One after another, over three days, three more cardinals – like the Germans Walter Brandmüller and Gerhard Müller before them – have aimed severe criticisms at the “Instrumentum Laboris,” the base document of the upcoming synod on the Amazon, as well as at the general state of confusion into which they see the Church plunging.
The first is Cardinal Robert Sarah, Guinean, prefect of the congregation for divine worship, in an interview with Edward Pentin for the “National Catholic Register” of September 23:
The second is Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, American, former president of the supreme tribunal of the apostolic signatura, in a statement signed together with Kazakh bishop Athanasius Schneider, made public September 24:
The third is Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, Venezuelan, archbishop emeritus of Caracas, in an interview with Inés San Martin for “Crux” of September 25:
> Venezuelan cardinal: Synod document strong on ecology, weak on ecclesiology
Of the three, Sarah is the only one who will take part in the synod, and his words in this regard are reproduced in their entirety further below.
As for Burke, this is how his statement begins:
“No honest person can anymore deny the almost general doctrinal confusion which is reigning in the life of the Church in our days. This is particularly due to ambiguities regarding the indissolubility of marriage, which is being relativized through the practice of the admittance of persons cohabiting in irregular unions to Holy Communion, due to the increasing approval of homosexual acts, which are intrinsically contrary to nature and contrary to the revealed will of God, due to errors regarding the uniqueness of the Our Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive work, which is being relativized through erroneous affirmations on the diversity of religions, and especially due to the recognition of diverse forms of paganism and their ritual practices through the ‘Instrumentum Laboris’ for the coming Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon.”
Burke continues by claiming – with examples taken from Church history – not only the right but also the duty to speak openly in defense of true doctrine, even by calling the pope back to his task of “confirming the faith,” as requested by Francis himself, who is remembered for these words he spoke at a previous synod, in 2014:
“One general and basic condition is this: speaking honestly. Let no one say: ‘I cannot say this, they will think this or this of me…’. It is necessary to say with parrhesia all that one feels… A Cardinal wrote to me, saying: what a shame that several Cardinals did not have the courage to say certain things out of respect for the Pope, perhaps believing that the Pope might think something else. This is not good, this is not synodality, because it is necessary to say all that, in the Lord, one feels the need to say: without polite deference, without hesitation.”
Finally, as for Urosa Savino, he says that the Church does well to promote an “integral ecology” for the Amazon, but the preparatory document for the synod says too little about “the main work of the Church [which] is evangelization, bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, to all populations,” including the urban populations of the Amazon, not only the indigenous dispersed in the forests.
“These people require a direct, explicit, open evangelization of Jesus Christ.” Urosa Savino continues. But this is “little touched” in the document, which “presents an almost idyllic Amazonian population, the perfect man, the noble savage of Jean-Jacques Rousseau,” when instead these are “normal people with the same problems, virtues and defects as all people in the whole world,” and “to them too we have to bring the Gospel.”
“The text ,” the cardinal goes on to say, “talks a lot about accompanying, following, understanding and dialoguing with, but little about the need to announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that, in some ways, explains the reality of the growth of the Pentecostal and Evangelical churches in the region, while the Catholic faith in the Amazon is not growing with the same force.”
And for this lack of growth – Urosa Savino continues, alluding to the request to ordain married men – “the cause is not in the shortage of priests.” He recalls that between the 1800’s and 1900’s much of Venezuela suffered a grave scarcity of priests, and yet “the faith was lived and maintained. It is not just a matter of receiving or not receiving the sacraments, but of the experience of the faith that was had, that arrived through the catechists to the families, that communicated them to their children.”