ROME — The former chief of the Vatican’s doctrinal office said Thursday that Amazonian ‘idols’ depicting a naked pregnant woman should never have been placed in a Catholic church.
The ambiguous wooden figurines, described variously as representing fertility statues, the Incan goddess Pachamama, Mother Earth, and “Our Lady of the Amazon,” were presented to Pope Francis at a prayer ceremony in the Vatican gardens in early October and subsequently transferred to a nearby church, Santa Maria in Traspontina.
Early Monday morning, two unidentified men removed the four statuettes from the church and proceeded to march them to the nearby Tiber River, where they were unceremoniously tossed off a bridge into the water.
An online video of the expulsion of the figurines from the church quickly went viral while the Vatican’s communications director Paolo Ruffini downplayed the incident as a “stunt.”
Speaking with host Raymond Arroyo on EWTN Catholic television Thursday, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former Vatican doctrinal czar, said that the crime here was not removing the idols from the church, but allowing them in the first place.
“The great mistake was to bring the idols into the church, not to put them out. Because according to the law of God himself, his first commandment, idolatry is a grave sin. And not to mix them with the Christian liturgy,” Cardinal Müller said.
“So putting them out can be against human law, but to bring the idols into the church was a grave sin, was a crime, against the divine law. There is a deep difference,” he added.
“And so it is worse to bring those into the church, not to take them out,” he concluded.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis told crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square that Christianity is a big tent that welcomes everyone, including pagans, but insists that they “reject idolatry and all its expressions” as a condition for following Christ.
The first Christians, Francis said, came to the conclusion that new Christian converts from paganism would not be obliged to follow all the prescriptions of the Mosaic law but “only to reject idolatry and all its expressions.”
The Synod of Bishops for the Amazon region, which has debated such topics as ecological conversion, indigenous spirituality, the ordination of married men to combat the priest shortage, and the ordination of women as deacons, began on October 6 and is scheduled to conclude this Sunday.