“We grant you [Kings of Spain and Portugal] by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property […] and to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery.”

– excerpt from Dum Diversas, a papal bull of the Western Church.

I read this document while doing research for a recent article I wrote on the racial politics of “dark v. light imagery.” I knew the institution of the Church had a formal role in the enslavement and subjugation of people. Yet, the language here was damning. I mean, for the Pope to use his “Apostolic Authority” to give credence to this statement is tantamount to saying that stealing the land of others and relegating native people to slavery was sanctioned by God! Such blasphemy! Such audacity!

I find myself wondering: how is it even possible that someone professing faith in the Gospel and claiming authority from the Holy Apostles (and thus from Christ Himself) could claim that such crimes against humanity were sanctioned by the One who came to redeem all of humanity?

What do you think?


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