Vatican Corner 09-29-2019

The Amazonian synod entitled “New paths for the Church and for an integral ecology”, is the name of the upcoming meeting of bishops that is to be held at the Vatican from October 6th through 27th, 2019. The gigantic 2,700,000 square miles Amazon rainforest contains portions of nine South America countries and is the home of the largest collection of different living animal and plant species in the world. It is estimated that 17th of the rainforest has already been destroyed through deforestation and pollution, which has harmed the native peoples and caused the loss of species. Scientist fear that the release of the carbon within the Amazon’s vegetation is accelerating global warming. This synod has been said to be an effort to implement the ideas in Pope Francis’ encyclical letter ’Laudato Si’ – On Care For Our Common Home. In that encyclical Francis has observed the “gross inequity and cruel marginalization” caused by financial and consumerist greed and has called “for a new attitude toward nature and the social environment. In addition to environmental issues, some other Amazonian problems to be discussed are: the privatization of the natural resources, child labor, human trafficking, Pentecostalism overtaking Catholicism , and the dwindling number of Catholic priests and Catholic religious personnel in the region. One solution proposed for that problem to be discussed is the topic of ordaining married men. Because of the remoteness of some Amazon villages they almost never see a priest. Ordained older married men could make it possible for Catholics in remote areas to receive the sacraments. Another loaded topic to be discussed is “incultruation,” which asks how the Gospel can be expressed in diverse cultural settings. These last two issues could turn the synod into the next battle ground between the conservative and the progressive Catholic clergy. Synods are supposed to be just the discussions of subjects, they do not bind the Pope, or instruct him, they just offer advice which he then reviews and may adopt. But lately synods have become not an exchange of ideas, but a battle for the Pope’s endorsement. Some progressives have cast this synod as a new beginning for the Church, after which, “nothing will be the same.” Conservatives have already cried that the possibility of married priests in the Amazon region will lead to widespread adoption of the practice, and the loss of the custom of clerical celibacy. Heated rhetoric has already begun to fly. Hopefully the synod will have conversation rather than conflict. The Amazon region is huge and its problems are immense, but if the Church leaders and the people of the world don’t walk with the people of the Amazon and bring some solutions and leadership to help them and their region, and there is no course correction, the loss of the Amazon will affect the entire planet and everyone.