Who’s Your mama? Not Pachamama.

The veneration of Pachamama at the Vatican has been stewing for a while and this is an issue that needs to be examined and addressed. There are two basic positions to take. 

1 – Pachamama is nothing more than a face of the Virgin Mary, much like the Lady of Guadalupe. 

2 – Pachamama is a pagan deity. 

Between these two extremes are a vast array of positions that we could consider moderate interpretations or compromises, but let’s not play that game. Sometimes you have to throw out the grays and look at the black and white of an issue.  

This is really one of those times. 

In case you have been living under a rock, here is the story. During a synod, pagan statues of the Andean goddess Pachamama were used in a ritual in one of the Vatican gardens in the beginning of October. One of these idols was carried ceremoniously into the synod hall, again with a pagan ritual. 

Some Catholics find this to be an issue.  The Vatican didn’t help with a series of contradictory responses. At one point the statues were the representation of “Our Lady of the Amazon”. In others, they were referred to directly as “Pachamama” and “Mother Earth”. Some Vatican officials asserted that they were merely cultural artwork that represented and symbolized ‘life’ and had no religious significance. Paolo Ruffini, the Vatican head of Communications stated “…it represents life. And enough. I belief to try and see pagan symbols or to see…evil, it is not…it represents life through a woman.” 

The Pope himself has identified them as Pachamamas on more than one occasion, but then asserted that they were merely symbolic representations of earth. Essentially decoration and a means of showcasing indigenous art. When they were thrown in the Tiber, Pope Francis was quick to excoriate those who did it, begging forgiveness to those people who were offended. He also emphatically stated that they were displayed with ‘’no idolatrous purpose.” 

Hello – what is this, then? 

This doesn’t look at all Catholic….

This is veneration. This isn’t paying respect to another culture. This isn’t appreciating art. This is idolatry.

Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.

Exodus 20:3

We have a large number of people – many of them Catholic – violating the First Commandment. The big one. In the heart of the Vatican. This is a problem.

Am I being a little disingenuous? Could Pachamama be a manifestation of Mary? After all, I am not an expert in the religions and folklore of South America. I am not an ethnologist or anthropologist or even a folklorist. But I AM a historian, so I know how to search.  So I did a bit of digging and not even ten minutes in, I find this gem. These passages are available from Google Books. Pachamama Tales: Folklore from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, pages xiv-xv 

“According to South American indigenous traditions, Pachamama is earth as a mother. Mother Earth. She is the mother of the mountains, of life that is born and grows, of all people. It is because of her that fruit ripens, animals multiply, and women have babies. It is she who controls frosts and rains.  If she gets angry, she sends thunder and storms. She is also the one who helps weavers and potters finish their handicrafts. She lives in the mountains and guards the riches of mines. 

In August, Pachamama opens her entrails to make the seeds grow with the love of Pachamama, the sun. During the time of this sacred union, people to care of their actions, their desires, their thoughts, and their emotions so nothing interferes or impedes their gods’ happiness” 

And … 

“Pachamama’s temple is all nature but the veneration is through the apachetas, cairns of piled stones, one over the other forming a pyramid. “ 

Pachamama is not only a pagan goddess, she is a pretty heavy hitter. I may have more in common with the Virgin Mary than Pachamama – at least we both love and revere her Son. We don’t worship Mary (sorry Jack Chick fans), nor do we raise her as an idol. Going back to Deuteronomy…

Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any things, that are in heaven above, or that are in the earth beneath, or that abide in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, and thou shalt not serve them. For I am the Lord thy God, a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon their children unto the third and fourth generation, to them that hate me, 1And shewing mercy unto many thousands, to them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:1-5

Some people have compared this deity as an aspect like the Lady of Guadalupe. Frankly, I find that to be insulting. There are those who claim that the Lady of Guadalupe was a hijacked Aztec goddess, Tonantzin. This deity was – not surprisingly – an earth goddess as well. It seems that the idolaters  of today lack imagination. There are accounts that the Apparition appeared on a hill that once housed the temple of this Tonantzin and that Juan Diego was there to worship her.

Even if this is true, Paul was riding to hunt out and arrest Christians when he was converted. Countless pagans were converted, some by miraculous means such as Constantine, others by more mundane measures. Certainly, the Tilma is a relic that has brought countless people to the Church.

But it was never worshiped as a pagan goddess.

Brothers and sisters, this is flat out wrong. This is a scandal in the bosom of the Church and it needs to be addressed. A recent article in the National Catholic Register reports that at least four priests – fittingly enough Exorcists – are taking steps. They are calling for a day of prayer and fasting on December 6th. You can read the article here. The Citizen will be participating and I hope you will as well.

Sadly, that is about all we can do. Pray. The Vatican is not accepting culpability for this grievous lack in judgment. It is clear that the organizers were either duped or had malicious intent. I am once again saddened that Pope Francis is not showing leadership and stewardship and admitting he let his political and social agenda take precedence over his responsibilities as the Successor to the throne of Peter.

So, pray, folks. And don’t wait until the 6th. Start praying now. I recommend the Saint Michael’s Chaplet – if ever there was a time we needed defense against the oppression of evil, it is now.

God bless and keep you all.