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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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The Pachamama Crusaders

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The now famous or infamous online video of the young Austrian men (led by Alexander Tschugguel) throwing the “pachamama” idols into the river may be an action that subsequently speaks louder than the entire official synod on the Amazon. Many of us who earnestly seek to be orthodox in faith and worship could not help but to respond favorably: “Good work boys!” We venerate statues of holy persons, but we do not worship them. These monstrosities crossed the line. Those who allowed false worship and idolatry in the Vatican should race to confession and beseech the mercy of Christ. Critics have been severe in their judgment: “Those who defended their inclusion must be morally and spiritually sick.”

While it was explained to him that they were “signs of fertility, of Mother Earth, and integral ecology,” Alexander Tschugguel saw the idols for what they were, a violation of the first commandment. The Holy Father explained that no idolatry was intended and he apologized to those offended by what the boys did. The first part of the Decalogue is clear:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exodus 20:2-5; cf. Deuteronomy 5:6-9).

What many of us would consider witchcraft in the Vatican Gardens included a ritual dance around a blanket on the grass upon which were two idols of a naked woman, apparently a pagan goddess. Next to them was a statue of a man with an erection. A female shaman, wearing a feathered headdress, lifted up her hands for an invocation. Her sixteen concelebrants knelt and bowed to the idols that rested upon the blanket.

When the idol was presented to the pope, he crossed himself. The shaman shook her rattle around those assembled. The syncretism of pagan and Christian elements was clear. Although a few churchmen suggested that the idols were depictions of Our Lady of the Amazon (which looks totally different), Fr. Giacomo Costa, an official with the Amazon synod, explained that the wooden depictions of a nude pregnant woman were not of the Virgin Mary, but were figures symbolic of life. Nevertheless, in truth the “pachamama” was reckoned as much more, as Mother Earth or literally “World Mother.”

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Idolatrous intent or not, these are idols and false worship was permitted (there is video proof). This ranks with the biblical scene where the Almighty tells Moses that his people have corrupted themselves.

“They have quickly turned aside from the way I commanded them, making for themselves a molten calf and bowing down to it, sacrificing to it. . . .”

Although made of wood, the “Pachamama” idols signify the worship of a fertility goddess of the earth. This new “golden calf” had no business within the church dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. Infuriated by the idolatry, a couple of young Austrian men took the idols from the church where they were on display and threw them into the Tiber River. The images were recovered later and the Pope apologized for what the boys did. I think bishops and priests in leadership need to apologize to the Church and to God. Are we more concerned about not hurting feelings or about saving souls? We should thank the boys for reminding everyone that our focus is on Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The passive toleration and extolling of false pagan worship is a sin. My only complaint with the boys is that the figures should have been physically destroyed before being discarded into the Tiber. Were the boys criminals? I would argue that they answered to a higher law. As with the Arian crisis, if the bishops should fall into heresy or fail to act, there is a faithful remnant that will uphold the true faith.

The statues were recovered but not exhibited during the closing Mass of the synod.