Steven Newcomb: Church fails to address doctrine of domination

Steven Newcomb. Photo from Finding the Missing Link

A new set of documents from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops attempts to explain the Catholic Church's position on the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. But Steven Newcomb (Shawnee / Lenape) of the Indigenous Law Institute argues that the church remains in denial about it role in subjugating Native peoples through law and policy:
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is comprised of four Catholic organizations across Canada. On March 19, 2016 the CCCB issued “The ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ and Terra Nullius: A Catholic Response.” Written partly in response to Calls to Action #46 and #49 in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Catholic statement is said to “repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.”

Twenty four years ago, my friend and mentor Birgil Kills Straight (Oglala Lakota Nation) and I kicked off a global campaign against the Doctrine of Discovery. We began by calling for Pope John Paul II to revoke the Inter Caetera papal decree of May 4, 1493. Why? It was one of several Vatican documents which called for the domination of non-Christian nations. Because we are continuing with our international work on those documents, we have something to say about the Catholic Church’s recent statement on the doctrine of discovery.

Unfortunately, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report does not include the focus of our campaign; the report does not once use the word “domination.” For two decades we have been using the papal bulls of the fifteenth century as a way to educate Indigenous nations and peoples and others around the world about current patterns of domination and dehumanization which are traced to the texts of those ancient Vatican documents. For centuries, dominating patterns of thought and behavior have been woven into the political and legal systems of countries such as the United States and Canada (and elsewhere), where they persist. What is typically and somewhat inaptly called the doctrine of discovery is an ongoing language system of domination that is still being used against our Original Nations and Peoples today.

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: A Legacy of Domination in Catholic Church Decrees (Indian Country Today 4/12)

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