Steven Newcomb: Time for Pope Francis to revoke the papal bulls

During his first visit to the United States in September 2015, Pope Francis bestowed sainthood upon Junipero Serra, who was the founder of the Indian mission system in California. Photo by Catholic University of America

Pope Francis has asked indigenous peoples for "forgiveness" for the atrocities committed by the Catholic Church but what he really needs to do is renounce the papal bulls that form the basis of modern Indian law and policy argues Steven Newcomb (Shawnee / Lenape) of the Indigenous Law Institute:
Imagine if Pope Francis were to further say to the world: “My predecessors had no right to call, as they did, for non-Christian nations to be reduced and subjected to the domination of the Christian empire (“imperii Christiani”). The claimed right of domination by Christian powers, authorized by the Holy See, was not in keeping with the teachings of Jesus.”

Imagine if Pope Francis were to acknowledge that the domination language written into the papal documents of the fifteenth century, and later written into the political and legal systems of states, never had any validity. What if the pope were to acknowledge that the political systems, such as the United States, that emerged from Western Christendom, have today no valid claim of a right of domination over our original free nations? This would undercut all state claims of authority over our nations and our lives.

Imagine if Pope Francis were to support our contention that there is no such thing as a right of domination over our nations and peoples. The pope would thereby announce to the world what we already know: Our original nations are still rightfully free of any and all claims of political domination now being asserted by dominating states against our nations and peoples, and, therefore, such claims by states are wrongful and unacceptable. Such an acknowledgment by Pope Francis would send an important and powerful message to the world.

The pope’s candid admission of the wrongful nature of his predecessors’ decrees and pronouncements, such as those of Pope Nicholas V and Pope Alexander VI, would be a step toward destroying once and for all the very premise of a claimed right to dominate and to dehumanize our nations. His admission would eliminate the starting point (premise) of the political arguments and judicial precedents of domination still being used against our nations at this time, judicial precedents which maintain in our era the dominating biases and bigotries of Western Christendom’s past.

Read More:
Steven Newcomb: When Pope Francis Revokes the Papal Bull (Indian Country Today 9/3)

Join the Conversation