The Editors: Unity and hope from the Amazon synod must speak louder than fear

Pope Francis accepts a plant during the offertory as he celebrates the concluding Mass of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 27, 2019. 

The final document approved by the necessary two-thirds majority of the voting members of the synod for the Pan-Amazonian region was focused on four calls for conversion: pastoral, cultural, ecological and synodal. But how will those calls be heard in the church, given the intense focus on the synod’s endorsement of ordaining married men in order to make the Eucharist more available in Amazonian communities?

In fact, those calls for conversion might not even make a list of the top five issues that have dominated coverage of the synod. The synod’s closing week was dominated by news of the theft of wooden statues depicting a pregnant Amazonian woman, which had been used along with other symbols, including the cross, in prayer services during the synod. The thieves recorded and publicized video of themselves dumping the statues off a bridge into the Tiber River, celebrating their vandalism as a blow against “idolatry.” (The statues were later recovered by the Italian police.)

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Calls for conversion might not even make a list of the top five issues that have dominated coverage of the synod.

The theft set off a social media frenzy fueled by breathless “breaking news” coverage in a number of media outlets that frequently drum up opposition to Pope Francis—the same outlets that had spent the months leading up to the synod fomenting fear about its working document and the people chosen to serve on its organizing committee. These media reports drew in many cases on quotes from and interviews with prelates, priests and laypeople who literally presented themselves as “more Catholic than the pope” regarding the topics under discussion at the synod.

Because of this determined effort to scandalize the faithful, the synod appeared to be divisive, when in fact it was an instance of profound ecclesial communion. The church gathered together a wide range of participants to consider the needs of a complex and vital region, unique in its ecological importance, that includes nine countries and an enormous number of cultures. Even the most contentious question—on married priests—was approved by more than three-quarters of those voting. Of the 120 total paragraphs in the final document, 113 were approved by more than 90 percent of the voters.

Among the themes that received such overwhelming support were: the opportunity for the church “to differentiate itself from new colonizing powers by listening to the Amazonian peoples”; greater pastoral efforts to assist migrants and oppose human trafficking; the establishment of an Amazonian Catholic university; and the recognition of an integral link between preserving the ecology of the Amazon and protecting the rights of its indigenous communities.

One of the most significant questions we now face in the church is how to commit to the path of “synodal conversion,” as this synod has put it, overcoming fear and distrust.

One of the most significant questions we now face in the church is how to commit to the path of “synodal conversion,” as this synod has put it, overcoming fear and distrust. The synod called for strengthening “a culture of dialogue, reciprocal listening, spiritual discernment, consensus and communion” and said that “it is not possible to be the church without recognizing an effective exercise of the sensus fidei of the whole people of God.”

Throughout much of Francis’ papacy, but particularly during synod meetings, the church’s commitment to listening, discernment and communion has been opposed by a sort of “heckler’s veto” exercised by the most fearful and intolerant voices in the church. They presume that their cramped vision of the tradition has already answered and foreclosed any question that might be considered. Those voices speak from desolation, not from the action of the Holy Spirit, and they risk crowding out the honest and faithful critique that Francis has said he desires.

The church must, therefore, embrace the challenge of amplifying the voices present in the synod hall and among the local communities of the Amazon. We need, as Pope Francis said in his homily at the synod’s closing Mass, to remember that “the cry of the poor...is the cry of hope of the church.” The whole body of Christ needs to hear God speaking to us there.

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Chris Lochner
3 weeks 2 days ago

And so we have “a culture of dialogue, reciprocal listening, spiritual discernment, consensus and communion” and yet any who are in disagreement are a "sort of “heckler’s veto” exercised by the most fearful and intolerant voices in the church." "and they risk crowding out the honest and faithful critique that Francis has said he desires." ...One wonders as to how to be critical of Pope Francis and remain faithful. The simple answers appears to regard this as an impossible task. Thus, the case is closed. Do what you are told.... The Holy Spirit being used as a tool for increased secular involvement of religious authority in all aspects of life will give rise to a loss of freedoms and the creation of a theocracy of unelected rulers with their own view of right and wrong viewpoints which cannot be debated under pain of sin and which usually requires a form of blind obedience. This is a clear and present danger in my opinion. It is no longer about Christ but is all about power.

JR Cosgrove
3 weeks 2 days ago

I’m sorry. This all sounds like clichés and gobbledygook. . It’s a long way from the One True Church established by God for salvation.

Jim Smith
3 weeks 2 days ago

The picture evoked in my imagination by this article was an unhappy one.
The head of the permanent group of professional public servants a long time ago drafted, revised and redrafted an order of service to deal with a rigidly controlled and highly specific list of agenda items decided somewhere in Rome by someone with the intention of attaining a desired outcome.
Some fancy dress, some tame sock-puppets well vetted to keep to the party line ending with a board-room style internal debate with an artificially arbitrary voting system to put some sort of stamp of approval and legitimacy to the pre-planned outcome.

The Age of Reason ruling in the Curia and the Vatican just as it does in the EU or Congress.

On another note, why is it being asserted that irrational fear is the only response generating any opposition?
Where has discernment evoking anger, disgust, perplexity, suspicion, caution, reservation, disagreement and other authentic motivations been made to vanish?

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 2 days ago

"a culture of dialogue, reciprocal listening, spiritual discernment, consensus and communion"??? A synod of men decided women can't be deacons, much less priests = this from the supposedly liberal wing of the church. No wonder young people are leaving the church and a majority of Catholics find the teachings irrelevant to their lives. You guys continue to perpetuate injustice while patting yourselves on the back.

Kevin Murphy
3 weeks 1 day ago

Have a Synod where you only invite those who agree with you and then boast of the overwhelming agreement on the issues raised. It must be the Holy Spirit working! Please. Do the Jesuits think we're all so stupid? Also, can we put to rest this myth that Francis wants to listen to differing opinions? This is the man who changes Catholic teaching in a footnote and has yet to clarify what he means, disparaging those who ask for such clarity. In short, this Synod was rigged from the start and means nothing to me.

Robert Lewis
3 weeks ago

You "conservative" American Catholics do not realize that you are in a minority now, in the universal Church. The majority of Catholics in Africa, Asia and South America SUPPORT the trend in "liberation theology" that Francis is following, and so do the bishops and cardinals. Those cardinals who would rebel against this trend are being retired by Francis, and replaced--thankfully. If there is a "schism" in the Catholic Church, it will only be this reactionary "Traditionalist" element that leave, and when they do, I'll echo Benedict XVI, who opined in a thoroughly different context, that a "winnowed" Catholic Church may be a better Catholic Church!

Christopher Scott
3 weeks ago

....and the democrats are going to win 2020 potus election too right? Leftists crack me up, they really believe this stuff. Like my dad used to say, “turn off the boob tube and go outside and play”

Christopher Scott
3 weeks ago

Repeat

JR Cosgrove
3 weeks ago

The problem is that Liberation Theology is a political idea and cannot possibly succeed. All political systems have flaws and this one has major ones. Guaranteed failure is not something any religion should be associated with.

Christopher Scott
3 weeks 1 day ago

“...a number of media outlets that frequently drum up opposition to Pope Francis”

Jesuit like watching Netflix ;-)

https://youtu.be/QrOwxPPfzy8

John Graham
3 weeks ago

Whe I read that missionaries who admit to having baptized zero people during their decades in the Amazon were participating in the synod I wondered how they thought they could contribute to solving these challenges? A quarterback who had completed zero passes in his career would not be called upon to improve the game of football, would he?

JR Cosgrove
3 weeks ago

Maybe this Synod had nothing to do with the Amazon?

Robert Lewis
3 weeks ago

Have you heard of the doctrine formulated at Vatican II called "implied faith"? Mother Teresa, who was canonized by the "patron saint" of the Trad wing of the Church, said, in contradiction of the calumny of Christopher Hitchens, that she coerced conversions of the dying, that, if those whom she helped to die grew closer to the deities of their own faith at the moment of their deaths, she was confident that they were, be definition, growing closer to the Christian God. This is perfectly in line with that proclamation of Vatican II, which also rescinded the idea of the supercession of the First Covenant by the Second. If Mother Teresa hadn't said that, she wouldn't have been granted a state funeral in Kolkota by the first BJP government. The era of reckless proselytizing is over, and persistence in it is "ridiculous" in a period of mass communication, as Pope Francis is rumored to have said. Mohandas Gandhi is, indeed, in "Heaven," if there is one, along with the Jewish rabbis, prophets and patriarchs who doubtless lived purer lives than many popes and bishops.

JR Cosgrove
3 weeks ago

Then maybe the Church should not have anything to do with anything anywhere since all people of good will are saved. Just fold up the tent and close shop. It seems that is what is happening.

Robert Lewis
2 weeks 6 days ago

Your observation would make sense, if the only value in Christianity is a "safe pass" to Heaven, as in Pascal's "bet." Actually, that has always seemed to me, ever since I was a very little boy, to be a vulgar and meretricious way of advancing the message of Jesus Christ. Instead, I think that the Gospel He preached and the way he lived is the only way of living a free and joyful existence in this life. As He said, "The Kingdom is spread out in front of you."

JR Cosgrove
2 weeks 6 days ago

You miss the obvious. Christ gave us through the Church a morality to have a good life. But the Church squandered that early by ignoring the other gifts that God gave us by how he made us. He made us desire freedom and for all of its existence the Church fought against this gift of God. They are still doing it. Freedom entered human existence for the first time in England and Holland in the mid 1600’s and spread out in these countries and to other parts of the world. Catholic morality and freedom is the perfect prescription for a just world.

JR Cosgrove
2 weeks 6 days ago

Look up Boston in England. It is the port city closest to Holland. Protestants from both places went back and forth. They then fought with the Protestants created as the Church of England. Both splintered and the power of parliament grew as the royalty grew weaker as different sects fought each other. Out of this came freedom for the common man, not all at first but gradually and then the modern world began. Meanwhile Catholic and all Protestant countries of one religion remained backwards. Eventually England’s success changed everything. All the data points to 1800 as the inflection point in history.

JR Cosgrove
2 weeks 6 days ago

The Catholic Church has not learned these lessons. It still wants to shackle people in failed social and economic systems and persuade gullible people in the Church that they are doing God’s work when in actuality they are thwarting what God has given us. The Church bought into Plato’s Republic early on which was a failed political analysis of the world. Plato was a brilliant man but some of his ideas were formulas for dysfunction, especially the parts of the Republic that had to do with political organization.

JR Cosgrove
2 weeks 6 days ago

This Synod is a perfect example. Instead of working with the Brazilian government to develop the people using Catholic morality, the Church wants to impose their own bogus economic and social policies. The real target is not the betterment of the people of the Amazon but the establishment of a failed economic and social policy. One might also wonder if the purpose of this Synod had nothing to do with the Amazon. It was just a red herring, an opportunity for something else.

Robert Lewis
3 weeks ago

double comment--sorry!

DAN CONWAY
3 weeks ago

The Catholic liberals at media sites have failed to watch and study the Christian Right over the past generation. As a consequence, they insist on soft-pedaling the motivations of the Catholic Right Wing. The Catholic right wing spends its days absolutely convincing itself of the incessant demonic nature of liberals and Pope Francis. Its not fear that motivates them, but a desire to cause pain giddily and to hate. The Catholic right - the base- that audience that feeds the clicks of the more dignified and prominent representatives of the Catholic Right, are dedicated to the destruction of liberals, minorities, immigrants, gays, and the poor. Its been a generation-long project, cultivated by newsletter arrangement, bulletin boards in the 1990's, and finally the amorphous entity of blogs called "St. Blog's."

Down-playing the depth of depravity of the motivations of the Catholic Right wing as displayed by folks like Marshall Taylor (recent author of Infiltration, published by Sophia Institute) or Church Militant reveals a depth of ignorance on the personalities, motivations, ongoing activities, and shockingly vast fiscal resources at their disposal.

These liberal media sites are way behind.

DAN CONWAY
3 weeks ago

The Catholic liberals at media sites have failed to watch and study the Christian Right over the past generation. As a consequence, they insist on soft-pedaling the motivations of the Catholic Right Wing. The Catholic right wing spends its days absolutely convincing itself of the incessant demonic nature of liberals and Pope Francis. Its not fear that motivates them, but a desire to cause pain giddily and to hate. The Catholic right - the base- that audience that feeds the clicks of the more dignified and prominent representatives of the Catholic Right, are dedicated to the destruction of liberals, minorities, immigrants, gays, and the poor. Its been a generation-long project, cultivated by newsletter arrangement, bulletin boards in the 1990's, and finally the amorphous entity of blogs called "St. Blog's."

Down-playing the depth of depravity of the motivations of the Catholic Right wing as displayed by folks like Marshall Taylor (recent author of Infiltration, published by Sophia Institute) or Church Militant reveals a depth of ignorance on the personalities, motivations, ongoing activities, and shockingly vast fiscal resources at their disposal.

These liberal media sites are way behind.

Jeffrey More
3 weeks ago

“One of the most significant questions we now face in the church is how to commit to the path of ‘synodal conversion. . . .’” What the devil are these people talking about? Why does the clerical caste (and its hangers-on) insist upon talking in impenetrable clericalist jargon which no normal person (even a Jesuit-educated person) could possibly understand without doing research? One has to wonder how the Church expects to connect in any meaningful way with indigenous Amazonian people by talking gibberish like this. Indeed, not even the members of the clerical caste who attended the synod understood what “synodality” means. Cardinal Michael Czerny, under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, when asked a couple of days ago “what was the working definition of ‘synodality’ understood among the synod fathers, . . . replied, ‘Everyone had a sense of what it meant because we were doing it. Whether everyone could explain it in words, I am not so sure, but I am not sure that that matters.’” Beautiful!

John Placette
2 weeks 6 days ago

I have an idea. How about the creation of a new "order" of ministry similar to the Nazirite vow as explained in the OT Book of Numbers.
It would not have to be rigid, but its creation would not interfere with the Sacrament of Holy Orders. One could define the Nazirite order as they wished.

John Barbieri
2 weeks 6 days ago

This synod was another example of appearing to do something while actually doing nothing. Mission accomplished.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of Pope Francis.]

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