NEWS:  October 30, 2017
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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães
EXPECTATIONS VIS-À-VIS THE SYNOD ON AMAZONIA –   This past 15th of October Pope Francis convened a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to be held in Rome on October 2019 to analyze problems of the Amazonia. In the wake of this news, the press is speculating what the headlines of this Synod will be. I went through some of the available news reports and am offering to my readers an overview of what some well-placed persons predict or expect this Synod will be.

In the Angelus of that Sunday, Francis announced the Synod, after canonizing 30 new saints of Brazil. These were his words:

“Taking up the desire of some Episcopal Conferences of Latin America, as well as the voice of several Pastors and faithful from other parts of the world, I have decided to convoke a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region, which will take place at Rome in the month of October 2019. The main objective of this convocation is to identify new ways for the evangelization of that portion of the People of God, especially of the natives, often forgotten and without the prospect of a serene future, also because of the crisis of the Amazon rainforest, lung of capital importance for our planet.

Francis receives an Indian cocard in RIo

Francis receives an Indian cocard in Rio

“May the new Saints intercede for this ecclesial event, so that, in respect of the beauty of Creation, all peoples of the earth may praise God, Lord of the universe, and illumined by Him, pursue paths of justice and peace.”(emphasis added - Zenit, October 16, 2017)

So, he presented two objectives:
  1. To identify new ways for evangelization;

  2. To fight for ecology in Amazonia.
New ways for the evangelization

What does this expression mean? The elastic expression “new ways” can mean just a new zeal for evangelization if we consider that, without zeal, nothing goes forth in the Church’s missionary effort, and, certainly in the Amazonia, an increase of zeal can be beneficial to the Indians and those living in the region. However, “new ways” also can mean that the Bishops of the Synod should seriously consider authorizing married deacons to become priests in order to help resolve the priest shortage in the region. Accordingly, it is between these two limits that we can expect those Bishops to issue their opinions.

A photograph of Bishop Krautler with an indian headdress and posing for an interview

Above, Bishop Erwin Krautler; below right, Card. Hummes, REPAM's president with Mauricio Lopez, secretary

This is not a theoretical hypothesis. There has been a lot of discussion about the need for the Church to ordain married men – the so-called viri probati [proven men] (see here, here, here and here).

Soon after Francis announced the Synod, retired Bishop Erwin Kräutler, who led the Diocese of Xingu, Brazil – the largest diocese in Amazonia – for more than 34 years, was approached by the Austrian press. In an interview to Kathpress he declared that he hopes the Synod will show the way to the ordination of married men to the priesthood and women to the permanent deaconate (here, here and here) in order to resolve the “horrendous” priest shortage that has left the indigenous people deprived of the Eucharist.

Kräutler, president of the CIMI (Indigenous Missionary Council) of the Brazilian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Austrian Catholic press news agency on October 19, 2017, that 90% of Catholics in the Amazonia have no access to religious services. He believes that finding ways to address the priest shortage will be one of the main topics of the coming Synod focused on Amazonia.

He said criteria for admission to the priesthood must be modified to allow the ordination of married men. He added that, since women now head many of the small Catholic communities, it is also urgent to ordain female deacons. (Cf. La Croix International - October 24, 2017)

Bishop Kräutler has been a spokesman for the Pope on other issues. Indeed, in the days that preceded the publication of Laudato si’, he broadcasted what Francis had told him in a private audience, as the reader can read here.

Mexican layman Mauricio Lopez, the secretary of REPAM (Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network) also gave a noteworthy interview about the Synod. This organization was created by CELAM, the Latin American Bishops Conference, and counts on the full support of the Vatican. Lopez spoke with Crux on October 18, 2017, about the expectations his organization has for the Synod. It was REPAM, whose president is no other than Francis’s good friend Card. Claudio Hummes (here, here and here), who suggested to the Pope that a great assembly in Amazonia be held.

Nearly naked Brazilian Indians protest against Belo Monte dam

Inspired by Liberation Theology Indians protest against economic improvements; above, Brazilian Indians against the Belo Monte powerplant; below, Ecuadorian Indians against oil extraction

Ecuadorian Indians protest against oil extraction
Lopez’ hope is that the Synod will allow the participation of the people, especially the indigenous or peasant peoples who are living in Amazonia. Another of his wishes is that the Synod should have two phases: a first phase of questionnaires sent to the people and another of studying the collected material by the Bishops gathering in Rome. The first phase would give the opportunity for participation to native peoples and peasants. (Cf.. Crux, October 25, 2017)

I believe that Lopez is on target regarding the progressivist agenda. Since the Synods on the Family (2014, 2015), Francis’ Vatican has adopted the democratic (aka synodal) way of sending questions to all the dioceses, which in turn send them to all the parishes, asking the opinion of anyone who wants to say something, as we have already analyzed here. Even now, in this preparatory phase for the Synod on Youth to be held in October 2018, the same method has been applied, and a questionnaire was sent all over the world for youth to fill out with their opinions.

So, what Lopez expects will most probably take place: In 2018 the Vatican will start to send questions to all the dioceses/parishes of the Amazonia to receive everyone’s opinions. When this phase is over, the Bishops will meet to analyze the answers and issue their “new ways of evangelization.”

If we consider what took place in the two Synods on the Family as a precedent, we can suppose that, at the Synod on Amazonia, Francis will establish a radical group to impose a more revolutionary agenda, which must prevail in the final document – as it happened with the controversial Amoris laetitia on the family (here and here).

Fighting for ecology in Amazonia

Another of the objectives announced by Pope Bergoglio was to fight for the environment by preserving the Amazonia, the “lung of the planet.”

What do these two personalities – Bishop Kräutler and the REPAM’s spokesman – have to say about this?

Kräutler stayed in generalities: he confirmed that the 2019 Synod should also seek answers to the Amazonia’s regional and ecological challenge, which are now of worldwide importance in view of climate change and the consequences of the continuing destruction of the rainforest. (Cf. La Croix International - October 24, 2017)

Mr. Lopez of REPAM has this communist address to explain his “Catholic” expectations for the Synod. He straightforwardly attacks the capitalist system of economy when he mentions “environment” and defense of the Indians: “The challenge is to counter the deep aggression against those who inhabit these territories. The model of the throwaway culture, associated with the desire of endless accumulation … are killing the Amazonia.”

To this general criticism against almost all those who own properties in the area who are not directly Indians, Lopez becomes more specific when he addresses the miners in Amazonia: “The extractive model is putting them [Indians] in a corner and, in some cases recently in Brazil … the illegal miners have killed the indigenous people who live in isolation.”

Further on he returns to attack the miners, but now demonizing also the oil companies: “We have the damage being made by the mining and oil companies that leave environmental disasters behind, sometimes in the sacred territory of the indigenous peoples.”

symbols depicting Environmentalism as recycled communism
He, then, amplifies his attacks to include the farmers established in the area: “The agricultural frontier of monoculture and livestock is being expanded, and not to feed the poor, but to serve this system of consumption and accumulation that serves very few.” (Cf. Crux, October 25, 2017)

Next, Lopez as secretary of the REPAM, goes on to blame the governments of the countries that belong to Amazonia: “In addition, we see governments that are often shy, sometimes permissive and perhaps even accomplices in this destruction.”

This is the profoundly biased picture of the situation in Amazonia that the Vatican is receiving from the Church organization in charge of acting in the area.

I believe that we are in a vicious circle: The information is biased to favor Communism and the Vatican only approves associations that go along with these lines of Liberation Theology.

Can we expect anything good for the 2019 Synod?