We have been celebrating the implications of the Webb Telescope for awakening humanity to a healthy sense of our place and time in this amazing universe which has bestowed so many gifts in bringing forth the Milky Way and then Mother Earth 4.5 billion years ago.
It is synchronistic that we are doing so especially since the spotlight is on the indigenous peoples of Canada this week and the primal peoples have never lost the sacredness of Father Sky and Mother Earth.
Pope Francis has just embarked on a six day journey to Canada which he rightly calls a “penitential voyage” to meet with the first peoples of Canada to give a public apology for the abuse and trauma inflicted on their ancestors at Catholic schools in the 19th century up to the 1970’s.* (Other religious traditions including Anglican, Presbyterian, Mormon as well as state governments are also implicated for similar crimes.) The Catholic schools in Canada (with parallel stories in the United States for sure) stole 150,000 children away from their families and culture, their language and their ceremonies, in order to force them into Canada’s white society. Physical and sexual abuse often followed as well.
Apologies are not enough, as the indigenous leaders are demanding an accounting of the children wherever possible and prosecution of those teachers and clergy who committed physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
There is something else surely that Pope Francis can do as penitence for the sins of the church: That is to renounce publicly the Doctrine of Discovery papal bulls promulgated in the fifteenth century by two popes. These “doctrines” gave power to Christian kings and queens to confiscate lands and enslave peoples in Africa and the “New World.”
In 1823, the doctrine of discovery became a concept of public international law expounded by the United States Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall. “The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments.”
A fall/redemption theology was at the heart of this imperial conquest by “Christian” potentates and empire builders for the doctrine of discovery promotes original sin in spades—original sin institutionalized, frozen, and projected onto all “non-believers.” It served as the primary instrument in denouncing the primal religions of humankind by demanding their redemption to Christ. Without Christian redemption they were doomed—in this life and the next!
Every Christian body today should formally renounce it, and the pope should burn it in St. Peter’s Square for all the world to see. (It will be enough to burn only a copy of the bulls—the originals can remain under glass in the Vatican library for all to ponder on for centuries to come.)
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic…and Beyond, pp. xxxviii, 116-118.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree that it is time to burn the Doctrine of Discovery in St. Peter’s square? What other penitential actions might Pope Francis offer?
Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond
Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.” –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.