Vatican Rejects Doctrine Justifying Colonialism
The Catholic church has formally rejected a fifteenth century “doctrine of discovery” used to justify European colonisation of Africa and the Americas.
The doctrine, which was based on decrees set out on the so-called “Papal Bulls”, was legally invoked by Europeans who “discovered” new lands and often violently seized it from the indigenous people.
But in a statement on Thursday, the vatican said the doctrine was not part of the teaching of the catholic church” even as it still informs current state policies and laws.
The vatican said the catholic church was acknowledging that the papal edicts did not reflect the “equal dignity and rights of indigenous people”.
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It said that it was aware the documents were manipulated for political purposes by colonial powers to justify “immoral acts”.
According to the Vatican, it is only just to recognise these errors, acknowledge the terrible effects of the assimilation policies and the pain experienced by indigenous peoples, and ask for pardon.
“Today’s news on the Vatican’s formal repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery is the result of hard work and advocacy on the part of Indigenous leadership and communities,” Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti wrote on Twitter. “A doctrine that should have never existed. This is another step forward.”
The Doctrine of Discovery was cited as recently as a 2005 US Supreme Court decision involving the Oneida Indian Nation and written by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
On Thursday, the Vatican offered no evidence that the three papal bulls (Dum Diversas in 1452, Romanus Pontifex in 1455 and Inter Caetera in 1493) had themselves been formally abrogated, rescinded or rejected, as Vatican officials have often said.
But it cited a subsequent papal bull, Sublimis Deus in 1537, that reaffirmed that Indigenous peoples should not be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, and were not to be enslaved.