Throughout October, I wrote a number of posts addressing the controversy involving the indigenous statues displayed in the Vatican Garden’s ceremony at the beginning of the Synod on the Amazon. This controversy was based on the notion that it is unacceptable to have displays of paganism in the Vatican, the geographical heart of the Catholic Church. Of course, the claim that this figure is pagan does not hold water, as I demonstrated clearly in several recent articles.

However, the idea that there are no displays of paganism in the Vatican is false. No, I am not talking about pagan statues in the Vatican Museums. Even if those are located inside the Vatican, they exist in a purely profane context. They are there for historical, touristic and cultural purposes, not religious.

What I am talking about are actual pagan figures represented inside churches where Catholic ceremonies and liturgies are routinely performed. Figures that, though pagan, have a catechetical message for the faithful. Since these representations exist in the Vatican, what can we learn from them? Can we apply that knowledge to the controversies around the Amazon Synod, vis-à-vis inculturation and syncretism?


When addressing the controversy around the nakedness of carved figure, I mentioned that the Sistine Chapel represented Jesus, and many saints completely naked (see figure below).

At the time of the fresco’s completion, this caused a great deal of scandal. The Papal Master of Ceremonies is reported as having said that such depictions were more suited to “public baths and taverns” than a “sacred place” like the Sistine Chapel. This rhetoric mirrors the one used in the past few weeks, so there is nothing new under the sun. Nevertheless, nowadays this “public bath and taverns” scene in the Sistine Chapel is considered one of the most sublime expression of human genius of all time, and is counted as one of the Vatican collections’ crown jewels.

However, I do not wish to linger on this argument here. This example just serves to explain the inspiration for this article, for it was by considering the Sistine Chapel that another artistic reference came to my mind. If we step back  from the fresco of the Last Judgment and gaze upward, we will see the magnificent ceiling, also painted by Michelangelo. Instead of focusing on the main scenes, let us go to the peripheries, to the pendentives that support and frame those main scenes.

 

Around the center, we can see twelve figures, representing twelve prophets of the ancient world.

Seven of them are male biblical characters from the Old Testament: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jonah, Joel and Zechariah.

The remaining five are female… and called Sibyls.

What are Sibyls? They are not Christian, and not even Jewish. They were pagan prophetesses from the ancient world, before Christ was born.

Why are they here? Every source I consulted on this topic is consistent: to show that Jesus did not come just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles as well. It is an expression of the universality (i.e. Catholicity) of our religion and of Jesus Christ’s redemption. According to the medieval and renaissance mentality, many of the statements of the Sibyls could be construed as predicting the coming of Christ. In this sense, the presence of the Sibyls shows that the yearning for the Messiah was not confined to the Chosen People, but extended also to the peoples who, at one time, were wandering in the shadows of paganism, unable to separate the One True God from their imperfect (when not outright erroneous and evil) understanding of metaphysical reality.

This beautiful catechesis, though, can be drowned if we stick too rigidly to certain undeniable facts: even if some of the Sibyl’s predictions could be construed as foreshadowing Christianity, they were pagan full and through. The Sybil I am more familiar with (and which is also depicted on the Sistine chapel) is the Delphic Sibyl, from the Oracle of Delphi. She uttered divine revelations in the name of Apollo (one of the pagan gods from the same pantheon the Manichees rejected and against which they went to war and suffered martyrdom). She would sit on a place full of vapors coming down from the earth, which would induce her to prophesy–according to some sources, by inducing an altered state of mind. The sibyl may not have been dancing naked with a feathered headdress and wearing facepaint, but this is still, at essence, a shamanistic practice. Papal critics of today, without any context, would not hesitate to call the Delphic Sibyl demonic.

Delphic Sybil as painted in the Sistine Chapel

And yet, the few things that she got right were Christianized, so that she was able to be depicted in one of the most sacred places of the Vatican, without any scandal. In fact, the presence of the Sibyls among the Old Testament Prophets did not cause as much scandal as the nakedness of the saints, for those kinds of representations were common throughout the Renaissance and even in the Middle Ages. I repeat: not just the presence of Sibyls was commonly depicted, but they were usually portrayed in the scenes with Old Testament prophets, without any distinction among them.

This is because we are representing the Sibyls; not because of what they got wrong, but because of what they got right. This is the difference between inculturation and syncretism. Syncretism would be to claim that the Sibyls should be represented as equals to the Prophets, and that therefore everything they prophesied, whether pointing towards Christ or not, would have the same value as the inerrant and inspired books the Prophets wrote. That is not the case. We are only reporting them relatively to what can be legitimately linked to Christianity.

This is similar to the Christianization of another common artistic motif with a meaning much similar to that of the Sibyls: the Magi from the East. They were so Christianized that they play an integral role in Matthew’s Infancy Narrative in the New Testament. Christians see them as the foreshadowing what would happen in the future: that the whole world, not only the Jews, would acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah. This is how the Magi are remembered. They are not remembered for having engaged in astrological practices that we consider superstitious and anti-Christian. I wonder what a Law-abiding Christian Jew would have felt about including that episode in the Canon of Scripture, alongside the Levitical prohibitions of Lev 19:26 and 20:27.


Of course, these examples aren’t exact parallels between the Vatican Garden ceremony and the Sistine chapel Sibyls. I am just pointing out that simply having a character or symbol that hails from a pagan origin and depicting it in a religious context does not make it wrong, or syncretic, or idolatrous. Such symbols and representations can be part of Christian catechesis–just as the Sibyls are–and what matters is whether such a catechesis is consistent with the Christian message or not.

This is why we should be wary of drawing rash conclusions. The boundaries of what is legitimate or not may not be as clear-cut as they seem. Prudence is paramount. To know whether something is compatible with Catholicism or not (i.e. whether it is inculturation or syncretism), it is important to know what message is being conveyed. In this sense, just saying that the Sistine Chapel features pagan prophetesses alongside Old Testament prophets does not cut it. We need to know why they are there. Once we understand that, we can acknowledge the Christian message they are trying to convey. By doing so, suspicions of undue paganism in the Vatican are lifted, unless such suspicions serve an ulterior motive.

This is why it is important to listen to the natives who are portraying the controversial figure, before we condemn them. This is why we should not comb through their actions and nitpick their words, searching for pagan references before actually understanding the whole of what they are telling us. This is why the Amazon Synod was important: before we condemn, or even correct, we must listen. For how can we condemn or correct that which we do not understand? We should also remind ourselves of the importance of listening to magisterial authority on such matters; the pope and the bishops teaching in communion with him. If the Pope asserts clearly that a symbol was used without idolatrous intent (even if not declaring so in an official way), Catholics should respect and consider his position.

The pagan Sibyls and the naked saints have taken a place of honor in Catholicism’s Apostolic See. Across the centuries, they have witnessed sacred Masses, solemn ceremonies, and elections of popes. They give glory to the kernel of truth that is present in every man’s heart. Those who once engaged in quasi-shamanistic practices are now preaching Christian truths that no one can deny without risking the loss of his soul: that God loves all of mankind, and that mankind yearns for God, even if imperfectly. There is something we can learn from these pagan references in the Vatican. And if we can do it in the Vatican, we can do it also in the Amazon and everywhere else.

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42 Responses

  1. Chris dorf says:

    Excellent. I’m sure these people are also cannot accept the idea that Jesus was crucified naked and we put a loincloth on him for our sake but Jesus was stripped and humiliated and shamed to the world and he did that for us.

    “What I am talking about are actual pagan figures represented inside churches where Catholic ceremonies and liturgies are routinely performed. Figures that, though pagan, have a catechetical message for the faithful. Since these representations exist in the Vatican, what can we learn from them? Can we apply that knowledge to the controversies around the Amazon Synod, vis-à-vis inculturation and syncretism?

    When addressing the controversy around the nakedness of carved figure, I mentioned that the Sistine Chapel represented Jesus, and many saints completely naked”

  2. SK McKenna says:

    Thank you. I wish I was as articulite and versed. I got slammed by a reactionary friend after reposting one of your articles because she was focused onky on the garden ceremony and my point was focused on the synod itself.

  3. Jude says:

    It has never been that anyone in the Vatican ever prostrated themselves and offered incense to the sibyls though. I think we’ve gone a little to nature happy in the church today, anyway, but aside from that, it’s hard to claim that the figures were just pieces of catechetical art when people are on the ground before them.

    Also, the Vatican, the pope, most of Rome seems to have been a bit fuzzy about what the statues were, at least before they settled on something, if they have. (maybe they didn’t know what was going to happen?) How then can they know whether anything idolatrous, or unchristian happed?

    (it’s not Zeus or the divine Augustus so it’s not idolatry is week, but even if it is granted, that still doesn’t mean it wasn’t wrong)

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      I never said the ceremony in the Vatican Gardens was analogous to the depictions of the Sybils, nor did I say that the controversial statues were pieces of catechetical art.

      What I said was that the Sybils are pieces of catechetical art I that may help us gain perspective on what happened during the Synod

      • Jude says:

        But, that’s what the fuss is all about. I don’t care that they were there, I don’t think most people do. I care that they were worshipped in the ceremony, in the presence of the pope.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        Again, you are missing the point of the article.

  4. Tony Correia says:

    Pedro, you are clearly very smart and articulate, however I am not convinced by your justification that the idols paraded around the Vatican during the Amazon Synod should be considers innocuous. Even some of the indigenous people at the Synod (who are now Catholic) said they were shocked to see the ritual that took place in the Vatican gardens, which they identified as pagan. The participants, including a Franciscan prostrated themselves with foreheads to the ground, before the wooden idols.
    As for the pagan artifacts in the Vatican museums, no one is prostrating themselves to these objects. They are being preserved as artifacts from past cultures.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      I have no knowledge of any indigenous person who was scandalized by the ceremony, except a few hand-picked ones by LifeSiteNews, which is very biased against the Pope

      Also, as I make clear, I am not drawing parallels in this specific article between the pagan displays in the Vatican and the ceremony that took place during the Sybod. And neither is my article about the Vatican Museums.

      • Tony Correia says:

        Oh boy Pedro, we are definitely seeing things from different perspectives. You are obviously biased toward traditionally minded internet based catholic news sites. Thank God they exist. You sound like CNN calling LifesiteNews propaganda. How can you so glibly judge the legitimate concerns of Catholics who love their Faith and the Church. On earth, we are the Church Militant. We do not compromise with the World, we resist it and the attacks on the Faith, whether external or internal. I believe you mean well, but your considerable intellect is clouded.

    • jong says:

      Tony Correia
      What Tradition ans Doctrines are you defending,?
      Tradition and Doctrines interpreted by any Bishops and Cardinals and esp. by ordinary laity who are opposed to the interpretation of the Supreme Pontiff has no merit and worst they were certainly not inspired by the Holy Spirit.
      Pope Francis already speaks his judgement on the naked statue, and clearly said “there was no idolatrous expressions or intentions”. Pope Francis witnessed the ceremony and heard the Amazonian people, plus he only made his judgement after the Synod has completed their discussion. Pope Francis judgement was carefully discern and stated exercising good prudence on the issue.
      Now, which statement is credible and with clarity?
      Pope Francis saying “there was no idolatrous intentions” using the gift of discerment bestowed upon him by the charisma of the Holy Spirit or the interpretations of the Rad Trads who sees evil when there is no evil?
      Pope Francis guided by the Holy Spirit allowed the Amazonian indigenous people to show to the whole world how they express their faith in Our Lady, its definitely not similar to the Rad Trads venerating Our Lady and Pope Francis even sees the expression of faith to Our Lady was “disfigured” but not “idolatrous”.
      What is the significance of the event at the Vatican Garden ceremony? Two opposite response was received by the Amazoniam indigenous people. Pope Francis embraces their disfugured expression of faith and promises Pastoral support and guidance while the Amazonian people received numerous accusations, condemnation and judgement from the Rad Trads. As we can see the negative and rash judgement of the Rad Trads was fully expressed by the thieves by throwing the “naked statue” into the river.
      Looking at the opposite responses between the Pope and the Rad Trads.
      Who do we think is guided by the Holy Spirit and docile to the voice of the Holy Spirit?
      The Holy Spirit will never inspire anyone to accuse, condemn and make a rash judgement on the Amazonuan indigenous people and definitely the Holy Spirit will not inspire a soul to steal & destroy breaking the 7th commandment of God and offend the sensibilities of the indigenous people.
      So, who inspired the Rad Trads actions & behavior, Holy Spirit or Satan the Thief (John10:10) and the Great Accuser?

      • Tony Correia says:

        Jong, “Rad Trads”? It is so easy to lump everyone into one category when they don’t tow the line you do. That term “RadTrads” has become a disparaging label used by liberal minded Catholics. Just because a Catholic expresses concern over the very real ambiguous teaching of the current Pontificate, doesn’t mean he or she is a radical traditionalist. All Catholics who hold to the 2,000 years of Church Teaching and Tradition are essentially traditional Catholics. The “radical” Catholics are those who are open and even push for novel changes to Church Teaching which are in contradiction to the Faith and Gospels.
        I am not against Pope Francis or the indigenous Amazonian people. The statues do not and did not represent Our Lady, no matter how much you want to believe otherwise. This was specified even by the Vatican Communications office. It was at least imprudent to have clearly pagan idols paraded around the Vatican and put in church sanctuaries, even if no idolatry was intended. Ever heard of the First Commandment? “I am the Lord your God, you shall not have any other gods before me.”
        The Amazon Synod final document reads like a U.N. Document with a focus on “Sustainable Development”. It does not focus on Christ and the evangelizing of the Indigenous people. Bishop Krautler, a chief architect of the Synod and contributing writer to the Working Document, admitted that he has not baptized a single indigenous person on his lifetime and doesn’t plan to do so. He clearly told journalists at the Synod press conferences that he wants women deacons which will logically lead to ordination of women as Priests, which is impossible in the Catholic Church.
        The Pope will have the final say on the proposals made from the Synod when he writes his Apostolic Exhortation. I pray he will write it with the same courage and clarity as Pope Paul VI did when he wrote Humanae Vitae.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        The idea that the Vatican spokespeople denied that it was Mary has been debunked several times in this site. They never ruled that out, but at the time they thought it was not so and expressed their personal opinion on the matter (they said so themselves). They also denied it was not pagan, but you are still talking the First Commandment anyway.

        Church Social Doctrine, which you decry as a “UN document” is certainly part of the deposit of the faith and on the purview of Church teaching (and, therefore, also refers to Christ, for the poor are imago Christi)

        Also, Bishop Kauter has already clarified that that quote has been falsely attributed to her

        Finally, the term “rad trad” means a person who purports to follow the Tradition of the Church *in spite* of the current Magisterium. It is meant to differentiate them from traditionalists who follow the 2,000 year old Tradition of faithfulness to the Pope’s teachings, since these traditionalists are legitimate and don’t deserve to be lumped with the others

  5. chris dorf says:

    All I can add is:

    FIDES ET RATIO
    –JOHN PAUL II

    “This is why all that is the object of our knowledge becomes a part of our life. The admonition Know yourself was carved on the temple portal at Delphi, as testimony to a basic truth to be adopted as a minimal norm by those who seek to set themselves apart from the rest of creation as “human beings”, that is as those who “know themselves”.

    Moreover, a cursory glance at ancient history shows clearly how in different parts of the world, with their different cultures, there arise at the same time the fundamental questions which pervade human life: Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life? These are the questions which we find in the sacred writings of Israel, as also in the Veda and the Avesta; we find them in the writings of Confucius and Lao-Tze, and in the preaching of Tirthankara and Buddha; they appear in the poetry of Homer and in the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles, as they do in the philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle. They are questions which have their common source in the quest for meaning which has always compelled the human heart. In fact, the answer given to these questions decides the direction which people seek to give to their lives.”

  6. Pete Vickery says:

    Pedro if you went to confession today, did you ask your priest if he would consider your answering of these critics a form of penance? Maybe he would consider it too severe. Seriously, you must have the patience of Job. God bless you for your defense of the Holy Father. Our Lady of the Amazon pray for us. Viva Cristo Rey! Viva el Papa Francisco!

  7. Thanks Pedro for your three excellent postings concerning Our Lady of the Amazon (I have linked to them on my website). If we think the Pope is creating a scandal our first thought should be that we have something wrong and we need to seek truth.

  8. Manuel Dauvin says:

    At the base of the resistance to inculturation deeper than the drive for colonialism or the insecurity of being wrong unless everyone is lock step seems to be a pernicious little analogy.

    It goes something like this “if you knew that a batch of brownies had the tiniest bit of doggy do in it would you eat it, or if a glass of fresh milk had a drop of poison would you drink it? ” its bolstered with texts like, “You can’t find grapes among thorns…a bad tree can’t yield good fruit…”
    The problem with the analogy is that it actually drains truth of its power and beauty. Truth can never be mixed with error. It can be surrounded. It can be veiled. It can be silhouetted so all you see are the outlines. But it can never be mixed. It is more like transplanting beautiful flowers from a field of weeds to adorn the house of the Lord

  9. Tony Correia says:

    Pedro, we do follow Pope Francis’ teaching, except where it ambiguously appears to contradict 2,000 years of Magisterial teaching regarding marriage and divorce and the reception of Holy Communion.
    Bishop Krautler most certainly wants changes to the Priesthood that go against defined Dogma. He is on video during the Synod press conferences doing and saying this for all the world to see and hear.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      “ we do follow Pope Francis’ teaching, except where it ambiguously appears to contradict 2,000 years of Magisterial teaching regarding marriage and divorce and the reception of Holy Communion.”

      The idea that you can just brush off a teaching of the Pope that you deem as contradicting Tradition is itself against 2,000 years of Magisterial teaching regarding the Pope’s authority to teach on faith and morals

      • Tony Correia says:

        Pedro, you are clearly locked into your perspective and do not hear the legitimate concerns of fellow Catholics.
        I do not reject Pope Francis or the authority of his Petrine ministry. I do reject the syncretism that is being tolerated in the most current Synod. I do not believe this is what Pope Francis wants. But ot is unwise that he would tolerate it.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        Your last comment was about a Magisterial document the Pope promulgated. There is no Magisterial pronouncement in 2,000 years of Church Tradition, saying that you can blow off a Magisterial document the Pope promulgated because you think it goes against Tradition

      • Tony Correia says:

        Pedro, God bless you in your zeal. I am not as articulate as you are in expressing your view of the current situation in the Church. I am not an ignorant narrow minded person. I am educated and have a college degree. I have worked in Human Services and the medical field until I became disabled in 2012. I am a cradle Catholic, was an altar boy for 10 years in the 1970s. I come from a very devout catholic Portuguese family. Even so, I left the church in my 20’s to my mid 30’s to follow a very sinful and pagan lifestyle. I am witnessing elements of that lifestyle being tolerated by the church today. The prayers of my grandmother and my mom over years eventually led to my conversion and return to the Catholic Faith. I am not remotely trying to say in my comments that I am above the Pope. I am a nobody, a sinner, but also a child of God, redeemed with the very expensive price of Christ’s Precious Blood. Don’t be a Pharisee.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        I do not condemn you. You come across as legitimately confused and hurt for all that has been done and you have not disrespected me. It is a shame that you don’t seem to be willing to reevaluate your position, but I do commend you for your sincerity and fair play.

        God bless you too.

    • Marie says:

      Tony- I am still recovering from one of the worst days of my life following my brother’s disappearance. He has Aspergers, and does not think or respond like most of us. In the course of 20 hours, we went from worry, to great worry to panic to resignation that there is no possible positive outcome. The problem was our belief that we had covered every possible scenario of what his thought process might have been, and ultimately concluded that he must have encountered someone who recognized his vulnerability and took advantage. Even with my son saying “You guys are not being rational, you know he doesn’t think like us, just because we can’t think of another scenario doesn’t mean there isn’t one…”. We did not recognize that we too were vulnerable, unable to be objective, and unable to recognize that we too have limits and do not have all the answers. Our love for our brother, our need to protect him clouded some of our judgment.

      My brother handled the situation like someone with Aspergers, but he is safe. I say this to you because we can get too confident in our abilities and remain unaware of our lack of objectivity, even when someone points it out to us, as my son had done. Christ has gifted us the Church and Peter so we need never worry, so our limits and lack of objectivity that prevent us from seeing things fully will not cloud us. You need to embrace this gift.

      • Tony Correia says:

        Marie, thank you for sharing your personal ordeal. I am happy your brother is ok. And you made s very good point in your comment and I really do appreciate that. We are fellow Catholics. I truly do love our Faith and Church and I do love our Pope and pray for him everyday. I would never want to separate myself from him. I am not a theologian or expert on Catholic Doctrine and Magisterial teaching. I am just a sinner trying to run the race and keep the Faith. Let us all pray for each other to do the same. God bless.

  10. Mary Angelica says:

    “This is why we should be wary of drawing rash conclusions. The boundaries of what is legitimate or not may not be as clear-cut as they seem. Prudence is paramount. To know whether something is compatible with Catholicism or not (i.e. whether it is inculturation or syncretism), it is important to know what message is being conveyed. In this sense, just saying that the Sistine Chapel features pagan prophetesses alongside Old Testament prophets does not cut it. We need to know why they are there. Once we understand that, we can acknowledge the Christian message they are trying to convey. By doing so, suspicions of undue paganism in the Vatican are lifted, unless such suspicions serve an ulterior motive.”

    This is fair. It’s also part of why the Vatican communications office screwed up so badly. Think of it this way. This battle over where the line is drawn goes at least as far back as the early Fathers and thinkers in the Church. Tertullian famously asked, “what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” While Clement of Alexandria was way more open to the “baptizing” of pagan ideas insofar as they glorified God and were true. The Church did wisely go more in the direction of Clement, but there were some labor pains associated with this. Every Christological controversy in the 4th and 5th centuries was in large part fueled by the insufficient purification of pagan philosophical categories being imported into Christian thought, and though the way out involved a deft use of the same philosophical concepts, it had to be checked in ways that strongly reasserted ways of thinking of God that were unique to the Church and her Jewish forefathers. Even the final document of the synod speaks about elements of Amazonian culture needing to be purified as well as incorporated into the faith.

    Keep in mind that this isn’t a European vs Amazonian problem. Sometimes the most opposed to inculturation are those who are native to the culture, and those most in favor are those who know the least. Both Tertullian and Clement lived in the Roman empire and were deeply infused with pagan education, but they came to very opposite conclusions. Why should we expect the Amazonians to all agree as well, and make this fully about how much we know about a culture?

    I can understand the need to listen to our brethren in the Amazon. I can understand the importance of not imposing our culture onto them. I cannot understand why the Vatican seemed both entirely unconcerned about what happened and ignorant about the nature of the ritual. I cannot understand why they wouldn’t exercise even a modicum of caution regarding potential animistic undercurrents, even if our individual brethren are not intending to be idolatrous, given the way animism features in secular approaches to environmental preservation in the Amazon. Being prudent involves being aware of dangers coming from both ends, not just one.

    Pope Francis may have said that these statues are displayed without idolatrous intentions, and other spokesmen denied any paganism. Fine, but neither of them were able to state what the ritual actually was about. Even REPAM hasn’t talked about it explicitly. We have no sufficient context for which to understand these symbols. Just as we need to know why the sybils are in the Sistine Chapel, don’t you think we might need to know what the meanings are of the individual components of the Amazonian ritual? Maybe “we” as uppity Europeans not so much, but at least those who were actually there in the synod have a right and obligation to know, and maybe some of them would be generous on helping us lowly lay members out here. Otherwise, the wolves at LifeSite, Church Militant, etc will try to feed those who are asking questions.

    • Mary Angelica says:

      Dude, I think you are taking some of this too far.

      Even assuming that bowing down prostrate isn’t a form of worship for the Amazonians, it is the body language I have long used for worship alone. .

      I’m not sure what in my post you are responding to either.

      Peace.

    • Manuel Dauvin says:

      Mary Angelica,
      So let me give some anecdotes that will both confirm your worries and allay them.
      My mom and dad spent their entire married ministry (till mom died on the feast of st. Kateri) among the native people (of Canada mostly). We witnessed all forms of attempts at inculturation. It can be messy. ..but for the most part the elements that derive from creation have meanings that are universal. Smoke for instance, water, fire, wind, the beating of a drum, the beating of gifts, etc.. My parents had great success with the sacred heart drum, an inspiration my Dad got in a dream. The drum represents the sacred heart of Christ: An animal slain, pierced at the edge, stretched upon the wood, must be empty to sound (self gift and detachment), must be warm…we are the drumstick that must sound the drum.
      When my dad was invited to go to the canonization of Kateri groups of native people had brought sacred heart drums to st Peter’s square and we’re singing a song to Kateri my parents wrote decades earlier. My dad was so proud of this as was I when I saw it on YouTube. Inculturation serving true catholic faith.

      That drum held a key to bringing the complexities of Christian spirituality to the native soul in a way that made them know that they were at home in Christ.

      However a HUGE issue in inculturaton is the counterpart of the European superiority Joe mentions in the last hour article, it’s very reflection in fact. The glorification of old practices as a rebellion against the white man, superiority of the native qua native.
      These practices often harked of the “meat offered to idols” though it may have been tobacco in the case of the native people. No longer was it allowing Christ to transfigure the culture but rather it was an attempt to impose ones image on Christ.

      My Dad would bless or ask the priest to bless any items that may have been brought for use in the liturgy. Sweet grass incense, feathers…everything that could be given a Christian significance was given a blessing with holy water. So much is very meaningful and confirms their faith. It needed to be blessed though.
      This was precisely because we, often more than the native people, believed in the power their traditions had. One time the priest ignored my dad’s request to bless the articles and the church burned down within a month. ..not an accident in my parent’s minds.
      I remember visiting a medicine man as a kid because my mom had lost her voice when she needed to sing for a retreat. The man was old school animist but he knew roots and plants. It was very neat to see his place and the remedy he gave my mom worked (they blessed the roots of course). But he kept trying to convince my dad of the power of his “medicine”(read “chi”). He made the van jump up and down and shake as we drove away. It stopped when my dad called for the protection of Christ.
      It’s all real power. ..but not to be feared. ..it is to be overcome with truth and a blessing.
      The symbols I saw in the Amazon ritual were not unredeemable…the meanings are universally human. The image is blessed automatically if it truly represents Our Lady but even the other meanings are easily sanitized with a precautionary drop of holy water for any unknown associations they may have had with other rituals.
      I believe St Paul asked the Christians to bless the meat from the market because of its possible connection to idols.
      The powers of paganism are real but the power in Christ is stronger. The higher up in the hierarchy the blessing comes the more power it has to conquer the evil. There is no blessing(other than benediction and receiving the eucharist) on earth stronger against spirits than the Holy Father’s.
      If the Vatican burns down. ..we’ll know there was something that didn’t get blessed…;)

      As an aside if the native people ever did a “full on” translation if their culture into the liturgy…it would bear more resemblance to the Latin mass than the novus ordo. Guaranteed. In fact the success of the “european faith” is likely due to the fact that the Latin mass is more easily understood by pagans. It draws so heavily from everything the pagan associates with worship. “Mystery language” “magic formulas” “smoke and fire” “secret prayers” “ritual garb” and “human sacrifice”. Many of the older natives missed the Latin. In fact the only thing ruining the Latin mass today are the traditionalists. They use is beauty for their own self glorification.

    • Tony Correia says:

      Jong,
      The angel Gabriel did not bow down to a naked wooden statue representing mother earth, fertility, and the goddess who sustains all life. He hailed the pure and ever Virgin Mary, full of Grace. You can wish all you want, that those idols represented Our Lady of the Amazon, but you are wrong.
      Also, the the Church of Santa Maria, where they set up all the artifacts from the indigenous peoples, there was a banner with a naked woman holding a baby while a 4 legged animal was feeding from her breast. It had a caption saying “all things are connected. Their photos and videos proving this banner was set up in the Church. Please explain to me how this is appropriate and Catholic.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        “You can wish all you want, that those idols represented Our Lady of the Amazon, but you are wrong.”

        Why? Because you said so? Those who actually presented the “idols” beg to differ.
        ***********
        “Please explain to me how this is appropriate and Catholic.”

        Why would it not? Is it wrong to say that everything is connected? Is breastfeeding somehow shameful? Did you see the article you are replying to, about the Sistine Chapel and the criticisms it received?

      • Tony Correia says:

        Pedro, there is nothing shameful about breastfeeding, when a human mother is breastfeeding her human infant. But to show a naked woman breastfeeding an animal is below human dignity.
        The paintings in the Sistine Chapel ate beautiful and rooted in the Catholic Faith. I see nothing wrong with them. A woman breastfeeding an animal is a whole other thing.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        There were many people at the time who considered the Sistine Chapel frescoes the same way you are considering the Amazon display

        Also, regarding breastfeeding an animal, there’s this:

        “Saint Veronica Giuliani (1660–1727), an Italian nun and mystic, was known for taking a lamb to bed with her and suckling it as a symbol of the Lamb of God.”

    • Mary Angelica says:

      Manuel,

      Thank you for those interesting anecdotes! Yes. I wholly agree with you here, and from what I gather, your parents seem to have achieved a good balance between extremes. I have quite a few family members who, before reverting to the faith, engaged in actual pagan practices (I have a grandmother that still does so), and yes, some of them of the Amazonian variety. These things are no joke, as your accounts relay. But they are also nothing compared to the true power of God. The Vatican response of these being mere symbols of life seem off to me in that they don’t even acknowledge the potential dangers, and thus wouldn’t think to bless the objects. Pope Francis doesn’t seem to be of the same mind as them, at least as I gather.

      I’m actually pretty cool with an Amazonian rite, and would love to see something beautiful turn out from it.

      • Tony Correia says:

        Mary, over the centuries, thr Church has “baptized” what use to be buildings and objects that were originally pagan. There are churches in Rome that used to be temples to pagan gods. Once the Roman empire became Christianized, many of these temples became Catholic Churches. The pagan idols were removed or destroyed and these edifices were consecrated.
        Today we would not think of placing statues of Zeus or Apollo in our Churches. Likewise, it was not appropriate to place mother earth statues in our churches during the Synod. There us no indication that those statues were blessed by the church. It absolutely turns my stomach when Catholics like yourself insist that those naked statues represent Our Lady of the Amazon. This is a blasphemy against Our Lady in Her Sacred images.
        We already have Our Lady of the Americas – Our Lady of Guadeloupe.

    • Mary Angelica says:

      Tony,

      My last comment was in agreement with some of Manuel’s points on a proper approach to evangelizing people from native cultures. I never said that the statues represented our lady of the Amazon, nor do I know or claim that the statues were blessed.

    • Mary Angelica says:

      As to our Lady of Guadalupe, I love Guadalupe, but Aztec and other Mexican cultures are entirely different from Amazonian ones. Why would the Amazonian see her as representing them, at least any more than a North American would? Guadalupe is also not the only approved apparition in Latin America. Each country, and different regions in that country, has at least one devotion to and title of Mary that is particular to them. It’s not even the only apparition to a native that occurred there.

  11. Roberto B. Guzman III says:

    Mary Angelica, thank you for your insights. The need for “purification” I think is the key to all these misunderstanding. Then lack of explanation on the part of the organizers has contributed to the mess. We who ask questions do not judge the Pope nor the Bishops who attended the synod. I pray for our Pope and the Catholic Church and for all of us. Again thank you Mary Angelica.

  12. Manuel Dauvin says:

    Mary Angelica,
    So let me give some anecdotes that will both confirm your worries and allay them.
    My mom and dad spent their entire married ministry (till mom died on the feast of st. Kateri) among the native people (of Canada mostly). We witnessed all forms of attempts at inculturation. It can be messy. ..but for the most part the elements that derive from creation have meanings that are universal. Smoke for instance, water, fire, wind, the beating of a drum, the beating of gifts, etc.. My parents had great success with the sacred heart drum, an inspiration my Dad got in a dream. The drum represents the sacred heart of Christ: An animal slain, pierced at the edge, stretched upon the wood, must be empty to sound (self gift and detachment), must be warm…we are the drumstick that must sound the drum.
    When my dad was invited to go to the canonization of Kateri groups of native people had brought sacred heart drums to st Peter’s square and we’re singing a song to Kateri my parents wrote decades earlier. My dad was so proud of this as was I when I saw it on YouTube. Inculturation serving true catholic faith.

    That drum held a key to bringing the complexities of Christian spirituality to the native soul in a way that made them know that they were at home in Christ.

    However a HUGE issue in inculturaton is the counterpart of the European superiority Joe mentions in the last hour article, it’s very reflection in fact. The glorification of old practices as a rebellion against the white man, superiority of the native qua native.
    These practices often harked of the “meat offered to idols” though it may have been tobacco in the case of the native people. No longer was it allowing Christ to transfigure the culture but rather it was an attempt to impose ones image on Christ.

    My Dad would bless or ask the priest to bless any items that may have been brought for use in the liturgy. Sweet grass incense, feathers…everything that could be given a Christian significance was given a blessing with holy water. So much is very meaningful and confirms their faith. It needed to be blessed though.
    This was precisely because we, often more than the native people, believed in the power their traditions had. One time the priest ignored my dad’s request to bless the articles and the church burned down within a month. ..not an accident in my parent’s minds.
    I remember visiting a medicine man as a kid because my mom had lost her voice when she needed to sing for a retreat. The man was old school animist but he knew roots and plants. It was very neat to see his place and the remedy he gave my mom worked (they blessed the roots of course). But he kept trying to convince my dad of the power of his “medicine”(read “chi”). He made the van jump up and down and shake as we drove away. It stopped when my dad called for the protection of Christ.
    It’s all real power. ..but not to be feared. ..it is to be overcome with truth and a blessing.
    The symbols I saw in the Amazon ritual were not unredeemable…the meanings are universally human. The image is blessed automatically if it truly represents Our Lady but even the other meanings are easily sanitized with a precautionary drop of holy water for any unknown associations they may have had with other rituals.
    I believe St Paul asked the Christians to bless the meat from the market because of its possible connection to idols.
    The powers of paganism are real but the power in Christ is stronger. The higher up in the hierarchy the blessing comes the more power it has to conquer the evil. There is no blessing(other than benediction and receiving the eucharist) on earth stronger against spirits than the Holy Father’s.
    If the Vatican burns down. ..we’ll know there was something that didn’t get blessed…;)

    As an aside if the native people ever did a “full on” translation if their culture into the liturgy…it would bear more resemblance to the Latin mass than the novus ordo. Guaranteed. In fact the success of the “european faith” is likely due to the fact that the Latin mass is more easily understood by pagans. It draws so heavily from everything the pagan associates with worship. “Mystery language” “magic formulas” “smoke and fire” “secret prayers” “ritual garb” and “human sacrifice”. Many of the older natives missed the Latin. In fact the only thing ruining the Latin mass today are the traditionalists. They use is beauty for their own self glorification.

  13. Manuel Dauvin says:

    Tony
    I’m with you that it is jarring to see a display like this in a western context. From experience the liaisons between these cultures and the church are more opportunists than the natives they “represent”. Blanket with the items is authentically native. Look at how it seems an effort to bring together all the important aspects of amazon life. ..it’s a landscape with models. Nothing pagan there. ..just give it a blessing and is good to go.
    The banner was almost certainly produced by a lobby group who with whatever intentions tend to go for shock value. (I’ll bet money on it)Usually they simply want to display their closeness to the cultures by presenting something they “can explain, after all, having worked with these animal-suckling natives I…the wise and privileged I…understand things like this” from there they take over the agenda and are invited for consultations, talks and heritage preservation awards while the natives are generally not better off . These social workers have their place.
    The banner will go the away if the west sits up about it. But you will be surprised at how effective the synod document will prove in evangelizing the Amazon. While the western churches empty.

  14. chris dorf says:

    Here is an excerpt from the Robert Moynihan Letters expressing Vigano’s feelings:

    “Archbishop Viganò: “He is a hero”

    “Like many others, including Bishop Athanasius Schneider and Prof. Roberto de Mattei, I think that this young man is a hero,” Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò said to me today. “He is a person who wished to defend the 1st Commandment.”

    For his part, Archbishop Viganò is persuaded that the young man’s act was the meditated act of a well-formed conscience.

    “This young man acted out of his Catholic conscience,” Viganò said.

    “He came to Rome, visited the Church of St. Mary in Traspontina, and saw what was in the church,” Viganò continued. “He was deeply concerned. But he did not act immediately. He went back to his home in Vienna and prayed and reflected for several days. Then he decided it was his duty to act. And now he has had the courage to reveal his name and to give interviews. I praise the great faith of this young man.”

    “And a beacon for Austria”

    “What this young Austrian Catholic did can be a beacon to Cardinal (Christoph) Schoenborn [Editor’s note: the archbishop of Vienna, Austria, age 74],” Viganò added.

    “It can be a witness to the cardinal, to profit the Church in Austria, because the cardinal seems to have changed markedly in his doctrinal and pastoral positions in recent years, so that we can hardly recognize him anymore.

    “I was present eight years ago, in April 2011, at the huge villa of the Order of Malta on the Aventine Hill in Rome, when Cardinal Schoenborn presented the YouCat, the young people’s version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (link)

    “I was amazed and in fact edified at the solid doctrine that Cardinal Schoenborn presented. What happened since that time?”

    The Catholic press in Austria, Germany and elsewhere has published stories on events and actions in Schoenborn’s archdiocese of Vienna which have raised eyebrows in conservative Catholic circles.

    Schoenborn’s diocesan bulletin has included an effusively positive presentation of infant adoption by a same-sex married couple (link and link), and questionable art exhibitions have been allowed in the cathedral rectory and in an art gallery associated with the cathedral (link, link and link).

    The Church around the world looks particularly to Schoenborn for clear doctrinal guidance, Viganò emphasized, because Schoenborn, a Dominican, is a well-trained, highly respected and profoundly persuasive interpreter of the thought of the great 13th-century Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as a student of Father Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI.”

  1. November 22, 2019

    […] ceremony performed at the Vatican. By Pedro Gabriel (Syncretism versus Inculturation) one, two, three, https://wherepeteris.com/our-lady-of-the-amazon-solving-the-contradictions/. Also read this blog […]

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