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Radical liberation theologians push for overthrow of Catholic doctrine at Amazon synod

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September 3, 2019 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A group of aging priests and theologians associated with Latin American “liberation theology” who are involved in the preparation for Pope Francis’ upcoming “Pan-Amazon Synod” have produced a document arguing for the overthrow of Catholic doctrine in a variety of areas, LifeSite has learned.

The document, called “Towards the Pan-Amazonian Synod: Challenges and Contributions from Latin America and the Caribbean,” was produced in April of this year as a result of a meeting in Bogota, Colombia, by theologians from two organizations promoting liberation theology: “Amerindia,” and “REPAM.” The synod’s working document refers explicitly to the Bogota meeting as part of the preparatory process for the synod. It can be found here in its original Spanish.

The Bogota document seeks to undermine or overthrow fundamental elements of Catholic doctrine, claiming that there is no one true religion and that non-Christian religions are capable of bringing “salvation” to people, while glorifying the pagan religious traditions of the indigenous people in the Amazon.

In addition, it redefines the Eucharist as a symbolic act of the community, attacks the hierarchical priesthood of the New Testament while asking the Church’s authorities to leave open the possibility of the ordination of women as priests, and calls for “the overcoming of a patriarchal perspective.” It advocates a “feminist and ecological theology” to replace current ones. It also urges the ordination of married men to the priesthood.

The document closes with a prayer to God as “Father and Mother of life,” after having referred to God as the “Creator-Creatora.”

LifeSite has learned that of the 28 contributors to the text of the Bogota document, four have exercised key roles at the Pan-Amazon Synod’s pre-synodal council, and two of them are key authors of the synod’s working document. Their authorship of the document is offering an indication of their intentions for the synod, the full name of which is the “Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region.” It will be held in Rome from October 6-27 of this year.

The synod’s official working document has been condemned by numerous Catholic prelates, including Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, who has called it, “heretical.”

The full text of the Bogota document can be found here.

'It’s not fair'

According to the Bogota document, the Catholic Church shouldn’t declare that only one religion is true, because “it’s not fair” to do so, just as “it’s not fair” to say that one species should prevail over all the others – an apparent rejection of the Catholic doctrine of man’s superiority over the animals taught in the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The document approvingly quotes Leonardo Boff, a wayward priest (now laicized) and “liberation” theologian who abandoned the Franciscan order and entered into a union with a woman after being censured by the Vatican for attacks on Catholic doctrine. Boff is a strong supporter of Pope Francis and has known him since the 1970s. 

States the document: “It is not fair that we think and say that only one species should prevail, but on the contrary; all species have value and together they reveal the virtues of the mystery of life. Similarly, it is not fair to say that only one religion is true and the others are decadent, for they all reveal the mystery of God and reveal the many ways in which we walk in fidelity and love for God” (p. 86).

The document also claims that the Catholic Church must move “from intolerant exclusivism to an attitude of respect that accepts that Christianity does not have a historical monopoly on salvation” (p. 84), and that “pluralism and diversity of religions are expressions of a wise divine will” (p. 53).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Catholic Church is the “one and only Church of God” and “the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church.” It also reiterates the dogma of the faith that “outside the Church there is no salvation,” meaning that those who knowingly reject unity with the Church and die outside of it suffer eternal damnation. The same doctrine is contained in numerous verses of in the Christian New Testament.

The Bogota document contains various other statements promoting heresy or dissent against Catholic doctrine, including the following: 

1. The Eucharist and other sacraments are reduced to community “symbols” that express the “experience of people” and “the path of the community”

States the document: “In the liturgy, the Church expresses her faith in a symbolic and communal way. The constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium explains that the liturgy is the 'summit' and 'source' of Christian life. The liturgy is the ‘summit,’ because at the foot of the table is presented the experience of people, the path of the community and the socio-cultural context in which it operates. ‘Source,’ because from the living memory of the love of Christ and from the encounter with sisters and brothers the desire and the capacity for more coherent discipleship and more effective witness are born” (p. 94).

The Catholic Church teaches, however, that the Eucharist is not a mere symbol of human experience, but is the sacramental presence of the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, and a re-presentation and participation in his sacrifice on the cross. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again.”

The reduction of Catholic doctrine to personal “experience” is expressly condemned by Pope Pius X in his condemnation of modernism, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (1907), where he notes that such doctrines lead to atheism: “With such theories . . . the way is opened wide for atheism. Here it is well to note at once that, given this doctrine of experience united with the other doctrine of symbolism, every religion, even that of paganism, must be held to be true. What is to prevent such experiences from being met within every religion?”

2. The Church broke with its own tradition when it recognized elders as hierarchical priests and as members of the Order of Melchizedek 

States the document: “Within the post-council framework, theology questioned the model of the Old Testament priesthood that was introduced into ecclesial praxis and theology when Judaism's cultural institutions were transposed into the ecclesial community to show the continuity between the Old and New Testaments that Gnosticism challenged. As a consequence of the establishment of the institution of the priesthood, the leaders became officials of the cult and their office – a priestly office of cultural mediation - was interpreted as a rank, which designated them as priests, Levites, sons of Aaron, and even relating them to Melchizedek, which does not correspond to the experience of the first communities that had broken with the Old Testament forms of religious mediation” (p. 112).

The Catholic Church teaches, however, that Christ himself instituted the ministerial priesthood as a participation in his own priesthood: “‘The divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests, and deacons.’ Catholic doctrine, expressed in the liturgy, the Magisterium, and the constant practice of the Church, recognizes that there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy and the presbyterate. The diaconate is intended to help and serve them.”

3. This deviation from original doctrine was the basis for excluding women from the priesthood

States the document: “What served as an argument to respond to a particular circumstance became doctrine with the elaboration of the theology of the sacrament of order as the sacrament of the priesthood, closely and intimately related to the Eucharistic sacrifice. Thus, the cultural perspective on the priesthood was consecrated in the liturgy and in priestly spirituality, as well as in the symbols that confer a character of dignity and honor on men of the Church. In this process women were excluded . . .” (p. 113).

4. Catholic dogma on the exclusively male priesthood is a modifiable “position” that theologians should be able to “reflect on” to discern the “signs of the times” 

States the document: “We are fully aware of the Catholic Church's position on this issue. We recommend, however, that theologians, respecting in a reverent way the data of faith and in profound communion with the Magisterium, may continue with complete freedom the reflection on the priestly ordination of women, enriching their analysis with resources coming from psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, philosophy and hermeneutics, in order to be able to discern the presence of the Spirit in that sign of the times which is, according to John XXIII, the presence of women in public life” (p. 105).

The perennial practice and doctrine of the Catholic Church, however, are that women cannot be validly ordained to the priesthood. Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, issued in 1994, wrote, “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.”

5. Women in the early Church were “deacons” who exercised “leadership functions,” but there was no hierarchy or priesthood 

States the document: “The New Testament texts do not record cultural activities, but communities of believers met in houses, which shows that women could carry the word and exercise leadership functions. On the other hand, in these communities there was no hierarchical organization or priestly figures: their leaders did not receive the title of priests and the diversity of ministries, whose denomination comes from secular language, was polarized into the triad episcopos, presbyters, male deacons and female deacons” (p. 116).

6. “A Church incarnated in the Amazon” means openness to ordaining women to the “diaconate” as well as ordaining married men, and embracing “feminist and ecological theology”

Such a church includes “Ensuring the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist in ecclesial communities by the ordination of married priests. . . . Welcoming and supporting . . . feminist and ecological theology as a support for the configuration of a Church with its own face. . . .  Discerning the opportunity for the ordination of women to the diaconate, as well as the creation of other ministries of one's own, according to the needs of the local Church” (p. 81).

7. Pagan indigenous religions are affirmed, never criticized 

In a way similar to the synod’s working document, the Bogota document affirms the pagan religious traditions of the indigenous while never mentioning erroneous beliefs or destructive practices among them. The whole document contains only two brief, passing mentions of “sin,” one in an ancient prayer the document quotes. The document calls for “understanding and recognizing once again the virtues, knowledge and cosmovisions existing among the ancestral ethnic groups, which still retain the ability to read and conceive nature as the true mother” (p. 34).

8. God is referred to as the masculine-feminine “Creator-Creatora” 

States the document: “They have their sacred histories, languages, knowledge, traditions, spiritualities and theologies. All of them seek to build a 'good life' and the communion of people among themselves, with the world, with living beings and with the Creator-Creatora. They feel that they are living well in the 'house' that the Creator-Creatora gave them on Earth,” the document states (p. 54).

The document closes with a prayer to “Father and Mother of life” (p. 129). 

Bogota document's importance 

In April of 2019, 28 theologians met in Bogota, Colombia, in order to discuss the upcoming October 6-27 Amazon Synod. Organizers of this event were two organizations: Amerindia and Repam (the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network). The result of this conference is to be found in the booklet, “Towards the Pan-Amazonian Synod.”

Importantly, it is the Vatican's own working document for the upcoming synod that refers back to this event in Bogota as one of the preparatory meetings for the synod. The working document states first that “this Working Document is the fruit of a long process that includes the drafting of the Preparatory Document for the Synod in June 2018; and an extensive survey of Amazon communities” and then adds in footnote 1: “In addition to this official process, numerous seminars have been held in Washington D.C., Rome and Bogota, with experts in different areas and representatives of Amazon peoples, to reflect on the issues analyzed here.”

Four people who are involved in the work of the pre-synodal council (either as members or as advisors) convoked by Pope Francis in March of 2018 were present at the Bogota gathering: Father Paolo Suess (a close collaborator of Bishop Erwin Kräutler who is a member of the pre-synodal council) – Suess participates as an advisor (peritus) at the pre-synodal council –  Mauricio López (the executive secretary of REPAM and a member of the council), the indigenous priest and advisor, Father Justino Sarmento Rezende, and finally Fr. Peter Hughes (also an advisor). These four people have been, according to a Spanish source, the main authors of the Amazon Synod's 2018 preparatory document. Paolo Suess is generally believed to have had the leading hand in the synod's 2019 working document.

Organizations devoted to promoting 'liberation theology'

Amerindia is an organization of ideologically progressivist theologians who since 1978 have counseled Southern American prelates, especially in light of their various episcopal meetings (to include Medellin and Aparedica). This group features most prominently Leonardo Boff as one of their bloggers. Boff is one of the most prominent defenders of Liberation Theology, for which he was censured by the Vatican in the mid-eighties. He subsequently left the priesthood and married. He posted, in July of 2019, an article on his Amerindia blog, in which he argues for female priests.

On its website, Amerindia says its mission is to “reaffirm the option for new models of a communitarian and participative church, and for liberation theology as an aid to the universal church.” It claims to represent “a new way of being and acting, which passes through self-comprehension and transformation based on solidarity with the cry of the excluded and of Mother Earth.” The organization claims that it “had a significant participation in the Aparecida Conference” in 2007, a conference in which the drafting of the final document was led by Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, who is now Pope Francis. 

REPAM, a coalition of organizations committed to Pope Francis' “ecological” agenda, was founded  in 2014, apparently at the behest of Pope Francis himself.  One of its members, the coalition of Catholic international aid agencies Caritas Internationalis, says of the organization that “It is a project of the nine Churches of the Amazon region, inspired by Pope Francis and backed by the Latin American Bishops’ Conference, CELAM. Caritas Internationalis is a founding member of REPAM, and national Caritas offices in the Amazon countries, Europe and North America also participate.”

Notably, Caritas’ description of REPAM does not include the conversion of the largely pagan and Protestant Amazon peoples to the Catholic faith but instead, lists such goals as “Enabling indigenous leaders to be heard on the world stage,” “Creation of a School for the Promotion of Rights,” “Support for human rights defense cases,” “Dialogue between the Church and indigenous peoples’ communities,” and “Protection for the 137 ‘contactless tribes’ of the Amazon.”

In addition to Amerindia and REPAM, the document is sponsored by five Catholic international development organizations, CAFOD (BRITAIN), CCFD (France), DKA (Austria), and MISEREOR (Germany).  It is also sponsored by the German Protestant organization EMW (“Evangelisches Missionswerk in Deutschland” – Evangelical Mission Work in Germany). LifeSite first reported on the involvement of the German aid agencies with the synod in July.

Amerindia won’t say who contributed what to Bogota document

LifeSiteNews reached out to Amerindia, asking for a program of the April 2019 meeting in Bogota. Dr. Óscar Elizalde Prada, its communications director (and also a participant of that event), answered, saying that “the meeting itself did not take place through conferences or panels, but through intense work sessions, aimed at building a joint reflection from a Latin American and Caribbean theological-pastoral perspective, always in the light of the Magisterium of the Church and, more specifically, the pontificate of Pope Francis. For this reason we have not limited ourselves to a program or agenda as such.”

Prada further declined to give LifeSite information as to who wrote which of the chapters of the Bogota document, explaining that “likewise, as is proper to the communitarian and collaborative spirit of our work in Latin America, it is not possible to attribute the authorship of the content of each chapter of the subsidy that we have published to a specific author or authors. In this we have followed the inspiration of the indigenous peoples, more concerned with the care of the common house than with their own protagonisms, opting also to make a synodal journey, in dialogue and listening to the cries that spring from the Church in the Amazon and the 'groan of sister Earth', as the Holy Father refers in Laudato Si (LS 53).”

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