The Pope Acknowledges Reality





Mr. Miller is a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, the chief justice of the Grand Ronde Tribe, and an Eastern Shawnee. He is the author of Native America: Discovered and Conquered.

Pope Benedict has apparently, sort of, admitted the truth today about the forced religious conversions of the native peoples of the New World. But at the same time he did not repudiate the statements he made on this subject on May 13 as was demanded by indigenous leaders and by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez even accused the Pope of ignoring the “holocaust” that followed Columbus’s “discovery” of the New World in 1492.

On May 13, while speaking to Latin American and Caribbean bishops, the Pope demonstrated an amazing ignorance of the history of the violent cultural and religious oppression of indigenous peoples in the New World by European Christians. Benedict instead stated that the native people had been “silently longing” for Christ and were seeking God “without realizing it.” He said that this conversion was not a conquest of natives but was an “adoption” that made “their cultures fruitful, purifying them . . . .” Pope Benedict further demonstrated his misunderstanding of the forced conversions, “civilization” and massacres of natives in North, Central and South America when he stated that the Church had not imposed itself on indigenous peoples and that Christianity had not been detrimental to their cultures. “In effect, the proclamation of Jesus and of His Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbian cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.”

Not surprisingly, Pope Benedict's comments angered Indian leaders in Brazil and elsewhere. Brazilian Indians and native organizations called the Pope's comments “arrogant and disrespectful” and “offensive, and frankly, frightening.” A spokesman for one group said the Pope was trying to erase the “dirty work” of colonization, and the Brazilian Indian Missionary Council stated that the Pope's comments demonstrated his Eurocentrism and his ignorance of the facts. This same organization said that the Pope must have “missed some history classes.”

The Pope also missed the history of his Church and the papal bulls from the Fifteenth Century that divided the world for conquest and conversion by European Christians. For example, a papal bull in 1455 authorized Portugal “to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans” along the west coast of Africa and to place them into slavery and to take their property. In 1493, after Columbus “discovered” the New World, Pope Alexander VI issued three bulls that granted Spain title to the lands Columbus had found because they had been “undiscovered by others” (thus ignoring the known presence of indigenous people); granted Spain any lands it might discover in the future provided that they were “not previously possessed by any Christian owner”; and even more audaciously, the bull Inter caetera II divided the world by a line from the North to the South Pole and granted Spain title to all lands to be discovered west of the line to assist in “the expansion of the Christian rule.” Consequently, the world was divided up for European and Christian domination. This is exactly what followed.

This is the history that Pope Benedict overlooked in making his comments on May 13. In sharp contrast to Benedict's comments, Pope John Paul noted in 1992 that mistakes were made in the conversion of the native peoples of the Americas.

Pope Benedict was immediately called to task for his comments and for ignoring the history of colonization. The Vatican had been silent in the face of protests from indigenous groups. The Pope finally spoke on Wednesday May 23 and acknowledged that injustices were committed in the colonization of the Americas. But by no means did he apologize for his earlier statements: “While we do not overlook the various injustices and sufferings which accompanied colonization, the Gospel has expressed and continues to express the identity of the peoples in this region.” Clearly, this Pope still has a long way to go in understanding the truth of the colonization and religious conversion of the Americas.

This situation is nearly identical to the Pontiff's comments that outraged Muslims in September when he seemed to depict Islam as a religion tainted with violence. He later apologized for the pain his comments caused but apparently did not apologize for the comments themselves. Similarly, his statement of May 23 sort of acknowledges the history of forced religious conversions in the New World but he did not apologize for his May 13 comments that demonstrated an appalling lack of knowledge of history.


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More Comments:


Carl Becker - 6/3/2007

You are asssuming, of course, that the Church has the keys to heaven and hell, that there is a heaven and hell, and that you have evidence.


Oscar Chamberlain - 5/30/2007

"The Inquisition? The Crusades?"

Given the overwhelming inportance of heaven and hell, then yes, they can be seen as imperfect but good, if they are seen as expanding or defending the Christian (and in these cases, Catholic) world.

It's not my worldview, but it does seem to be the Pope's. More generally, it is one logical manifestation of any proselytizing religion that sees itself as an exclusive holder of the truth and sees the acceptance of that truth as determining the fate of individual souls after death.


Stephen Kislock - 5/30/2007

The Inquisition? The Crusades?
Finis


Oscar Chamberlain - 5/29/2007

Actually his comments make perfect sense, given his beliefs. If the Church really has the one set of keys to the kingdom, then any process that brings conversion, no matter how sin-filled that process is, saves souls from hell.

That does not mean that anything goes--and to be fair, he does seem to know that. But in looking at the past, there is probably no way that he can see the Christianizing of a continent as anything other than good.


feather Plucker - 5/28/2007

Dear Robert J. Miller, it is a sad time when someone seemingly educated such as you seem to be, weeps and wines about the excellent lifestyle you have been blessed with ,solely because of Jesus Christ, Native American Indians LOST, they were not strong enough to defeat progress, and you would not have the level of intelligence to realize what you(meaning Native American Indians) had or the level of intelligence to develop, plan, or use such resources if it were not for your education, solely made possible by the Christian settlers and conquerors, so please keep your rabble-rousing to yourself, smoke'em peace-pipe and get along, you are not due any special reparations, even though you get them via gambling monopolies, in which you treat others with even worse treatment than many of your ancestors received. You ruin lives with gambling and it's ok, you want monopolies like in California, so you can treat the employees like slaves, and cheat your customers with the worst odds and unprovable payback percentages on slots, and cheat and literally steal from table games players with the assistance of Shuffle Master by putting electronic devices in the Shuffle machines that allow the cards to be fixed in such a way as to largely increase the advantage of the house, all of this done because of no federal over-site as to gaming, each tribe regulates itself, so if they want to cheat they can, and do why? because they are their own police. Also they pay off democrats to ensure this lasts for as long as possible, it's all just evil instead of being fair and just, they screw their employees, towns, and others, then they disenroll their own kids, and pure bread Native American neighbors so they can get an increased per capita check. It will all come back to bite you in the end, and I hope I am here to see it. Please don't give me that crap about how they build firehouses and hire police, and build schools, I know the pennies you guys throw at stuff like that, also don't give me that bull about how you need health insurance, when many casino owning tribes get over $20,000 a month, from their casinos. Among them Jackson Rancheria, Cache Creek, Pechanga, San Manuel, Chumash, and Morrongo. Many others receive over $10,000 a month, such as Thunder Valley Casino owners, yes I guess that will get you health insurance, but it's still not enough to pay your biggest departments employees state minimum wages.


feather Plucker - 5/28/2007

Dear Robert J. Miller, it is a sad time when someone seemingly educated such as you seem to be, weeps and wines about the excellent lifestyle you have been blessed with ,solely because of Jesus Christ, Native American Indians LOST, they were not strong enough to defeat progress, and you would not have the level of intelligence to realize what you(meaning Native American Indians) had or the level of intelligence to develop, plan, or use such resources if it were not for your education, solely made possible by the Christian settlers and conquerors, so please keep your rabble-rousing to yourself, smoke'em peace-pipe and get along, you are not due any special reparations, even though you get them via gambling monopolies, in which you treat others with even worse treatment than many of your ancestors received. You ruin lives with gambling and it's ok, you want monopolies like in California, so you can treat the employees like slaves, and cheat your customers with the worst odds and unprovable payback percentages on slots, and cheat and literally steal from table games players with the assistance of Shuffle Master by putting electronic devices in the Shuffle machines that allow the cards to be fixed in such a way as to largely increase the advantage of the house, all of this done because of no federal over-site as to gaming, each tribe regulates itself, so if they want to cheat they can, and do why? because they are their own police. Also they pay off democrats to ensure this lasts for as long as possible, it's all just evil instead of being fair and just, they screw their employees, towns, and others, then they disenroll their own kids, and pure bread Native American neighbors so they can get an increased per capita check. It will all come back to bite you in the end, and I hope I am here to see it. Please don't give me that crap about how they build firehouses and hire police, and build schools, I know the pennies you guys throw at stuff like that, also don't give me that bull about how you need health insurance, when many casino owning tribes get over $20,000 a month, from their casinos. Among them Jackson Rancheria, Cache Creek, Pechanga, San Manuel, Chumash, and Morrongo. Many others receive over $10,000 a month, such as Thunder Valley Casino owners, yes I guess that will get you health insurance, but it's still not enough to pay your biggest departments employees state minimum wages.

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