The depth of ignorance among American Catholics concerning the Pan-Amazon Synod is frightening. Most Catholics do not know about or feel threatened by the proceedings that will take place in Rome on October 6–27. However, they should take notice because the effects of this meeting will not be limited to environmental issues. It will not deal only with the “people of the waters” as the Synod’s recently-released working document calls the residents of the Amazon basin.
Indeed, the Synod will be focused on a liberal—even radical—agenda. Those agenda points included married clergy, the eventual ordination of women and changing the Mass to reflect pagan ways. These subjects of concern are covered by other authors, most notably at Pan-Amazon Synod Watch. The purpose of this article is to ask two questions. Why is the environment being used to promote this agenda? Why is the focus of the Synod on the Amazon?
To answer these questions, there are three considerations.
First, the modern environmental movement is an ideological child of the turbulence of the late-sixties onward. Like all socialist-inspired movements, environmentalism leads to collectivism. There is a good reason for this. God made the Earth for everyone. Air and water are collective in the sense that no one presumes to own the air or the ocean. They are there for all to use and enjoy.
Thus, radical environmentalism exploits grains of truth like this to condemn all property. Like all fallacies, it mixes truths with error as a means of attracting people to adhere to it.
Secondly, the Earth is good. God Himself proclaimed it so at the beginning of the Book of Genesis. Those beauties are reflected in many passages of both the Old and New Testaments, as in Jesus’s discourse on the beauty of the lilies of the field in Saint Matthew’s Gospel. The natural processes were set up by God to sustain life and are therefore necessary and good. Interrupting those processes can endanger life itself.
Finally, the first phases of industrialization despoiled the environment wherever it manifested itself. From 1750 to 1950, the needs of industry usually came before the preservation of nature. Many scars of this period are still left on the Earth and bear out this depredation.
Radical environmentalism draws sympathy from these three considerations to promote their cause. The left exploits these sympathies even though socialist countries have horrific records of maintaining the environment—as seen at Chernobyl and in the air over Beijing. Marxist economic falsehoods, however, are mixed quite liberally with these considerations, deceiving many who should know better.
The Nature of the Amazon
In answer to the second question, environmentalists have focused on the Amazon for decades. It is a massive region—four times the size of Alaska. Most Europeans and North Americans know little about the region as it is shrouded in mystery. Thus, falsehoods about the Amazon favoring environmentalism are very difficult to challenge.
The left also takes advantage of the divided control of the region. The Amazon basin is so large that it is spread out among eight different sovereign nations. Many of these nations fear economic and political pressure to conform to the ecological agenda that would endanger their sovereignty. Brazil is particularly vulnerable since most of the river is found inside its borders. Its newly-inaugurated president reportedly fears that some non-governmental organization will end up controlling a large part of his country’s lands under the mandate of the United Nations with the Church’s blessing.
Another advantage of focusing on the Amazon basin is that most deliberations about its future are being held far from the area. The coming Pan-Amazon Synod, for example, will be held in Rome in October. Thus, most Amazonian people will unlikely be in Rome to discuss their future. Environmental organizations can fly in pre-selected “leaders” to support the eco-friendly conclusions of the Synod. The distance ensures that mobs of indigenous Amazonians will not be protesting the eco-imperialist takeover of their region.
Attitudes Within the Official Church
The Amazon region is also a focal point because it is largely Catholic. Pope Francis comes from the continent and often addresses ecological themes. The Catholic left exploits the Church’s significant role in the colonization and development of South America. On the one hand, it uses the strong Catholic influence to diffuse its message. At the same time, it condemns the civilizing role of the Church among the Indian tribes. Indeed, the Synod’s working document is excessive in its apologies for the Church work of colonization and catechizing.
The eco-struggle against modern development also fits well with South America’s followers of liberation theology. The work of left-leaning scholars such as Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru, Leonardo Boff of Brazil, and Juan Luis Segundo of Uruguay can be easily adapted from class struggle to an ecological struggle against oppressive modern development.
Ignorance and Indifference
Thus, environmentalism and the Amazon provide two very important targets that the Catholic left is using to promote its agenda. Unfortunately, the ignorance and the indifference of so many Europeans and North Americans facilitate the efforts of those who want to use the Amazon as their testing ground for religious radicalism. Catholics everywhere need to understand that the conclusion of the Synod can easily appear at a parish near them.