Saturday, May 6, 2017

Canonizing Junipero Serra



I just saw where the pope intends to canonize an 18th century priest and some natives of California are complaining about how their ancestors were treated by Europeans during that time (which of course, is true). Well, naturally I have a story relating to that very topic which I read about in one of Alistair Cooks books:

For about 50 years in the 16th century, the Spanish Conquistadors brutalized the Indians of the new world, enslaving them and working them to death in gold and silver mines. Fortunes were made for the Spanish conquerors. The catholic priests who routinely accompanied the conquistadors on their explorations of new lands were appalled by the treatment of the Indians. They complained about the abuses, but their complaints fell on deaf ears. Finally, returning to Spain from the new world, a priest (Dominican Friar Bartolome de Las Casas) complained to the king of Spain and the whole thing wound up in court.

Las Casas complained that human beings could not be treated in such a fashion as the Indians were being treated, but the attorney for the conquistadors, Sepulveda (a humanist scholar) argued that by acceptable civilized standards, Indians were not human beings.  The court agreed with this intellectual elitist and the enslavement of Indians continued.  So the priests went to the pope. Pope Paul III was outraged and made a papal decision declaring that Indians were human beings and henceforth would be treated as such. He also declared that anyone violating this decree faced excommunication.  This forced the king of Spain to inform the conquistadors that they would lose all financial support for their expeditions if they did not comply with the New Law of 1542.
The political and financial aspects of the Spanish hung in the balance of a debate between the intellectual gymnastics of a humanist-scholar and the straightforward declaration by a theological absolutist.  Of interest, one Spanish ship returned to Spain with a cargo of gold that was worth in today’s money, thirty million dollars!  Pope Paul III was up against astronomical political and financial interests. But he maintained that some things were beyond debate… were “absolutes”.
I just saw where the pope intends to canonize an 18th century priest and some natives of California are complaining about how their ancestors were treated by Europeans during that time (which of course, is true). Well, naturally I have a story relating to that very topic which I read about in one of Alistair Cooks books: 

For about 50 years in the 16th century, the Spanish Conquistadors brutalized the Indians of the new world, enslaving them and working them to death in gold and silver mines. Fortunes were made for the Spanish conquerors. The catholic priests who routinely accompanied the conquistadors on their explorations of new lands were appalled by the treatment of the Indians. They complained about the abuses, but their complaints fell on deaf ears. Finally, returning to Spain from the new world, a priest (Dominican Friar Bartolome de Las Casas) complained to the king of Spain and the whole thing wound up in court.

Las Casas complained that human beings could not be treated in such a fashion as the Indians were being treated, but the attorney for the conquistadors, Sepulveda (a humanist scholar) argued that by acceptable civilized standards, Indians were not human beings.  The court agreed with this intellectual elitist and the enslavement of Indians continued.  So the priests went to the pope. Pope Paul III was outraged and made a papal decision declaring that Indians were human beings and henceforth would be treated as such. He also declared that anyone violating this decree faced excommunication.  This forced the king of Spain to inform the conquistadors that they would lose all financial support for their expeditions if they did not comply with the New Law of 1542.
The political and financial aspects of the Spanish hung in the balance of a debate between the intellectual gymnastics of a humanist-scholar and the straightforward declaration by a theological absolutist.  Of interest, one Spanish ship returned to Spain with a cargo of gold that was worth in today’s money, thirty million dollars!  Pope Paul III was up against astronomical political and financial interests. But he maintained that some things were beyond debate… were “absolutes”.

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