The Catholic bishop of Syracuse, New York, is speaking out against the Doctrine of Discovery and revealing plans to ask Pope Francis to repudiate theological teachings used for centuries to justify the subjugation of Indigenous peoples.
In an interview with Religion News Service on Wednesday (June 30), Bishop Douglas J. Lucia explained he is exploring a possible meeting with the Holy See to discuss a series of 15th-century papal bulls, or decrees, used by European Christians to rationalize colonizing Indigenous people and their land.
“Since they were papal bulls in the beginning,” Lucia said, there should be “a public acknowledgment from the Holy Father of the harm these bulls have done to the Indigenous population” as well as some kind of statement “to repudiate” the Doctrine of Discovery.
The Doctrine of Discovery draws from a series of papal documents that date back to Pope Nicholas V, whose 1452 “Dum Diversas” initiated a lineage of bulls Europeans used to justify various aspects of colonization. It found its way into future documents as well: Indigenous peoples were read the “Requerimiento” by Spanish conquistadors, which proclaimed their land belonged to Spain and demanded they abide by the authority of the monarchy and the pope.
More to the point, activists and scholars argue, the bulls allowed Europeans to insist Christian rulers can, among other things, seize the land and possessions of non-Christians.
“This particular doctrine has been used to justify both political and personal violence against Indigenous nations, Indigenous peoples and their culture — their religious and their territorial identities,” Lucia said…
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2 thoughts on “Bishop denounces ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ used to justify abuse of Indigenous peoples, and suggests Pope Francis do the same”
I recently read the following in the Canadian government’s Truth and Reconciliation Statement in regard to the discovery of graves in western Canada: the Canadian government arranged for the establishment of schools/residences for Indigenous peoples in western Canada with various religious institutions. These institutions included Catholic, Anglican, United, Methodist, and Presbyterian. The government apparently paid the institutions a sum of money for each of the young residents/students. Currently there are efforts by Catholic clergy and representatives of the Indigenous peoples to research the burials and make progress toward some sort of reconciliation. Part of restorative justice is to admit wrongdoing and do one’s best to make recompense to the offended. In this gruesome matter and others, I pray that the steps undertaken may lead to a degree of reconciliation. Firm outward action and statements from Pope Francis may be needed. This would follow from the compassionate stances that he has taken on various issues. All media should hold the Canadian government and the other churches responsible as well–in the public arena and with accountability and reconciliation as the goal.
May God have mercy on us! Now that we know and are thus convicted let us ask God for forgiveness and act to make right the wrongs of our cultures. That we may have peace on Earth.