I would like to end my series on the controversy around the Amazon Synod carved figure by making a brief commentary on a recent video by Fr. Mitch Pacwa. This video is the source of the “do you think we’re stupid?” canard. This catchprase has been repeated in a mantra-like fashion by those who have been clinging to the narrative that there was a pagan ritual in the Vatican. As I said since the beginning of the whole polemic, this narrative is not concerned with truth, but serves an ulterior purpose: to undermine to Synod in order to undermine an inconvenient pope. So, “do you think we’re stupid?” is supposed to be deployed whenever something contradicts the narrative, so as to shield the critic from acknowledging that he might be wrong, or that he might not be in the possession of the whole facts. It reminds me of the Monty Python’s sketch where a choir of likeminded people just drones “We are all individuals.” The difference is that the choir, in this case, is chanting “do you think we’re stupid?”, not because people have studied the matter at length (at least, they have not studied it beyond LifeSiteNews and other biased sources of the “narrative”), but because that’s the gambit they feel they were instructed to use to shut down opposition.
The video from where the mantra originated was aired by EWTN. This makes sense, since EWTN is one of the media outlets that has been actively pushing the “pagan ritual in the Vatican” narrative, regardless of various oficial denials. It consists of a segment on Fr. Pacwa’s program “Scripture and Tradition”, where he goes on to cite his experience in Peru in 1975 to claim that what happened in the Vatican Gardens was idolatry. Anyone who contradicts this is brushed aside with a shallow “knock it off, we’re not stupid.”
But the reason why I bring this up is because this video has a very interesting twist that went unnoticed until now. Fr. Pacwa mentions a strong earthquake that happened in Peru in 1970. This earthquake was so strong that it shattered everything in the area… except a statue of Jesus Christ at the local cemetery. Fr. Pacwa goes on to mention that a survivor had placed an incription in the base of the statue: “Such is the fate of those who worship Pachamama instead of Jesus Christ.”
This inscription, mind you, is not authoritative. It is an interpretation allegedly given by a survivor. A survivor that doesn’t even seem to be well catechized, because he seems to think that this natural catastrophe was a punishment from God. This notion is frequently touted by fundamentalists, but was denied by Jesus Christ Himself when He commented on the incident of the Tower of Siloam (Lk 13:2-5). In fact, the Bible has a full book (Job) dedicated to dismantling this naturally human misunderstanding of believing catastrophes to be necessarily divine punishments.
The miracle of a statue of Jesus Christ being the only remaining structure standing in the midst of general devastation is not unique. The recent travel of Pope Francis to Japan triggered a renewed interest in a statue of Mary surviving the atomic bomb detonation. And who can forget the pictures still vividly imprinted in our memories since earlier this year, of the Cross standing golden and luminous in the interior of the burnt Notre Dame Cathedral? This kind of miracle is typical of our merciful God. It is meant to show that, no matter how much things seem to crumble beneath our feet, God’s power still reigns supreme. It is meant as a consolation for the peoples affected by the disasters. It is mere men who later on invent “punishments” out of these signs of hope.
I mention this, because those who have taken this story as a validation of their ideological narrative seem to have a double standard. For them, a statue of Jesus Christ surviving an earthquake is a divine sign, and on this they are probably right. But they have never stopped to consider that nature, commanded by God Himself, does not seem to have colaborated with their project of destroying the alleged “Pachamama” statues by throwing them in the Tiber. The carved figures were recovered unscathed.
There is a lack of discernment on their part on why this has happened. They have never even stopped to ponder this. Rather, when confronted with this sign, they just moved on to plan their next step, never considering whether they might be wrong, so convinced they are of their own righteousness in acting the way they did.
This was also a kind of miracle. Maybe it does not prove the identity of the statue (that proof comes from other sources, as I have documented extensively in my articles), but it shows that God probably does not validate the vandal’s stunt.
I have written an article depicting the two paths Catholics can take when bringing the Gospel to indigenous peoples. One is constructive, through inculturation. The other is destructive, just like the acts we witnessed in October. The former has been, as I showed in my previous article, proven to be historically more effective (not to mention morally more respectful). Also, it is the path preferred by the Vicar of Christ, as the Amazon Synod shows.
Maybe the saving of the controversial wooden figures means that God also wants to point us to the correct path on how to deal with them. Maybe He has a plan for those statues. Maybe they are the beginning of a Christianization process that will help the Amazon. Or maybe they were recovered just to show that the destructive path was wrong. We should take to our heart the counsel of Pope Francis since the beginning of his pontificate, and focus on having more discernment. God speaks to us in these small, subtle ways.
[Photo credits: EWTN, YouTube / Michael Del Bufalo, YouTube / ChurchPOP]
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 Man by putting the lens on the frailty of the human condition, be it physical and 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.