[Note: this article has been updated. See here]

On Friday, October 4th, a ceremony took place in Vatican gardens in preparation for the Synod on the Amazon. This ceremony was not organized by the Vatican itself, but by the Order of Friars Minor, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, and the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network. Here is Vatican’s press release issued before the ceremony. A video of the entire service can be seen below.

The high point of the ceremony, as the Vatican press release shows, was the planting of a holm tree from Assisi (see video from 1:03:00 to 1:09:00,) as “a visible sign of integral ecology” and to consecrate the upcoming Synod to the protection and intercession of St. Francis. There was also prayer and preaching, as well as a very interesting and moving segment where soil from the Amazon and other places on the planet (symbolizing a host of social problems worldwide) was added to the place where the tree was going to be planted.

Papal detractors on social media have, however, chosen to focus their attention on a 5-minute segment at the beginning of the ceremony, where some indigenous leaders perform a ritual (see video from 07:00 to 12:40) that that they interpret as being pagan in origin.

Is there any truth to this claim?

The context

Before Francis’ election, the idea that a seed of Truth resided in every religion and culture of the world was paraded by apologists as a perfectly orthodox notion. The Second Vatican Council mentioned, in its Decree Ad Gentes #11, the semina verbi (“seeds of the Word”) lying hidden in other national and religious traditions. I am reminded of when people in Catholic media have promoted Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man” as one of the most excellent book recommendations for Catholics: a book that was very careful to classify religions in 4 types – religion of God, of gods, of demons, and of philosophers; only the third being completely unredeemable. Just as I remember fondly when videos such as this one were shared, using the partial truth contained in every religion as an argument for the existence of God.

All of this, and many other Catholic teachings that were constitutive of the apologetics movement when I was growing in my faith (like the doctrine of mitigating circumstances or the assent of mind and will owed to the teachings of the Pope in faith and morals, even the non-infallible ones,) have been forgotten since Pope Francis was elected. The growing distaste for this pontiff drove many formerly-faithful apologists to cultivate something completely different entirely: a “hermeneutic of suspicion.”

According to this hermeneutic, every single act and word of the pontiff must be scrutinized with the following interpretative lens: he is trying to undermine the Deposit of the Faith, either directly or indirectly. Year after year, they have dedicated all their time to spinning every single act of the Pope in the worst possible light, so much so that one marvels at this “inverted miracle” whereby a single man (especially one that is covered by Jesus’ promise that the gates of Hell shall not prevail, and that, according to Donum Veritatis, receives Divine Assistance even in promulgating Church discipline) can get everything wrong and do nothing right, ever.

For a certain sector of our Church, especially in the West, this constant and incessant propaganda has molded their perception of the current pontiff in an indelible way, so that they now accept these distortions uncritically. And every new action of the pope is followed by a new spin that consolidates their view further and further. On this website, we have dedicated ourselves to debunking their accusations, while we are perfectly aware that Brandolini’s Law places us at a disadvantage. However, for those affected by the hermeneutic of suspicion, facts will not suffice. Every attempt at contextualizing their claims and refuting them will be dismissed as spinning, the same activity they have engaged in incessantly for years. If it is proven that the Pope did not do what he was accused of doing, then the goal posts will be moved: the Pope did not do it, but he was purposefully ambiguous so as to give the impression that he had done it. The Pope is suspect, and the suspicions become non-falsifiable claims. This is how the hermeneutic of suspicion operates.

This is important, because the promoters of this hermeneutic have already laid out the groundwork in preparation for the Amazon Synod, priming their audience for the spin they will unleash over the next three weeks. They have built a narrative around this Synod: that it is an instrument for promoting paganism and heresy. There have been crusades of prayer and fasting and even exorcisms to prevent the alleged errors of the working document of the Synod (which is not magisterial and is meant only to direct the discussion) from being approved. Since the Synod is only a consultative body that advises the Pope, who will make the final decision and write or approve the final document on the matter, one wonders how these fears can well-founded, unless they don’t believe Francis is trustworthy to filter out heresies and heterodoxy.

The controversy around the October 4th ceremony is a product of this hermeneutic of suspicion. More than that, it is a textbook example of the hermeneutic of suspicion at work. The fact that many have already started reading Francis’s actions as validation of their narrative at such an early stage is an ominous sign of difficult times ahead (but unfortunately, not surprising.) In this sense, it behooves us to address this.

The remainder of this article has two objectives: 1) to debunk the false claims about the ceremony; and 2) to show how media reporting, even from sources that might not be directly engaged in building this culture of the hermeneutic of suspicion, are being used to stoke the fire of this pernicious worldview.

The alleged pagan idols

The main accusation being leveled against the ceremony is that it is a “pagan ritual” and should not have a place in the Vatican. First, this ceremony was not a Mass, where obviously no paganism should be allowed. Apart from its Catholic mission, the Vatican indeed has a wealth of pagan art in its collection.

That said, one can argue that it is very different for the Vatican to collect and display pagan art and for it to host a pagan ritual, especially in front of the Pope. This is a fair assessment. But was this a pagan ritual to begin with?

Catholic News Agency (CNA) initially reported that “people held hands and bowed before carved images of pregnant women.” And elsewhere, that they “knelt and bowed in a circle around images of two semi-naked pregnant women.” A screenshot of the original wording can be seen below.

This wording seems to leave who those pregnant women were open to interpretation.

Later on in the article, this identity lacuna is (whether the reporters intended it or not) filled in with additional information: “Participants sang and held hands while dancing in a circle around the images, in a dance resembling the ‘pago a la tierra,’ a traditional offering to Mother Earth common among indigenous peoples in some parts of South America.

From that point forward, many people on social media who adhere to the hermeneutic of suspicion narrative were irreversibly convinced that this was a pagan ritual directed to Mother Earth, and that the statues of pregnant women were fertility idols. Later, they found validation for this suspicion of theirs in the caption of a picture from Getty Images:

Yet this view does not hold up to scrutiny. The ritual is preceded by speeches in Italian that have nothing but Christian terminology. The rest of the ceremony is also perfectly Christian. Are we expected to believe that there was a pagan ritual inserted in the middle of a Catholic prayer service, without any mention of the abrupt change in religious context, without an introduction to the alleged fertility goddesses; without any explanation whatsoever? The more reasonable explanation, given the context, is that this ritual was also Christian.

Later, one of the statues was taken by one of the indigenous women to the Pope for his blessing. The statue is then announced (in a language that is either Spanish or heavily accented Portuguese) as “Our Lady of the Amazon, [inaudible] of the Church” (can be seen and heard from 13:20 to 13:35 in the video).

The identity of the statue as Our Lady of the Amazon is strengthened by a tweet by Vatican journalist Christopher Lamb, where a similar representation of Mary is shown in a Catholic chapel. His tweet can be seen below:

This explains that it is not an idol of a fertility goddess, but an icon of Our Lady. In other words, the figure is not pagan, but Catholic. Given the precedent in our iconography, I think that it is safe to assume that the representation of two pregnant women in which one of them is Our Lady is a representation of the Visitation.

Later in the day, Catholic News Agency amended the article, revising it to say: “people held hands and bowed before carved images of pregnant women, one of which reportedly represented the Blessed Virgin Mary.” They also inserted a new paragraph later in the article:

I believe that such an important change to the article, especially given the controversy about allegedly pagan idols erupting in response to it, should not have been made quietly, but should have been clearly and conspicuously featured at the beginning of the article. Admittedly, CNA notes at the end of the article that it had been updated, but it does not say where or how. In the interest of truth, I think CNA has a responsibility to try to dispel misinterpretations that their article helped to create, by being more forceful and specific in their updated information.

Additionally, the mention to the “pago de tierra” was not helpful and should be clarified. Saying that a dance “resembles” a “pago de tierra” is a subjective assessment and should only be brought forth if the “pago de tierra” was explicitly mentioned by the organizers in relation to the ritual. Perhaps that is the case, but if not, I urge CNA to remove the reference to the “pago de tierra” as off-topic and potentially misleading.

Either way, it is already established that one of the statues is Our Lady, and the two pregnant women are most likely a representation of the Visitation. Many people keep hammering away the line that this is an idolatrous practice, since the participants were bowing to statues. Of course, Catholics in particular, and apologists in particular, that there is nothing wrong with bowing to a statue of Our Lady, and that there is a difference between adoration (latria) and veneration (dulia).

The phallic man

When confronted with the above facts, many of those who have subscribed to the hermeneutic of suspicion will point out to another statue, allegedly and apparently featuring a lying man with an erection. Such representations are typical of pagan fertility cults and many counter-apologists tried to link the two pregnant women to the phallic man as some kind of fertility triad.

There are two problems with this assertion. First, the alleged “phallic man” does not occupy a central position in the mandala as the two pregnant women do. I do think it is not accurate to link the three statues as if they were one single set.

Secondly, and more importantly, this accusation crumbles on its own, since this is not a phallic man at all. It was none other than Michael Voris who brought this to our attention:

That the protrusion is an arm and not a penis, can be clearly seen in the video on the 06:43 mark. A few second before that, a friar mentions that the center of the mandala contains various symbols, including what seems to be the Italian word for “martyr.” Might this figure, lying down with a hand reaching out to heaven, be that representation of the martyrs? I cannot say, but it is a possibility.

Regardless, this figure does not occupy the center. It appears that the people are bowing to the representation of Our Lady. Not only is this plausible, it is much more charitable to interpret it this way than to reactively accuse others of “heresy” or “paganism” for engaging in a ritual one does not understand.

The appropriateness of the representation

After being shown the overwhelming evidence that the statue is, in fact, a representation of Our Lady, some have moved the goal posts again and started calling into question the appropriateness of the representation. They claim that it is blasphemous to portray the Virgin Mary as a naked woman.

It bears mentioning that the point of the representation is not to show Mary naked, but to show her as an indigenous person from the Amazon. The Catholic Church has a venerable tradition of representing Jesus and Mary in ways that resonate with the people who are praying and worshipping.

The Virgin Mary is here being represented as an Amazonian. Her nakedness is the same tribal nakedness as the peoples of the Amazon. Some might insist that it is still inappropriate to represent the Virgin Mary in this way. This echoes the same criticism that Michelangelo received centuries ago when painting the Sistine Chapel. Even though he painted a fully clothed Virgin Mary, all the other figures, including Jesus and saints, were painted completely naked: a scandal at the time. Representing Catherine of Alexandria and the Apostles naked was also not regarded as appropriate by many at the time.

Looking at the statue, it is not clear to me that Mary’s nakedness is being exposed in a way that is meant to highlight her body in inappropriate ways. The icon is very representational and with very little detail. She is kneeling in a reverent way and the center of attention is her baby, which is featured as if her belly was translucent.

Some critics have tried to draw attention to the statue’s breasts. I do not think they are being represented in an inappropriate way, and I also draw attention to the fact that bare-breasted representations of the Virgin Mary are also very traditional and not considered inappropriate.

Syncretism charges

Since all their charges thus far have crumbled under the weight of the facts, the proponents of the hermeneutic of suspicion have taken refuge in saying: “Perhaps this was a statue of Mary, but it is still wrong, since it is not Catholicism, but syncretism.” Syncretism is a loose word that they can stamp on this ceremony in order to be done with it. But is this really the case?

We must distinguish between syncretism and inculturation. The International Theological Commission published in 1988 a document on Faith and Inculturation, in which it mentions how, even if Catholicism contains truths that transcend every culture, still Christianity established itself in history and therefore, subject to cultures. Namely, early Christianity underwent inculturation from Jewish and Greco-Roman milieus. Regarding inculturation of faith in non-Christian religions, the Commission said:

“From its origin, the Church has encountered on many levels the question of the plurality of religions (…) Given the great place of religion in culture, a local or particular Church implanted in a non-Christian sociocultural milieu must take seriously into account the religious elements of this milieu. Moreover, this preoccupation should be in accordance with the depth and vitality of these religious elements.”

A few years earlier, Pope St. John Paul II published his apostolic exhortation Sapientia Christiana, where he makes important distinctions:

“Also, its exposition [of Divine Revelation] is to be such that, without any change of the truth, there is adaptation to the nature and character of every culture, taking special account of the philosophy and the wisdom of various peoples. However, all syncretism and every kind of false particularism are to be excluded.

The positive values in the various cultures and philosophies are to be sought out, carefully examined, and taken up. However, systems and methods incompatible with Christian faith must not be accepted.”

Can we really say that this ceremony has gone beyond the adaptation to the nature and character of the native Amazonian culture and made a change to truth instead? Can we say that this ritual has not taken up the positive values of their culture and philosophy and has adopted methods incompatible with Christian faith?

If someone says that, then that person should be the one to provide irrefutable evidence. “This is obviously pagan” or “this doesn’t seem Catholic to me,” does not cut it. Rather, it betrays a view of Catholicism that confuses our religion with a certain expression of it, typical of Western culture. Granted, historically, Western and European culture have dominated Catholicism. But this does not mean that it is the only possible expression, or that non-Western or non-European expressions of Catholicism are not legitimate.

On the contrary: “Catholic” means “universal.” There is nothing more Catholic than conveying the Gospel, a message that transcends cultures, to every single culture in the universe, shaping it according to Christian principles. “This does not seem Catholic to me,” when confronted with a legitimately inculturated ceremony, is one of the most un-Catholic things to say, if we take the etymology of the word “Catholic” seriously.

There is no evidence that this ceremony was an expression of syncretism. What we do know is this: people bowed to an image of Our Lady and the rest of the ceremony was imbued with Christian messages and language. There is, for me, no evidence that it was an attempt to make paganism equal to Christianity, but of inculturating aspects of native Amazonian culture (which might have been partly influenced by its pagan past), while still being completely Christian. The syncretism charges are, completely unsubstantiated and are being used as an escape route to save face.

The black ring

The CNA article also mentions that one of the indigenous women approached the Holy Father and offered him a “black ring.” This did not receive as much attention as the allegedly pagan ritual, but there were still some people focusing on it to consolidate the narrative.

We don’t actually know if it was a tucum ring or not. CNA says that “it appears” to be one. Secondly, we must remember that, just because the Holy Father receives a gift, that does not mean that he endorses it.

However, assuming it is a tucum ring and that the Pope has nothing against this gift (two plausible assumptions in my opinion), one must ask: was it such a bad thing?

CNA associates the tucum ring with liberation theology. However, the tucum ring precedes liberation theology. During the colonial era (just like today) gold rings were used to symbolize marriage and commitment. Afro-Brazilian slaves and Natives, unable to afford these gold rings, started to carve rings made out of the dark “tucum” palm tree. Eventually, it became a symbol of their shared culture, of fraternity between them and of resistance against those who would oppress them. Later, in addition to being associated with liberation theology, it also became a symbol of social causes and commitment to the poor.

The ring was offered by a native woman to a Pope who, despite widespread propaganda, is not a Marxist, but has a serious commitment to the poor. Again, I think the association with liberation theology was unhelpful and the most reasonable explanation is that the tucum ring was offered as a symbol of Pope Francis’s commitment to the Amazonian people.

The Pope’s absent remarks

Many people have also made inferences regarding the Pope’s response to this ceremony. At the closing part of the service, after the organizers announced that the Pope would make some final remarks (around the 01:09:00 mark,) he simply prayed the Our Father and made no other statement. Some have assumed that the Pope was just trying to get out of there with fear of being associated with such a ritual.

It could very well be the case, but this is an assumption. There are many other possible explanations: lack of time, the Pope’s tendency to improvise, even his health. Other news outlets mentioned that the Pope seemed tired, sitting at a blazing noonday sun. In fact, the Pope’s voice during the Our Father sounds very hoarse (cf. 01:09:07).

Many problems have already been caused by filling out the vacuum of information with assumptions. We should not view this act of the Pope necessarily as a condemnation or repudiation of the ceremony. Until further clarification on the Holy See’s part, we should refrain from judgment.


As usual, the narrative built up by the hermeneutic of suspicion does not hold up as time passes and new facts gradually dissipates it. Unfortunately, we have seen how easy it was for these hermeneuts to take a simple ceremony and create, in a few hours, an entire account of the events amenable to their worldview, which then went viral. We should expect more of this as the Amazon Synod keeps unfolding.

We cannot refute all their charges in real time; they are inevitably overwhelming. With each new commenter, new charges are raised ex nihilo as he finds something to pick on, based on his uninformed opinion of the situation, which is then readily shared uncritically by every likeminded person. Many times, the truth takes time to surface. Facts often are noticeable only after the dust settles. By then, many people will already be convinced and closed to the truth and facts as they come.

This article is based on my viewing of the entire ceremony (including my knowledge of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese) and on conversations with many people who are more knowledgeable than I on what happened. However, I am still not privy to many of the details. As a Westerner, much of the culture that shaped this ritual may have eluded me. New information may emerge that may prove some of these points wrong. I am open to being corrected, as long as this is done with primary sources and by unbiased people in search of truth, and not of validation of a preconceived ideological narrative.

I have already implied one of the main conclusions of this article: do not jump to conclusions. The hermeneutic of suspicion will intensify in the following days. Do not despair, even if the arguments shown by the catastrophists seem irrefutable. You do not need to form an opinion on everything, and you do not need to form it in real-time or very quickly. Wait for the dust to settle and try to listen to authoritative or primary sources before you decide. Most especially, be aware that there is a campaign to undermine the Holy Father, led by people who spin every single action and word of his in the worst possible way. Disinformation is bound to come to your doorstep, so proceed with caution.

My second conclusion is a plea to the media, especially Catholic media. I urge you to consider context, and to be responsible in the way you report these events. Try not to make loose associations and try not to fill the lacunae of information with assumptions, no matter how grounded you find them to be. Try to stick to what is objective (in this story, there was much on the ceremony that could have been reported and that was simply glossed over in favor of a 5-minute segment). If you find yourself to have reported some error or imprecision that may have fueled the hermeneutic of suspicion, do not be afraid to apologize or retract. If you update, do it in a noticeable fashion. It is not just the Holy Father’s reputation that is at stake, but a commitment to truth itself.

In this particular context, CNA reported that “no explanation was provided by the event organizers as to why the dance was performed (…) or what it symbolized.” I think it would be interesting to pursue this further and to try to understand the details of this ceremony and the meaning of the symbols from the people who arranged and participated in it.


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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.

Paganism in the Vatican? Hermeneutic of suspicion at its peak

65 Responses

  1. Manuel Dauvin says:

    Lord God please allow me to run into a super rich catholic business man. I’d tell him to get straight to his computer and pay all your bills and debts so you guys can do this full time. Amen

    • jong says:

      God’s timely providence will not be lacking to WPI writers, this is my prayer to this good Catholic site. The difficulties and their burdens in running this site is God’s way of purifying their hearts to receive more Wisdom to debunk and decipher the lies of the schismatic rigid Trads in this Age of Dubia/ Confusions.. Ive seen one image of Ab.Vigano recently with a red eye glass and it always leads me to ponder the schism, apostasy and “revolt” written in CCC675 and the coming of the “son of perdition”. In the future when finally a “grand revolt” will come into fruition due to piling up of numerous lies and deceptions all over the mainstream and social media by the relentless effort of all the Rad Trads channel. Im envisioning the “mystical body of Antichrist”, will it be of the schismatic rigid Trads shouting “Vigano, Vigano, Vigano” for Pope.
      I really dont know how many viewers WPI can get per article posted, but the Rad Trads channel like Dr.Marshall can easily get 20k viewers up to 50k or even more.
      Imagine one Rad Trad channel can poison 50k viewers on this false issue on Pagan Rituals and a lot more will come in the coming days during the Pan Amazon Synod.
      Its really a difficult task to counter the lies and deceptions of so many Rad Trads channels not to mention CNA a well respected catholic site also had fallen into errors.
      So, we really need to be vigilant on all the news circulating or else we will be deceive too.
      Back to alleged Amazonian Pagan Rituals, Pope Francis mentioned of the Church maturity, for a faithful catholic who are already matured enough and had purified their hearts, the naked image of Our Lady is not a problem but to a confused and rigid souls, satan can easily put evil thoughts and malice on the statue.
      If we have the purity of heart and holiness of people like St.JP2, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis we can embrace the culture of Amazon and even their way of dressing because their hearts wears the cloak of compassion and mercy.
      This is the dividing line between Vatican Popes who sees other religions, faith, Christian and non-christian faith as brothers in Christ and they are People of God too.
      Ab.Sheen described the “counterfeit church” will destroy all religions, and the schismatic rigids Trads by rejecting Ecumenism and Inter-religious dialogue are doing exactly what Ab.Fulton Sheen had prophesied.
      Is the schismatic rigid Trads uniting as One Clan of Trads thru “Ecumenism propagating hatred” the prophesied “mystical body of the Antichrist?

      • Terry says:

        I would only ask that if there are so many Rad Trad web sites and/or blogs, why is that? It would appear that a great many people find issues with present day Rome and while they might be incorrect in some of their hypotheses, there also stands the chance that they might just be on to something in some of their thought processes.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        Because they have been primed throughout many years, even before Francis, by media and pundits that have presented them a skewed view of Catholicism which is not true nor authoritative.

        The Church is not a democracy and there have been huge splits in her history. In the end, those who stand with the Church are those who stand with the Pope.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      Haha. Speaking just for myself, i thank you but I’m good 🙂

      Please be patient, since I will have to juggle my apologetics activity with my work and family life, but for now I think I this is the best arrangement for me

  2. Federico says:

    Anathema on 26 cardinals, 134 bishops and 99 priests for the Amazon Synod

    29 September 2019
    A synonym for the term ‘anathema’ is excommunication, curse, exclusion from the Body of Christ – the Church. This most severe punishment is established by God Himself. It expresses the spiritual reality that applies to heretics who have abandoned the Gospel of Christ and the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8). Instead, they have received the spirit of heresy and preach an antigospel. They have thus excluded themselves from the Mystical Body of Christ and are on the road to perdition, even though they hold the highest offices in the Church.


    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      Cute. One itsy bitsy tiny detail though… you have no authority to decree this

      • Faith says:

        We go to our local parish. The kind that would drive Taylor Marshall (and myself, tbh) crazy. Very few people follow any of these blogs and don’t even think to peek at Vatican News. When the schism happens I predict it won’t even cause a ripple among those of simple faith, which is most of the Church.

    • jong says:

      The Rad Trads tactics is very easy to discern they are projecting who they are and their works and their accusations to the Vatican II Church esp. to Pope Francis..
      1.The Rad Trads are the ones who are schismatics, in fact their open resistance to the Pope merited an automatic excommunication. Read Canon751 & Canon1364

      “Canon 751: “Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

      Canon 1364, n. 1: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication””

      2. The Rad Trads are heretics. Read Canon752 and Lumen Gentium25
      3. The Rad Trads are the one committing apostasy of the gospel by opposing the heart of the gospel which is Divine Mercy.Read Misericordiae Vultus paragraph12 to know the Truth.
      The Rad Trads are the ones destroying and undermining the New Mission of the Church in the Third Millenium thru the workings of the Council of Media as Pope Benedict XVI revealed. The Council of Media are now grown into numerous forces employing so many Rad Trads host like Dr.Marshall, Michael Matt, Michael Voris, John Westen,etc. The media forces backing this schismatic rigid Trads are so enormous. How many website are defending Pope Francis compares to how many Trad sites are attacking him daily & relentlessly in a synchronize fashion.
      But, how this Rad Trads portrays themselves in their channels? They project themselves as protector of past Traditions & Doctrines and defending the Holy Mother Church, and the unfortunate thing is, a lot of their viewers were deceived by their constant lies & deceptions. “a lie constantly repeated becomes the Truth” this is their evil tactics.
      The numerous lies, deceptions, twisting of words, omission of words, presenting truth mix with lies, etc are the works of the Rad Trads channels.They are imitating the works of the devil (Revelation12:10). It’s a pity that so many viewers are not diligent enough to verify the articles first and video content of all the Rad Trads if they are credible before they believe it. But, the sad reality is, the Rad channels are employing minions to comment on their channels to make it appear the articles and videos are credible. We are now living in the Age of Dubia or Confusions.
      Proof? your link article is a perfect example of FAKE NEWS and written by corrupted authors.
      The content of your link article is laughable and you post the link, meaning you believe the contents are credible…be diligent to find out the Truth first. Why don’t you send time reading articles in the WPI, it will help you in making the right judgement. God bless.

  3. Jessica says:

    Do you think the two pregnant women are Mary and Elizabeth, alluding to the Visitation? My rosary booklet associates this mystery with “the spiritual gift [of] love for one’s neighbor,” which would be potent symbolism for this synod.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      We have no official confirmation that this is the Visitation. However, it is a likely explanation, given that one of the statues is Our Lady, and given Catholic iconography

      And yes, we agree it is very apropos. Just like the Incarnation and the Creation are very much linked with one another too, since both are contradictions to Gnostic tendencies that viewed the flesh and the material world as inherently evil. God created the World and “it was good” (Genesis), and then He made Himself flesh and dwelt among us

      But again, this is already interpretation. Let us await further developments

      • Jessica says:

        I’ll keep watching! And thank you for the information about inculturation. That’s an interesting topic. 🙂

      • Roberto B. Guzman III says:

        I ‘m sorry but the problem is no official interpretation or explanation is given and this is the reason why many feel awkward while viewing the “rite” that happened. Even you are saying that we have to wait for official explanation. It would have been better if there was someone explaining the whole thing while we are watching the video. Your explanation becomes a reaction to the comments of others and you cannot even be shre if your explanation is the official one. Those who were explaining it officially were not even sure what it all meant. They did not even know if the statue is the Virgin Mary.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        Well, if there is lack of information, people should fall back on the most charitable interpretation instead of jumping to conclusions. And if the organizers of the event clarified, charitably believe them too

  4. L Daily says:

    Reminder that TLM is itself an example of inculturation.

  5. Chris Doran says:

    Thank you so much for all you are doing! May God bless you and His Mother and Ours protect you!

  6. George XY Palantine says:

    There was nothing at all Catholic about the ceremony. It was entirely composed of pagan symbolism, naked women idols. I don’t care if they call a naked woman fertility cult “Mary of the Amazon”. It was clearly two naked women pregnant idols, having no similarity at all to Mary. Is it impossible to get real statues of Mary in the Amazon? Must she be naked? Must she be pregnant? Must there be two? Must they bow down, form a circle, just as in paganism? Must all their idols be placed on the blanket then bowed to? There was absolutely nothing at all Christian about this ceremony. The only thing I saw was them do the sign of the cross. Other than that, it was all pagan symbolism.

    Somehow, I think if they performed a black mass in the Vatican, supporters of Pope Francis would simply say they were honoring the beliefs of the satanists, in an effort to lure them into Christianity, by honoring their beliefs and rituals. You people have taken a valid concept called inculturation, and pretended it can be abused and turned into an excuse for making ceremonies primarily pagan. And you call it good. I call it unwise at best, evil at worst.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      Thank you for proving my article right. BTW you might have missed this:

      “Can we really say that this ceremony has gone beyond the adaptation to the nature and character of the native Amazonian culture and made a change to truth instead? Can we say that this ritual has not taken up the positive values of their culture and philosophy and has adopted methods incompatible with Christian faith?

      If someone says that, then that person should be the one to provide irrefutable evidence. “This is obviously pagan” or “this doesn’t seem Catholic to me,” does not cut it. Rather, it betrays a view of Catholicism that confuses our religion with a certain expression of it, typical of Western culture. Granted, historically, Western and European culture have dominated Catholicism. But this does not mean that it is the only possible expression, or that non-Western or non-European expressions of Catholicism are not legitimate.”

      • George XY Palantine says:

        Your article was a painfully obvious attempt to explain away the indefensible. I realize that to you, paganism is something you invite into the church, and that you are entirely comfortable with all sorts of pagan ceremonies making their way into the church. You like that sort of thing, and are willing to explain it away by the flimsiest of excuses. My last paragraphs stands as the summing up of your article.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        If it is so, I think that people would have no problem bringing up more substantive counter-arguments than “it’s obviously pagan”

    • Marie says:

      “having no similarity at all to Mary. “- seriously, how old are you? !! Pick up a history book!

  7. Marie says:

    Any Catholic who participated in these attacks directed at the Holy Father and our Amazonian brothers seriously needs to ask themselves when they will hold themselves to account. A simple lesson in biology is also in order, because I’m pretty sure anyone looking could figure that theory was off.

    Basic common sense and decency are lacking in some of our Catholic ‘faithful’.

  8. Arthur McGowan says:

    I am always buoyed by the fact that this site gets comments from just the same six incoherent nobodies. I.e., the site is doing very little harm.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      Did you count yourself among those six? 😉

    • Christopher Lake says:


      No human being, in God’s eyes, is a “nobody.” The fact that you would refer to Catholic commenters with whom *you happen to disagree* here as “incoherent nobodies” is, perhaps, unintentionally revealing, in terms of how you think about other fellow Catholics who love Jesus Christ, His Church, her teachings, and, yes, the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis. Where Peter is, there is the Church, including those whom you count as nobodies. Thankfully, God, who creates *all* people in His image, does not count *anyone* as a nobody, even me, a terrible sinner who is trying, by God’s grace, to love Him and people better, and to be more obedient to Him, each day.

    • Marie says:

      Arthur- While we can’t all be as ‘gifted’ as you appear to believe yourself to be, I’ll gladly wear the name incoherent nobody while I remain faithful to Christ, his Church and his Vicar, while at the same time defending the abandoned and disenfranchised, as our Lord demands.

      • Yaya says:

        I am a nobody too but gracias a Dios in good company. ^^)

        I watched some of the ceremony and understood it to be their expression of the way they worship the Lord.
        I was not offended by it.

        I watched another video where our Holy Father was processing out of St. Peter’s with a group of indigenous people, bishops, others. They were carrying a large net, a boat, a few other things that I cannot recall atm. The net reminded me of St. Peter, the joyful singing reminded of God’s spirit hovering over his children.
        The singing alternated between Spanish and some of the indigenous languages. They were praising our Lord for all of creation, the many gifts He has bestowed upon all of his creatures.
        I pray the Synod will bear much fruit for all who participate.
        May the presence of the Holy Spirit guide, enlighten, affirm all in Christ Jesus.

    • John says:

      Admittedly, I commented once before, but this website was absolutely timely and instrumental in giving me the courage and resources to solidify my own fairly radical recent break from some of this toxic thinking about the Holy Father, and to stop being my own self-appointed Magisterium.

      It’s doing “damage,” thanks be to God.

      • Terry says:

        That doesn’t mean that you were forming your own Magisterium’. In my mind it just tells me that you a re truly concerned Catholic who realizes that not everything that comes out of Rome is good and that it is alright to question it and that there have and will be good and not-so-good Popes. Where history will land on the current Papacy only time will tell. But fair to say that it has obviously sown a great deal of discord among-st the laity and some clergy.

      • Wayne says:

        Two quotes that are extremely pertinent plus a very balanced clip on the ‘Amazon’ synod :


        “Every voluntary action that turns aside from the order of reason and of the Eternal Law , is evil” – St Thomas Aquinas

        “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.”
        St John Henry Newman

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        The Youtube video you shared is made by people who contradict your two quotes, especially the last one.

        PS: I know that putting scare quotes on everything gets tiring, and Francis critics are confused by nature, but I don’t understand why you would put the word Amazon in scare quotes

    • Mike Lewis says:

      Just stay away from the Facebook page and Twitter.

    • Ralph says:

      Even if only a small number of “nobodies” comment on this website, I guarantee that the vast majority of Catholics are closer to the views of WPI and the “nobodies” than to the papal critics. Papal critics are heavy on the internet but the online world doesn’t reflect reality and it doesn’t make them right or influential. You can find plenty of political and religious extremists, conspiracy theorists and various crackpots online but that doesn’t mean that they are correct or have much influence in the real world.

      Even if one’s offline social circle is full of papal critics they are not likely to be representative of the Catholic majority, which of course is global, and not just limited to countries like the United States where so much of the opposition to Pope Francis is concentrated. One might with justification respond that the Church is not a democracy so the views of the majority of Catholics don’t matter but still, I have to push back on this idea that there is some huge wave of anti-Francis feeling around the world just because Pope Francis’s critics happen to have a big presence on the internet.

      This is exactly why Pope Francis stresses that reality is more important than ideas. It is very easy to get wrapped up in an ideological whirlwind and never check your biases because you are always getting affirmation from your fellow ideologues. The best antidote to this is getting out of the ideological bubble, stepping back and trying to understand the world from different perspectives.

      I originally had issues with Pope Francis too (for example, on the migration crisis and the environment) but the more I read his actual words it became clear that he was actually well in line with the Gospel and Catholic tradition. Also, seeing many Catholics in my personal life feel inspired by Pope Francis made me realize that maybe I was the one with the problem. Instead of leading people away from the faith Pope Francis is helping to draw them closer to it

      • Andreas says:

        Wonderful witness you make Ralph, and something I really really can relate to. I had issues too, then I discovered that Francis provoked the narcissistic elements in my faith, and in the end, cleansed then out. The pope lead by the Holy Spirit? Not a doubt in my mind.

  9. David Ashby says:

    A cracking article Pedro, it really helped me.

  10. Faith says:

    I am so grateful for this site. Excellent article. I love reading (most) of the comments as I am buoyed up with the hope that the Holy Spirit truly *can* work through the internet.

  11. Pete Vickery says:

    I remember seeing my future mother-in-law exposing her breast to feed my wife’s infant brother when I was living in Mexico and dating my wife. My mother-in-law is an Evangelical Christian by the way. It’s not a big deal in Catholic Mexico or the rest of Central and South America. Of course the statue of the pregnant woman in the video is Mary and Elizabeth is most likely the other woman. Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared as a pregnant mestiza 500 years ago. Women didn’t stop public breastfeeding after Our Lady converted ten million Aztecs to Christianity in the early 1500’s. The iconic paintings of the Virgin Mary are beautiful as well. Much ado about nothing but that’s par for the course for the critics of Pope Francis.

  12. Manuel Dauvin says:

    Just to remind the “nobody’s” leaving positive comments on this site. It will be very hard to expect any wiggle room for this Amazonia ritual from those who find the novus ordo to be an abomination.
    Also, while I am a firm believer in inculturaton as any good catholic is, I find no need to panic over stuff organized by others in the pope’s presence.
    At denver world youth day they trotted it a woman acting the person of Christ during the stations…remember? https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1993/09/11/use-of-actress-in-jesus-role-stirs-dispute/4e4ff7c2-0806-43da-b661-c38a59e1281e/

    And from the little I’ve experienced of the Latin spirituality they would not necessarily have a huge problem with both the images being our Lady. We westerns always are counting. I grew up among the native people of Canada. No problem having more than one image of a saint in proximity.
    Two statues of our Lady means you really really like her.

  13. Lazurus says:

    I think the Church is going to get a lot smaller once the schism is declared. Only a remnant will make it to the Marian age of peace. If they are not ignorant about the indefectibility of the Church they betray a mistrust of God. If they are, they may make it.

    Abraham and Sarah had Ishmael because they were impatient, maybe desperate, despite God’s promises.

  14. Sizar says:

    I think the main problem is exactly that: “no explanation was provided by the event organizers as to why the dance was performed (…) or what it symbolized.”

    Why didn’t they just simply say to all the media gathered there what is it all about? Thats what people usually do when they organise something and invite the media. It would stop all those suspicions before they started.

    • jong says:

      That’s a good question considering the Vatican Press knew that the schismatic rigid Trads are like a roaring lion waiting for a new Fake News to be spread on all the Rad Trads channels. Are the Vatican people not exercising prudence before approving anything that would feed the Rad Trads again something bad to throw at the Church and to Pope Francis particularly? Are they not aware that of the Round Table Discussion the Rad Trads had just painted the Vatican II as deforming the Church, and the church critics & enemies are covering the Amazon Synod daily looking for something to sensationalize?
      It’s about time we accept that Pope Francis knew this, but he is guided by the Holy Spirit to allow the Rad Trads to continue to attack the Church for it’s purification. Pope Francis is welcoming the persecutions coming from the Rad Trads saying “I am honored by American criticism”. Pope Francis is accepting it painfully, patiently and peacefully as an offering to God for the sins of the Church. It seems Pope Francis sees the persecutions as God’s way of purifying the Church and exposing who are the church enemies and he is not afraid of them. In fact he is challenging the church critics & enemies saying “I am not afraid of schism”.
      Expect in the coming days in this month long Synod, the Rad Trads will continue to scoop anything that will advance their evil agenda in spreading Fake News, while Pope Francis great wisdom seems to entertain them for their eventual defeat.

      • jong says:

        Pedro G.
        The Church may appear clumsy in the surface but we must view it in the lenses of “spiritual war”. If the Church is pretty clear on all it’s actions, do you think you can lure the enemy to attack the Church to expose themselves in the light? Pope Francis wise strategy is allowing the Vatican officials to appear clumsy and using ambiguity as a weapon to identify & expose who the Church enemies. The Pan Amazon Synod exposes who are the Media group organized to attack & undermine the Church. Have we not seen the Round Table Discussion of the Trads Media personalities uniting as One Clan recently? How can you view this event? Pope Francis is luring all the schismatic Rad Trads to expose themselves for who they are, for ordinary lay faithful we cannot see why, but for Cardinals, Bishops and Priest faithful to Pope Francis they can now see clearly who are the real enemies of the Church in broad daylight.
        This is the better view if we look at it in the lenses of “spiritual war”, we must embraced that Pope Francis guided by the Holy Spirit and he is always one step ahead of the game. Pope Francis knew they will accuse the Church of welcoming paganism, and Pope Francis in full display invites all the schismatic Rad Trads to “sensationalize” the issue. What will be the end result?
        Look at this video of Dr.Marshall(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbD4vBkzbkA&t=92s) and read a lot of articles and numerous videos uploaded in the social media, they are unanimously saying and painting that the Church was infiltrated and Pope Francis is welcoming paganism.
        Is the naked statue of Mama Mary and St.Elizabeth a “pagan idol”? NO!
        This is where the great wisdom of Pope Francis will play to defeat all this Rad Trads who do not have the gift of prudence, in the end all this Rad Trads channel who said this are “pagan idols” will be proven wrong. Amazonian has their own unique way of expressing artworks and art is an expression unique to every culture. As Pedro G. recent article showed Mama Mary in different art forms according to various cultures expression.
        This is the gross error of all the Rad Trads now calling the naked statue a “pagan idol”.
        Pope Francis gift of wisdom in the art of spiritual war isso great, I do hope we appreciate and realize that Pope Francis is winning the war by exposing all the church critics & enemies unknown to most us before..
        The Vatican II Church are so blessed with the wisdom given to Pope Benedict XVI in expanding the Petrine Ministry, Pope Francis is not solely absorbing the attacks & persecutions unlike Pope BXVI before. Pope Emeritus BXVI is offering all of the persecutions & attacks to our Lord for the purification of the Church, so in spiritual reality Pope Francis is not absorbing or bothered by the persecutions and he can still focus his energy on administering the Church.
        If Pope Francis do not have Pope Emeritus BXVI interceding on his behalf the magnitude and unified attack on him by the Rad Trads will be enough for him to be physically exhausted like Pope Benedict XVI experienced. But, we have a stronger Church today, Pope Emeritus BXVI fighting the wolves thru contemplative prayer and Pope Francis fighting all the packed of wild dogs upfront.
        A Two Great Pope united in prayer is so powerful because Jesus Christ is in their midst. (Matthew18:19)

    • Jessica says:

      I wish they had, too. Maybe they knew they’d still get attacked, so they put the effort elsewhere?

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        If there is something that history show us is that the Church is very, very clumsy. That’s why we know she is being directed by the Holy Spirit, otherwise it would have self-destructed centuries ago

    • Mike Lewis says:

      Good will would have been even more effective.

  15. chocmoc says:

    Catholics contradicting themselves. The Christian world already has plenty of confusion = 38,000+ denominations with the Catholic Church leading the pack. Why do we have to complicate the gospel? Why can’t it be simply as how the apostles preached it? Why the need for so many complications, zooming out far too much from the scriptures resulting to a distorted view of it? Why the need for elaborate explanations about everything when the gospel should be easy to understand and follow? And then these events in the Vatican which adds more confusion to the already confused Christian world. This article really feels like a fall out from the sort of bomb that exploded in the Vatican garden, an explain away. Plus the name calling of righteously indignant guys against the honest believers who just brings serious questions and concerns to fight heresy from inside

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      Preach the Gospel as the Apostles preached it?

      You mean, by inculturation the Gospel to the Gentiles, as the Apostles decided in the Council of Jerusalem, in opposition to those who wanted to retain the traditional Jewish elements that they thought were constitutive of our religion?

      And yes, there are too many denominations as it is. That’s why you should stick with the visible head of the Church. Stick with Peter. That has always been the answer to Protestant fragmentation

  16. Jessica says:

    The larger quotes sound like he’s addressing Germans, at least in part. I posted the quote that made me think so, but I may not have the context correct; the page has many formatting problems on my phone.

    “I fear that some Westerners are confiscating this assembly to advance their plans. I am thinking in particular of the ordination of married men, the creation of women’s ministries or the jurisdiction of the laity.”

  17. Wayne Kitcat says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp4DTtWpzwE is my reply to those who think Francis is on the right path. He is basically a Peronist, and look at the state of Argentina. I have lived and worked in Latin America for 14 years and spoken to Argentinians in Medjugorje , who wonder why Francis has not returned to Argentina since his election.?? Good question.

    Francis is on a ‘mission’ set out in Evangelii Gaudium P27 ” I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself. As John Paul II once said to the Bishops of Oceania: “All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion”.[25].

    This is a political manifesto. It is all of a kind with his statement ‘” It is a mistake for the Church to try to hold onto old traditions or to have clear answers for everything’. In other words a nice ‘messy church’ where all the old Truths and simply discarded because they are not politically correct. This is not what the world needs today if ever. It is rampant relativism which is what both St JP II and Benedict warned against. Francis apparently knows better. I don’t think so , his approach is heresy which he seems to want to torment.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      The fact that you read a “political manifesto” in those words validates everything I said in this article vis-a-vis “hermeneutic of suspicion”

    • Mike Lewis says:

      There is nothing problematic with the quote.

      You read into it and declare that Francis promotes the idea that “all the old Truths and simply discarded because they are not politically correct.” But he doesn’t say that. You are reading it through a lens of suspicion, and therefore you give it an extreme interpretation.

  18. Chris dorf says:

    The only thing I can do when people cannot see Pope Francis acting as a shepherd as the vicar of Christ on Earth is give them this quote from the Word of God:

    ….they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”

    8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”

    9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvationc has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.

    10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

  19. Maria says:

    Regarding the Marian image, just when a woman gives it to the Pope, the second to approach him, we can hear a voice that says, in Spanish, “Nuestra Señora de la Maternidad”, Our Lady of Motherhood, Maternity? (cf. 13: 28-13: 30). I did not like that image, to be honest. There are many images of the Blessed Virgin pregnant, and she is always dressed. And in the representations of the Virgen de la Leche, only one of her breasts is shown. Something very natural in Latin America.

    But I would like to find a translation of the prayer they performed in front of the newly planted tree (cf. 11:22…). Everyone is kneeling and the woman who leads the prayer is the only one to recite it. Could it be the Our Father? I can’t even discern if he’s praying in Spanish, or if it’s a poem. The position suggests a prayer. I could not find a translation on official channels or in Catholic media … Thanks

  20. Romeo K. Cachuela says:

    I am confused. Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, said the statues represented life, fertility, mother earth. He did not say it was the Virgin Mary.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      Please see the update of this article. There is a link to it on the first line of it. I have addressed Ruffini there

  21. Shane says:

    This was an intelligent and well thought out piece. I’d sure love an update regarding the Holy Father actually calling the image the “Pachamama” in his apology though. His comment about it being there “without idolatrous intentions” disturbs me. An act is not defined by its intentions, but by its nature.

  1. October 8, 2019

    […] Their anger was directed at the presentation of an indigenous wooden sculpture of a pregnant woman, which they interpreted as a pagan fertility idol rather than an image of the Virgin Mary. Some commentators, though, pointed out that the canon of Western art is filled with bare-breasted representations of the Virgin Mary. […]

  2. October 8, 2019

    […] Their anger was directed at the presentation of an indigenous wooden sculpture of a pregnant woman, which they interpreted as a pagan fertility idol rather than an image of the Virgin Mary. Some commentators, though, pointed out that the canon of Western art is filled with bare-breasted representations of the Virgin Mary. […]

  3. October 8, 2019

    […] Their anger was directed at the presentation of an indigenous wooden sculpture of a pregnant woman, which they interpreted as a pagan fertility idol rather than an image of the Virgin Mary. Some commentators, though, pointed out that the canon of Western art is filled with bare-breasted representations of the Virgin Mary. […]

  4. October 14, 2019

    […] 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 […]

  5. November 21, 2019

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

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