Divisions are growing over next month’s Amazon synod, with one cardinal warning of “a situation never before seen in the Church’s history”, and a prominent bishop describing the Amazon’s ecological crisis as “a true apocalypse”.
The synod’s theme is “new paths for the Church and for integral ecology”. In last week’s email interview with the Guardian, Bishop Erwin Kräutler said that he expected the synod to strongly denounce the exploitation of the rainforest.
What churchmen said
Cardinal Walter Brandmüller wrote to fellow cardinals saying that the synod’s instrumentum laboris (working document) included points which seemed contrary to “the authentic teaching of the Church”. It represented, he said, a “pantheistic idolatry of nature” which folds Catholicism into cults around “Mother Earth” – a phrase used several times in the document. Cardinal Raymond Burke echoed these remarks, saying that the instrumentum laboris contradicted Church teaching in ways that “portend an apostasy from the Catholic faith”.
Bishop Kräutler’s language was scarcely less dramatic: the recent fires in the Amazon “surpass anything you can imagine”, he said. The bishop blamed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s openness to companies who want to clear the rainforest.
What commentators said
Tom Kington of the Times said that the synod had “provoked the fiercest clash yet between the Pontiff and his conservative critics”. Kington quoted Brandmüller’s concerns that the instrumentum laboris seemed sympathetic to “dialogue with spirits”. He also noted widespread concerns that the synod would be a back-door way to introduce married priests.
The blog Rorate Caeli said that Cardinal Brandmüller’s record as a distinguished historian – he is former president of the Pontifical Commission for Historical Sciences – made the remarks about an unprecedented doctrinal crisis especially significant. “Many a traditionalist layman and a handful of clerics” have said this is the worst crisis in Church history. For such a figure to use this language “is entirely something else”.
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