Rorate Caeli

Op-ed: "Was a demon enthroned at the Amazon Synod?"

 Rev. Deacon Nick Donnelly

During the first press conference of the Amazonian synod Bishop David Martínez De Aguirre Guinea, O.P., one of the special secretaries appointed by Francis, gave a response that lends weight to reports that the shamanistic ritual conducted in the Vatican Gardens was, indeed, the worship of the pagan idol, Pachamama. Bishop Martínez said:

"Those who used this symbol wished it to reflect fertility, to women, to life, the life present among the Amazonian people and Amazonia as an entity full of life. I don’t think we need to make connections with the Virgin Mary or with a pagan element."

While Bishop Martínez makes it clear that it was not the Virgin Mary, (as had been suggested), his denial that the statues of the pregnant, naked women bearing tribal markings are connected with paganism doesn’t make sense. A shaman priestess led a circle of people in prostrating themselves numerous times in homage before these idols. Getty Images’s official press photograph of the ritual, included the caption: ‘Pope Francis and Cardinal Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo, President of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), stand in front of a statue representing Pachamama (Mother Earth)’. Pachamama is worshiped in Latin America as a ‘goddess’ of fertility, life and the harvest, originating in Inca mythology with its bloody history of human sacrifice, especially of young children. 

In the past, Catholics would have had no difficulty recognising Pachamama as a demon. However now, not only was the Pachamama idol used in the context of a non-Christian ritual conducted in the Vatican, but it was also venerated in the sacred precincts of St. Peter’s Basilica in front of the Tomb of St. Peter. Furthermore, Francis greeted two bishops carrying the Pachamama idol on their shoulders processing it into the Synod Hall where it was set in a place of honour. Pachamama idols are also on display in the Cardinal Ouellet’s  titular church, Santa Maria in Traspontina, along with a poster displaying photographs of an indigenous woman breast-feeding an animal. 

As Catholics we are faced with an appalling question, has a demon, intentionally due to wickedness, or unintentionally due to culpable ignorance, been enthroned at the Amazonian synod?

The Christian horror of idolatry 

St. Paul is clear that idols are demonic representations, to which the devil and demons are attached:

"Therefore, my beloved, shun the worship of idols…What pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" (I Cor 10: 14, 20-22.)

St. Paul spells out the horror of Christians participating in the worship of demons — it creates an unholy communion between those who worship idols and the associated demon. He is clear that those who are joined to demons cannot remain in communion with Christ, and that they exclude themselves from the Eucharist. They excommunicate themselves.

Tertullian states that idols are the ‘property of demons’ and that the admission of the makers of idols into the Church, and even ministry, is a cause of great grief to the faithful:

"Bewailing that a Christian should come from idols into the Church; should come from an adversary workshop into the house of God; should raise to God the Father hands which are the mothers of idols; should pray to God with the hands which, out of doors, are prayed to in opposition to God; should apply to the Lord's body those hands which confer bodies on demons. Nor is this sufficient. Grant that it be a small matter, if from other hands they receive what they contaminate; but even those very hands deliver to others what they have contaminated." (Tertullian, On Idolatry)

Those who have made idols, or received from idol-makers, are contaminated by the unholiness of the associated demons and they contaminate all who they come into contact. Tertullian saw idolatry as a contagion spread by those who give honour and service to demons.

Leaving aside the worship of idols, Pope St. Gregory harshly condemned bishops assuming a receptive attitude towards pagan cultures. When informed that Bishop Desiderius was giving lectures on pagan poets he wrote a letter expressing his horror:

"This thing we took so much amiss, and so strongly disapproved it, that we changed what had been said before into groaning and sadness, since the praises of Christ cannot find room in one mouth with the praises of Jupiter. And consider yourself what a grave and heinous offence it is for bishops to sing what is not becoming even for a religious layman."

Surrounded by the ruins of the pagan culture of Imperial Rome, Pope St. Gregory knew well that the presence of demons, in the guise of idols, contaminated the entire culture. Those contaminated by praising idolatrous cultures incapacitate their own ability to truly praise our Lord. 

St. Thomas Aquinas examined what causes people to worship idols in the first place. Fr. Delaporte provides a summary of Aquinas’s teaching as follows:

"Man might be in part the cause of idolatry, by the disorder of his affections, by the pleasure he found in symbolical representations, and by his ignorance. But the fundamental cause (consummativa) must be sought in devils, who cause men to adore them under the form of idols, therein working certain things which excited their wonder and admiration." (Summary of ST II, 94 in Fr. Delaporte. The Devil: does he exist and what does he do?)

Whenever we see individuals excited by, and expressing admiration of, idol worship we know that they are directly under the influence of demons and are acting in a way totally antithetical to the worship of God.

And in our own day, Fr Jeremy Davies, the renowned exorcist and co-founder with Fr Gabriele Amorth of the International Association of Exorcists, warns that all natural religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism and Animism, have a demonic influence on adherents and participants because they involve sins which have a special affinity with the devil:

"The Church has always recognised that there is a good side to these pagan religions but that there is also an idolatrous demonic side (I Cor 10:14-22; 2 Cor 6:14-18) — for they are simply the kind of religion that fallen man naturally makes for himself, but they make claims to teach the way to God."(Fr. Jeremy Davies, Exorcism: Understanding exorcism in scripture and practise.) 

The contagion of idol worship

From the above we can conclude, that those who participated in the shamanistic worship of the demon Pachamama in the Vatican have, to varying degrees, been in contact with the demonic. If they were excited and enjoyed the rituals and processions associated with Pachamama we can assume that they are under the influence of demons. Demonic contamination and influence may well impair, or even incapacitate, their ability to offer worthy praise to Jesus through prayer, liturgy and teaching. In the worst cases, those who have knowingly participated in demonic worship may have excommunicated themselves. 

All those who participated in the Pachamama rituals are a danger to others in the Church because they will spread the contagion of idol worship. It is likely that some synod fathers will even further extoll and disseminate the demonic nature religions of the Amazon.  The fact that the Pachamama idol was processed into the Synod Hall is a grave cause for concern because it places a demon at the heart of the Amazonian synod’s deliberations. The danger is that many evils may be introduced into the Church that will have the devil as their author. In response to this sacrilegious insult to God and this mortal peril to souls we should pray:

Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux
Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux
Vade Retro Satana
Nunquam Suade Mihi Vana
Sunt Mala Quae Libas
Ipse Venena Biba! Amen.

May the Holy Cross be my light
Let not the dragon be my guide
Begone Satan
Never tempt me with your vanities
All that pours from you is evil.
Drink your own poison. Amen.