The synod is done. But the mutant thing lives on in its final document, “Amazonia: New Ways for the Church and for a Holistic Ecology.” Prudence and discretion, rationality itself, are baffled by its opening hysteria.
The Amazon rainforest … is in an unbridled race to death. It requires radical changes with great urgency, a new direction that can save it. It is scientifically proven that the disappearance of the Amazonian biome will have a catastrophic impact for the whole planet!
In all its turbulent history, the Church has never made a laughingstock of itself. Not until now. Scientifically proven? Our bishops have lost the ability to distinguish between contention and settled fact. They concentrate their indignant energies on facile borrowings from the climate change script, conventional academic leftism (e.g., multiple references to “extractivism,” the “technocratic paradigm,” the argot of victimology), and what Pascal Bruckner called “the racism of the anti-racists.”
When they are not sermonizing, the bishops descend into guidance counseling: “The Church’s job is to accompany them [young people] to deal with any situation that destroys their identity or damages their self-esteem.” Emphasis on the “rights of the young” serves to spotlight the cruel silence of the Vatican on — to take one example — China’s tyrannical exclusion of anyone under 18 years of age from entering a church. In reality, the Vatican is no more interested in the young of the Amazon than they are in the Chinese. What matters is the utility of the one, and the non-utility of the other, in positioning the Vatican as a bureau within the United Nations.
The prose alone is an embarrassment. It is easy to imagine the document having been written by undergraduate journalism majors over a beer with middlebrow social justice warriors:
We note that human intervention has lost its “friendly” character, to assume a voracious and predatory attitude that tends to squeeze reality until the exhaustion of all available natural resources. … Together with the Amazonian peoples, we request that governments stop considering the Amazon as an inexhaustible pantry.
Chapter One, “Amazon: From Listening to Integral Conversion,” takes the cue for its title from Hillary Clinton, who made listening tours famous: “Listening to the Amazon, in the spirit of a disciple and in the light of the Word of God and of Tradition, leads us to a profound conversion of our plans and structures to Christ and his Gospel.” Throwing itself at the feet of climate-change dogmatism and pop-culture psychosis, the Church contorts itself to what it has heard.
Note the direction conversion takes. The synod reverses two millennia of evangelization by urging us to convert ourselves to “the voice and song of the Amazon.” Free-range bishops have discerned a proto-Gospel in the ancient ways of indigenous peoples. From the rainforest come extra-biblical insights that beckon Western man back to the Pleistocene for the salvation of his venal colonizing soul.
Overall, the text testifies to a morally and intellectually exhausted Vatican, one that mocks itself with manic complicity between religious references and a secular ideology with a tainted history. Its ideological core germinated outside the Church and in contradiction to it.
Turgid with religiosity, there is little recognizably Christian about the final document unless you accept fashionable loathing for Western identity as a central dogma of the Church. Michael Pakaluk is one of the few who grasped the document’s failures on the ground of its animus toward Western civilization: “The contempt it shows for the West and, indeed, for the existing Church as inserted in Christendom compels the inference that it means ultimately to replace the one with the other.” The “other” refers to a sanitized version of traditional indigenous culture.
The single most damning aspect of the synod was inadvertently divulged by Bishop Erwin Kräutler, friend of Pope Francis and coauthor of the instrumentum laboris. Ten years ago, he admitted knowledge of the continuing practice of infanticide among various indigenous tribes. He remains opposed to prosecuting it as a crime. Maike Hickson writes in LifeSiteNews:
Kräutler explicitly rejects the idea that the state could prosecute those who commit such crimes. He is, rather, in favor of “convincing the people, with pastoral patience, that the culturally prescribed death of a child is anachronistic and undercuts their own strategy of life.”
“We have always fought for the physical and cultural survival of the Indians,” he continues, “and we do so on the foundation of the Gospels, and not with help of the gospel of fundamentalism.”
Thus, he rejects ideas of penalizing infanticide, because “here, in the name of human rights and under the pretext of suppressing infanticide, a broad ethnocide, a cultural murder, is being installed.”
Note the wording. Infanticide is “anachronistic” and not optimal for a “strategy of life” — whatever that means. But unlike murder, it appears not to violate divine command. Any culturally insensitive suggestion to the contrary can be dismissed as “fundamentalism.” In that one statement, Kräutler exposes the covert truth that “a Church with an Amazon face” entails more than an indigenous liturgy. It establishes a separate moral order as well.
In Kräutler’s view, suffocating a newborn — strangling him, or bashing his skull against a tree or a rock — is a lamentable folkway. This, while in the wider Church, even non-abortive contraception has been deemed an intrinsic evil. The disjunction will not be lost on Catholic consciences in the developed world where the Church is already in decline.
Maureen Mullarkey is a painter who writes on art and culture. Her essays have appeared in various publications, among them: The Nation, Crisis, Commonweal, Hudson Review, Arts, The New Criterion, First Things, The Weekly Standard, and The Magazine Antiques. She was a columnist for The New York Sun.
She also keeps the weblog Studio Matters [www.studiomatters.com] She can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @mmletters.