By Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, published – June 27, 2019
It is truly astonishing that, contrary to former assemblies, the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Amazon will deal exclusively with a region of the earth whose population is just half that of Mexico City, that is to say, 4 million. This also raises suspicions regarding the true intentions to be implemented in a hidden way at the October assembly. But one especially has to question the understanding of religion, Christianity and the Church that forms the basis of the recently published Instrumentum Laboris. This shall be examined here, with the help of individual elements from the text.
Why a synod on this region?
In principle, we must ask why a synod of bishops should deal with topics which, at best, (as is now the case with three quarters of the Instrumentum Laboris) relate only marginally to the Gospels and the Church. Clearly, there is an encroaching interference here by a synod of bishops into the purely secular affairs of the Brazilian state and society.
What do ecology, economy, and politics have to do with the mandate and mission of the Church? More importantly: what professional expertise authorizes an ecclesial synod of bishops to express itself on such topics? Should the synod of bishops indeed do this, it would be a crossing of boundaries and act of clerical presumption which state authorities would have to reject.
On natural religions and inculturation
Furthermore, throughout the Instrumentum Laboris one finds a very positive assessment of natural religions, including indigenous healing practices etc., even mythic-religious practices and cult forms. In the context of the call for harmony with nature, for example, there is even talk about “dialogue with the spirits” (n. 75).
It is not only the Rousseauian or Enlightenment ideal of the “noble savage” that is being contrasted with the decadent European. The line of thoughtcontinues right up to turn to the 20thcentury, ending in a pantheistic idolatry of nature. Hermann Claudius (1913) created the hymn of the Socialist Worker’s Movement, “When we walk side by side….” One verse reads: “Birches green and seeds of green, with a pleading gesture old Mother Earth extends her full hands, that man may become her own…”
It is remarkable that this verse was later copied into the songbook of the Hitler Youth, presumably because it corresponded to the National-Socialist myth of blood and soil. The ideological proximity with the Instrumentum is is remarkable. The anti-rational rejection of “Western” culture (that stresses the importance of reason) is characteristic of the Instrumentum Laboris, which speaks in no. 44 of “Mother Earth” and of the “cry of the earth and of the peoples” (no. 101) respectively.
Accordingly, the territory — the forests of the Amazon region — even becomes a locus theologicus, a special source of Divine Revelation. These are “epiphanic places” where “the reserve of life and wisdom for the planet is manifest, a life and wisdom that speaks of God” (n. 19). The anti-rational rejection of the “western” culture, which stresses the importance of reason, is characteristic of the Instrumentum Laboris. Meanwhile, the subsequent regression from Logos to Mythos is raised to the criterion of what the Instrumentum Laboris calls the inculturation of the Church. The result is a natural religion in Christian masquerade.
The concept of inculturation is perverted in the document, for it proposes the opposite of what the International Theological Commission presented in 1988, and what had already been taught in the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, Ad Gentes.
On the abolition of priestly celibacy and the introduction of a female priesthood
It is impossible to conceal that the “synod” intends, above all, to help implement two most cherished projects that heretofore have never been implemented: namely, the abolition of priestly celibacy and the intro-duction of a female priesthood – beginning with female deacons. In any event, it is about “identifying the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women … in the Church (129 a 3).” In a similar manner, “room is now opening up to create new ministries appropriate to this historical moment. It is the right moment to listen to the voice of the Amazon…” (n. 43).
But the fact is omitted here that, in the end, John Paul II also stated with highest magisterial authority that it is not in the power of the Church to administer the Sacrament of Holy Orders to women.
Indeed, in two thousand years, the Church has never administered the Sacrament of Holy Orders to a woman.
The demand which stands in direct opposition to this fact shows that the word “Church” is now being used purely as a sociological term on the part of the authors of the Instrumentum Laboris, thus implicitly denying the sacramental-hierarchical character of the Church.
On the denial of the sacramental-hierarchical character of the Church
In a similar manner – though expressed in passing –no. 127 represents a direct attack on the hierarchical-sacramental constitution of the Church, when it is suggested that it would be opportune “to reconsider the notion that the exercise of jurisdiction (power of government) must be linked in all areas (sacramental, judicial, administrative) and in a permanent way to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.” (no. 127) From such an erroneous view arises (in no. 129) the call for the creation of new offices which correspond to the needs of the Amazonian peoples.
However, liturgy, i.e. worship, is the field where the ideology of a falsely understood inculturation finds its expression in an especially spectacular manner. Here, certain forms from natural religions are to be positively adopted. The Instrumentum Laboris does not hold back from demanding that the “poor and simple people” may express “their (!) faith through images, symbols, traditions, rites and other sacraments” (!!) (no. 126 e).
This certainly does not correspond to the precepts of the Constitution “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” nor to those in the Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, Ad Gentes. It also manifests a purely horizontal understanding of liturgy.
Summa summarum: The Instrumentum Laboris burdens the synod of bishops and ultimately the Pope with a serious break with the depositum fidei. Such a break consequently implies the self-destruction of the Church or the change of the Corpus Christi mysticum into a secular NGO with an ecological-social-psychological mandate.
After these observations, questions naturally arise: above all, in relation to the sacramental-hierarchical structure of the Church, is there a decisive break with the apostolic tradition constitutive of the Church, or do the authors rather have a notion of the development of doctrine which is presented theologically in order to justify the aforementioned rupture?
Indeed, this seems to be the case. We are witnessing a new form of the classical Modernism of the early twentieth century. At the time, from a decidedly evolutionist approach, the view was presented that, in accord with the continually higher development of man, higher levels of human consciousness and culture also result, whereby what had been false yesterday can turn out to be true today. Religion and religious consciousness, with its forms in doctrine and cult – and also, of course, in morality — are also subject to this revolutionary dynamic.
This, however, would presuppose a concept of dogmatic development that is sharply opposed to the genuine Catholic understanding. The latter understands the development of dogma and the Church not as change, but as an organic development of the subject which remains identical to itself.
That is what the two Vatican Councils teach us in their Constitutions “Dei Filius”, “Lumen Gentium”, and “Dei Verbum.”
It is to be emphatically stated that the Instrumentum Laboris contradicts the binding teaching of the Church on decisive points, and is therefore to be qualified as heretical.
Inasmuch as the fact of Divine Revelation is here even being questioned or misunderstood, one must also speak of apostasy.
This is all the more justified in light of the fact that the Instrumentum Laboris uses a purely immanentist notion of religion and regards religion as the result and expression of man’s spiritual self-experience. The use of Christian words and concepts cannot obscure the fact that, regardless of their original meaning, they are being used merely as empty words.
The Instrumentum Laboris for the Amazon Synod constitutes an attack on the foundations of the Faith, in a way that has heretofore not been thought possible. It must therefore be firmly and decidedly rejected.
Translation by Maike Hickson. Glossary:
Rousseauian / ruːˈsəʊɪən
Adjective – Of, relating to, or characteristic of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, his style of writing, or his ideas.Origin: Mid 19th century; earliest use found in George Holyoake (1817–1906), freethinker and co-operator. From the name of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, French author and philosopher + -ian ./ruːˈsəʊɪən/