We are considering how waking up to a more just society includes ridding our minds of symbols such as confederate flags and statues and statues of Junipero Serra, sadist to the Indians.
We cannot understand colonialism and racism that began when Columbus, whose voyages were paid for from property confiscated by expelling Jews from Spain, landed on American shores without understanding the imperial and religious ideology that sent him here.
That ideology confuses itself with the universe. Racism and colonialism therefore are issues of cosmology. The human mind, when heathy, seeks to connect to the sacred universe, the “whole,” but when unhealthy it asserts itself as the cosmos. Thomas Berry calls the universe “the primary sacred reality. We become sacred by our participating in this more sublime dimension of the world around us.”
But humans are often eager to substitute our gods and pet projects for the universe itself. Nowhere is this more self-evident than in the bloated self-aggrandizing series of papal bulls known as the Discovery Project developed by three popes in the fifteenth century that established the sovereignty of European nations over indigenous lands and peoples. These bulls, employed first by the Portuguese empire, granted the right to appropriate and steal Africans to enslave them to buttress an economic system and “christian empire” that depended on free labor. It also established the Spanish conquest of the Americas and its indigenous peoples.
The Requerimiento document of 1513, was a summary of the papal bulls of the “Discovery Doctrine.” In it indigenous peoples conquered by the Spanish Empire were instructed that the Pope is appointed by God to “govern the world” and that Saint Peter was acknowledged in his time as “Lord and King, and the superior of the universe” who was appointed to be “in charge of the human race” and that such an appointment “will continue until the end of the world.” This news was promulgated to the indigenous peoples in Spanish—a language they did not understand (maybe that was for the good). Indigenous people believed all creation and the cosmos were ruled by a very good Creator (never having heard of this fellow named Peter).
As I have discussed in my book on Evil, the great sin of arrogance derives from a loss of cosmos. When healthy, the first chakra connects to holy Mother Earth and to the whole cosmos (for it is primarily about vibration and all atoms and therefore all beings are vibrating). When humans and human institutions inflate their egos and parade their arrogance in place of the cosmos, the first chakra is off balance and bad things happen. Racism and colonialism and ecocide among them.
The discovery doctrine was used against indigenous peoples in America from 1606 onwards and became enshrined in American law by a supreme court decision in Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823 which bestowed “an exclusive right to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy.”
Time to take down Serra’s statues? I think so. And time to burn the Discovery bulls in Saint Peter’s Square for all to see.
See: Elias Castillo, A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions, pp. 215. And Steven T. Newcomb, Five Hundred Years of Injustice: The Legacy of Fifteenth Century Religious Prejudice (http://ili.nativeweb.org/sdrm_art.html)
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 202f., 189ff.
See also, Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, pp. 361, 365.
Queries for Contemplation
Be still and meditate on what it meant to you if you were an African stolen to America; or an indigenous person driven from your land. How does that feel?
Did your history classes (or religion classes) teach you about the Doctrine of Discovery? If not, I wonder why not. Can we learn from history and forge a better future for all races? How important is it that we begin with renewing our educational curricula?
The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved
The Pope’s War offers a provocative look at three decades of corruption in the Catholic Church, focusing on Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. The final section in the book focuses on birthing a truly catholic Christianity.
“This book should be read by everybody, not only for its ferocious courage, but also for its vision for what needs to be saved from the destructive forces that threaten authentic Christianity.” ~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope.
“In the gripping The Pope’s War, Matthew Fox takes an unwavering look at the layers of corruption in the Catholic Church, holding moral truth against power.” — Jason Berry, author of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II