The question for today, after a whirlwind of Vatican news: When historians write about the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region, will they call it the “Amazonian” synod or the “Pachamama” synod?
While the synod handled complex issues of Catholic tradition (ordaining married men) and the theology of holy orders (women entering the modern diaconate), it also veered into ancient questions about Christians being tempted to worship other deities. At this point, Catholic progressives and conservatives were arguing about the first item in the Ten Commandments, as in: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
But what about other gods that are, to use a progressive term, in “dialogue” with the Holy Trinity?
Journalists became involved in this debate for a simple reason: Vatican press aides kept sending mixed signals about the role of Pachamama statues in some synod rites. Some mainstream news reports — we will look at The New York Times — declined to name the woman portrayed in these statues.
That’s an interesting editorial stance, in light of remarks by Pope Francis. Here are some key sections of a report in The Catholic Herald:
The statues, which were identical carved images of a naked pregnant Amazonian woman, had been displayed in the Carmelite church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, close to the Vatican, and used in several events, rituals, and expression of spirituality taking place during the October 6-27 Amazonian synod.
The pope said they had been displayed in the church “without idolatrous intentions,” according to a transcript provided by the Vatican press office. …
Let’s keep reading:
According to the transcript provided by the Vatican, the pope referred to the statues as “Pachamama,” the name traditionally given to an Andean fertility goddess, which can be roughly translated as “Mother Earth.”
While it is unclear whether he was using it colloquially, the pope’s use of the term “Pachamama” will likely further ongoing debate regarding the exact nature of the statutes, and what they represent.