During his recent trip to
He tried to clean it up afterwards by noting the, “sufferings and injustices inflicted by the colonizers on the indigenous populations whose human and basic rights often were trampled,” but the damage was done.
The Pope seems to have selective amnesia when it comes to the Church and its horrendous history of human rights disasters against people of color. This happens at a time when Catholicism is becoming an increasingly southern religion and an increasingly brown religion. Roughly half of Catholics are in
Religious institutions have excused, aided and abetted crimes throughout history. Indeed, the church has much to atone for. There are three bulls (edicts, or executive orders, if you will) issued by the Papacy with which we should concern ourselves. The Dum Diversas, issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1452, authorized King Alfonso V of Portugal to reduce any “Saracens (Muslims) and pagans and any other unbelievers” to perpetual slavery, thereby ushering in the West African slave trade.
The Romanus Pontifex, also issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1455, sanctioned the seizure of non-Christian lands, and encouraged the enslavement of non-Christian people in Africa and the
The Inter Caetera, signed by Pope Alexander VI in 1493, states, “… we (the Papacy) command you (Spain) … to instruct the aforesaid inhabitants and residents and dwellers therein in the Catholic faith, and train them in good morals.” This papal law sanctioned and paved the way for European colonization and Catholic missions in the
These three edicts opened the floodgates for everything that followed, the raping, pillaging, kidnapping, genocide and enslavement of millions. They established the groundwork for the global slave trade of the 15th and 16th centuries, and the Age of Imperialism. Speaking of organized crime, at this time I’m reminded of a famous line from the movie The Godfather, referring to the drug trade: “In my city, we’d keep the traffic in the Dark People, the Coloreds – they’re animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.”
Despite the changing color of the church, there has been no pope from outside
What we are witnessing is the ancient struggle between imperial religion—the arrogant manipulation of God to endorse the powerful, protect the rich and maintain the status quo—and the use of faith as a force for social change. Look at the Christian Right’s endorsement of Bush as “God’s President,” as he presides over the largest transfer of wealth in the nation’s history, turns his back on New Orleans, appoints Christian Right attorneys to suppress the voting rights of African Americans, and sponsors the carnage taking place in Iraq. And on the other hand, remember Gandhi, who used Hindu spirituality and civil disobedience to liberate
No longer can the great father on high dictate to the masses of colored children. Eradicating poverty, empowering the weak and seeking justice for all are the wave of the future. Glorifying a past that was a nightmare to many, and denying people their basic dignity and cultural self-determination, the Pope and other rusty, outdated institutions must get on the right side of justice, or find themselves relegated to the dustbin of history.
BC Columnist David A. Love is an attorney based in