By Desmond A. Birch
(Our friend of this site, Desmond, with his scholarly gifts and expertise has written a more in-depth look at the Pachamama incident, giving us historical understanding and insight as people have wondered how this could have happened. Too, in his expression of truth written in love, Desmond highlights wise spiritual counsel which will prove to be indispensable and fundamental in birthing a New Beginning in the Church and culture. ~BH)
The following is probably the last post of a series I began weeks ago on the Pachamama incident. I promised I would finish with an explanation of how men [and also women] could arrive at the point that they would NOT recognize the adoration of that pagan idol for what it is. Attending indigenous peoples from the Amazon are recorded on video as bowing down with their heads to the ground – before that carved wooden statue of a stark naked pregnant woman, before that idol.
It was the image of that scene which kept my mind (and those of numerous others) returning to the Pachamama incident in the Vatican Gardens, then inside St. Peter’s Basilica and next in a neighboring parish of the Basilica. So many Catholics have been disturbed by this, frankly, including me.
But what was it in particular which disturbed me so much in this incident that I almost couldn’t get it out of my head??? I’ve discovered it wasn’t just the video of people adoring the Pachamama pagan idol in the Vatican Gardens — by bowing their heads to the ground in front of it. It wasn’t even the presence of the Pope watching it while sitting in a nearby chair with a Cardinal sitting on either side of him. What was it which troubled me so much?
The ‘bother’ was caused by the patently erroneous excuses which were subsequently used in defense of the whole thing. In retrospect, I have discovered it is THAT which has bothered me more than anything else. There are two most central excuses. They are:
- The excuse that it wasn’t really a pagan idol – it was Our Lady of the Amazon [riiiiight … that is tantamount to claiming that Our Lady appears as a completely naked pregnant woman???] Do I look so stupid that someone would expect me to believe that one?
- Excuse #2 goes like this: Even if it was a pagan idol, that’s OK, because Cardinal Newman in his book, the ‘Development of Doctrine’, said that the Church has continually borrowed pagan imagery of local customs, Christianized them, and used them in the Church.
But the apologists don’t even try to give examples of the Church ever doing this with actual pagan idols – BECAUSE THEY CAN’T! Below I’ll offer you one example, I know well, of how the Church has historically utilized cultural symbols of pagan cultures.
Amongst the original people initially inhabiting the territory of modern Ukraine, the egg was a symbol of Sun worship:
“When Ukraine accepted Christianity in 988 A.D., the egg was adopted as a religious symbol of the Easter celebration. Not long after that, there are written references that show a well developed custom of decorating eggs with designs of Christian significance. That beautiful art of Pysanky tradition continues today, even among many who do not enjoy a Ukrainian heritage. Each egg which is decorated is recognition of the significance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on that first Easter morning.”
BUT HOW ON EARTH COULD THE CATHOLIC CHURCH EVER ‘CHRISTIANIZE’ A CARVED WOODEN STATUE OF A STARK NAKED PREGNANT WOMAN? That would be a horrible farce – and any rational Catholic should know it.
However, the apologists for the Pachamama pagan idol in the Vatican Precincts never admit or even address the point that while the Church Christianized some of the symbols from local pagan cultures – THE CHURCH NEVER DID THAT WITH PATENTLY PAGAN ‘IDOLS’. Why, because that is idolatry – so clearly defined in Scripture – as one of the worst sins which man is capable of committing. It’s a patent violation of the First Commandment. [Here in the USA, when some American politicians try to cover up something patently false with lame excuses, the common expression is it’s like ‘Putting lipstick on a pig’ – i.e., unsuccessfully trying to make something ugly look beautiful.]
Let’s think about the contradictions in what these apologists are saying. First, they shout, ‘It’s not a pagan idol.’ But most Catholic Christians’ common sense tells them that is an attempt to deny the obvious. Such attempts are an insult to the intelligence of any serious practicing Catholic.
Frankly, such attempts reminded me of Scripture’s descriptions of a time when people will claim that what is good is evil and that what is evil is good. But Scripture and Tradition tell us that many of the people who say such things will simply be terribly confused, rather than willfully being deceptive. Scripture also predicts there will be people who still see clearly the difference between what is good and what is evil. They will counter confused statements about what is good and what is evil with ‘The Emperor’s got no clothes on’ style arguments.
So, what has come out of all this in my understanding? Well my first reaction, when I saw the photos and videos of the Pachamama idolatry, was horror, then, rash judgment of the people who could see no evil there. Then after a little reflection, I realized I was engaging in the sin of rash judgment of all the Catholics who were trying to defend the Pachamama incident with patently fallacious arguments.
Subsequently, the lessons which the Church teaches me about this, which my father personally taught me, have been firmed up in my mind. And it really came home in the Gospel reading of this past Monday in the Second Week in Lent, I cite it below –the RSVCE edition of the Bible, Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition:
36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;
38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
That Monday morning, the priest noted in the homily that many people read such words and yet ‘do not see’ how they might apply to someone who thinks they are a good Catholic Christian. For people like you and me who can still clearly see and recognize evil objects as evil objects, the greatest danger then is the temptation to judge the hearts of those who cannot see such obvious things. That temptation will be to assume that there is no way that the confused and blind cannot see what we so clearly see. [BUT, THERE IS SUCH A WAY – WHICH I, BY GOD’S GRACE, PERSONALLY SURVIVED. I KNOW IT WELL AS WILL BE EXPLAINED BELOW.] There will be the temptation to assume that all those who cannot see what we see are lying or evil. Only God can read hearts. And if I so assume to judge someone, God will read that evil in my heart clearly.
I must reject every temptation to judge the hearts of others – for that is a sure way to lose my own salvation — unless I repent before I die. When such temptations come, I am to pray and remember Jesus’ instructions to forgive, love, and pray for my enemies and those who deny or cannot see Jesus’ teaching about not judging the hearts of others.
HOW MANY PEOPLE CAME TO BECOME CONFUSED ABOUT IDOLATRY?:
For those of you who have read ‘Trial, Tribulation & Triumph’, the idea that what you and I call pagan idols can be an accepted part of Christian liturgical practice began and developed in both Protestant and Catholic venues of Extreme Higher Criticism.
Extreme Higher Criticism [EHC] insisted on the empirical tradition founded by the Enlightenment philosophers, Locke and Hume, i.e., Only something which could be effectively physically measured could be considered as real. Ultimately, that school of thought led people to believe that the Bible could not be inspired by God, that miracles don’t really happen, that Christianity is just one of many religious movements – no better – no worse.
EHC began to have its effect inside Christianity in the late 1800’s – first within Protestantism – and then by the early 20th century had spread to a number of Catholic venues – particularly within the Jesuit Order.
Here is how it works. When I was in Catholic universities and colleges, any Catholic who enrolled in one of those Catholic educational institutions was required to take 2 years of philosophy and 2 years of theology. In those first two years, such Catholic students received a general background in those subjects. But those who were theology majors or minors would take another two years in theology. It was in the course of those two years that the major damage was done in ‘progressive’ Catholic colleges and universities.
It was there, in such progressive schools, that they were taught a more or less systematic EHC approach to theology. There, they were very very gradually taught that nothing is quite as black and white as they had been taught by their parents or parish priests. Essentially, they were taught that there are no absolutes. They were introduced to the idea that their extreme EHC profs were really vastly better educated than their parents or pastors back home – OR EVEN OTHER NON-EHC PROFS. There, they learned [just for a few instances]:
- That the old “Matthew, Mark, Luke & John” order of the Gospels is WRONG. Just because the Fathers and other early Christian writers virtually universally said that the Gospel of Matthew was the first one written, nope, they didn’t know what they were talking about. Then they broke it to us that there is a, so far, hidden document WHICH THEY CALL “Q” which was the basis or common traditional root of at least the three Synoptic Gospels. Now the simple fact that in more than a century they haven’t been able to find a copy of this theoretical document – has no effect on extreme higher critics. They no longer teach it as an unsubstantiated theory. THEY TEACH IT AS FACT.
- They teach from the ‘scripture scholar’, Raymond Brown, that there is actually a real question as to whether Jesus Christ ever understood that He was establishing 7 Sacraments. Naaaw, Jesus was just stumbling about in the intellectual dark, riiight? Despite the fact that the Church teaches that at the moment of His Incarnation, Jesus already knew the identity of everyone who would ever be a member of His Mystical Body, despite that fact, extreme higher critics keep putting out that Jesus really didn’t/couldn’t have fully understood His mission. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church still teaches that,
“474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal. What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.“
- Students of EHC profs were subtly taught that Christianity is just one of many religions which are part of God’s will for salvation, i.e. when Jesus taught that the only way to “the Father” was through Jesus, He really had to have been speaking allegorically. At least, He couldn’t have been saying that Christianity is any way uniquely qualified to lead people to their salvation, Period.
- They were taught that the Church’s teaching condemning contraception as gravely sinful is not based in Scripture, therefore, no Catholic is bound in conscience to obey it. [That is despite the fact that the historic record clearly demonstrates that the Church has, since Her infancy, condemned contraception as a grave sin virtually joined at the hip with those of both abortion and infanticide — such facts are irrelevant to Extreme Higher Critics. Why? Because most of them deny the role of Sacred Tradition in harness with Sacred Scripture – as taught by Vat. II.]
- They were and are taught by such critics that the Church has always utilized some symbols from pagan cultures. What they weren’t told in this regard is that such symbols have NEVER included pagan idols. The ones the Church used were always things such as the Ukrainian Easter Eggs covered above. And the Church always Christianized them by explaining how they are symbolic of events in the life of Jesus Christ.
THESE ARE JUST A HANDFUL OF SUCH EXAMPLES.
We must bear in mind that these things were and are not just sprung on theology students all of a sudden. [If they were, said students typically would, in many cases, have drawn back from them in alarm – and would begin to suspect there is something wrong with their teachers – instead of something wrong with the Traditional Doctrinal and Moral Teachings of the Church.]
Such students are, and were, slowly, insidiously, surreptitiously conditioned to accept the claims of Extreme Higher Criticism – based on the idea that they had and have been taught that such critics are way ahead of the learning of the men of the previous two thousand years of the Church. They are taught that the Tradition of the Church in this regard is not protected by the Holy Spirit [as Scripture is] no matter what the Vatican II Document, ‘Dei Verbum’, says to the contrary. ‘Dei Verbum’ clearly teaches that both Scripture and Tradition are protected by the Holy Spirit.
Most of us have heard the analogy of how to boil a frog. It is a fact that if you try to drop a frog into a pan of boiling water, his physical reactions are so lighting fast that he can leap out of the pan before he has been burned by the heat. But, if you really want to boil that frog, then you must put him into a pan of tepid water. There he will feel quite comfortable. If you then very slowly, very gradually raise the temperature of the water by one degree at a time, He will just sit there and enjoy the warmth – till the heat has sufficiently weakened him that he loses both the alarm and the ability to jump out. One of the nicknames of this indoctrination technique is called, ‘Patient Gradualism’.
The EHC’s have been intellectually boiling theology students for over a century now.
Yes, such [EHC’s] can be incredibly clever in their methods of indoctrination. How do I know? Because there were days I left class actually wondering if it was me or them who was crazy. Then I would go to my mentors, primarily two great old school faithful Jesuit profs, who would help me to sort out the truth. That went on for years.
So, given my experiences in this regard with my knowledge, how can I then judge the hearts of men [and some women] who were taken in by the arguments of Extreme Higher Critic profs??? I CAN’T.
No, only Jesus can judge hearts and intentions. That is what Jesus is telling me in the Our Father when He commands, ‘Judge not lest you be judged.’ What does He mean? He means that I can judge the acts of others as good or bad, moral or immoral. But I cannot judge their motives, cannot judge what is in their hearts — because only God knows their souls. I don’t. And if I intentionally judge their hearts, no matter what they say or do, I am allowing Satan and his minions to play me like a fiddle. THAT is one of the biggest arrows in Satan’s quiver to get me to separate myself from my own salvation. Given some current conditions, that can be a very big temptation.
To answer the 2nd question in the opening title to all of this, I am being led to think and act with true charity towards those whose acts I believe are gravely harming the Mystical Body of Christ. I am being led to forgive, love, and pray earnestly for each and all such men and women.
All my love in Christ