Pope Benedict already rejected paganism-affirming proposals made in Amazon Synod working doc
August 22, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – In 2007 during his visit to Aparecida, Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI clearly rejected certain aspects of Liberation Theology, especially its claim that the colonization of South American was a time of injustice that needs to be undone and that it is more important to serve the poor than to convert them to the Catholic Faith. On his flight to Brazil, Pope Benedict also referred back to his own 1984 Instruction concerning Liberation Theology that was a detailed critique of this theory.
In light of the fact that the upcoming October 6-27 Pan-Amazon Synod is heavily influenced by aspects of Liberation Theology and also refers back to the Fifth General Conference of Bishops of Latin America and the Carribean in Aparecida that took place in 2007, it might be well worthwhile to recall here the words spoken by Pope Benedict XVI during his 2007 visit in Brazil.
At the time, there were the same ideas from Liberation Theology circulated – namely that the Church should make the defense of the poor and of the indigenous people a priority, at the expense of conversion and catechism – which then influenced the discussions at the Aparecida gathering. As a matter of fact, the Latin American bishops had even invited some of the representatives of Liberation Theology – who had organized themselves in the group Amerindia – to send in contributions for the Aparecida conference. This General Conference had as its theme: “Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our peoples may have life in him.”
Pope Benedict, most prominently, tried to influence the discussions of the Latin American bishops by his speech to the assembly of bishops in Aparecida on May 13, 2007. Unlike the Liberation Theologians who sharply criticize the colonization of the Americas by Catholic countries and who mostly point out the corruptions that went along with that process of evangelization of a whole continent, Pope Benedict paints in his speech a positive picture of this overall historical process.
He states that “Faith in God has animated the life and culture of these nations for more than five centuries,” and he then adds that, from this “encounter between that faith and the indigenous peoples,” there has “emerged the rich Christian culture of this Continent, expressed in art, music, literature, and above all, in the religious traditions and in the peoples’ whole way of being, united as they are by a shared history and a shared creed that give rise to a great underlying harmony, despite the diversity of cultures and languages.”
The nations of Latin America, explains the Pope, accepted the Catholic Faith, which meant “knowing and welcoming Christ, the unknown God whom their ancestors were seeking, without realizing it, in their rich religious traditions. Christ is the Saviour for whom they were silently longing.” Through Baptism, he continues, these peoples received “the divine life that made them children of God by adoption”; with the help of the Holy Spirit, they made their cultures “fruitful” and “purified” them.
It is clear here that Pope Benedict stresses the supernatural aspect of the Catholic Faith, not its social or political dimensions. And he goes further by insisting that this conversion to the Faith did not mean “an alienation of the pre-Columbian cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.”
With these words, he strongly distances himself from the major views of the Liberation theologians.
Pope Benedict goes on to say that “it is only the truth that can bring unity, and the proof of this is love. That is why Christ, being in truth the incarnate Logos, 'love to the end', is not alien to any culture, nor to any person.” “On the contrary,” he adds, “the response that he seeks in the heart of cultures is what gives them their ultimate identity, uniting humanity and at the same time respecting the wealth of diversity.”
Further distancing himself from ideas stemming from Liberation Theology, the pope states that “the Utopia of going back to breathe life into the pre-Columbian religions, separating them from Christ and from the universal Church, would not be a step forward: indeed, it would be a step back. In reality, it would be a retreat towards a stage in history anchored in the past.”
This sentence in itself would be a good response today to the authors of the Amazon Synod's working document. Moreover, Pope Benedict regrets that there is to be found in the Latin American countries “a certain weakening of Christian life,” which is due to “secularism, hedonism, indifferentism and proselytism by numerous sects, animist religions and new pseudo-religious phenomena.” Thus, the idea to welcome the religions of indigenous tribes, as it is now being proposed in the Amazon Synod's working document, is also alien to the understanding of Pope Benedict.
On the contrary, for Benedict “the Church has the great task of guarding and nourishing the faith of the People of God, and reminding the faithful of this Continent that, by virtue of their Baptism, they are called to be disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ. This implies following him, living in intimacy with him, imitating his example and bearing witness.” Benedict calls upon the Catholics of this region to be missionaries of Christ.
The supernatural life of faith has to come first.
Benedict asks: “What is real? Are only material goods, social, economic and political problems 'reality'? This was precisely the great error of the dominant tendencies of the last century, a most destructive error, as we can see from the results of both Marxist and capitalist systems. They falsify the notion of reality by detaching it from the foundational and decisive reality which is God. Anyone who excludes God from his horizons falsifies the notion of 'reality' and, in consequence, can only end up in blind alleys or with recipes for destruction.”
As is likely still known, in the mid-1980s, the Vatican admonished Liberation Theology for its pro-Marxist tendencies and for its neglect of Catholic doctrine. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger had signed that document. During the Aparecida conference itself, Amerindia put much pressure on the conference debates and distributed pamphlets to the bishops of that meeting calling for basic communities, female priests, the abolishment of priestly celibacy, and the democratic election of bishops, among other things. Additionally, the texts distributed by Amerindia called for support for Fidel Castro.
Distancing himself from such secular-political initiatives, Pope Benedict reminds the Latin American bishops in his speech in Aparecida that “only those who recognize God know reality and are able to respond to it adequately and in a truly human manner. The truth of this thesis becomes evident in the face of the collapse of all the systems that marginalize God.” He insists upon the “unique and irreplaceable importance of Christ for us, for humanity.” Without knowing God in Christ, he continues, “there is neither life nor truth.”
The Gospel quite often demands a conversion of attitudes and an amendment of customs where it establishes itself: Cultures must also be purified and restored in Christ.
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|FAITH AND INCULTURATION|
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