Tourists in Rome are long familiar with the image of Romulus and Remus suckling the teats of a wolf. But this week visitors to the Pan-Amazon Synod encountered a new image: an Amazonian mother suckling a dog. That picture hangs in a church next to the Vatican: Santa Maria in Traspontina. I wandered into it the other day and was struck by the jarring contrast between its stunning Baroque interior and the bonkers propaganda plastered on and near its walls. Much of the church had been turned into a shrine to the plight and nature-worship of Amazonians. Beneath the picture of the woman nursing a dog (while carrying a baby), a poster declares fatuously, “Everything is Connected.”
The poster captures the sheer obnoxiousness of the pope’s “ecological” kick. What a dismal devolution Rome has suffered under him. What will he do next? Turn the Pantheon back into a pagan temple? Why not? If Amazonian pantheism is a “religious experience” worthy of Catholic respect, why not revive ancient paganism, too? Perhaps the pope’s next synod can rehabilitate Nero.
Stripped of all of its pious cant, the pope’s Pan-Amazon Synod is nothing more than a bald violation of the First Commandment. Pope Francis is placing strange idols before the Triune God — in this case, Amazonian ones. Last week, he had a contingent of Indian activists — some of whom I have heard were flown over to Rome first-class by the German bishops — perform pagan rituals in the Vatican gardens. In that moment, every prediction of his anti-modernist predecessors came true: they all said that if the Church adopted the subjectivism of the “Enlightenment,” it would end up blessing false religions.
But more is at work here than simply the pope’s usual religious relativism. Why did he select the Amazon as his pretext to undermine doctrine and discipline? He could have chosen other remote regions. Why that one? I am told by a seasoned Vatican observer that the answer lies with the German bishops, who are largely financing this farce and its accompanying propaganda.
“This is about bringing the Vatican and the United Nations closer together,” he says. “The German bishops don’t care about Amazonian Indians, and they certainly don’t care about people not receiving the sacraments. Just look at Germany and how few people even frequent the sacraments there. What the German bishops care about is that the Church is more and more incorporated into the work of the United Nations.” The subject of suffering Amazonians is just an excuse, he says, for the “United Nations to treat the Church as one of its instruments,” with the complete backing of the Vatican.
Before the synod started, the pope had been babbling on about the binding quality of UN pronouncements. It is no coincidence that his silly gathering is crawling with UN observers, such as Jeffrey Sachs, whose consulting racket includes trying to convince dioceses and religious orders to “divest from oil companies” and the like. I have seen a number of these UN creeps self-importantly jump out of gas-guzzling SUVs near the Vatican. They don’t appear too worried about their own carbon footprint. Indeed, they always seem to be accompanied by a raft of superfluous security guards and flaks.
The Vatican is looking awful these days — graffiti, ugly cattle barricades, and a paramilitary presence, as if it is waiting any moment for an outbreak of the kind of Islamic terrorism the pope assures us doesn’t exist. At times, I feel like I am in the middle of an Italian farce. The other day I was eating next to an African priest and nun who appeared to be on a date. Sure enough, her hand slid over to his hand.
Architecturally and artistically, Rome remains a treat. But religiously, it is depressing as hell. Just stand by one of the Vatican gates and watch priests whip off their collars the moment they step outside, as if the priesthood is nothing more than a 9-to-5 job. Or sit in a café and listen to their pathetically worldly banter.
The street Borgo Pio, not far from one of the Vatican’s gates, is where many of the ecclesiastical heavies hang out. Last Sunday I saw Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, and Bishop Robert McElroy eating dinner at one of the restaurants on the street. Here was my chance to ask them about the synod and related matters. As they ambled back to the Vatican, I caught up with them and tried to conduct a brief interview. They disdainfully begged off, with Tobin, who no doubt remembered my article about the soap actor living in his rectory, saying laughingly, “Oh, George, oh, George.” O’Malley called my questions “hostile.” McElroy, the most darkly ideological of the three, just broodingly and quietly walked away. For all their talk about “dialogue,” the last thing they wanted to do on the eve of the synod was to speak with a journalist critical of it. The synod is in effect a raised middle finger to orthodox Catholics — a declaration that everything they hold dear no longer exists at the highest levels of the Church.
The Vatican is under enemy occupation and will remain so for many years to come. There is much chatter among Vaticanistas about a “Francis II,” now that the composition of the next conclave is largely liberal. By the time his pontificate ends, Francis will likely have selected two-thirds of the cardinals. The current secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, is thought to be the leading Francis clone. I have been told that Pope Francis is waiting for Benedict to die so that he can “then pass the pontificate to Parolin.”
Parolin is just a circumspect version of Francis. He holds the same batty views but presents them more diplomatically. Here and there one hears grumbles about the pope’s bumptiousness, but for the most part the Catholic Left is thrilled with him. The mask of modernism has been ripped off, only to reveal, in the words of Francis, an “Amazonian face,” beneath which is a UN body.