Cardinal Gerhard Müller has joined his German colleague Cardinal Walter Brandmüller in condemning the Vatican’s much-debated working document for the upcoming Synod of the Amazon in the strongest possible terms, calling it a work of not only heresy, but of stupidity.
The conservative cardinal has been ringing alarm bells about the controversial Oct. 6-27 synod, warning that its stealth purpose is to modify the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and open its doors to “eco-theology.”
This Vatican Instrumentum Laboris (or working document) “represents the total opening of the doors of the Magisterium to ‘Indian theology’ and to ‘eco-theology,’ two Latin American derivatives of liberation theology, whose cheerleaders, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the failure of ‘real socialism,’ now attribute the historic role of revolutionary force to the indigenous peoples and to nature, in a Marxist key,”” Chilean author José Antonio Ureta recently opined.
Former editor-in-chief of The Catholic Herald Damian Thompson bluntly called the document “garbage.”
In his interview with the Catholic journal Gridatelo Dai Tetti, Müller seemed to concur, saying the document has “an ideological vision that has nothing to do with Christianity.”
“The Synod of the Amazon is a pretext to change the Church, and the fact that it is done in Rome wants to emphasize the beginning of a new Church,” said Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The German prelate said that supporters of the pope have already attacked him and others for criticizing the document in an effort to squelch their criticism.
But the Instrumentum Laboris, he pointed out, “has no magisterial value,” therefore “only ignorant people can say that those who criticize him are an enemy of the Pope.”
Unfortunately this is their trick to avoid any critical dialogue, if try to make an objection you are immediately labeled as an enemy of the Pope. Clarification more than appropriate because the text of the Instrumentum Laborisit is disconcerting in describing the Amazon and the peoples who inhabit it as a model for all humanity, an example of harmony with nature, a perfect synthesis of what is meant by integral ecology.
It is a document that presents an idyllic picture of the Amazon, including indigenous religions, so much so as to render Christianity useless, if not for the “political” support it can give to keep these peoples unspoiled and defend them from predators that want to bring development and “steal” resources.
The cardinal added the pope and his allies “want to save the world according to their idea, perhaps using some elements of Scripture,” but their ideas are “profane” and “have nothing to do with Revelation.”
Not surprisingly, although we are talking about Revelation, Creation, sacraments, relations with the world, almost no reference is made to the texts of the Second Vatican Council which define these aspects: Dei Verbum, Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes. There is no mention of the root of human dignity, of the universality of salvation, of the Church as the sacrament of salvation. There are only profane ideas, which can also be discussed, but they have nothing to do with Revelation.
He cited one section of the document where it speaks of “a broad and necessary field of dialogue between the spiritualities, the creeds and the Amazonian religions that requires a friendly approach to the different cultures.”
The sincere openness to the other, as well as a corporate attitude that reserves salvation exclusively for one’s own belief, are destructive of that very creed.
They treat our Creed as if it were our European opinion. But the Creed is the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ, who lives in the Church. There are no other beliefs. Instead, there are other philosophical beliefs or mythological expressions, but no one has ever dared to say, for example, that Plato’s Wisdom is a form of God’s revelation. In the creation of the world, God manifests only his existence, his being a point of reference of conscience, of natural law, but there is no other revelation outside of Jesus Christ. The concept of Lógos spermatikòs (the “seeds of the Word”), taken up by the Second Vatican Council, does not mean that Revelation in Jesus Christ exists in all cultures independently of Jesus Christ. As if Jesus were just one of these elements of Revelation.
When asked whether he agreed with Cardinal Brandmüller’s assessment that the document is a work of “heresy,” Müller replied: “Heresy? Not only that, it is also stupidity. The heretic knows the Catholic doctrine and contradicts it. But here there is only a great deal of confusion, and the center of everything is not Jesus Christ but themselves, their ideas for saving the world.”
In the document the “cosmovision” of indigenous peoples is a model of integral ecology, which would be a conception in which spirits and deities act “with and in the territory, with and in relation to nature.”
Müller explained why “cosmovision” is incompatible with church doctrine.
The “cosmovision” is a materialistic conception, similar to that of Marxism, in the end we can do what we want. But we believe in Creation, matter is the form of the essence of nature, we cannot do what we want. Creation is for the glorification of God but it is also a challenge for us, called to collaborate with God’s saving will for all men. Our task is not to preserve nature as it is, but we have the responsibility for the progress of humanity, in education, in social justice, for peace.
This is why Catholics build schools, hospitals, this is also the mission of the Church. Nature cannot be idealized as if the Amazon were an area of Paradise, because nature is not always loving towards man. In the Amazon there are predators, there are infections, diseases. And even these children, these young people are entitled to a good education, to benefit from modern medicine. One cannot idealize, as is done in the synodal document, only traditional medicine.
He also blasted the document’s hippy-drippy language, such as “ecological conversion” and “mother earth.”
“We must absolutely reject expressions such as “ecological conversion,” Müller argued. “There is only conversion to the Lord, and as a consequence, there is also the good of nature.”
We cannot make ecologicalism a new religion, here we are in a pantheistic conception, which must be rejected. Pantheism is not just a theory about God but also contempt for man. God who identifies himself with nature is not a person. God the creator instead created us in His image and likeness. In prayer we have a relationship with a God who listens to us, who understands what we mean, not a mysticism in which we can dissolve personal identity.
Our mother is a person, not the Earth. And our mother in faith is Mary. The Church is also described as a mother, as the bride of Jesus Christ. But these words must not be inflated. It is one thing to have respect for all the elements of this world, another to idealize or deify them. This identification of God with nature is a form of atheism, because God is independent of nature. They totally ignore the Creation.
Müller also felt strongly about the document’s critique of anthropocentrism — the view that human beings are the most important entity in the universe — calling it “a heresy against human dignity.”
“It is an absurd idea, to pretend that God is not anthropocentric,” he argued. “Man is the center of Creation, and Jesus became man, he did not plant himself.”
This is a heresy against human dignity. On the contrary, the Church must emphasize anthropocentrism, because God created man in his image and likeness. Man’s life is infinitely more worthy than the life of any animal. Today there is already a reversal of this principle: if a lion is killed in Africa it is a world drama, but here children are killed in the womb of the mother and all is well. Stalin also argued that this centrality should be removed from human dignity; so he could call so many men to build a canal and make them die for the sake of future generations. Here is what these ideologies are for, to make some dominate over all others. But God is anthropocentric, the Incarnation is anthropocentric. The rejection of anthropocentrism comes only from a hatred of oneself and other men.
Another concept promoted in the Instrumentum Laboris is the idea of inculturation, which it closely associated with the Incarnation, or “the Word was made flesh.” According to Church doctrine, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, was both “truly God and truly man.” He was conceived in the womb of a woman, the Virgin Mary, thus, the divine nature of the Son was united but not mixed with human nature.
Inculturation is the adaption of Christian liturgy to mostly non-Christian, cultures. The fact that the document apparently uses the words interchangeably bothered the cardinal immensely. “Using the Incarnation almost as a synonym for inculturation is the first mystification,” he fretted.
The Incarnation is a unique, unrepeatable event, it is the Word that is embodied in Jesus Christ. God did not incarnate in the Jewish religion, he did not incarnate in Jerusalem. Jesus Christ is unique. It is a fundamental point, because the sacraments depend on the Incarnation, they are the presence of the incarnate Word. Certain terms that are central to Christianity cannot be abused.
Let us return to inculturation: from the synodal document we understand that we must adopt all the beliefs of indigenous peoples, their rituals and their customs. A reference is also made to how early Christianity was inculturated in the Greek world. And it is said that as we did then we must do today with the Amazon people.
But the Catholic Church has never accepted the Greek and Roman myths. On the contrary, he rejected a civilization that despised men with slavery, rejected the imperialist culture of Rome or the typical pederasty of the Greeks. The Church’s reference was to the thinking of Greek culture, which had come to recognize elements that paved the way for Christianity. Aristotle did not invent the ten categories: they already exist in being, he discovered them.
As it happens in modern science: it is not something that concerns only the West, but rather the discovery of some structures and mechanisms that exist in nature. The same applies to Roman law, which is not any arbitrary system. Instead, it is the discovery of some legal principles, which the Romans found in the nature of a community. Certainly other cultures have not had this depth. But we do not live in Greek culture, Christianity has totally transformed Greek and Roman culture. Certain pagan myths can have a pedagogical dimension towards Christianity but they are not elements that found Christianity.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Instrumentum Laboris is its rereading of the sacraments, especially with regard to sacred orders, under the pretext that there are few priests in such remote areas.
Müller complained that the approach “has nothing to do with Christianity.”
“The Revelation of God in Christ becomes present in the sacraments, and the Church has no authority to change the substance of the sacraments,” he argued. “These are not some rituals that we like, and the priesthood is not a sociological category to create a relationship in the community.”
Any cultural system has its rituals and its symbols, but the sacraments are means of divine grace, so we can change neither content nor substance. Nor can we change the rite when this rite is constituted by Christ himself. We cannot do baptism with any liquid, we do it with natural water. At the Last Supper Jesus Christ did not take any drink or food, he took grape wine and wheat bread.
When asked who he meant when he referred to those “who want to change the Church,” Müller said it wasn’t any one person or group of people, but a “system” comprised willfully blind people who believe they are improving the church, but are in fact destroying it.
“We want to adapt to the world: marriage, celibacy, women priests, everything must be changed in the conviction that in this way there will be a new springtime for the Church,” he explained. “They do not see that instead they destroy the Church, they are like blind men who fall into the pit. But if someone says something, he is immediately marginalized, branded as an enemy of the Pope.”