Politics/United States

Did the Church Ever Support Slavery?

by Steve Ray on January 25, 2018

By Steve Weidenkopf   September 18, 2017

Many years ago I attended a conference organized by a national Catholic organization on the topics of marriage and human sexuality. One of the speakers was a professor from Creighton University who, in the middle of his talk on contraception, launched into a long tangent about how the Church had never condemned slavery in the past, which “proved” that the Church had made a mistake, and so perhaps it’s teaching on contraception would be viewed as incorrect in the future (a viewpoint he agreed with).

I did not get the opportunity at the conference to talk with this professor about his erroneous statements about the Church and slavery, so I emailed him and we engaged in a courteous exchange in which I pointed him in the direction of several papal condemnations of slavery, which he dismissed out of hand. He ignored the historical record because it did not fit with his agenda of changing Church teaching on contraception.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon tactic by those with an animus against the Church. Many believe, as this professor did, that the Church approved or at least tolerated slavery, especially of Africans and Native Americans in the New World. Scholars argued that the Church was either late in condemning slavery or actively supported it. But like many other historical myths about the Catholic Church, this one does not withstand scrutiny of the historical record.

The myth persists because there were individual Catholics who supported slavery or owned slaves. Scholars with an ax to grind use these examples as “proof” of the Church’s malfeasance without drawing the necessary distinction that what individual Catholics may do does not necessarily reflect the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium.

Moreover, scholars have routinely failed to distinguish between different types of slavery. The Church has consistently and constantly condemned the practice of “unjust servitude,” which usually entailed the enslavement of a certain race or for economic gain. But Western society since ancient times permitted just title servitude; that is, the involuntary servitude imposed on criminals or prisoners of war. Just title servitude was considered permissible as recently as 1949 when the Geneva Convention allowed nations at war to conscript prisoners of war for labor. In this case, the Church has always demanded humane treatment of slaves by their masters and even encouraged their emancipation. The failure to recognize these distinctions between types of servitude has led many scholars to declare falsely that the Church failed to condemn slavery.

The Church was born into a world where slavery was a lynchpin of society. Imperial Rome was built and sustained on the backs of slaves; the complete abolition of slavery in Rome was unthinkable and impractical. Despite societal acceptance of slavery, the Church made no distinction between slaves and freedmen in its membership. The equality of believers in a highly class-stratified society was one of the attractions that the Church held for the people of Rome.

Once Emperor Constantine legalized the Church in A.D. 313, its teachings influenced Roman laws and policies. Church funds were used by Christians to redeem slaves, especially prisoners of war. One former slave even rose to become pope (Callistus I) in the early third century! Still, slavery continued in Europe even after the collapse of imperial rule in the late fifth century, but as the Church’s influence increased the institution of slavery decreased until it was completely eradicated in Christendom.

Unfortunately, slavery returned to European society in the fifteenth century, with the conquest of the Canary Islands and the discovery of the New World. But from 1435 to 1890, a succession of popes condemned the slave trade and slavery in no uncertain terms. The first pope to do so was Eugenius IV (r. 1431-1447), who in his 1435 bull Sicut Dudum demanded that Christians free all enslaved natives of the Canary Islands within fifteen days; failure to do so would incur automatic excommunication. Thus, fifty-seven years before Columbus’s first voyage, the Roman pontiff unequivocally prohibited the enslavement of native peoples.

In 1537, Pope Paul III (r. 1534-1549) issued a bull, Sublimus Dei, which taught that native peoples were not to be enslaved. In 1591, Gregory XIV (r. 1590-1591) promulgated Cum Sicuti, which was addressed to the bishop of Manila in the Philippines and reiterated his predecessors’ prohibitions against enslaving native peoples. In the seventeenth century, Urban VIII (r. 1623-1644) promulgated Commissum Nobis (1639) in support of the Spanish king’s (Philip IV) edict prohibiting enslavement of the Indians in the New World.

The need for cheap and abundant labor in the colonies is what led to the African slave trade. This new form of bondage was also condemned by the popes, beginning with Innocent XI (r. 1676-1689). In 1741, Benedict XIV (r. 1740-1758) issued Immensa Pastorum, which reiterated that the penalty for enslaving Indians was excommunication. In 1839, Gregory XVI (r. 1831-1846) issued In Supremo to condemn the enslavement of Africans. Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903) promulgated two bulls condemning slavery in 1888 and 1890.

Yet despite the many papal condemnations of slavery, European colonists continued to enslave Africans and New World natives until the nineteenth century. Papal denunciations of slavery were so harsh and so frequent that the colonial Spanish instituted a law forbidding the publication of papal documents in the colonies without prior royal approval.

It is ironic that the Church is falsely accused of either supporting slavery or failing to condemn it, when the wholesale enslavement of Christians by Muslims (estimated at one million people), especially the Ottoman Turks from the sixteenth to the eighteen century, is all but ignored. Finally, it is disingenuous to equate the immoral behavior of individual Catholics with official Church teaching. The fact that some Catholics owned slaves or participated in the slave trade is not an indictment of the Church, but rather an illustration that Catholics will sometimes ignore the clear teachings of the Church.

For more information on this and may other common anti-Catholic historical charges, see Steve Weidenkopf’s new book, The Real Story of Catholic History: Answering Twenty Centuries of Anti-Catholic Myths, available late September and available now for pre-order from Catholic Answers Press.

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What I Learned in the Peace Corps in Africa: Trump Is Right

By Karin McQuillan writing for American Thinker

Three weeks after college, I flew to Senegal, West Africa, to run a community center in a rural town.  Life was placid, with no danger, except to your health.  That danger was considerable, because it was, in the words of the Peace Corps doctor, “a fecalized environment.”

In plain English: s— is everywhere.  People defecate on the open ground, and the feces is blown with the dust – onto you, your clothes, your food, the water.  He warned us the first day of training: do not even touch water.  Human feces carries parasites that bore through your skin and cause organ failure.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that a few decades later, liberals would be pushing the lie that Western civilization is no better than a third-world country.  Or would teach two generations of our kids that loving your own culture and wanting to preserve it are racism.

Last time I was in Paris, I saw a beautiful African woman in a grand boubou have her child defecate on the sidewalk next to Notre Dame Cathedral.  The French police officer, ten steps from her, turned his head not to see.

I have seen.  I am not turning my head and pretending unpleasant things are not true.

Senegal was not a hellhole.  Very poor people can lead happy, meaningful lives in their own cultures’ terms.  But they are not our terms.  The excrement is the least of it.  Our basic ideas of human relations, right and wrong, are incompatible.

As a twenty-one-year-old starting out in the Peace Corps, I loved Senegal.  In fact, I was euphoric.  I quickly made friends and had an adopted family.  I relished the feeling of the brotherhood of man.  People were open, willing to share their lives and, after they knew you, their innermost thoughts.

The longer I lived there, the more I understood: it became blindingly obvious that the Senegalese are not the same as us.  The truths we hold to be self-evident are not evident to the Senegalese.  How could they be?  Their reality is totally different.  You can’t understand anything in Senegal using American terms.

Take something as basic as family.  Family was a few hundred people, extending out to second and third cousins.  All the men in one generation were called “father.”  Senegalese are Muslim, with up to four wives.  Girls had their clitorises cut off at puberty.  (I witnessed this, at what I thought was going to be a nice coming-of-age ceremony, like a bat mitzvah or confirmation.)  Sex, I was told, did not include kissing.  Love and friendship in marriage were Western ideas.  Fidelity was not a thing.  Married women would have sex for a few cents to have cash for the market.

What I did witness every day was that women were worked half to death.  Wives raised the food and fed their own children, did the heavy labor of walking miles to gather wood for the fire, drew water from the well or public faucet, pounded grain with heavy hand-held pestles, lived in their own huts, and had conjugal visits from their husbands on a rotating basis with their co-wives.  Their husbands lazed in the shade of the trees.

Yet family was crucial to people there in a way Americans cannot comprehend.

The Ten Commandments were not disobeyed – they were unknown.  The value system was the exact opposite.  You were supposed to steal everything you can to give to your own relatives.  There are some Westernized Africans who try to rebel against the system.  They fail.

We hear a lot about the kleptocratic elites of Africa.  The kleptocracy extends through the whole society.  My town had a medical clinic donated by international agencies.  The medicine was stolen by the medical workers and sold to the local store.  If you were sick and didn’t have money, drop dead.  That was normal.

So here in the States, when we discovered that my 98-year-old father’s Muslim health aide from Nigeria had stolen his clothes and wasn’t bathing him, I wasn’t surprised.  It was familiar.

In Senegal, corruption ruled, from top to bottom.  Go to the post office, and the clerk would name an outrageous price for a stamp.  After paying the bribe, you still didn’t know it if it would be mailed or thrown out.  That was normal.

One of my most vivid memories was from the clinic.  One day, as the wait grew hotter in the 110-degree heat, an old woman two feet from the medical aides – who were chatting in the shade of a mango tree instead of working – collapsed to the ground.  They turned their heads so as not to see her and kept talking.  She lay there in the dirt.  Callousness to the sick was normal.

Americans think it is a universal human instinct to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  It’s not.  It seems natural to us because we live in a Bible-based Judeo-Christian culture.

We think the Protestant work ethic is universal.  It’s not.  My town was full of young men doing nothing.  They were waiting for a government job.  There was no private enterprise.  Private business was not illegal, just impossible, given the nightmare of a third-world bureaucratic kleptocracy.  It is also incompatible with Senegalese insistence on taking care of relatives.

All the little stores in Senegal were owned by Mauritanians.  If a Senegalese wanted to run a little store, he’d go to another country.  The reason?  Your friends and relatives would ask you for stuff for free, and you would have to say yes.  End of your business.  You are not allowed to be a selfish individual and say no to relatives.  The result: Everyone has nothing.

The more I worked there and visited government officials doing absolutely nothing, the more I realized that no one in Senegal had the idea that a job means work.  A job is something given to you by a relative.  It provides the place where you steal everything to give back to your family.

I couldn’t wait to get home.  So why would I want to bring Africa here?  Non-Westerners do not magically become American by arriving on our shores with a visa.

For the rest of my life, I enjoyed the greatest gift of the Peace Corps: I love and treasure America more than ever.  I take seriously my responsibility to defend our culture and our country and pass on the American heritage to the next generation.

African problems are made worse by our aid efforts.  Senegal is full of smart, capable people.  They will eventually solve their own country’s problems.  They will do it on their terms, not ours.  The solution is not to bring Africans here.

We are lectured by Democrats that we must privilege third-world immigration by the hundred million with chain migration.  They tell us we must end America as a white, Western, Judeo-Christian, capitalist nation – to prove we are not racist.  I don’t need to prove a thing.  Leftists want open borders because they resent whites, resent Western achievements, and hate America.  They want to destroy America as we know it.

As President Trump asked, why would we do that?

We have the right to choose what kind of country to live in.  I was happy to donate a year of my life as a young woman to help the poor Senegalese.  I am not willing to donate my country.

Three weeks after college, I flew to Senegal, West Africa, to run a community center in a rural town.  Life was placid, with no danger, except to your health.  That danger was considerable, because it was, in the words of the Peace Corps doctor, “a fecalized environment.”

In plain English: s— is everywhere.  People defecate on the open ground, and the feces is blown with the dust – onto you, your clothes, your food, the water.  He warned us the first day of training: do not even touch water.  Human feces carries parasites that bore through your skin and cause organ failure.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that a few decades later, liberals would be pushing the lie that Western civilization is no better than a third-world country.  Or would teach two generations of our kids that loving your own culture and wanting to preserve it are racism.

Last time I was in Paris, I saw a beautiful African woman in a grand boubou have her child defecate on the sidewalk next to Notre Dame Cathedral.  The French police officer, ten steps from her, turned his head not to see.

I have seen.  I am not turning my head and pretending unpleasant things are not true.

Senegal was not a hellhole.  Very poor people can lead happy, meaningful lives in their own cultures’ terms.  But they are not our terms.  The excrement is the least of it.  Our basic ideas of human relations, right and wrong, are incompatible.

As a twenty-one-year-old starting out in the Peace Corps, I loved Senegal.  In fact, I was euphoric.  I quickly made friends and had an adopted family.  I relished the feeling of the brotherhood of man.  People were open, willing to share their lives and, after they knew you, their innermost thoughts.

The longer I lived there, the more I understood: it became blindingly obvious that the Senegalese are not the same as us.  The truths we hold to be self-evident are not evident to the Senegalese.  How could they be?  Their reality is totally different.  You can’t understand anything in Senegal using American terms.

Take something as basic as family.  Family was a few hundred people, extending out to second and third cousins.  All the men in one generation were called “father.”  Senegalese are Muslim, with up to four wives.  Girls had their clitorises cut off at puberty.  (I witnessed this, at what I thought was going to be a nice coming-of-age ceremony, like a bat mitzvah or confirmation.)  Sex, I was told, did not include kissing.  Love and friendship in marriage were Western ideas.  Fidelity was not a thing.  Married women would have sex for a few cents to have cash for the market.

For the rest of the article, click HERE.

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Where Have All the Christmas Carols Gone?

by Steve Ray on December 2, 2017

I’m not that old. I’ll only be 63 years old this month but I still remember when the frosty month of December was filled with marvelous Christmas carols. It was like magic when the first snow covered the ground and the melodies sprang to life and everyone knew them, believed them and sang them with a smile on their face.

Christmas_Carols_HongKongI remember the glorious carols like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Silent Night, Holy Night.”

Those warm and cozy memories are rare these winter days. Something is missing. The new generation is being deprived and the world has changed.

I sat for an hour in a dentist chair and heard a litany of secular Christmas songs. Not one religious Christmas carol was heard. All about Santa coming to town, Frosty the Snowman, “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and “I’ll be home for Christmas” and “jingle bell rock”

t54223134-b389781788_s400These are all nice songs too and I remember them from my youth. But isn’t something wrong when I walked through the airport today and I saw mythical Santa, reindeers, Christmas trees but not one manger scene or reference to what it’s all really about? Christmas songs reverberated through the airport but again not one of the beautiful old classic Christmas carols. It had a tinny shallowness to it.

Christmas-Carols-1960-billboard-650It’s Christmas after all. It’s named after Christ which was celebrated for millennia by a Mass — thus Christ-Mass! And it is so bizarre that all the music heard today explicitly and dogmatically refuses to reference Christ which is what the whole holiday is about.

The insanity of our current secularism and pluralism has deprived us of far more than we realize. Our political correctness forces us to retreat in obsequious silence for fear of offending someone. I weep for the current and coming generations that will be so separated from the past that they will never experience what I once knew as a boy.

no-baby-jesusPeople say “Happy Holiday“ to avoid the dreaded association with Jesus Christ. But even when saying “Happy Holiday” they don’t realize that they’re using another Christian phrase. Where do you think the word “holiday” comes from? It means, “holy day” made sacred by the birth of Christ.

I remember in my younger years that the joy around Christmas had to do with Jesus Christ and the joy brought to the world by this divine Savior. It was reflected in the music we sang from our hearts.

I may be giving away my age again here but it reminds me of the Wendy’s commercial — a little old lady looking up from her hamburger bun and saying, “Where’s the beef?“ Approaching December again this year I feel like asking a similar question, “Where’s the heart? Where’s the meaning? Why deny the obvious?”

2012-01-08_00008As for me and my house, we still sing the beautiful religious Christmas carols, honor Christ as the center of Christmas, we will still celebrate Christ at Mass and pray for the days when modern people will hopefully again understand the true meaning and joy of the season.

I’ll enjoy some chestnuts roasting on an open fire but the whole time I’ll be singing, “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him.”

Below: This is beautiful and what Christmas is about – it may even give you chills.

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6 Interesting Catholic Thanksgiving Facts You Need to Know

November 23, 2017

6 Interesting Catholic Thanksgiving Facts You Need to Know by Dr Taylor Marshall (Good website!)(http://taylormarshall.com/2013/11/6-interesting-catholic-thanksgiving.html) When you’re sitting down for that wonderful feast on Thursday, here are 6 interesting Catholic Thanksgiving Facts you can share with your family. Print them out and read them aloud over some pumpkin (or pecan) pie! The history books will […]

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Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev has a warning for the West

October 26, 2017

By Elizabeth Scalia | Sep 25, 2017 “Before 1917 nobody ever proposed that the collapse of a centuries-old Christian empire would happen…” Participating in a London conference on the topic of “The Christian Future of Europe,” Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, head of the External Relations Departments of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, spoke on September […]

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Loved Trump’s UN Speech; Breath of Fresh Air

September 20, 2017

Loved his speech. Funny comment by Venezuelan president after Trump hit him and his socialism smack between the eyes. He meant it as a insult and slam but it was actually a high compliment. He said,  “What is this? Ronald Reagan back again?” https://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouse/videos/1433841946703534/ Or here (CNN must hate this YouTube that they had to […]

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The Eight Stages of the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

September 15, 2017

Written by Msgr. Charles Pope and posted October 12, 2016 on Community in Mission Cultures and civilizations go through cycles. Over time, many civilizations and cultures have risen and then fallen. We who live in painful times like these do well to recall these truths. Cultures and civilizations come and go; only the Church (though […]

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Should This Baby Be Aborted? You Decide

September 13, 2017

In the United States, there are many situations in which abortions are recommended, even encouraged by family, counselors, medical personnel and even religious advisors. Sometimes an abortion is recommended because of difficult circumstances and other times simply for convenience. Here are four cases for you to consider. Should these babies be aborted? You decide! Four […]

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One of My Most Valued Possessions

July 3, 2017

It is the 4th of July and Janet and I are sitting in an airport in Tel Aviv Israel. We were just in Egypt two days ago and were so happy to get back through security into Israel heading back home to America. One of my most valued possessions enables us to travel through all […]

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Trump Body Slams CNN

July 3, 2017

The Left has no sense of humor or perspective. When leftists practice real violence (black hoods, beatings and all) there is no sense of outrage or condemnation.  But when there’s a humorous tweet there’s all kinds of condemnation and outrage, huffing, puffing and sputtering. Most Americans know exactly what Trump’s tweet was saying. Only the […]

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Why I Like Thomas Williams and Breitbart News

June 8, 2017

Yeah, I know it gets a bad rap in the local “Main Street Media” but if you shake off their bias and take a closer look it’s a pretty good place to find out what’s really going on. My friend Thomas Williams is the Rome correspondent and I have nothing but respect for this guy.

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What a Shot Off Our Porch on Memorial Day

May 29, 2017

God bless America and thanks to all of those brave and heroic men and women who have made our freedom possible. May God richly bless them and their families. I love being an American!

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What is Wrong with this Picture? What is Missing? Is this the “New Normal”?

May 26, 2017

This magazine arrives in our mailbox four times a year; not because we subscribe but because we live in this community. We never sent our kids to public schools, choosing rather to educate them at home. When I grabbed the mail and walked back to the house I had not even reached the front door […]

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Dr. Peter Kreeft is the Devil: Advising How to Win the World!

April 23, 2017

What a delightfully fun hour of wit and wisdom! If you have two brain cells that connect and wish to understand God and the world — and if you aren’t afraid of the truth and talk about sex — you will LOVE this. If you aren’t politically correct about atheism and Islam and other such […]

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Can’t Believe I Agree with the Looney Women on The View!!

April 21, 2017

Ann Coulter is a conservative and a Christian. She was invited to speak at Berkeley University in California and the liberal left are going crazy. They protested to the point where the University rescinded her invitation. And Coulter is not one to back down and said she’ll be there anyway. Bravo! The battle lines are […]

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I’m thinking we are wrong about Assad and Syria…

April 8, 2017

My recent Tweets: I’m thinking we were wrong about Syria, who used the gas and President Assad. Why was attack launched before full investigation? What did Assad have to gain? Why do local Christians support Assad? Too many questions. Bishop of Jerusalem told me USA was wrong and Russia right in regard to Syria. The […]

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