Letter: Domination in the New World

Published: 7/31/2020 12:05:14 AM

I rarely respond to critics but must when I’m accused of advancing “anti-Catholic prejudice.”

William Judd (Monitor letters, July 25) was correct to infer I was remiss not to treat, with equal opprobrium, French and Spanish-inspired imperialists who, along with the English and others, invaded the “New World” to seize, pillage, and displace the Indigenous Peoples living on those lands.

Further, I never mentioned slavery or Catholics but, as those issues seem important to Judd, I’ll address them.

The Catholic Church’s global involvement – along with the Church of England and other institutions, spiritual and secular – in colonialist imperialism and domination is undisputed and cannot be sanitized. Witness, for example, that Malta, under the Hospitallers, was the center of Christian slavery in Europe until the late 18th century.

Church power, expressed in papal bulls, ranged from the uncontroversial and institutional, to mobilizing crusades, to condemning the Magna Carta, to “Dum Diversas” (1452) that authorized Portugal’s Afonso V to condemn Muslims and other unbelievers to “perpetual servitude.”

While the Doctrine of Discovery may have initially intended to encourage proselytizing the Gospels, it’s clear that most conquistadors and colonialists, of all faith traditions, weren’t interested in making “disciples of all nations” – they were primarily interested in gold, land, and domination.

It’s equally clear that, as described by the U.N. Economic and Social Council, the Doctrine became “institutionalized in law and policy” and was even officially embraced by the U.S. Supreme Court (Johnson v. M’Intosh [1923]), which referred to discovery by “Christian peoples” notwithstanding the “occupancy of the natives, who are heathens.”



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