Paganism at the Vatican?

by Pedro Gabriel

Pray Tell is happy to make the Where Peter Is more widely known, and to publish this piece with their and the author’s permission. Gabriel addresses the controversy about allegedly pagan elements and unchristian religious syncretism in prayer services at the Vatican in conjunction with the Amazon Synod now taking place in Rome.

Since the publication of my article about the alleged pagan ritual hosted at the Vatican Gardens, new facts have emerged. This was bound to happen, as I myself admitted and wished for in the conclusion of the article. After all, there was still much that was not known about the ceremony at the time. This is why I was very cautious in drawing any conclusions from it. The only claims that I presented as solid were: 1) the alleged “phallic man” was not phallic at all and 2) one of the images of a seemingly naked pregnant woman represented Our Lady of the Amazon. The latter was mainly grounded on the words of the native woman who presented the image to the Pope: she said it was “Our Lady of the Amazon.”

I again refer you to the video of the whole ceremony here. The part where she calls it “Our Lady of the Amazon” can be heard at the 13:20 mark.

Since then, and as expected, those who hold to what I call the “hermeneutic of suspicion” have doubled down instead of recanting. They have found ways to try to disprove that the figure was indeed Our Lady of the Amazon, so that the narrative of the pagan ritual could still hold and they would have yet another accusation to hurl at the Holy Father. I will try to address these apparent counter-arguments and present some new information that strengthens my conviction that this is indeed Our Lady.

The “Our Lady of the Amazon” title

One of the reflexive responses from the critics was that there is no such thing as “Our Lady of the Amazon.” Of course, asserting such a definitive negative claim in a Church with a universal reach and a wide diversity of Marian expressions is always problematic. A simple Google search shows that there is at least one chapel called Our Lady of the Amazon (“Nossa Senhora da Amazônia”) in a missionary area in Manaus, Brazil. It is not implausible that there may be other expressions of this devotion in the Pan-Amazonian Area that, because of their remoteness, have no expression online.

The reason why I bring this up is because I noted a pattern in the critics who present these charges. First, the critic will make the outlandish claim that there is no such thing as Our Lady of the Amazon. When proven wrong, the critic will browse the website of that parish and produce this picture, which appears in the aforementioned chapel.

The critic will point out that this representation of Our Lady of the Amazon displays the Virgin as a native woman, as does the controversial figure. However, the critic will point out that the Virgin is fully clothed in the “official” version. Therefore, according to the critic, the statue in the Vatican Gardens, where the woman is depicted naked or semi-naked, is not Our Lady of the Amazon, but a fertility goddess.

This critical interpretation fails to take into account that manifestations of popular piety are not centrally designed, but emerge from the faithful on the ground. This means that they can be (and often are) heterogeneous.

The clothed image of Our Lady of the Amazon in the Manaus chapel was designed in 2011, in a contest approved by the Vatican. Unfortunately, it was not designed by a native person. You can see the 2011 news article here (in Portuguese).

The news article explains that the creator of this image did indeed do heavy research to make it as indigenous-like as possible. Still, it was an image of Our Lady designed to appear as a native Amazonian woman, but created by a non-indigenous artist. The designer was explicit in stating that, even though she tried to present the Virgin as an indigenous woman, she took care to clothe her, even introducing a non-Amazonian white veil.

In this context, it is not strange that an image of Our Lady of the Amazon, created by the Amazonian people themselves, was bound to emerge. Nor is it unexpected that this image would represent the Virgin as indigenous in the natives’ own terms. Doing so was also bound to challenge western ideas of how Mary should be represented, especially since the indigenous people of the Amazon have a different cultural view of nakedness which does not necessarily entail concupiscence or immodesty on their part.

The woman presiding over the Vatican Garden ritual referred to the statue as “Our Lady of the Amazon.” Even if this representation was created specifically for the purpose of this Synod, it was still produced to represent Our Lady of the Amazon. Therefore, it is Our Lady of the Amazon. Since the previous claim, before the goal post was moved, was that there was no such title for the Blessed Virgin, and since we already have some evidence that the title Our Lady of the Amazon preceded this ritual, and was even formally approved by the Vatican in 2011, then this argument does not hold.

(As a sidenote, it is interesting that the 2011 clothed Our Lady of the Amazon is placed in a canoe-shaped chapel, representing this aspect of the indigenous people culture. Therefore, there are some elements that are common to both depictions of Our Lady of the Amazon)

The answer to Ivereigh

On October 7th, the English journalist and papal biographer Austen Ivereigh asked Bishop David Guinea for clarification on the identity of the mysterious image. The bishop’s answer can be heard here.

This was immediately seized upon by papal critics to validate their spin. The Vatican had confirmed – they would say – that it was not the Virgin Mary after all. This is official confirmation that it was a pagan ritual.

There are some problems with this reasoning. First (assuming the English translation in real time is even accurate), the bishop says that he thinks there is no need to make a connection with the Virgin Mary or with a pagan element. How the critics have jumped from this to the conclusion that the Mary interpretation had been refuted, while the pagan interpretation still stood, just goes to show their partiality. Pachamama is as much refuted by these words as Mary.

Secondly, the bishop is not talking in his official capacity as “The Vatican” here. Granted, he is one of the Secretaries of the Synod, but this was a Q&A session that was not even related to this issue before Ivereigh brought it up. It was not an official clarification on this topic. To my knowledge, no official organ of the Vatican released any official statement on the Vatican Gardens ritual after it was carried out. Also, as the original story from Catholic News Agency makes clear, the Vatican was not involved in the organization of the event.

Finally, and more importantly, it is obvious that the bishop did not know for certain what was going on. He says that this is “his interpretation,” and that the image “probably” is a representation of life, earth, etc. It is not a definitive take, nor was it informed by the input of those involved in the ceremony. It is just his guess.

Bishop Guinea’s experience and knowledge on the Amazonian people is certainly respectable, given his background. However, his opinions do not trump the words of the native woman who presided over the ritual. She was there, she presided over it, she probably was involved in organizing it, she knows her own culture. She presents the image as “Our Lady of the Amazon.” No external element can tell her that she means something different than what she means it to be. No one can tell her: “you don’t know what that statue means, here is what it actually means.”

Other criticism

There were other voices trying to bypass the native woman’s interpretation of her own ritual, in order to advance their own.

One such person was a certain Brother Alexis Bugnolo, who presents himself as a having a B.A. in anthropology. In a text released online, he affirmed that the image was an idol of Pachamama, and that it received veneration of latria.

He does not explain how he arrived at this conclusion, nor does he cite any reference or evidence that may validate his claims. He simply flaunts his credentials and then goes on to gratuitously assert his conclusions. This is not a scholarly way to do things. Especially since we can plainly see that this is a biased source, and probably not reliable, since most of his article is spent not on proving that this image is Pachamama, but in explaining that, if he was a bishop, he would declare the Pope excommunicated.

Of course, no anthropologist, no matter how knowledgeable or scholarly, can pretend to lecture the cultures that he studies on what their rituals and practices actually mean. In other words, if the native woman who presided over the ritual says that the statue is Our Lady, then her interpretation is more authoritative than that of any academic.

LifeSiteNews, on their end, used a different type of sleight of hand. They interviewed an actual tribal leader, Jonas Marcolino Macuxi, who asserted that the ritual was pagan.

LifeSiteNews, of course, is not a reliable source. They have been instrumental in generating the very same “hermeneutic of suspicion” mentality that I warned against in my previous article. They are constantly spinning the acts and words of the Pope in an unfavorable way. To showcase their modus operandi (and how desperate they are to find excuses to criticize the Pope), it suffices to link to this article of theirs.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that this tribal leader was interviewed in the context of a conference sponsored by Tradition, Family and Property, a right-wing and traditionalist organization that has been at the forefront of the resistance to the Synod in the Amazon.

It is hardly surprising that Jonas describes the natives in this ceremony as being manipulated by left-wing Liberation Theology clerics, or that he would validate the narrative that LifeSiteNews wanted to promote. Still, there are more extremely important facts that cannot be ignored. First of all, this tribal leader is not Catholic, but evangelical. It would be interesting to ask him whether he views any kind of veneration to Our Lady (even uncontroversial Catholic expressions like Our Lady of Fatima) as idolatry. Secondly, contrary to what the translator in the video says, the leader does not say that the ritual was “pagan.” He never uses that expression. He may imply it, by saying that it is “primitive” and that certain elements (like using smoke to ward off spirits) are not practiced by his tribe anymore and are reminiscent of shamans of old. Nevertheless, expressions such as, “it’s 100% pagan,” are added by the translator, not uttered by the leader. Jonas’s main concern seems to be with the smoking objects, not with the image of Our Lady. Maybe as an evangelical, he may not believe there is any Christian way to use those ancient objects, but Catholics do have such things as incense-burners. I do not view those objects as unable to have a Christian ceremonial purpose once the natives convert to Catholicism.

In the end, nothing in this video disproves that the image was Our Lady of the Amazon. Also, Jonas’s concerns are based on similarities with ancient rituals, but he cannot assert with certainty that that was the intent of those practicing the ritual in the Vatican Gardens.

The words of the native woman

While these sources were spinning the narrative and being uncritically accepted by those who view what’s happening in the Church today through the lens of the hermeneutic of suspicion, I was receiving more and more confirmation that the image was indeed Our Lady of the Amazon.

The first happened during a Twitter exchange with another Portuguese-speaking source who, at the time, was advancing very forcefully the notion that this was a pagan ceremony. After a discussion with me, he conceded that the native woman really presented the statue to the Pope as “Our Lady of the Amazon.

Though I admire Catholic Sat’s intellectual honesty, I do not agree with his translation in its entirety. First, it is necessary to highlight that the woman is not speaking in Portuguese, but in Spanish. This, of course, does not change anything, since the similarities between the two languages makes it possible for most Portuguese-speaking people to intuitively understand Spanish.

However, even so, there are some parts that are muffled by the clicks of the cameras. I cannot personally confirm that the other person said “Avé Maria,” or that the woman later said, “give it to the Pope, to the Church.”

On the other hand, I do not think the woman says, “the bride of the Church” (“noiva da Igreja” in Portuguese or “novia de la Iglesia” in Spanish). It simply does not match the syllables and vowels she is pronouncing. The only thing that is clear is that she said “… of the Church” (“… de la Iglesia“).

I listened to the clip several times, trying to make sense of the inaudible part. I tried to match it with the most probable words: queen (“reina“), patroness (“patrona“), mother (“madre“)… none seems to be correct. It could be “pray for the Church” (“ruega por la Iglesia“), but unfortunately, we already established that she says “… of the Church” (“… de la Iglesia“) and not “… for the Church” (“… por la Iglesia“). The phrase, “pray of the Church,” is clumsy wording.

After listening to it many times, the translation that seems more plausible (and which was confirmed by a Spanish-speaking friend) is that she says “Nuestra Señora de la Amazonia, con el huevo de la Iglesia.” Which translates as “Our Lady of the Amazon, with the egg of the Church.”

However, this translation is provisory. Maybe some other Spanish-speaking person may reach a more accurate wording. One thing, though, is certain: the woman presented the statue to the Pope as “Our Lady of the Amazon, [inaudible] of the Church.”

Other confirmation

While the debate was raging, the figure at the center of the controversy did not sit quietly. In Oct 7th, it was once again sighted, this time inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

If inserting a pagan ritual into an otherwise Christian ceremony was already strange, then introducing a pagan idol in the Basilica would be even stranger. Of course, for the hermeneuts of suspicion, it just reinforced their suspicions on how bad things are. For a reasonable person, this just shows how much more plausible it that the image represents Our Lady and is not a pagan idol.

It also seems that the figure is now in the Church of Santa Maria in Transpontina. This is consistent with what Christopher Lamb had already reported in a tweet that I noted as strengthening the evidence in favor of this being Our Lady of the Amazon.

In this link, it is possible to see a video of a service being held in the Church of Santa Maria in Transpontina (It is worth noting that I am not the maker of this video, nor did I edit it): At the 28 second mark, it is possible to see the image. At the 49 second mark, we see many people holding hands around the image and praying Avé Maria.

We also can see that, like in the ceremony in the Vatican Gardens, this service is held in a profoundly Christian context, not pagan. At the 33 second mark, we see a young girl sitting in the same canoe where Our Lady was before. Besides her, a middle-aged woman (who is obviously conducting the activity) asks “Quem quer se arriscar agora?” (“Who wants to take the chance now?“). Later, at the 37 second mark, the girl is lifted up with the canoe, while the middle-aged woman says: “Olhe gente, Jesus está chamando. Está chamando forte. Agora há muita gente escutando o chamado de Jesus” (“Look guys, Jesus is calling. He is calling very strongly. Now, many people will hear the calling of Jesus“). It is a Christian activity, probably related to God’s calling. The young woman answers to Jesus’ call and sits in the same canoe where the image of Our Lady was before (Our Lady being the model of everyone who answers the call of God.)

Finally, on October 10th, reporter Melissa Blutz, correspondent of Rome Reports, did what I suggested in my previous piece. She interviewed one of the organizers of the Vatican Garden ceremony: Fr. Carrasco Rojas, a missionary priest for indigenous people in Peru. He said:

“They carved in wood an image of a Blessed Mother, who is pregnant. She is the Virgin, and we have called her Our Lady of the Amazon. She represents the Amazon, because what is the Amazon? The Amazon is a woman, she is female, she has a female face. Why? Because the earth is a mother, the earth gives life. So that is the Amazon.”

Please note, that even if the figure represents the Amazon, it is the Virgin, the Blessed Mother. This is consistent with the original Spanish, where the Father uses the term in an unequivocal way, showing that it is not just any virgin, but the Virgin. Anyway, it is presented once again as Our Lady of the Amazon.

Conclusions

One week after the controversy, people are still scrapping for ways to try to portray the image as pagan. This should have all died as soon as it was established that the native woman who presented the statue to the Holy Father said it was Our Lady of the Amazon. She should know. However, this answer would not be consistent with the narrative set up by the hermeneuts of suspicion. They continue to cling to the opinions of other people: bishops, anthropologists, or tribal leaders at conferences held by right-wing organizations. They will not rest until they get the answer they want.

However, the closer we get to the actual sources, the clearer it becomes that the people involved in the Vatican Gardens ceremony view the image as Our Lady. Sure, it carries additional associated symbolic meanings (the Amazon, femininity, motherhood), but we cannot exclude the Marian meaning of the image, nor can we deny that it is the meaning that is most consistently associated with it. We certainly cannot claim that the image is Pachamama, when that name has not been uttered by them, even once.

The fact that so many people cover their ears and refuse to to hear what the actual organizers of the event have to say about the event that they organized is telling. The fact that many people refuse to believe the indigenous woman who presented the image to the pope as Our Lady of the Amazon–preferring instead ideologically-driven alternative explanations from other people who did not contribute to the ritual in any way–shows just how important and needed this Synod is. As Francis has said many times, one of the main purposes of the Synod is to listen to the Amazonian people. Ideologues are not listening to them, so self-assured they are that they are accurately grasping everything that is happening.

The indigenous people do not need to be told that their ritual was pagan, when they clearly do not view it as such. Nor would it be plausible to assume that they were invited to perform a pagan ritual before the Pope in the middle of an otherwise Christian ceremony, without so much as an explanation of what they were doing. They view themselves as Christians. We should believe them. And we should believe them when they tell us about their culture and rituals. They don’t need outsiders with absolutely no knowledge of their culture to tell them that the image is “clearly pagan.” If they say it’s Our Lady of the Amazon, it’s Our Lady of the Amazon. Period.

Unfortunately, at this moment, opinions are already crystalized and there is little that we can do about it. Those who, against all evidence, continue to believe that this was a pagan ritual, will continue to believe so, and will find more new ways to justify their preconceived notion. Because it’s not about the truth of the facts, it’s about having another reason to criticize Pope Francis.

Even if there was a shred of doubt, we should use the most charitable interpretation. In the absence of concrete proof that there is something wrong with what was performed in the Vatican Gardens, we should assume that it was a Christian ceremony, done with the accompaniment of the Church, and with no elements that are incompatible with the Catholic faith. Shouting “it’s clearly pagan” or “it’s clearly syncretic,” without any proof, simply does not cut it. It may be very convenient for a certain worldview, but in the end, it is not right. In accusing them of paganism, they are potentially (and most likely) bearing false witness against them.

Even more gravely, it is using these indigenous people as props in a Culture War. They should not be viewed as such, for they are not props: they are people, endowed by their Creator with human dignity. They are brothers and sisters in Christ and deserve our respect. And respect starts with listening. Pope Francis understands this. Let us follow on his footsteps and continue praying and working for the successful conclusion of this much-needed Synod.

Our Lady of the Amazon, pray for us.

[Featured picture credits: Christopher Lamb]

Pedro Gabriel, MD, is a Catholic layman and physician, born and residing in Portugal. He is a medical oncologist, currently employed in a Portuguese public hospital. A published writer of Catholic novels with a Tolkienite flavor, he is also a parish reader and a former catechist. He seeks to better understand the relationship of God and humanity by putting the lens on the frailty of the human condition, be it physical or spiritual. He also wishes to provide a fresh perspective of current church and world affairs from the point of view of a small western European country, highly secularized but also highly Catholic by tradition.

36 comments

  1. “Even more gravely, it is using these indigenous people as props in a Culture War.”

    It is the German-dominated, liberalizing agenda of this Synod that is using the indigenous people as props.

    1. I find it unhelpful and inaccurate to use “German” as a label of condemnation – here and everywhere else on the internet. Some people of German or Austrian descent have been in the Amazon for decades, so I’m sure they are able to speak for their people much more than the rest of us. Most of the participants by far are Amazonian. If some or many people and clergy in the Amazon favor something such as, say, married priests or female deacons, their voice should be respected and not dismissed just because some or many first-world people also hold their positions. They’re not just props – they’re people with their own opinions.
      awr

      1. You are absolutely correct Fr. Anthony. The problem we have here with Peter and others is they only see the church through a western culture lens and hence that’s how the church must be. Pope Francis may be of Italian origin but he is not European. Mateo Ricci’s ventures into China are a shining example of insisting that all other cultures conform with the west. I often wonder if Rome would have left things alone what China would be like today. Perhaps the most Catholic country in the world.

      2. ” I often wonder if Rome would have left things alone what China would be like today. Perhaps the most Catholic country in the world.

        Well, while I share a wonder about what might have happened, that particular result is rather hard to figure, given the context of Chinese civilization, demography and history. It’s not like the Christian gospel had never reached China before Roman evangelists did: the Church of the East did for a couple of centuries in the First Millennium before Christianity and Buddhism were targeted as cultural aliens for persecution in the declining half of the Tang dynasty. (Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose? Except that Chinese civilization is the Himalayas compared to the Appalachians of modern Euro-American civilization in terms of penetrability. We’re culturally and historically primed to expect cultural penetrability with relative ease. I don’t mean that Chinese civilization is impenetrable – it’s absorbed and transformed much over the millennia – it’s just rather different from what our conditioned expectations bring to the table. The Holy Spirit is not a magician with respect to the human condition.)

        Also trying to imagine a 19th century papacy after the Age of Revolution that would have felt confident enough to decry the exploitation by European powers of a China under the declining half of the Qing dynasty in a way that would have registered well with the Chinese. To be sure, there was a papacy that affected a confidence to decry many things in this period. But it may require a certain presentism and overlooking of the human condition (that is, a magical view of grace) to persevere to that level of imagination.

      3. KLS and I have tussled over this from time to time, even this past weekend. Until we solve the challenge to traveling to alternate universes, we cannot say what a Jesuit-evangelized China would be like. What we can say is that Christian penetrations have failed to take root twice. The 17th century institutional Church has a number of tragic losses, including the failure to reconcile with Protestant reformers and the subsequent intra-Christian violence of Europe. What we do have is today. We have the grace to discern what works and what doesn’t. We are likely pointed in a direction different from the Tridentine. Clearly, this is scary to many Catholics. We should consider that well, but we also cannot let fear and lies cloud the mission of the Gospel.

      4. I don’t disagree with Todd, though I am not sure our present age is by dint of its current virtues and vices any more or less likely to meet with “success” than its predecessors. In other words, while we should not be locked by history, neither should we assume that unfruitful past history offers us great insights in what not to do, as it were – we might, but we need to be mindful that we possess as many human condition issues as those who went before us, perhaps just rearranged somewhat.

        In the long historical view, China and the Roman church are still engaged in what we might call a variation on the nearly 1000-year old (or +) Investiture Controversy. What a good resolution of that would be is not exactly obvious to me.

      5. I would also note that despite comments that we failed to reconcile the Protestant movement in Europe. The Tridentine Church was very missionary and many countries today are Catholic because of that effort (though those countries like Western countries are facing secularism’s spread as well.) So I think to declare the Tridentine Church a failure is not true. In fact, I think it did a better job in this country of taking on different immigrant groups than the post-Vatican II Church. We import priests from other countries to support white parishes and a lot of dioceses fail to consider that many countries from which immigrant populations have better vocation numbers than we do. Perhaps we should be more like the despised Tridentine Church a bring priests from the native countries of immigrant populations and have bishops bold enough to hand a parish over to that immigrant population instead allowing an aging and diminishing population of Caucasians to maintain a death grip on parish facilities they now get to while passing 3 other parishes along the way. But at least we allow them to use our facilities after the first class citizens got to use the buildings at their preferred time right? I think we should be reticent to claim our modern approach is better than the Tridentine approach when we have been bleeding people due to secularism. To be clear, I do not think the Tridentine approach would be a solid replacement for the post-Vatican II approach, I think they are both lacking in their own regard. I am just shocked that points of agreement between the extreme right and left in the Church seem to be a disdain for things like the Augustine Institute, Alpha, and ignoring issues like the porn and opioid epidemic. The last one we lament with our words but only a few in the moderate category seem to be interested in lifting a finger to help those struggling. Instead, we complain about old forms or about abandoning forms. Why can’t we see the good in old forms and look to healthy ways to present the Faith to the world?

      6. I think Pete’s commentary is well-considered. But as for the missionary impulse of 1570-1962, it was largely driven by women in the US. And sometimes women who were the target of institutional ire, if not outright jealousy for their fruitfulness in schools, hospitals, and work with non-European souls.

        I might even say that the failures of Vatican II are largely the product of an unreformed clergy. The higher, the worser, so to speak.

        Where the Church has failed post-1570, is where leaders have failed to inspire an organic development in mission lands of the Western Hemisphere and Asia, despite centuries of efforts that saw the Church expand from a frightened remnant hiding in an attic to a tradition that spread across three continents.

        The problem is not with old forms, but with old (and failed) thinking on evangelization, discernment, and equipping. New wineskins, please

  2. Also, to say the Faith has failed to take root twice in is true in the first instance. but it is a twisting of history. First, while Matteo Ricci did have success in China and was more so torpedoed by other religious orders (maybe partially out of jealousy?) who misrepresented his work to Rome which resulted in his work and the work of other Jesuits being halted and dismantled in China by the Vatican. Many conservatives (such as Anthony Esolen) are supportive and accepting of Ricci’s work. It is not as though everyone of a traditional leaning hates Ricci. Second, to say the Faith has not taken root in modern China is a misrepresentation of reality. The Chinese government is extremely heavy-handed yet the underground Church has been surviving and even growing at different times. Which sounds much like the Early Church under the heavy-handed Romans. It took almost 3 centuries for Christianity to become a recognized religion within the empire, so we should not judge “success” based on numbers when Christianity has only had less than a century to operate under a regime the makes the Roman Empire look like Switzerland in the cruelty it inflicts upon not just Christians but the entirety of China’s population. To claim failure is a rather myopic view of how evangelization has worked historically.

  3. I can’t be the only one who thinks/perceives the actual issue here to be Pope Francis, and not Our Lady of the Amazon. No, I don’t have a magic time machine, but my hunch is that if JPII had embraced the same image, we’d have heard not a solitary peep about it.

  4. EPIC FAIL.

    The Vatican itself has now clarified that this image has nothing to do with the Virgin Mary. (As for what it really is… as far as I’m concerned, the Vatican explanation is pretty bogus — not that that would be anything new.)

    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2019/10/pagan-idols-at-the-amazon-walking-together-synod/

    As for Alan’s comment that were this to have occured under JP II, there would be not a peep about it, the answer is twofold:
    1. There were plenty of “peeps” when JP II summoned the World Parliament of Religions at Assisi, twice, and when he kissed the Koran;
    2. All the same, this synod would not have occured, in this way at least, under JP II.

    1. In his 1878 Essay on the Development of the Christian Doctrine John H. Newman wrote:

      “The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water; asylums; holy days and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields, sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the east, images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, and the Kyrie Eleison, are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.”

      The truth is that the church is represented on earth by the vicar of Christ, that is by the pope. And whoever is against the pope is, ipso facto, outside the church. Cardinal Sarah

      1. How convenient that everyone here is lining up behind this pope in rigid lockstep, when they were singing a different tune under B16 and even JP2.

        In any case, the massive confusion over this statue of a female — whether it’s O.L. of the Amazon, or Womanhood, or Pachamamma, or Fertility, or Life, or whoknowswhat — is thoroughly covered in this article:

        https://onepeterfive.com/the-vaticans-continuing-idolatry-problem/

        And before someone here righteously cries out: “1P5 is not a reputable news source,” you might want to look at the article and see how meticulously it is documented to Vatican news and all of the major players. That is what good journalism looks like.

      2. 1P5 is what opinion journalism is about: coming to a conclusion, then scouring for sources that support the conclusion. There’s nothing wrong with tooting one’s own horn–just don’t expect to get much mileage from it unless you are paying for drinks.

        I think there’s a lot of idolatry in the human experience. There’s also the psychological reality of projection. OLA seems to be a one-off in terms of a news item. Tomorrow PF or his supporters will find themselves knee-deep in some other sin. But the persistent mansplaining of sites like 1P5 suggest the idolatry is a lot closer to home.

    2. My understanding is that someone at the Vatican who didn’t claim to know for sure said (claimed) that it is neither the BVM nor a pagan idol. That hardly constitutes an EPIC FAIL – yet. We await accurate information.
      awr

  5. Pagans too are created by the Creator. As ambassadors of the Good News, they could very well evangelize the non pagans.

  6. Incorporating pagan symbols into Catholicism is not what’s needed to evangelize the Amazon. Pentecostals don’t do that, and they are growing rapidly in Amazonia.

      1. Of all the reasons the Church is losing people to the pentacostals in that part of the world, vestments are probably pretty low on the list. And it’s not like the casual 70s produced much of a lasting revival in our own Church up here.

      2. They are pagan in origin, however. But if people are seeking answers to why non-Catholics are making inroads is, as others have commented, not as many hang-ups about leadership, presenting the person of Jesus, or taking evangelization seriously enough.

    1. They don’t have mandatory celibacy, and they have lots and lots of ordained leaders. I suspect that’s a key part of their success.

      1. I agree that the endemic shortage of priests that has characterized Catholicism for centuries has hurt the Church in Latin America.

        But the rise of Pentecostalism also shows that the preferred paths of many of those now gathered in Rome will not help the Church to grow or even to retain members. Embracing leftist politics does not draw people to the Church, and neither does the uncritical embrace of pagan symbols and rituals that are being jettisoned by all the many Amazonians who are either becoming Protestants or moving to cities and assimilating to mainstream Latin American culture.

      2. Most of us agree that politics is not an attractive draw for seekers. Nor is the idolatry of either the Left or the Right.

        The problem remains: five centuries after Christianity first came to Brazil, the Church and her missionaries have failed to produce substantial fruit in baptized disciples who would then grow and develop organically as a thriving Body. If the baptized are formed as authentic disciples, the priests will come. But without a fruitful sense of mission among the baptized, we will continue to trip over ourselves and our priorities.

        Five centuries after Christ, the Church stretched in reach from Ireland to deep into Asia, and produced most of the saints we hear in Eucharistic Prayer I, and most of the feast days in the current calendar. Stained by racism, colonialism, and institutional narcissism Roman Catholics have been hamstrung in the mission of Jesus in Brazil. More Catholics than any other nation on the planet. A mere 6 canonized saints, only one of whom was recognized before this century. Has the church and its missionaries failed to form saints in the way apostles, doctors, and others did in early Christianity? Or maybe don’t we recognize sanctity outside of a European skin? Or maybe we don’t expect it. Our Lady of Aparecida pray for us all.

  7. Very sad news today. The statue was stolen, dismembered, and thrown into the Tiber. All this was captured on video too, and placed on line — as so many acts of wanton aggression now shamelessly advertise themselves. Those critics whose flagrant disrespect for this cultural expression of popular piety have enabled (and cheered on) this act of vandalism should be ashamed. We are all the less for this. But in a city where someone hung an effigy of Greta Thunberg from a bridge a few weeks ago, perhaps we should also realize that the fight for ecological survival — which is going on in the Amazon right now — is a fight against great wickedness. Our Lady of the Amazon is indeed being dismembered and destroyed in real time as the rain forest burns. Violence and destruction are tools that aggressors in this battle do not hesitate to use (cf. the murder of Sr. Dorothy Stang).

      1. Are you suggesting it is therefore appropriate to destroy it by grabbing it cutting it up and throwing it into a river?

        There is a gap between saying one disagrees that this is a Marian figure, and saying it’s OK to march in, steal it, deface it, and destroy it. After all, other people think it is a Marian figure.

        The Pope blessed this image. It was presented by the Amazonian people present as “Our Lady of the Amazon” (read the post).

        You don’t seem to believe their judgment about their own folk artwork, or accept the pope’s blessing of it, or think it’s Mary. OK, so be it. You have your opinion, against the facts, but it’s your opinion and that’s your lookout.

        But do you think this entitles one to walk in and vandalize it? Even if you think we shouldn’t venerate it, there are plenty of things in churches (artwork) that we don’t “venerate.” For example, art that invites us to meditate on God’s work, or the life of Jesus and the saints, or the glory of creation, etc.

        We don’t feel entitled to march in and destroy the ones we don’t like, do we?

      2. Replying to Ms. Ferrone:

        I think that if the image is what Tornielli says it is, then it was wrong for Catholics to venerate it on October 4.

        I also think that if the image is actually a Marian image and not what Tornielli says it is, then the Vatican should have said so, clearly and unambiguously. If it isn’t a Marian image, then the Vatican should just have clearly stated it shouldn’t be venerated.

      3. I’m afraid I don’t get the gist of Mr Piatak’s complaint here. Is Mr Tornielli a member of the Vatican staff, an expert in sacred (or other) art, or is he a journalist with an opinion? I think it’s fine to have an opinion. It’s another thing for that opinion to be confiscated to serve how we would want the truth to be.

      4. I’m still not sure that Mr Piatak has wheels in this discussion, regardless of Mr Tornielli’s status as an opinion journalist. It seems there’s a divided opinion on just what or who the Lady of the Amazon is. What is undeniable is the act of vandalism.

        Many American Christians–even Catholics–“venerate” cultural images that have even less to do with OLA: the flag, Lady Liberty (an acknowledged goddess), and even their symbols of school and sport. Many of them give more reverence to these than to the BVM. I can imagine American mansplainers going apoplectic if some statue of liberty reproduction was stolen from a shrine like Las Vegas, chopped up, and tossed into a nuclear pit in Nevada.

        Somehow I’d find this a lot more convincing of an objection if outraged believers decided to forego Christmas trees, chasubles, and even the gold that was used to fashion idols before Jesus.

      5. Reply to Mr. Flowerday:
        I said nothing about dumping the statues in the Tiber. What I said was that if they represent Mother Nature, rather than Our Lady, they should not be venerated. And venerated they were: on October 4, people were literally prostrating themselves before them. I have never seen anyone prostrate themselves before a flag or a Christmas tree or the othrr objects Mr. Flowerday mentioned.

        It is, of course, wrong to worship nature. That is a major theme of Chesterton’s biography of Francis of Assisi, that Francis’ innoicent delight in nature was only possible because centuries of Christianity had finally succeeded in eradicating the pagan impulse to divinize nature.

      6. Mr Piatak, this sub-thread is about action taken against the statue, not the veracity of claims that it was one of the Blessed Mother. I notice you have yet to condemn the vandalism, and I leave that bit in place if you care to address it.

        There are many ways to venerate symbols. I don’t think most Catholics have it totally sorted out. Ideally, images of Christ, and things symbolic of him would get the deepest, most sincere, most thoughtful, etc.. Some Catholics spend more effort with the BVM, or even St Jude or St Patrick. Some attend more to the writings of a saint or visionary than the Gospels. I’ve also seen Christians, real and self-professed, do things like kiss (and more) non-Christian symbols: flags, guns, the ground, crests of one’s nation, nationality, or athletic team. I think that’s a matter of respect, which the statue thieves clearly lacked in this incident.

        Symbols are important, even non-religious ones, as Colin Kaepernick showed. Clearly this statue’s value is not determined by any one person, certainly not an opinion journalist or a vandal. I might have no taste for the Dallas Cowboys, for example, and I might find the worship of Sunday football bothersome, if not offensive or just plain wrong. But as a civilized person, I can refrain from making expressions on the star in the middle of their field, burn their symbols, troll their fans and players on social media, or even yell obscenities against them in a Texas bar.

        Strong feelings can bring out the stupid in some people. Sometimes it’s more mature, advisable, or even Christian, to just focus on what is important for one’s own veneration, and leave other people alone.

  8. In his 1878 Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, concerning the adoption of pagan elements by the Church, Saint John Newman wrote:

    “The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees, incense, lamps and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water, asylums; holy days and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields, sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the east, images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, and the Kyrie Eleison, are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the church”.

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