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…