Theological Inculturation

I know that church authorities gave Thomas Aquinas a hard time. At first. But it didn’t take long in the vast sweep of ecclesiastical history for the inculturation of a pagan Greek philosopher into Western theology.

It’s been amusing to read of the kerfuffle over some image which may or may not be Mary, a pagan idol, or the sign of the end times. Aristotle seems safer somehow: no breasts or pregnancy, no arboreal origin, easier to mansplain away. The Greeks were the fathers of the Romans, culturally. And all roads lead from Rome.

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Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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9 Responses to Theological Inculturation

  1. Brendan Kelleher svd says:

    A question, is it possible for the Church to be Catholic, focussing on the word “catholic” without being open to inculturation? From the time the writers of the New Testament began to write letters and later create the literary genre we call “gospels”, all of which were written in Greek inculturation has been part of the life of the Christian communion.
    This morning I ran a bible study group on John 7. As I struggled to unwrap the text, to explore its message in Japanese – Japanese is a language as far removed from the world of Greek thought as you can imagine – I was “inculturating” the Gospel. Did I betray the Gospel? Hopefully, I brought it closer to the world in which the group members lived. After some forty years it is getting easier. And as I’ve struggled over those years I’ve also learnt to listen to the Holy Spirit, who has often found the best, and hopefully right words.
    Every year I write one or two homilies, in Japanese, for the diocesan home-page, and the Bishop hasn’t called me out to question my orthodoxy, so the Holy Spirit is obviously watching over me.

  2. Hillary says:

    One really big difference: I’ve never seen viral video of where Catholics bowed down in bodily worship of a statue of Aristotle, and then moved him inside a chapel for continued veneration, for the explicit purpose of a synod of bishops to advise the pope. That kind of worship belongs to God alone. Not even the Virgin Mary. Certainly not Mother Earth or a fertility goddess or a philosopher.

  3. James says:

    I think there’s a bit of misinformation here as we know what the statue is since there is audio of the pope saying the statue is Pachamama, a pagan idol. The Vatican also denied it was the Virgin Mary. There are multiple videos of it being worshipped, incensed, etc that happened in Rome. Pope Francis said it was placed there “without idolatrous intentions”, meaning it appears it was worshiped. This is a pretty cut-and-dry case for it being a pagan idol (especially given the wikipedia page on Pachamama). No statue should be in a Church that is not holy or to be venerated (ie Crucifix, statues of saints, etc) – especially a pagan idol that is being worshipped.

    • Todd says:

      From my conversations with people of non-Christian religions, their symbols are not worshiped, just as our various symbols–statues, windows, rings, etc.– are not. A person actually worshiping an idol, or an image of a Christian saint, would have to be at a fairly primitive stage of understanding in the world. The few Wiccans I’ve conversed with would likely reject the notion of worshiping a physical object.

      If Catholics protest when we are accused of worshiping Mary or the saints, we likely should listen when others say they are not worshiping an idol.

      If you have a link from a reputable news source, I would like to see it. All I can find are the usual detraction suspects, and I don’t really care to wade into those waters. LifeSiteNews, American Conservative, Mr Voris, 1P5 are opinion sites at best, and not very good or well-researched opinions at that. I took my information from this source: which I found far more trustworthy.

      • James says:

        This video fairly cut and dry shows idolatrous worship going on here:

        Let the truth speak for itself. PF seems to not be so sure about the ring getting put on him and what not, hopefully this is a wake up call for him.


        Wikipedia states “The central ritual to Pachamama is the Challa or Pago (Payment). It is carried out during all of August, and in many places also on the first Friday of each month”. **Notice the ceremony took place on the first Friday of October.**

        Wikipedia states “Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth/time mother.[1] In Inca mythology, Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting…”
        **Notice a tree was planted during the ceremony and Pachamama the goddess was in the middle of the worship ceremony**

        Please don’t continue to attempt to hold the nonsense viewpoint in your above post as it has NO basis in reality after seeing the video and learning non-biased info about Pacahamama. I’ve never seen anyone bow down before Mary repeatedly. Catholics pray to Jesus through Mary at times and we venerate her. What you see here is simply idolatrous worship. They are worshipping a false god through a ritual pagan statue. Francis apologizes for those who were offended at the tossing of the golden calf into the Tiber. I ain’t no genius, but I also ain’t a moron.

      • Todd says:

        I don’t know that there’s a connection between western South America, where the Incas were, and the whole of the Amazon basin. Maybe there is, but historically, the Inca Empire is confined fairly far west. There are also multiple cultures, languages, and tribes throughout the Amazon. Do they all embrace the same pagan expressions? Again, I don’t know. Neither, it seems, do the detractors.

        Nice try with the video link, James. It is an excerpt of a much longer video on the link I provided from PrayTell. This has been cited elsewhere as verification that the image is Our Lady of the Amazon. There are vocal references to Jesus and to Mary. First Friday, December 25: they both have pagan origins. Scholasticism as developed by Thomas Aquinas, likewise. I think there are people afoot who try to discredit the pope at every opportunity. I treat these opportunities with suspicion as a matter of course.

  4. James says:

    I’m going to go ahead and take Pope Francis’ words at face value that the statues are in fact “Pachamamas”. Ask any 3-year old if those statues are Mary and they know it definitely isn’t her. A quick google search of “Our Lady of the Amazon” turns up Our Lady of Aparecida, the patroness of Brazil. She also looks nothing like this pagan statue of Pachamama. Since you seem to be convinced that the Vatican (whom denied it was Mary – twice) and the Pope are liars and these are not Pachamama, why don’t you remove all the statues of Mary in your Church and replace them with Pachamama and give a 1-minute remark about them at Announcement times?

    It’s a statue of a naked women with perked up breasts. Do you have saints in your house like that? In your Church? Todd, you can’t live in la la land forever.

    • Todd says:

      My parish has a different blending of cultures. We have Mary with dark skin (Guadalupe) and bronze (Our Lady of Guam) and these look nothing like Our Lady of Lourdes as depicted in the grotto inside the church of my baptism. But each is a “true” expression of the Blessed Mother.

      In the video you linked, the native people of the Amazon refer to the statue as Mary, and as Our Lady of the Amazon. This image is from their culture, and while it doesn’t do anything for me or the cultures of my parish, I have no desire to use it as a tool against the pope. It is as the artist and devotees say it is. In defending that point of view, as well as December nativity and Aristotle, I can respect inculturation as a value. Perhaps Our Lady of the Amazon is still in the discernment stage. Or perhaps not. You and I have nothing at all to say about that.

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