100. Against the Doctrine of Discovery: Pastorale officium and Sublimis Deus
100. Against the Doctrine of Discovery: Pastorale officium and Sublimis Deus

100. Against the Doctrine of Discovery: Pastorale officium and Sublimis Deus

Last week’s post examined Creator Omnium and argued that the Church fell into the same problem that Creator Omnium attempted to solve. Today’s post discusses papal documents dissociating the Church from the Doctrine of Discovery.

Today’s post examines Sublimis Deus (The Sublime God) promulgated by Pope Paul III on 2 June 1537. The bull is “On the Enslavement and Evangelisation of Indians” (Indigenes of the Americas). Before promulgating this bull, Pope Paul III had, on 29 May 1537, issued an apostolic brief titled Pastorale Officium (The Pastoral Office)to Cardinal Juan Pardo de Tavera of Toledo (Spain), imposing excommunication on anyone who enslaved American Indians. The two documents are similar.

In Pastorale Officium, the pope condemns the exploitation and subjugation of Indians.

We therefore take care that the Indians themselves, even if they are outside the womb of the Church, are not deprived or are not about to be deprived of their freedom or dominion over their things, because they are men and therefore capable of faith and salvation, they are not overthrown by servitude, but are invited to life by preaching and example and the like.”

The pope desires to repair the wrongs and imposes excommunication on those who continue to do so.

Desiring to suppress so nefarious misdeeds of the wicked of this kind, and lest insults and harms be caused which cause a more difficult acceptance of faith in Christ…We hereby order and command that you, or others or others, assisting all the aforementioned Indians with effective aid of defense, each and everyone of any dignity, state, condition, degree and excellence, ipso facto incur the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae if they have done the opposite, from which no one can absolve but us or the Roman Pontiff in office, except at the point of death and with prior repair”,

 In Sublmis Deus, the pope admits that colonial kings treated the Indians as less human.

“The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith”.

The pope desires to remedy the evils and forbids depriving Indians of their liberty or possession even if they refuse to convert to Christianity.

We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters,…notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect”.

The pope renounces the proselytisation model in favour of the evangelisation model adopted by Christ. 

“By virtue of Our apostolic authority, We define and declare by these present letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, which shall thus command the same obedience as the originals, that the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living”.

May God continue to help us🙏🏾


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