Presented below is the full text of an English translation of an interview done here with Cardinal Muller. The original is only available in Italian.
“Amazon Synod, a pretext to change the Church”
“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”. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, does not use half words in judging what is happening in preparation for the Amazon Synod which will take place next October in the Vatican. From his home, a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Square, he scrutinized what was happening and agreed to examine with us the Instrumentum Laboris , or the document that will serve as the basis for discussion during the Synod, the source of many controversies and for which also our newspaper asked that it be rejected by the synod fathers ( click here): “It is only a working document that has no magisterial value – said Cardinal Müller – so 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.
Eminence, you say “they want to change the Church”, but what are the clear signs of this will?
The Instrumentum Laboris approachit is an ideological vision that does not directly deal with the theological approach to the self-disclosure of God in Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Word, true God and true man. They want to save the world according to their idea, perhaps using some elements of Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition. Not surprisingly, although we are talking about Revelation, Creation, sacraments, relations with the world, almost no substantial 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 universal sacrament of salvation for the world. There are only profane ideas, which can also be discussed, but they have nothing to do with Revelation.
In this regard it seems to me important to mention the no. 39 of the Instrumentum Laboris , 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». And he says: “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 answer illuminated by the Holy Spirit to 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. St. Justin, the martyr, rejected all pagan mythologies and said that the elements of truth in philosophies are the property of Christ (II. Apol. 13), in which are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge “(Col 2: 3).
Then you agree with Cardinal Brandm üller, when he talks about “heresy” about this document ( click here ).
Heresy? Not only that, it is also a lack of theological reflection. The heretic knows the Catholic doctrine and contradicts it. But here there is only great confusion, and the center of everything is not Jesus Christ but themselves, their human ideas for saving the world.
The “cosmovision” of indigenous peoples is a model of integral ecology in the document, which would be a conception in which spirits and divinities act “with and in the territory, with and in relation to nature”. And it is associated with the “mantra of Francis:” everything is connected “” (no. 25)
The “cosmovision” is a panaturalist conception or – said in the modern European materialistic context, similar to that of Marxism, in the end we can do what we want. God is not nature, as Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677) formulated. But we believe in God, creator of the Universe. 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 among peoples. This is why Catholics build schools, hospitals, this is also part of the Church’s mission. 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. It is one thing to treat a headache, another thing when there are serious illnesses, complicated operations. Man not only has the right, but also the duty to do everything to preserve or restore health. Even the Council values modern science, because thanks to this we have defeated so many diseases, we have lowered infant mortality and also the risks for the mother. The modern technique is not for itself the devil, but must serve to solve the many problems of human existence.
However, the traditional cultures and religions of the Amazonian indigenous peoples are described as a model of harmony with nature.
After original sin there is no harmony with nature. Many times it is man’s enemy, in any case it is ambivalent. Think of the four elements: earth, fire, water, air. Earthquakes, fires, floods, storms are all manifestations of nature, dangers for man. And man has become an enemy of his brother instead of a friend (adulterers, robberies, lies, murders, wars). “We know in fact that all creation groans and suffers together with the birth pangs until the present moment. Not only it, but we too, who have the first gift of the Spirit, in our turn groan in ourselves, awaiting adoption at children, of the redemption of our body. ” (Rom 8, 22-23).
Everything is read in the key of a dutiful “ecological conversion” …
We must absolutely reject expressions such as “ecological conversion”. There is only conversion to the Lord, and as a consequence there is also the good of nature. We cannot make ecologism 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. “In fact you did not receive a spirit of slavery so as to be again in a state of fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption as sons, in union with which we cry out: Abbà, Father”. (Rom 8:15).
… And we consider the Mother Earth.
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.
Already in the early 1980s of the last century, the then Cardinal Ratzinger saw that in the churches he no longer preached about Creation and foresaw the dramatic consequences.
In fact all these mistakes are born from the confusion between Creator and creature, from the identification of nature with God, which among other things generates polytheism, because each natural element is associated with a deity. The essence of biblical monotheism is the ontological difference between Creator and creation. God is not part of his work, he is sovereign above all created things. This is not contempt, but an elevation of nature. A fundamental axiom of Catholic theology says: “Gratia non tollit naturam sed perficit eam” (S.Tommaso de Aq., Summa theologiae I, q. 1 a.8). And men are no longer slaves to the elements, they no longer have to worship the god of fire, or make sacrifices to the god of fire to pacify us with an element that scares us. Man is finally free.
In this pantheistic vision that is espoused by the Instrumentum Laboris, there is also a critique of anthropocentrism, which the Church itself should correct.
It is an absurd idea, to pretend that God is not anthropocentric. 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. The man in Christ as a child of the Father is theocentric and never the center. Love of God above all things and love of neighbor, this is the gravitational field of human existence.
Another magic word of the Instrumentum Laboris is inculturation, often associated with the Incarnation.
Using the Incarnation almost as a synonym for inculturation is the first mystification. 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. The Church in the symbols of catechesis and secondary liturgy is expressed in the forms of particular cultures. But the sacramental signs (word and egnis) carry out the supernatural grace of the present Christ. For this reason the liturgy should not be despised as “a museum piece or a possession of a few” (no.124). The “substance of the sacraments”
Let us return to inculturation: from the synodal document we understand that we must adopt all the beliefs of indigenous peoples, their rites 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 opened the way to Christianity because of reason. The relationship between revealed faith and human intellect is the basis of our relationship with God, the origin and end of all creation. 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, Roman, Gothic, Lombard, Frankish culture. Christianity has completely transformed Greek and Roman culture. Certain pagan myths can have a pedagogical dimension towards Christianity but they are not elements that found Christianity.
In this process of inculturation, the Instrumentum Laboris also “rereads” the sacraments, especially with regard to sacred orders, under the pretext that there are few priests in such vast territory.
It is here that it is further demonstrated that the approach used is sociological and not theological. The Revelation of God in Christ becomes present in the sacraments, and the Church has no authority to change the substance of the sacraments. 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 for all men in all times and places, for this reason 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. Some say: but wheat does not grow in the Amazon, let us take another thing. But this is not inculturation. They do not want to change only what is ecclesiastical law, but also what is of divine right.
Eminence, one last thing, you often refer to “them” who want to change the Church. But who are these “them”?
It does not depend on a single person or a specific group of people. It is a self-referential system, immune from any critical topic, a thought that must open up disqualifying other Catholic believers and theologically morally stamping them as Pharisees, doctors of the law, rigid, conservative. One speaks with great respect of the wisdom of the ancestors and despises the long tradition of the Church, and treats the popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI as by now outdated. We want to adapt to the world: indissoluble marriage, celibacy, women priests, apostolic authority as if it were a political problem: everything must be changed in the conviction that in this way there will be a new springtime for the Church, a new Pentecost – this is also a bizarre idea , since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is a unique event, eschatological and is valid forever. As if the example of the Protestants were not enough to deny this illusion. They do not see that instead they destroy the Church, they are like blind men who fall into the pit. The Church must develop according to the principles of Catholic theology and not of sociology or naturalism and positivism (cf. Dei Verbum 8-10). “The sacred theology is based on the written word of God, together with tradition, as on a perennial foundation, and in it it vigorously consolidates and rejuvenates itself, scrutinizing in the light of faith all the truth contained in the mystery of Christ” (Dei Verbum 24). The Church must develop according to the principles of Catholic theology and not of sociology or naturalism and positivism (cf. Dei Verbum 8-10). “The sacred theology is based on the written word of God, together with tradition, as on a perennial foundation, and in it it vigorously consolidates and rejuvenates itself, scrutinizing in the light of faith all the truth contained in the mystery of Christ” (Dei Verbum 24). The Church must develop according to the principles of Catholic theology and not of sociology or naturalism and positivism (cf. Dei Verbum 8-10). “The sacred theology is based on the written word of God, together with tradition, as on a perennial foundation, and in it it vigorously consolidates and rejuvenates itself, scrutinizing in the light of faith all the truth contained in the mystery of Christ” (Dei Verbum 24).