On the Eve of the Amazon Synod

As leaders of the Catholic Church prepare to open the Amazon Synod on Sunday, the fundamental question to ask is whether the focus will be on the Amazon basin or on its inhabitants—on the ecological health of Amazonia or on the spiritual welfare of the people who live there.

The official topic of the event—“Amazonia: new ways for the Church and for an integral ecology”—does not answer this question. Will the synod fathers suggest that the Church should change her ways for the sake of environmental goals? Or will they insist that an “integral” ecology includes a spiritual dimension—that mankind cannot find salvation while ignoring what Thomas Jefferson termed “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”?

For that matter, will the synod’s discussions address the topic of salvation? The word “salvation” occurs just five times in the instrumentum laboris, the working document that forms the basis for the synod’s deliberations. The word “ecology,” on the other hand, appears 24 times, and “environment” (or “environmental”) appears 27 times. The name of Jesus, proclaimed by Catholics as the unique means of salvation, is mentioned a comparatively modest 23 times.

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