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Since it was made public on June 17, the base document – or “Instrumentum laboris” – of the synod for the Amazon has received many critical reactions, for the anomaly of its framework and proposals, with respect to all the synods that preceded it.
But as of today there is more. Accusing the document of nothing less than heresy and apostasy is a cardinal, the German Walter Brandmüller, 90, an illustrious Church historian, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences from 1998 to 2009, and coauthor, in 2016, of the famous “dubia” on the correct interpretation and application of “Amoris Laetitia” to which Pope Francis has always refused to respond.
The following is his “J’accuse,” made public today simultaneously in multiple languages.
A Critique of the “Instrumentum Laboris” for the Amazon Synod
by Card. Walter Brandmüller
It can truly cause astonishment that, in opposition to earlier assemblies, this time the Synod of Bishops is exclusively to deal with a region of the earth whose population is just half of that one of Mexico City, that is to say, 4 million. This is also a cause for suspicion concerning the true intentions which are to be implemented in a clandestine fashion. But one has especially to ask what is the understanding of religion, of Christianity, and of the Church, which is the basis of the recently published Instrumentum Laboris. This shall be examined with the help of individual elements from the text.
Why a Synod on this region?
One has to ask in principle why a Synod of Bishops should deal with topics, which – as is now the case with ¾ of the Instrumentum Laboris – have, at the most, marginally anything to do with the Gospels and the Church. Obviously, there takes place here on the part of the Synod of Bishops an aggressive intrusion into the purely worldly affairs of the state and society of Brazil. One asks oneself: what do ecology, economy, and politics have to do with the mandate and mission of the Church?
And most of all: which professional expertise authorizes an ecclesial Synod of Bishops to make statements in these fields?
Should the Synod of Bishops truly do this, this would be a stepping over bounderies and a clericalist presumption, which the state authorities would then have to reject.
On Natural Religions and Inculturation
A further aspect is being added, which is to be found throughout the whole Instrumentum Laboris: namely, the very positive assessment of natural religions, to include indigenous healing practices and the like, yes, even mythical-religious practices and forms of cults. In the context of the call for harmony with nature, there is even talk about the dialogue with the spirits (no. 75).
It is not only the ideal of the “noble savage” as presented by Rousseau and the Enlightenment that is being contrasted with the decadent European. This line of thought goes further, up to the turn to the 20th century, when it ends in a pantheistic idolatry of nature. Hermann Claudius (1913) created the hymn of the Socialist Worker’s Movement, “When we walk side by side…,” a stanza of which reads: “Birches’ green and the green of seeds, how the old Mother Earth extends her full hands, with a pleading gesture, that man may become her own…” It is remarkable that this text was later copied into the song book of the Hitler Youth, probably because it corresponded to the National-Socialist blood-and-soil myth. This ideological proximity is remarkable. This anti-rational rejection of the “western” culture which stresses the importance of reason is characteristic for 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 – that is to say, the forests of the Amazon region – is even being declared to be a locus theologicus, a special source of Divine Revelation. Here are places of an epiphany where the planet’s reserves of life and wisdom show themselves, which speak of God (no. 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 being raised to a criterion of that which the Instrumentum Laboris calls the inculturation of the Church. The result is a natural religion with a Christian masquerade.
The notion of inculturation is here virtually being perverted, since it really means the opposite of what the International Theological Commission had presented in 1988 and of what the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, Ad Gentes, had earlier taught.
On the Abolishment of Celibacy and the Introduction of a Female Priesthood
It is impossible to conceal that the “synod” is especially to help implement two most cherished projects that heretofore have never been implemented: namely, the abolishment of celibacy and the introduction of a female priesthood – starting first with female deacons. In any event, it is about “accepting the role, the leadership of the woman inside the Church” (129a3). In a similar manner, there now “open up new spaces for the creation of new ministries, as this historic moment calls for it. It is time to listen to the voice of the Amazon region…” (no. 43).
But here the fact is omitted that, lastly, 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 Denying the Sacramental-Hierarchical Character of the Church
In a similar manner – though expressed rather in passing – no. 127 contains a direct attack on the hierarchical-sacramental constitution of the Church, when it is being asked as to whether it would not 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.” From such a wrong view stems then (in no. 129) the call for the creation of new offices which correspond to the needs of the Amazonian peoples.
The liturgy, the cult, however, is the field in which the ideology of a falsely understood inculturation finds its expression in an especially spectacular manner. Here, certain forms from the natural religions shall be positively adopted. The Instrumentum Laboris does not hold back from demanding that the “poor and simple peoples” may express “their (!) faith with the help of pictures, symbols, traditions, rites, and other sacraments” (!!) (no. 126e).
This certainly does not correspond to the precepts of the Constitution “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” nor to the ones of the Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, Ad Gentes, and it shows a purely horizontal understanding of liturgy.
Summa summarum: The Instrumentum Laboris burdens the Synod of Bishops, and finally the Pope, with a grave breach with the depositum fidei, which in its consequence means 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, of course there are questions: is there to be found, especially with regard to the sacramental-hierarchical structure of the Church, a decisive breach with the Apostolic Tradition as it is constitutive for the Church, or do the authors rather have a notion of the development of doctrine which is theologically presented in order to justify these above-mentioned breaches?
This seems to be indeed the case. We are witnessing a new form of the classical Modernism of the early 20th century. At the time, starting with a decisively evolutionary approach, one presented the idea that, in accord with the continuous higher development of man, are found also higher levels of consciousness and of culture, whereby it can turn out that that which had been false yesterday, can be true today. This evolutionary dynamic then applies to religion, as well, that is to say, to the religious consciousness with its manifestations in doctrine and in cult – of course also in morality.
However, the understanding of the development of dogma presupposed to this view is sharply opposed to the genuine Catholic understanding. The latter understands development of dogma and of Church, not as a change, but, rather, as an organic development of the subject which remains true to its own identity.
That is what the two Vatican Councils teach us in their Constitutions “Dei Filius,” “Lumen Gentium,” and “Dei Verbum.”
It is to be stated now with insistence that the Instrumentum Laboriscontradicts the binding teaching of the Church in decisive points and thus has to be qualified as heretical.
Inasmuch as even the fact of Divine Revelation is here being questioned, or misunderstood, one also now has to speak, additionally, of apostasy.
This is even more justified in light of the fact that the Instrumentum Laborisuses a purely immanentist notion of religion and that it considers religion as the result and form of expression of man’s own spiritual self-experience. The use of Christian words and notions cannot conceal that these are being merely used as empty words, despite their original meaning.
The Instrumentum Laboris for the Amazon Synod constitutes an attack on the foundations of the Faith, and in a way that has not heretofore been thought possible. Thus it must be rejected with all decisiveness.
(Translated by Maike Hickson for LifeSite News)