The Pachamama Synod Ends
Well, Pope Francis didn’t have the pachamama statues at St. Peter’s Basilica at the final mass of the Amazon Synod. Let’s be grateful for that, I suppose. Still, what happened this month in Rome portends a real revolution in the Catholic Church. Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti, on his blog (in Italian), writes:
So he did it again. But this time with even greater arrogance than the previous ones. In a nutshell: he organized a local synod – which should have been carried out locally, to examine locally any local problems of a situation involving a few million faithful on the one billion and three hundred million of the planet – to pass changes, like the tip of the wedge, that will be quickly seized by interested bishops here and there, everywhere, and that would not have been approved if they had been submitted to the examination of a “true” world synod.
Tosatti says — you can translate it via Google Translate — that the synod was paid for by the German bishops, who want to see these changes. And now, says Tosatti, Catholics will by year’s end see Francis confirming everything that the Synod passed. Tosatti ends with this:
We close with what a priest, once Anglican and now Catholic, writes in commenting on the Synod: “For the first time since my conversion to the Catholic faith I don’t think if I was an Anglican now I would have bothered converting. Don’t get me wrong I’d never go back to Anglicanism…but I don’t think that if I was an Anglican now I’d see the point of being a Catholic. At the moment the Catholic Church is simply offering what Anglicans were promoting 20 years ago … just before they collapsed … it’s embarrassing”.
Oh yes, it’s embarrassing, Your Holiness. And also tragic.
I wondered if that Anglican-turned-Catholic priest might have been Father Dwight Longenecker. I looked on his blog for his take on Pachamama. It does not contain the lines Tosatti quoted, but Fr. Longenecker does say this about what he calls “the Pachamama problem”:
The statues were actually idols representing the earth mother goddess Pachamama. She is worshipped with pagan rituals all across South America. They way they worship her is pagan. They present offerings to her, light candles, and make prayers to her asking for protection, prosperity, peace and good luck. The ritual in the Vatican garden and in St Maria Transpontina showed all the evidence of pagan ceremonies. This is in direct contradiction to the Catholic faith and it should have been corrected and excluded from a Catholic church. If the ceremonies were not pagan in their intent and practice, then clarification and explanation should have been provided so the faithful who do not understand Amazonian culture would not be scandalized.
This is what Pope Francis’s English biographer had to say:
“Praying to Mother Earth”? Like that makes it okay? That’s still idolatry.
If Francis formally adopts what the Amazon Synod has approved — on women deacons, on ordaining married men as priests, and, most crucially, on adopting a new Amazonian liturgical rite that incorporates local spirituality (which can only mean syncretism of the St. Pachamama sort) — then this pope will have given Evangelicals and Pentecostals in Latin America a spectacular gift. Not with the women deacons and married priests, but with the syncretism.
After vespers in my Orthodox parish on Saturday evening, our priest talked about St. Demetrios, one of the most beloved saints of the Eastern church, whose feast day it was. (He is also a Western saint, as all pre-schism saints are.) St. Demetrios was a high-ranking Roman military official who converted to Christianity, and who brought a number of pagans into the faith. He was imprisoned and eventually killed in the early fourth century on orders of the Emperor. Listening to our priest talk about the life and martyr’s death of St. Demetrios, I wondered how Catholics could square it with what this syncretizing successor of St. Peter is doing today.
I have never considered returning to Rome’s fold, which I left in 2006, though I have acutely felt the pain of separation when I’ve been at Norcia, and in the company of dear Catholic friends. As regular readers know, I revere Benedict XVI, and even consider him the second Benedict of the Benedict Option. I have always thought of myself working, in whatever small ways I can, for reconciliation between Rome and the Orthodox East. I have always thought it unlikely before the Parousia, but we can at least labor towards that goal of reconciling brothers, right?
I will still work to build bridges, but after what Francis has done this month, I am certain that there is absolutely no way the Orthodox East will ever reunite with Rome. The Amazonian syncretism on display in Rome, blessed by this Pope, is utter anathema to the Orthodox. It breaks my heart to see this, because of the Catholics I know and love, and because as a man who lives in, and loves, the West, I have long believed that the fate of this civilization depends on the strength and stability of the Catholic Church. The crisis of the Catholic Church is not just a matter for Catholics.
I do wonder, though, what effect this is going to have on Catholic evangelization in this country. If Rome is headed the way of Canterbury, as it appears, who would consider it safe harbor? In that regard, Francis has probably done a favor not only for Evangelicals, but for Orthodox churches too. Whatever other problems the Evangelicals have, and we Orthodox have, there will be no prayers in our temples to Mother Earth. What Francis permitted and blessed in Rome this month is something out of a Jack Chick fever dream — but it really happened.
And let me make clear: though the Orthodox churches and some of the Evangelical (and conservative Reformed, and conservative Lutheran) churches may see our numbers rise because of disillusioned Catholics seeking another home, I don’t know a single Protestant or Orthodox who takes any pleasure in watching that scandalous Pachamama spectacle in Rome this past month. It is one thing to disagree about a married priesthood, or women’s deacons, or any of the other serious things that separate our communions. But this? This outright paganism, blessed by the Roman pontiff and brought into St. Peter’s Basilica, and later installed in a side altar at a Rome parish — that feels as if the enemy breached a gate of a walled city, and is pouring through.
To let you know where this is all headed, take a look at the story of “Sister Jaguar” — an elderly American Dominican nun named Judith Bisignano. She went to the Ecuadoran jungle, saw a black jaguar, took ayahuasca, and … well, let her tell it:
While resting on sacred ground under the canopy of a star-filled universe, Pachamama (Mother Earth) invited me to take my place within her web of life that began with the first crack of the Big Bang. I knew I was called to blend my story of forgiveness into a new creation story. I knew I had to live and tell my truth.
She has written a prayer to Pachamama, that includes these groovy lines:
Pachamama, I celebrate the shift; the radical change that is emerging in human consciousness. This transformation transcends national, cultural and religious boundaries, and creates common ground for the emergence of a single Earth community. As I stretch my vision and imagination, I see that I am connected to a much larger family than I ever dreamed possible. This new community challenges my old ways of perceiving consciousness and gives me new visions that include all people, all creation, and the entire universe.
“Sister Jaguar” is a radical nun who tooted up on ayahuasca and went fully native. But you tell me: is the church Pope Francis is creating more compatible with Sister Jaguar’s spirituality, or the faith of a small order of conservative French nuns? Rome smashed that tiny French order earlier this year, sending 34 nuns away because they were too traditional … but Pachamama prevails in the heart of the Vatican.
Embarrassing, yes … but also tragic. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing in Rome.
I’ll end with this. The conservative Catholic blogger Father John Zuhlsdorf writes that he expects serious spiritual aftermath to come now. Drawing on the unsparing rebuke that the aptly named Bishop Athanasius Schneider hurled at the Vatican for this idolatry, Father Z compares the Pachamama debacle to the Golden Calf episode in Exodus 32, which had savage repercussions for the unfaithful, idol-worshiping Israelites. Excerpt:
The point: Glorious and horrible things result from idol worship and the overthrowing of false religion.
I will repeat what I have written before.
God chose us from before the creation of the cosmos to live in THESE days. It is an honor to be witnessing the crazy stuff going on. But it is incumbent on all of us now to buckle on the spiritual armor God offers and take places in the lines of the Militant Church of which we are members.
Review your state in life. Make corrections if you have to.
Use the sacraments well.
Increase your mortifications and acts of reparation.
Review your Faith and be ready to explain what you believe.
Be inviting and be joyful and be confident.
If something truly dreadful results in the Church from what we are seeing, know that Christ the King and Mary, Queen of Heaven, will triumph. Be on the winning side of that, even though it costs dearly.
Let us close our ranks as never before in the face of the internal and external challenges to come.
UPDATE: Here’s the former Anglican, now Catholic, priest:
UPDATE.2: An Orthodox reader reminds me that we US Orthodox are in no position to feel triumphalist:
I believe that you are Orthodox parish is largely made up of converts who are very serious and committed to a traditional form of the faith. What you say about those parishes is quite correct, I believe.
But we may be up the creek in this country, too. In many cradle parishes, there is a great deal of agitation for similar reforms, most especially, women on the altar. I believe it will succeed in many parishes over the next 10 or 20 years.
The only thing stopping it is the fact that the patriarchal sees of these churches are in more traditional, foreign cultures. So it can only go so far for now.
But as you once said, the thing about the Orthodox in America is that we are Americans.
He went on to say that without the foreign patriarchs (this is not something the OCA jurisdiction has), Orthodoxy in America would devolve into an exotic form of Episcopalianism.