The Catholic Church: the First Abolitionist, Church Never Endorsed Slavery

by Steve Ray on July 28, 2020

Crisis Magazine has come out with a good and insightful article debunking the idea that the Catholic Church endorsed and promoted slavery. The modern anti-Christian, anti-history narrative takes it for granted that the Church was either a promoter of slavery, or at best complicit or it turned a blind eye.

This article by Paul Kengor puts that lie to bed and again affirms that the Church is correct and has always been. There are a lot of comments and discussion after the article on the website.

“Roman Catholics: the First Abolitionists” begins

FE13BEFBA30F4F64BB77DA807D255DC9Progressives eagerly remind America of its past of slavery and racism. So much so that The New York Times’ 1619 Project literally dates America that way, defining the country’s start by the year 1619 (rather than 1620 or 1776), with the arrival of the first Africans to Virginia that year. Mobs target statues of everyone from Washington and Jefferson to (curiously) Union generals like Ulysses S. Grant, who defeated the Confederacy before battling the KKK, and even Abraham Lincoln and (most bizarre of all) Frederick Douglass, the great black abolitionist.

Very often, the mob engages in bad history, targeting literal saints who sought to protect natives from persecution, such as Saint Junípero Serra, who is being hunted and torn down throughout California. For a downright chilling display, watch the video of a raging mob in Sacramento blowtorching Serra’s face, spray-painting the statue with obscenities, and then pouncing on it with hammers while cheering, chanting, and cursing in the dark of night.

The problem with mobs, you see, is that they behave like, well, mobs.

Screen Shot 2020-07-27 at 9.50.06 AMWe Catholics know this will not stop with Saint Serra. Also in the crosshairs are the likes of Saint Louis, Christopher Columbus (obviously), and who knows who else. Last weekend, one of Serra’s mission churches in California went up in flames, with the cause of the fire not yet known. In the last few days, a statue of Mary was set on fire in Boston and another was vandalized in Brooklyn (among others). As to what Mary has to do with the modern anti-statue-racism movement is anyone’s guess.

Nonetheless, if the issue is (rightly so) a just condemnation of slavery and racism, and if one is genuinely seeking accurate history, then today’s activists ought to look back in admiration at the impressive track record of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, now is a good time for Catholics to step up with a teachable moment regarding how their Church has long condemned human enslavement. This history goes back to at least 1435, over a half-century before Columbus set sail for the New World. This rich record spans from the 1400s into the modern era with Pope Francis.

For the whole article, CLICK HERE.

See below for my previous post about slavery and the Catholic Church….

Did the Church Ever Support Slavery?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

john July 29, 2020 at 9:20 AM

You are aware that many Catholic religious orders, such as the Jesuits at Georgetown University, owned and traded slaves? Deeds are far more compelling than words.

STEVE RAY HERE: Yes, you are correct, but the Church has always condemned it. Many Catholics then and now do not follow the teachings of the Church. Sad.

Opal August 21, 2020 at 6:57 PM

@john there is a difference between individuals engaging in illicit behavior and the church condoning it. Were it approved and accepted by the dogmatic teaching of the church, then you can blame the church for systemically perpetuating racism. While the actions of the Jesuits at Georgetown University was deplorable, they represent a small fragment of systemic racism insofar as it was perpetuated at that institution. But we cannot say the church was responsible, but just that at times it may have been complicit. And sometimes, religious would buy slaves so they could give them a more decent life, however, this was very rarely the case. And yes, I am black.

STEVE RAY HERE: Opel, wise words. Thanks!

john August 24, 2020 at 1:36 AM

It's unbelievable anyone would try to argue the church was not complicit in slavery when 1) there is not a shred of evidence the church ever threatened ex-communication of slave owners, 2) religious communities themselves owned slaves and 3) slavery was prominent in so many overwhelmingly Catholic empires (start with the Romans or take a more modern look at Spanish and Portuguese colonizations). How anyone can try to brush it all off as "individual behavior" is just ludicrous. Is there any evidence that any pope ordered religious communities to free their slaves (and the communities simply refused), or warned Catholic kings, queens, nobles and subjects that they were committing a mortal sin by tolerating or actively engaging in slavery? If it were something hidden and impossible to detect, you MIGHT have a case. But it was brazen, widespread and, ultimately, condoned by the church's silence. Let's not whitewash history. Let's atone for it the way John Paul II did when he apologized in 2000 for the church's role in racism (what is the foundation of slavery if not racism?), sexism and violence. Shame lies in denial, not atonement. To clarify, I'm speaking specifically about actions. The church ex-communicates women who have had abortions, it admonishes leaders who support it and it would never tolerate a religious community that ran an abortion clinic. The same cannot be said of it's response to slavery.

STEVE RAY HERE: I never claimed in my blog post that Catholics were not complicit in slavery because many were. Slavery was a well-engrained institution from early in the beginning of human society. The Catholic Church has not always “been in charge” and does not have armies or legislatures to control countries. It did preach against the institution and practice of slavery, however not perfectly.

Had it not been for the Church and Christians in general, slavery would still be ingrained in the Western World today — actually it is again becoming very prevalent in the underground black market.

Regarding racism, there was that involved, but don’t forget that black people had and sold black slaves, not just Whites did that. Kamala Harris’s black family were themselves slave owners. Throughout history “racism” has not been the leading cause of slavery. In biblical and Roman times it was often a debtor who became an indentured servant, or victors in battle would enslave their defeated foes, etc.

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