the document who have pointed out a similar weakness of the papal document, among them the two experts of Liberation Theology, Julio Loredo and José Antonio Ureta. Loredo sees that the indigenous people are being presented by the Pope as models for mankind. “This 'good living' mentioned by Pope Francis,” he explains, “is one of the pillars of the Indian Theology of Liberation.”
Such a way of living is mainly political and does not have much to do with the salvation of mankind, as Monsignor Bux would put it. Loredo sums it up thus: “In a nutshell, it affirms that the Amazonian Indians’ lifestyle is the only one compatible with justice: since there is no private property there is also no oppression of some over the others. The indigenous people live in a communitarian (i.e. egalitarian) society, in cosmic harmony with nature. This is exactly the final goal of Communism, as explained by Friedrich Engels in “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.”
Such politicization of the Catholic Faith stands in contrast to the true Catholic Faith which aims to serve Jesus Christ on earth and to lead as many souls as possible to heaven.
As Bux stated in his February 12 interview with regard to a related Church issue in Italy: “Many Catholics and non-Catholics expect the Church to make Jesus Christ and His Gospel known. [....] The rest is political and leaves as much time as it can find. The Holy Spirit tells us that the world can be saved by Christ, not by others, and that the Church can be strengthened by herself, not by others.”
Monsignor Nicola Bux’s statement to LifeSiteNews on Pope Francis’ Querida Amazonia
I have been meditating on this page written by Saint Athanasius which I shall reproduce here: “In order to prevent this from happening and to prevent the world from dissolving again into nothingness, He, Who had created the world by His own and Eternal Logos and had given the creature existence, did not abandon it to the urge and storming of its own nature, so that it would not have to risk sinking back into nothingness. No, in His goodness, through His Logos, Who is also God, He directs and sustains the whole world, so that the creation may stand steadfastly in the light of the Logos' Guidance, Providence and Order. On the contrary, the whole world begins to participate in the Word of the Father, to be sustained by Him and not to cease to live (Against the Heathen, No. 41-42; PG 25,81-83).
The post-synodal document lacks this view, even more, this “Logos vision” that would make it Catholic. Well, if the Church renounces the Logos, renounces Jesus Christ, or quotes Him only marginally, everything stands on sand. Thus, instead of redeeming cultures, they are simply accepted, and so one slips into pantheism without noticing it. We are dealing with a godforsaken “cosmic vision.” All the rest is a consequence of this, including the planned “Amazonian rite.” Is the Exhortation a social message or a proclamation of salvation? Is it politics or is it religion, as someone remarked?
The Catholic Church, albeit reduced to the “remnant of Israel,” will continue to follow the Word made Flesh, in which all things consist. This is the eternal Gospel which the Church must proclaim for the eternal salvation of man, history and the cosmos, as John Paul II had stressed since the beginning of his pontificate.