101. Against the Doctrine of Discovery: Immensa Pastorum
101. Against the Doctrine of Discovery: Immensa Pastorum

101. Against the Doctrine of Discovery: Immensa Pastorum

Last week’s post examined Sublimis Deus and Pastorale Officium, with which Pope Paul III condemned the exploitation and subjugation of the indigenes of the Americas. Today’s post focuses on the encyclical Immensa Pastorum Principis (with immense charity of the shepherd), which Pope Benedict XIV issued on 20 December 1741. The Pope addressed the encyclical to the bishops of Brazil and other Portuguese-conquered territories in the West Indies and America, condemning slavery and cruelty towards the Indians.

In the first part of the document, the Pope re-emphasises the eagerness of the Apostolic See for the conversion of infidels. Next, the Pope identifies the cruelty towards the Christian and non-Christian Indians.

“For all this we have come to know, with deep sorrow of our paternal spirit that, after so many councils of apostolic providence dictated by our same predecessors, after so many constitutions providing that in the best possible way help and protection be given to infidels, and prohibiting, under the most serious penalties and ecclesiastical censure, that they be insulted, whipped, imprisoned, enslaved or killed, that still, and especially in those regions of Brazil, there are men belonging to the orthodox faith which, as if completely forgotten about the sense of charity infused into our souls by the Holy Spirit, either submit to slavery, or sell to others as if they were merchandise, or deprive the miserable Indians of their goods, not only those devoid of the light of faith, but also those regenerated by baptism, who live in the mountains and in the harsh western and southern regions of Brazil and other desert regions, and dare to behave towards them with such inhumanity, which rather turn them away from embracing the faith of Christ and make it deeply hateful to them” (2).

The Pope affirms that the King of Portugal condemns this behaviour.

“Trying to get out of the way, with all the power that God has given us, to these evils, we have tried to interest first the outstanding piety and the incredible zeal in the propagation of the Catholic religion of our dearest son in Christ John of Portugal and illustrious King of the Algarves, who, given his filial devotion to Us and to this Holy See, promised that he would immediately give orders to each and every one of the officials and ministers of his domains so that he be punished with the most serious penalties, in accordance with royal edicts, whoever of his subjects was caught behaving towards these Indians in a manner other than that required by the meekness of Christian charity” (3).

The Pope exhorts the bishops to try to repress the behaviour.

Then we pray to you, brothers, and we exhort you in the Lord so that not only do you not allow the lack of vigilance, diligence and effort due to your ministry, with disrespect to your name and dignity, but more well, uniting your zeal to the offices of the king’s ministers, show everyone with how much greater ardour of priestly charity than the lay ministers the priests, shepherds of souls, strive to protect these Indians and lead them to the Catholic faith” (4).

The Pope confirms the bulls of his predecessors.

“We, moreover, with apostolic authority, and by the tenor of the present letters, renew and confirm the brief apostolic letters addressed by Pope Paul III…and those written by Pope Urban VIII;… following in the footsteps of those same predecessors of ours, Paul and Urban, and wishing to repress the insolence of those impious men who terrify the aforementioned Indians with inhuman acts” (5).

The Pope orders that edicts be published in favour of the Indians.

we recommend and command each one of you and your successors that each one by himself or by another or others, issue edicts and propose and fix them in public, protecting them with the protection of an effective defense of the aforementioned Indians both in the provinces of Paraguay, Brazil and the so-called Río de la Plata as well as in any other place in the West and South Indies,

The Pope imposes a penalty on offenders.

We…vigorously prohibit each and every one of the persons, even laymen, including ecclesiastical, of any status, sex, grade, condition and position, even that of special note and title of dignity, as of any order, congregation, society…, under penalty of excommunication latae sententiae, which they will incur for the mere fact of contravening what is provided, and from which they cannot be acquitted , except in articulo mortis and prior satisfaction, unless by Us or by the Roman Pontiff at the time prevailing, that henceforth enslave the aforementioned Indians, sell, buy, exchange or give them, separate them from their wives and children, deprive them of their things and goods, take them from one place to another or transfer them, or in any other way deprive them of liberty or retain them in servitude; likewise that they dare or presume to provide advice, aid, help or collaboration to those who do so, under no pretext or appearance, or propagate and teach that doing so is lawful or cooperate in any way; declaring that whoever the transgressors and rebels may be, as well as those who do not obey any of you in the foregoing, have incurred the penalty of the indicated excommunication” (5).

The Pope repeals the provisions contrary to his current stand.

Notwithstanding to the contrary the general and special constitutions of Pope Boniface VIII, also our predecessor of illustrious memory, on the one, and that of the general council on the two diets, and other apostolic ones, and those agreed upon in universal, provincial and synodal councils, nor the ordinances or even municipal laws and of any pious and non-pious places and, in general, any statutes and customs, even those that are sustained by oath, apostolic confirmation or any other support; nor the privileges, pardons and apostolic letters against those mentioned above, regardless of the way in which they were granted, confirmed or renewed… For the purposes of the foregoing, for this time at least we specifically and expressly repeal it, as well as any other provision to the contrary” (6).

May God continue to help us🙏🏾


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