JOLIET, Ill. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop R. Daniel Conlon who was heavily criticized for suggesting that Jesus did not intend to establish a Church recently glossed over the idolatrous Pachamama scandal in the Vatican.
In a Nov. 14 statement, Conlon said he is prepared to answer some of the concerns and frequently asked questions about the Amazon Synod. He explained that the synod sought to address "significant pastoral issues" such as "drug violence, government repression and the intentional burning of the rainforest to provide more pasture for exported cattle."
Conlon also discussed "church matters," including "the extreme shortage of priests," saying that for some in the Amazon, Holy Communion is only available once a year and that lay catechists perform most baptisms and weddings.
Conlon suggested that lay pilgrims were the ones responsible for bringing the Pachamama figures to Rome. He also reiterated the Vatican's denial that the idols were worshipped and speculated as to their possible symbolism for the Amazon Synod.
"Finally, there was the question of the wooden statues that the lay pilgrims, who accompanied their bishops to Rome, displayed as part of their prayer at the Vatican," he said. "Known as 'Pachamama' and featuring a pregnant woman, the figure comes from pre-Christian culture and represents the goddess of creation. The Vatican apparently offered no official explanation for the presence of the statues but denied that they were being worshipped."
Conlon mused that the idols were possibly "intended as symbols of the threatened eco-system in the Amazon."
Regarding the now well-known recommendations of the synod fathers to permit some married men to be ordained priests and some women to be ordained deacons, Conlon drew a parallel between what has already happened in the United States and other developed countries: "It should be remembered that for many years the Church in the United States and other developed countries has been permitted to ordain as priests married ministers from Protestant communions."
Conlon ended his statement by asking people to be open to a different region and culture: "[T]he Amazon is not the United States. Its history, ecology and culture are radically different, as are the current social and ecclesiastical conditions. The people there deserve our respect and support, even if we may have difficulty understanding their circumstances. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ."
Conlon made headlines in February for a presentation at the annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Lecture at Joliet's Elmhurst College titled "Did Jesus Really Intend to Establish a Church?" in which he suggested that the Catholic Church could have been an accidental outgrowth of Christ's earthly ministry.
"There is no absolute answer to the question," Conlon said to the audience at Elmhurst. "Jesus did not address it directly. Neither will I provide an absolute answer. Like many other questions, Christians have to seek answers in the Scriptures and in the living tradition of the Church."
After receiving backlash, the diocese of Joliet deleted Conlon's heterodox comments from the diocesan website.
In May, faithful Catholics were outraged when Conlon displayed two pictures of the late homosexual predator Bp. Daniel Ryan in prominent locations at the cathedral in Joliet.
In October, when Indiana's attorney general promised that more than 2,000 aborted babies' bodies found inside abortionist Ulrich Klopfer's home would be given proper burials, Conlon won praise for offering Catholic cemeteries for their burial.