Steven Newcomb: Church edicts lead to centuries of domination

An oil painting of Pope Paul III, sometime between 1545 and 1546. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee / Lenape) of the Indigenous Law Institute continues to call for Pope Francis and the Catholic Church to rescind negative policies like the Doctrine of Christian Discovery:
In 1537, Pope Paul III issued the papal bull Sublimis Deus (Sublime God). The pope did so after being particularly influenced by a priest named Antonio Montesinos who traveled to Rome from the island of Hispanola to argue against the horrific treatment of the Indians. Montesinos did so on behalf of his particular group of priests from the Dominican Order in Hispanola. The Catholic Church has been saying for quite a few years now that the document Sublimis Deus served to correct a number of papal documents of subjugation and colonization that were issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493.

The Church is taking this position because the papal document Sublimis Deus said that the Indians are to be regarded as truly human (evidently they were not regarded as human before that). The document Sublimis Deus also said the Indian nations were not to be deprived of their liberty or property. There is, however, two problems with the Catholic Church’s contemporary argument about the bull Sublimis Deus. First of all, as a result of political pressure from Emperor Charles V, who had all copies of the document retrieved and returned to Spain, Pope Paul III later removed all ecclesiastical penalties (interdict and excommunication) for any violation of the terms of the document Sublimis Deus. Secondly, by 1537 millions of Indians had already been deprived of their lives, their liberty, and their property because of the papal bulls of 1493.

The bull Sublimis Deus was not retroactive. It could not be projected back in time. It could not remove the death, destruction, and dehumanization that the Holy See had unleashed for more than four decades on the basis of the Alexandrian bulls of 1493.

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: On the Papal Bull, 'Sublimis Deus' (Indian Country Today 5/23)

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