My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Recently, I administered the sacrament of confirmation at a small parish church in our diocese that is very beautiful, except that the windows were covered with contact paper decorated with various patterns in pastel colors. I was told that the pastor in the 1970s had removed the stained-glass windows and smashed them to pieces. Thankfully, the current pastor hopes to raise funds to restore stained-glass windows to the church.
Unfortunately, it appears that the iconoclasts made their way into the Amazonian Synod in Rome, which concluded on Oct. 27, seeking to shatter some long-standing Catholic practices, such as priestly celibacy and the doctrine understood and accepted since the time of Christ about whom the church is authorized to admit to the sacrament of holy orders. Reports from the synod also indicate that the commitment to the evangelical goal of missionary activity as bringing people to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is being diminished or abandoned by some.
In this regard, Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, S.C., gave a homily on Mission Sunday, Oct. 20, in which he spoke about a very influential figure at the synod, Bishop Erwin Kräutler.
Erwin Kräutler was born in Austria and was ordained to the priesthood there in 1965, but he left home immediately for the missions in Brazil. In 1981, Kräutler was ordained a bishop and placed in charge of the Territorial Prefecture of Xingu. A territorial prefecture is a structure the church uses in places that have not yet been settled enough to be established as a diocese. The Prefecture of Xingu is named for the thousand-mile-long Xingu River, which is a tributary of the Amazon River.
While it might seem commendable that Bishop Kräutler left his native land to become a missionary in Brazil, Father Newman in his Mission Sunday homily related a very serious problem associated with Bishop Kräutler’s missionary activities, which he describes as follows:
“Bishop Kräutler, who has spent his entire ministry in Brazil promoting indigenous religions while opposing the construction of dams to generate electricity and the clearing of trees to make room for roads to connect that remote territory to the outside world, is also proud of the fact that in all his years as a missionary bishop he has never baptized an indigenous person. That’s right. A missionary bishop acknowledges never having baptized even one of the people to whom he was sent decades ago as a witness to the Incarnation, life and ministry, the crucifixion, death, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is indeed troubling that the man who helped write the working document that was the basis for discussion at the Amazonian Synod never made a single convert among the people with whom he worked as a missionary! That is certainly contrary to the understanding of the goal of missionary work as described by Pope St. John Paul II in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio on the permanent validity of the church’s missionary mandate and in the declaration Dominus Iesus published in 2000 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, on the essential and irreformable doctrine that Jesus Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life, and that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we are to be saved.
The Catholic scholar and author George Weigel, who wrote the biography of Pope St. John Paul II, attended the sessions of the Amazonian Synod and identified a number of crucial issues facing the church that are at stake in light of the synodal recommendations.
Here are some key passages of his critique, published in First Things: “At stake is the reality and binding authority of divine revelation as conveyed to us by Scripture and Tradition. Does revelation judge history —including this historical moment and its legitimate concerns about the environment — or does history judge revelation (and thus demand, for example, that 21st-century Catholicism jettison the biblical view of humanity’s unique, and uniquely responsible, position in the natural world)?
“At stake is the magisterium of Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI as the authentic interpretation of the Second Vatican Council—an interpretation that underwrites the vitality of the New Evangelization in the living parts of the world Church.
“At stake is the teaching of the 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor on the reality of intrinsically evil acts—actions that can never be justified by any calculus of intentions and consequences.
“At stake is the teaching of the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis on whom the Church is authorized to admit to Holy Orders.
“At stake is the teaching of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the declaration Dominus Iesus, on the unique role of Jesus Christ as Savior, a declaration that was personally affirmed by St. John Paul II during the Great Jubilee of 2000.
“At stake is the relationship of the universal Church to the local churches: Is Catholicism a federation of national or regional churches, or is Catholicism a universal Church with distinctive local expressions?
“At stake is the very nature of the Church: Is the Catholic Church a communion of disciples in mission, sacramentally constituted and hierarchically ordered, or is the Church to understand itself primarily by analogy to the world, as a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to good works in aid of the poor, the environment, migrants, etc.?
“At stake is the realization of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19–20: ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.’
“That is what is at stake.”
There is indeed much at stake. We must turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary for her intercession to keep the church true to its mission as established by Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
May God give us this grace. Amen.