An Austrian theologian has blasted the young Austrian man who desecrated Pachamama statues at the Amazon Synod for “damaging” Catholicism.

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Jan-Heiner Tück, professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Vienna, hit out at Alexander Tschugguel, the criminal who stole and threw into the Tiber river the sacred fertility- and life-celebrating statuettes representing a pregnant woman which had pride of place in churches and in the Vatican during last October’s Synod of Bishops.

Tück accused Tschugguel of having “a constricted view of Catholicism”.

“The vastness of Catholicism is narrowed, even damaged, when it is defended in the manner of Maccabees and statements of Scripture are misunderstood as instructions for action in the way of biblicism”, the theologian explained.

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Tück said Tschugguel and his fellow Pachamama-haters damage the truth of the Catholicism they claim to serve through their intolerance and contempt for “the true, the good, and the sacred” also present “in non-Christian religions and cultures”.

The theologian insisted that the young ultraconservatice anti-Pachamama activist “is continuing precisely the tradition that has burdened the missionary history of the Church until today”.

“Contempt for ‘pagan’ cultures in the name of Christian truth has repeatedly unleashed iconoclastic practices”, Tück warned.

The academic furthermore warned the activist that he was nearly sixty years behind the times, with the Church having moved on from its imperialist arrogance at the great modernising Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

Vatican II “overcame an exclusivism which sees in the Catholic Church the only true religion and rejects all other religious convictions as false”, Tück clarified.

Why it matters

In comments to ultraconservative LifeSite, Tschugguel refused to admit the error of his ways, insisting on a fundamentalist and literalist reading of the Gospels and saying: “I’m convinced that Christ’s saying will always be true, ‘No one comes to the Father except through me'”.

Four months on, and apparently Tschugguel and his supporters still can’t see that stealing from a church and profaning a symbol sacred to other cultures is not at all after the example of Jesus.

Never mind that theologian Tück said it: theologians and Amazonian Christians condemned Tschugguel’s robbery immediately after it took place.

“We deeply regret and at the same time denounce that in recent days we have been victims of acts of violence reflecting religious intolerance, racism [and] degrading attitudes which above all affect indigenous peoples and demonstrate a refusal to build new paths for the renewal of our Church”, denounced a key Church-indigenous organisation behind the Amazon Synod, the Pan-Amazonian Church Network (REPAM).

Feminist theologian Mary Hunt deplored what she called the “despicable… hate crime” that was the robbery and profanation of the statuettes.

Even the Pope apologised to the Amazon indigenous for the theft and desecration of their sacred symbols, thanking the Italian police for rescuing them from the Tiber and bringing them back to the Vatican for the Synod closing events.

That was after Vatican communications director Paolo Ruffini repeatedly insisted that the statues represented “life, fertility, Mother Earth”.

Vatican editorial director Andrea Tornielli added that the figures are an “image of motherhood and the sacredness of life, a traditional symbol for indigenous peoples representing the bond with our ‘mother earth’”.

Next on Novena:

German bishop slaps down ‘Pachamama’ protesters for quoting him in anti-Francis screed

Faithful fight back against “fundamentalist and inhuman” Cardinal Müller, veto him in their churches

Faithful yawn at latest conservative anti-Francis “sacrilege” smear

Feminist theologian blames Church misogyny for Amazon Synod’s lack of impact on climate change

German, Austrian Amazon bishops accuse ultraconservative Synod critics of “outright lies”

Pope apologises to indigenous for robbery, profanation of Amazon statues

Amazon indigenous condemn “violence” and “racism” behind theft, desecration of statues


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.