Did Pope Innocent VII accept a gift of 100 slaves?

In 1488, Pope Innocent VIII accepted the gift of 100 slaves from Ferdinand II of Aragon, and distributed those slaves to his cardinals and the Roman nobility.[82]
source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_slavery



There are some who say that Wikipedia is perhaps not the best source for information. However…in this, I think that it is fairly accurate, yes. Yet this was long ago, and the standards of the world were considerably lower back then. Surely, there have been less than perfect Popes, but many of them throughout history have served as great leaders for the worldwide Catholic community, in my opinion.

Here is the bibliography entry for the footnote to that assertion:

{{cite book |author=Luis M. Bermejo, S.J. |title=Infallibility on Trial |year=1992 |publisher=Christian Classics, Inc. |isbn=0-87061-190-9 |page=315}}

Find the book and find out for yourself!

Throughout Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, theologians generally followed St. Augustine in holding that although slavery could not be justified under natural law it was not absolutely forbidden by that law. As a consequence the Roman Catholic Church, up until the modern era, came to accept certain types of slavery as a social consequence of the current human condition, connected by some with original sin, but teaching that slaves should be treated humanely and justly.

Between the 6th and 12th century there was a growing sentiment that slavery was not compatible with Christian conceptions of charity and justice; some argued against slavery whilst others, including the influential Thomas Aquinas, argued the case for slavery subject to certain restrictions. The church did succeed in almost entirely enforcing that a free Christian could not be enslaved, for example when a captive in war, but this was not consistently applied throughout history, as in the case of Pope Paul III who sanctioned the enslavement of baptised Christians in Rome.

The Middle Ages also witnessed the emergence of orders of monks such as the Mercedarians who were founded for the purpose of ransoming Christian slaves. By the end of the Medieval period, enslavement of Christians had been largely abolished throughout Europe although enslavement of non-Christians remained permissible, and had seen a revival in Spain and Portugal.

Although some Catholic clergy, religious orders and Popes owned slaves, and the naval galleys of the Papal States were to use captured Muslim galley slaves, Roman Catholic teaching began to turn more strongly against “unjust” forms of slavery in general, beginning in 1435, prohibiting the enslavement of the recently baptised, culminating in pronouncements by Pope Paul III in 1537.

so yes i think it is probable even if he owned slaves that he would not engage in chattel slavery by mistreating them

God bless


Most people are not aware of their own church’s history.

Never, ever forget that one cannot judge any historical figure by contemporary standards. What is considered heinous today was considered permissible in the past.
Today, there are some who consider any form of Capital Punishment abhorrant, Yet only 100 years ago it was common and was done in public…and even then was limited to hanging or electrocution…yet in the 1400’s, the time you are citing, beheading was considered a merciful execution, the common form being either burning at the stake or drawing and quartering. In drawing and quartering, the person to be executed was tied down facing up and his vital organs, his insides were cut out while he was alive with no anasthesia. Then his body was cut into 4 pieces and distributed around the city/town for public display, all of which was done in public.
As for slavery, it was a common practice throughout the Mediterranian basin at the time of Christ, and there is no mention of it in the New Testament except for an admonition to slaves to obey their masters and for masters to treat their slaves as brothers. Thus were the standards at that time. Christ never mentioned slaves.

We can’t look at the past through the lens of the present. Think how barbaric our society is going to look a couple hundred years from now. Our rampant abortions and endless wars. Street gangs. Children shooting children down on the streets. For all our advances in technology and medicine and science, we’re just as if not more barbaric today than people were in the middle ages. And it’s because morality has gone out the window steadily over the last several hundred years. It was a slow death, but one that crept up on all of us.

Several of the Popes were very worldly around that time, many shamefully so. It would have been nice if Pope Innocent had accepted the slaves and then set them free but those days were not as the modern period, as others here have already noted.

btw Wikipedia is often very reliable. Generally speaking, is as reliable as its footnotes (which can be checked for veracity… and you should check them).

I’m trying to imagine your all’s reaction if someone tried to advance that excuse for Stalin or Dioclesian.

In accepting the slaves maybe the pope had very good intentions. And would of thought better under himselfs then other someone else. maybe the slaves where treated alot more better.i would rather be a slave serving a cardinal then a slave serving someone else.

There were some bad popes in the Middle Ages, and again in the Renaissance, with the Borgia and de Medici popes in particular. So what? They were human beings. There have also been many devout and pious popes and some positively brilliant popes, such as our current Benedict XVI, a truly gifted theologian and his predecessor John Paul II, a stellar philosopher.

Yes I can. I can judge the Catholic Church and its leaders’ teachings over the years because it claims to be the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow, and claims to be God’s direct representative on earth. Oh, and infallible too.

We Lutherans are really good at picking apart Popes, but in my opinion, this particular example isn’t much of a condemnation of the papal office.

If one studies history, being a slave in the service of the church hiarchy could very well have been a better fate than most.

Of course the modern mind rebels at the thought of being a slave, and thankfully we have such an abundance that no one should ever be chained again, but times were not that good back then. Being alive was a triumph.

I suppose it’s possible that some slaves would rather be owned by the Pope than by Simon Legree, but I’m having a difficult time accepting that freedom and a return to their families wouldn’t have been their first choice – if they had been given that choice.

Regarding the Catholic Church and slavery, from the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Celibacy of the Clergy (see here):

In the first place, disabilities of all kinds were enacted and as far as possible enforced against the wives and children of ecclesiastics. Their offspring were declared to be of servile condition, debarred from sacred orders, and, in particular, incapable of succeeding to their fathers’ benefices. The earliest decree in which the children were declared to be slaves, the property of the Church, and never to be enfranchised, seems to have been a canon of the Synod of Pavia in 1018. Similar penalties were promulgated later on against the wives and concubines (see the Synod of Melfi, 1189, can. xii), who by the very fact of their unlawful connection with a subdeacon or clerk of higher rank became liable to be seized as slaves by the over-lord. Hefele (Concilienge-schichte, V, 195) sees in this first trace of the principle that the marriages of the clerics are ipso facto invalid.

What of it? Some of our Popes had children out of wedlock, some may have been murderers, some gave money and positions of power to friends and relations (ie nepotism). In short, some were heinous sinners.

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