daily biblical sermons

The pagan idolatry that took place during the Vatican Amazon synod is a scandal to all Christian people
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, 32nd Week of the Year, November 11, 2019
Wisdom 1:1-7, Psalm 138, Luke 17:1-6


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“Temptations to sin [literally scandals, skandala] are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:1-2).



Scandals are most harmful, especially to new Christians. “Men will judge the gospel by what they see – far more than by what they hear. If they see the Christian contradicting by his practice, what he professes to believe – then they are justly stumbled and offended” (JC Ryle, 1816-1900).



The scandal caused by the abuse crisis has greatly harmed the Church. But we have in horror witnessed with our own eyes on television or on our computers another scandal in the heart of the Church, and in the Vatican itself, both in the Vatican garden in the presence of the pope and several cardinals and bishops as well as in St. Peter’s Basilica at Mass and in the synod hall during the Amazon synod. What scandal was this? It is the scandal of open pagan idolatry, bowing down and worshiping idols and false gods in the presence of the pope, bishops, and cardinals in the Vatican garden in a ceremony in which about ten indigenous people from the Amazon formed a circle and bowed down with their foreheads to the ground in adoration and worship of two idols of naked pregnant women. These same idols were carried into St. Peter’s Basilica at the closing procession of the Mass and were placed each day in a Carmelite Catholic Church just outside the Vatican. The pope himself calls these statues Pachamamas, which are statues of a goddess representing Mother Earth whom indigenous non-Christian peoples in the Amazon region worship.



Next, the world was treated to a great and most unexpected surprise, for early in the morning of October 21 several young men videotaped themselves going into this Carmelite Church, seizing these idols, carrying them out to a bridge, and casting them into the Tiber River! The Internet that day went wild with reactions to this startling event, a great deal of which was filled with admiration and praise for the courage, faith, and praiseworthy action of these young men who risked their futures by doing what Jesus did in cleansing the temple, what Moses did in destroying the Golden Calf that the people were worshiping, and what St. Boniface did in chopping down the sacred tree worshiped by the pagan Germans in the eighth century.



Then some days later the young man who performed this brave deed revealed himself on YouTube, explaining why he did what he did. He is a 26-year-old man from Austria who says he did what he did because this was an egregious violation of the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me … You shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exodus 20:3, 5).



Then to our great surprise and shock Pope Francis actually apologized for what this brave young man did saying, “As bishop of this diocese, I ask forgiveness from those who have been offended by this gesture [of casting the idols into the Tiber River].” And the official Vatican spokesman called what these young men did “acts of religious and cultural intolerance and theft” (see Bishop Schneider’s “Open Letter on the Amazon Synod”).



Then, to our further great surprise, some days later the pope announced that the police have recovered the idols and that they may be used in the final procession of the Mass closing the Amazon synod.



I wonder whether most people were more scandalized by the indigenous people bowing down before these idols in the Vatican garden or by the pope’s reaction to it in apologizing for the courageous deed of the brave young man who seized these idols and cast them into the Tiber River. Many Christians were scratching their heads, from what I have seen on the Internet, in hearing these statements of the pope. One would think that such an action would have been praised and applauded by him, rather than apologized for.



But the apology is understandable since on February 5, 2019 Pope Francis signed the Abu Dhabi statement claiming that “the pluralism and diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.” The truth is that this is a false statement. God did not positively will the existence of false religions serving false gods. God’s will is clearly stated in the first commandment, that it is wrong to make idols and bow down to them in worship as though they were gods. Therefore it is false to say that as God wills the diversity of sex so also he wills the pluralism and diversity of religions, that he wills that people worship false gods and idols. His first commandment makes God’s will on this matter abundantly clear.



But if you wrongly believe that God wills false gods to be made and worshiped, then it is perfectly consistent with this false belief to have such worship take place in the Vatican garden in your presence. This is obviously an error that cries out to heaven for correction.



This correction was made on May 31, 2019 in “The declaration of the truths relating to some of the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time” signed by Cardinal Raymond Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider. In this document they say, “The religion born of faith in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God and the only Savior of humankind, is the only religion positively willed by God. The opinion is, therefore, wrong that says that just as God positively wills the diversity of the male and female sexes and the diversity of nations, so in the same way he also wills the diversity of religions” (# 9). The statement also says, “Spiritualities and religions that promote any kind of idolatry or pantheism cannot be considered either as ‘seeds’ or as ‘fruits’ of the Divine Word, since they are deceptions that preclude evangelization and eternal salvation of their adherents” (# 6).



Bishop Athanasius Schneider, then, the day before the final Mass closing the Amazon synod released an “Open Letter on the Amazon Synod” in which he condemned in the strongest possible terms the scandalous idolatry that took place in the Vatican during this synod, saying, “Catholics cannot accept any pagan worship, nor any syncretism between pagan beliefs and practices of those of the Catholic Church … Bowing to the ground and dancing before and unclothed female statue, which represents neither Our Lady nor a canonized saint of the Church, violates the first Commandment of God.” The bishop then goes on to say, “Amid the consternation and shock over the abomination perpetrated by the syncretistic religious acts in the Vatican, the entire Church and the world has witnessed a highly meritorious, courageous and praiseworthy act of some brave Christian gentlemen, who on October 21 expelled the wooden idolatrous statues from the Church of Santa Maria in Transpontina in Rome, and threw them into the Tiber.”



“The gestures of these Christian men will be recorded in the annals of Church history as a heroic act which brought glory to the Christian name, while the acts of high-ranking churchmen, on the contrary, who defiled the Christian name in Rome, will go down in history as cowardly and treacherous acts of ambiguity and syncretism.” He then concludes by saying, “The honest and Christian reaction to the dance around the Pachamamas, the new Golden Calf, and the Vatican should consist in a dignified protest, a correction of this error, and above all in acts of reparation.”



(The bibliographical references to the matters and documents mentioned in this sermon can be easily found by googling Pachamama and the various decrees mentioned.)


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