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 catchphrase 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 have said since the very beginning of the controversy, this narrative is not concerned with truth, but serves an ulterior purpose: to undermine the 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 the mantra originated from a video that 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, despite multiple official denials. It consists of a segment from Fr. Pacwa’s program Scripture and Tradition, in which he cites his experiences in Peru in 1975 to support his claim that what happened in the Vatican Gardens was idolatry. According to Fr. Pacwa, anyone who contradicts this interpretation is to be brushed aside with a shallow “knock it off, we’re not stupid.”
The reason why I bring this up is because this video includes 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 for a statue of Jesus Christ in the local cemetery. Fr. Pacwa goes on to mention that a survivor of the earthquake later placed an inscription 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 or divine. It is an interpretation of the events given by an alleged survivor. A survivor who doesn’t even seem to be well catechized, because he apparently thinks 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 an entire book — Job — dedicated to dismantling this naturally human misunderstanding of believing catastrophes are necessarily divine punishments.
The miracle that a statue of Jesus Christ is the only structure to remain standing in the aftermath of general devastation is not unique. The recent pilgrimage of Pope Francis to Japan triggered a renewed interest in a statue of Mary surviving the atomic bomb detonation. And of course there are the images still vividly imprinted in our memories from earlier this year of the Cross standing golden and luminous in the interior of the fire-damaged Notre Dame Cathedral? This kind of miracle is not uncommon from our merciful God. It is meant to show that, no matter how much things seem to be crumbling beneath our feet, God’s power still reigns supreme. These signs are meant to console the people who have been affected by these disasters. It is we humans who later invent the idea that the”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 I agree that they are probably right. But they have never stopped to consider that nature, commanded by God himself, does not seem to have collaborated with their project of destroying the alleged “Pachamama” statues by throwing them into the Tiber. The carved figures were recovered unscathed.
There is a lack of discernment on their part here. Why did this happen? 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 this 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. Historically, the former path has proven more effective, as I discussed in my previous article (not to mention more moral and more respectful). Not to mention, this is the path preferred by the Vicar of Christ, as the Amazon Synod has shown.
Maybe the fact that the controversial wooden figures were saved 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 us that the destructive path is wrong. We should take the counsel of Pope Francis to heart. Since the beginning of his pontificate he has asked us to focus on having more discernment. God speaks to us in these small, subtle ways.
[Photo credits: EWTN, YouTube / Michael Del Bufalo, YouTube / ChurchPOP]
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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.