Invincible Ignorance: Was this once NOT a Catholic teaching?


#1

I was reading an account of the Spanish massacre of the New World written by a Catholic missionary.

The author would praise these natives for being so gentle and kind-hearted, and yet the Spanish tortured and murdered millions of them.

Whenever this happened he would despair that the “poor souls have been case into Everlasting Hellfire.”

I am hoping that this is some error on his part and was never a part of Church teaching?

The only exposure to Christianity that the natives had ever seen would have been their offering gold and all their food (so that their families went starving) to these Spaniards only to be burned alive at the stake and tortured in soul-chilling ways.

Was the relatively open-ended statement in the Catechism today about invincible ignorance always the case, and if not, how would it not have been with relation to situations such as these?


#2

[font=Fixedsys]“Invincible ignorance” has always been a part of
the Church, though not necessarily using those exact words.

A diligent search in the Fathers shows a similar situation in regard to
"no salvation outside the Church." We find again two sets of assertions,
very often by the same writers. One group of statements speaks very
strongly, and almost stringently, about the need of membership; the other
group softens this position by taking a remarkably broad view of what
membership consists in.

As we said, in the problems of the human knowledge of Jesus, the Fathers
eventually did find out how to reconcile the two kinds of assertions. On
our present question of membership in the Church, they seem to have found
only part of the answer. But, with their help, we will, at the end of this[/font]
appendix, propose a new Scripturally-based solution.

[font=Fixedsys]And the solution?
[font=Book Antiqua][size=4]
[/font][/size][/font]So we seem to have found the much needed solution: Those who follow the
Spirit of Christ, the Logos who writes the law on their hearts, are
Christians, are members of Christ, are members of His Church. They may
lack indeed external adherence; they may never have heard of the Church.
But yet, in the substantial sense, without formal adherence, they do
belong to Christ, to His Church.

They can also be called sons of God, for Romans 8:14 adds: “All who are
led by the Spirit are sons of God.” As sons, of course, they are coheirs
with Christ (Rom 8:17), and so will inherit the kingdom with Him.

We can even add that objectively–though probably those who drafted the
text or voted for it did not realize it–Vatican II taught the same thing:
“For all who belong to Christ, having His Spirit, coalesce into one
Church.”[99]


#3

[quote=Mike O]I was reading an account of the Spanish massacre of the New World written by a Catholic missionary.

The author would praise these natives for being so gentle and kind-hearted, and yet the Spanish tortured and murdered millions of them.

Whenever this happened he would despair that the “poor souls have been case into Everlasting Hellfire.”

I am hoping that this is some error on his part and was never a part of Church teaching?

The only exposure to Christianity that the natives had ever seen would have been their offering gold and all their food (so that their families went starving) to these Spaniards only to be burned alive at the stake and tortured in soul-chilling ways.

Was the relatively open-ended statement in the Catechism today about invincible ignorance always the case, and if not, how would it not have been with relation to situations such as these?
[/quote]

The first error is that the Spanish did horid things to the natives of the Americas. That “old-wives-tale” has been a perpetuated fiction of history to discredit the Church.

However, even if the attrocites were true. The problem that existed then was that there was a belief that the Indians were not human. The Spanish Inquisition was conviened to answer that question. The Inquisition ruled that they were human and entitled to all rights and privledges as such. Hence the work of conversion began including co-existance and limited self-governance in some areas. This is in stark contrast to the Protestant way in which the Indians were treated one of the best examples comes from George Washington who decimated a tribe in up-state New York because a fur trader was robbed.


#4

[quote=mosher]The first error is that the Spanish did horid things to the natives of the Americas.
[/quote]

The Spanish did do horrible things to the natives of the Americas. The question is whether this unnamed account from an Catholic missionary recounting mass murder, torture, burnings, et cetera, is accurate.

– Mark L. Chance.


#5

[quote=mlchance]The Spanish did do horrible things to the natives of the Americas. The question is whether this unnamed account from an Catholic missionary recounting mass murder, torture, burnings, et cetera, is accurate.

– Mark L. Chance.
[/quote]

No, again, this is historical fiction perpetuated by protestantized history. The reality is that the spanish followed the rules of war however they allied themselves with other minor tribes who did not - and were happy to give some pay back for all the years of taking their children as human sacrifices. The perfect example is what was done here in New Mexico and how well the Indians were treated by the Spanish. Unfortunatelly this treatment did not last after the Spanish left.


#6

Some Spanish did horrible things; other Spanish (like Father Serra) did WONDERFUL things. But “the Spanish” did not murder MILLIONS of native Americans deliberately. Nor was the Spanish Inquisition called to verify the 'humanity" of Indians–but rather to deal with heretics who defied their Christian faith. . .something quite different. And Columbus was ITALIAN, was he not? Weren’t Spain and Portugal–and quite soon England, France, and Holland as well-ALL involved in imperialism and colonialism? Weren’t the native Americans themselves involved in wars (albeit on a smaller scale), and didn’t native Americans engage in genocide, and even in human sacrifice, in some areas?

I am not attempting to justify wrongs. . .they did occur, on , and have done so throughout history, sometimes deliberately (war) and sometimes not (plagues or epidemics). These Spanish had some 800 years earlier been decimated by Muslim forces; before that it was the Goths. Britain’s indigenous population was pretty much taken over by Angles, Saxons, and Jutes and then the Norman French did some hefty damage. At the same time (within 100 years or so) of the first trips to the New World we had Kubla Khan and Tamerlane, the Turks nearly took Europe, China was taken over by nonChinese “barbarians” for the next 400 years, there was all sorts of slave trading --of blacks BY blacks–going on in Africa. . .

The exploration and settlement of the New World by the Old World was not some sort of isolated effort made to wipe out a people in the name of “religion”, as many revisionists might like people to believe.


#7

[quote=mosher]No, again, this is historical fiction perpetuated by protestantized history. The reality is that the spanish followed the rules of war however they allied themselves with other minor tribes who did not - and were happy to give some pay back for all the years of taking their children as human sacrifices. The perfect example is what was done here in New Mexico and how well the Indians were treated by the Spanish. Unfortunatelly this treatment did not last after the Spanish left.
[/quote]

No, this is fact. What isn’t always brought up, however, is that the Church herself, and overwhelmingly in her priests, sought to protect the Native Americans (Bartolomeo de las Casas in Mexico, Fr. Serra and the mission padres in California, etc.). Civil and ecclesiastical authorities constantly came into conflict over the treatment of the aboriginal people.

There is an increasing tendency to discount any history that reflects poorly on the Church in these forums. It’s based on some fantasy and I’d like to find out which one. The Church is impeccable in Her Nature, but She isn’t in Her members. She doesn’t suffer when truth is proclaimed, even if it’s uncomfortable.


#8

[quote=Tantum ergo]Some Spanish did horrible things; other Spanish (like Father Serra) did WONDERFUL things. But “the Spanish” did not murder MILLIONS of native Americans deliberately. Nor was the Spanish Inquisition called to verify the 'humanity" of Indians–but rather to deal with heretics who defied their Christian faith. . .something quite different. And Columbus was ITALIAN, was he not? Weren’t Spain and Portugal–and quite soon England, France, and Holland as well-ALL involved in imperialism and colonialism? Weren’t the native Americans themselves involved in wars (albeit on a smaller scale), and didn’t native Americans engage in genocide, and even in human sacrifice, in some areas?

I am not attempting to justify wrongs. . .they did occur, on , and have done so throughout history, sometimes deliberately (war) and sometimes not (plagues or epidemics). These Spanish had some 800 years earlier been decimated by Muslim forces; before that it was the Goths. Britain’s indigenous population was pretty much taken over by Angles, Saxons, and Jutes and then the Norman French did some hefty damage. At the same time (within 100 years or so) of the first trips to the New World we had Kubla Khan and Tamerlane, the Turks nearly took Europe, China was taken over by nonChinese “barbarians” for the next 400 years, there was all sorts of slave trading --of blacks BY blacks–going on in Africa. . .

The exploration and settlement of the New World by the Old World was not some sort of isolated effort made to wipe out a people in the name of “religion”, as many revisionists might like people to believe.
[/quote]

Yes, this is also true. There is a myth of the “noble innocence” of indigenous cultures, but it’s just a myth as well. The Temple of the Sun at it’s dedication was completely and totally covered by blood and it ran down into the streets of Tenochtitlan. That’s how many victims were sacrificed, their hearts torn from their chests. The better cuts of “meat” were saved for stews and for the Aztec emperors menagerie of jungle cats. All the other refuse was used to help fertilize the “floating” gardens (on rafts) that they used to grow crops. That’s why I don’t have much patience for those who decry the coming of the “white man” and “the white man’s God…” at least the light of the Gospel was brought to these shores. Remember the “don’t litter” commercial from 30 years ago that showed the Native American man weeping over a trash covered America? Well, the Hopi were pitching trash off the Third Mesa in Arizona before Columbus ever made it over here. Archaeologists and anthropologists have made a career of going through their miden heaps.


#9

I agree that the members of the Church are not impeccable, but I also believe (having been a history major long enough ago that I’m practically history myself) that there have been gross revisions and biased information presented about the Church. . .most egregiously, the attempts made to gauge all actions strictly according to 21st century society and mores, when those actions happened centuries ago in a very different society. Even many simple words used today have different meanings than they did years ago (gentleman is an example, and Christian is fast becoming another). A gentleman once meant a person of a particular economic and social group. Over time, people started using the word to reflect the supposed attributes of a gentleman–specifically, a gentleman was supposed to be thoughtful and well mannered. NOW, that is what the word “gentleman” MEANS to most people–a “well mannered person”, but that is NOT what the word meant in, say, the time of Shakespeare.

Too many people fail to take into account that people living say in 1600 did not know what was going to happen in 1601, let alone 1801, or 2001. We, OTOH, have the luxury of hindsight. We also have advantages and luxuries, even among the poorest of us, that the wealthy of those times would have envied. . .near universal literacy, freedom from most of the diseases and events that killed off the majority of people before they were 30, etc.

The average person of 1600 was fairly homogenous, with a limited and parochial view (not that that was necessarily a bad thing). The “diversity” we hold to today would have been bewildering, and without 400 odd years of battle leading first to mutual agreement to stop battle, and then to uneasy acknowledgement of differences, then indifference, and finally to today’s climate of elevation of “tolerance” to godhood, in that we celebrate everything as “it’s ALL good”. . .well, that would NOT have flown in 1600. . .and it might not fly in 2400. We don’t know. That will be for the person living then to (unfairly) judge US and OUR society by. . .


#10

[quote=mlchance]The Spanish did do horrible things to the natives of the Americas. The question is whether this unnamed account from an Catholic missionary recounting mass murder, torture, burnings, et cetera, is accurate.

– Mark L. Chance.
[/quote]

Official Catholic policy towards the natives was always of conversion - not “replacement”, as was often the protestant policy. However there is little doubt that ranchers, colonisers and plantation owners were responsible for much freelance repression and enslavement.

A very detailed history of the conquest of Mexico is here;
etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/PreConq.html

This chapter details some early attempts at conversions
etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=PreConq.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=19&division=div2


#11

[quote=mosher]The first error is that the Spanish did horid things to the natives of the Americas. That “old-wives-tale” has been a perpetuated fiction of history to discredit the Church.
[/quote]

Nonsense.

Bartoleme de Las Casas was a Dominican missionary from 1502-1542 in the area. He chronicled the atrocities.

According to you, Las Casas, a Catholic missionary, made it up to discredit his own Church.

What an insult to those who died. The Spanish raped women and children. They tortured those from Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Peru, Venezuela, etc. by holding their feet over an open flame until the bone marrow ran out and they died.

Nothing about this discredits the Church. It discredits the bestial rodents who did this. None of them were anything more than nominally Christian.


#12

[quote=Tantum ergo]I agree that the members of the Church are not impeccable, but I also believe (having been a history major long enough ago that I’m practically history myself) that there have been gross revisions and biased information presented about the Church. . .most egregiously, the attempts made to gauge all actions strictly according to 21st century society and mores, when those actions happened centuries ago in a very different society. Even many simple words used today have different meanings than they did years ago (gentleman is an example, and Christian is fast becoming another). A gentleman once meant a person of a particular economic and social group. Over time, people started using the word to reflect the supposed attributes of a gentleman–specifically, a gentleman was supposed to be thoughtful and well mannered. NOW, that is what the word “gentleman” MEANS to most people–a “well mannered person”, but that is NOT what the word meant in, say, the time of Shakespeare.

Too many people fail to take into account that people living say in 1600 did not know what was going to happen in 1601, let alone 1801, or 2001. We, OTOH, have the luxury of hindsight. We also have advantages and luxuries, even among the poorest of us, that the wealthy of those times would have envied. . .near universal literacy, freedom from most of the diseases and events that killed off the majority of people before they were 30, etc.

The average person of 1600 was fairly homogenous, with a limited and parochial view (not that that was necessarily a bad thing). The “diversity” we hold to today would have been bewildering, and without 400 odd years of battle leading first to mutual agreement to stop battle, and then to uneasy acknowledgement of differences, then indifference, and finally to today’s climate of elevation of “tolerance” to godhood, in that we celebrate everything as “it’s ALL good”. . .well, that would NOT have flown in 1600. . .and it might not fly in 2400. We don’t know. That will be for the person living then to (unfairly) judge US and OUR society by. . .
[/quote]

I agree. I’m talking about an out and out effort to rewrite history so that no Catholic can ever be accused of anything evil or underhanded, thus casting no aspersions on the Church. The idea that the Church is impeccable is a theological one. She Herself cannot sin, as Christ declares Her to be His Spotless Bride. That doesn’t mean individual Catholics cannot do bad things. And it certainly doesn’t mean that Spanish Imperialists did not not do bad things (my point was that the Church tried to prevent it and mitigate it as much as possible)! And yes, the people that they did those things to were not innocent lambs, either, but that’s just the human condition. It’s facts I don’t want altered. I can live with guilt (I’ve often wondered how I could sue and recover the property and land that my Norman ancestors slew my Saxon ancestors to get!).


#13

[quote=Mike O]Nonsense.

Bartoleme de Las Casas was a Dominican missionary from 1502-1542 in the area. He chronicled the atrocities.

According to you, Las Casas, a Catholic missionary, made it up to discredit his own Church.

What an insult to those who died. The Spanish raped women and children. They tortured those from Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Peru, Venezuela, etc. by holding their feet over an open flame until the bone marrow ran out and they died.

Nothing about this discredits the Church. It discredits the bestial rodents who did this. None of them were anything more than nominally Christian.
[/quote]

Amen


#14

The Spanish were also brutal and cruel colonial rulers over the people of the Philippines for 500 years.
The only good thing the Spanish did was to bring Christianity.


#15

I did not intend for this to be a discussion of historical attacks on the Church or the validity of numbers presented for the Inquisition.

I am Catholic, not nominally, but practically, and I have as much interest as any other Catholic in defending the Church and those who slander Her.

But the fact is that Bartolome de Las Casa referred to the souls of these slaughtered thousands/millions/(whatever the number was, it was atrocious) as destined for the everlasting “fires of Hell.”

My question, quite simply, regards whether or not Las Casas, speaking in the 1540’s as a Spanish Dominican, spoke here from a point in Church history where the Magiterium taught that the non-Christian, without exception, was doomed to Hell, or whether this is Las Casas’ personal (and, clearly, judgmental) opinion.

If a discussion about the Inquisition is desired, I ask someone to begin another thread.


#16

[quote=Mike O]I was reading an account of the Spanish massacre of the New World written by a Catholic missionary.

The author would praise these natives for being so gentle and kind-hearted, and yet the Spanish tortured and murdered millions of them.

Whenever this happened he would despair that the “poor souls have been case into Everlasting Hellfire.”

I am hoping that this is some error on his part and was never a part of Church teaching?

The only exposure to Christianity that the natives had ever seen would have been their offering gold and all their food (so that their families went starving) to these Spaniards only to be burned alive at the stake and tortured in soul-chilling ways.

Was the relatively open-ended statement in the Catechism today about invincible ignorance always the case, and if not, how would it not have been with relation to situations such as these?
[/quote]

St. Thomas speaks about invincible ignorance. Since St. Thomas predates the Spanish conquest of the Americas it is safe to say it was a Catholic teaching.


#17

[quote=Mike O]I did not intend for this to be a discussion of historical attacks on the Church or the validity of numbers presented for the Inquisition.

I am Catholic, not nominally, but practically, and I have as much interest as any other Catholic in defending the Church and those who slander Her.

But the fact is that Bartolome de Las Casa referred to the souls of these slaughtered thousands/millions/(whatever the number was, it was atrocious) as destined for the everlasting “fires of Hell.”

My question, quite simply, regards whether or not Las Casas, speaking in the 1540’s as a Spanish Dominican, spoke here from a point in Church history where the Magiterium taught that the non-Christian, without exception, was doomed to Hell, or whether this is Las Casas’ personal (and, clearly, judgmental) opinion.

If a discussion about the Inquisition is desired, I ask someone to begin another thread.
[/quote]

St. Thomas was in the thirteenth century and spoke about invincible ignorance. The catechism of Trent, which was issued by Pope Pius V, speaks about invincible ignorance. This was written in the 1560’s or 1570’s.


#18

Well, it is my understanding that church doctrine/dogma (but not discipline) does not change.

Invincible ignorance is not discipline–it is doctrine. Therefore, it cannot have changed–i.e., we cannot have gone from “no invincible ignorance” to “invincible ignorance”.

What doctrine CAN, and DOES, do, is develop. Therefore, “invincible ignorance” must have ALWAYS been doctrinally understood since the beginning of the Church, but may not have been (and still may not be) fully and perfectly understood, and certainly may not have been understood by those quoted (and even relatively long letters are still just letters, and even say Bishop’s letters or whatever are still not necessarily Church doctrine. We have had bishops elect Popes who turn out not to be valid Popes, too. . .so just because this priest, or that bishop, says something does not make it official Church teaching or action.

Further, any given individual, or even a group of individuals, might have ignored the correct teaching, or incorrectly understood it.


#19

History certainly tells us that there has been no shortage of violence and cruelty on both sides of almost any issue where human beings are involved. That being said, I think there is an assumption today that the average clergyman, let alone the average layperson, had the knowledge that the average forum member has today. There were very brilliant and well educated persons both in and out of the church in the past, but the average missionary priest probably would have been dumb founded at the term “invinceable ignorance.” It was only after the Council of Trent that seminaries were to be universally established for the education of priests. I can say that as little as 50 years ago your average Catholic believed that all who were not “card carrying” members of the Catholic Church were bound for hell. That may not have been the official teaching of the Church, but that is what some of us were taught and actually believed. My father, for example, was Lutheran and I a student in a Catholic School was saddened by the sure knowledge that this good man was going to hell when he died.

So you see MikeO it is not necessarily what the Church officially taught, but what average Catholics or Christians believed was taught. And that assumes that one had enough education to even talk about such things. My grandparents for example only completed 3 or 4 grades in school and could barely read a newspaper. They were American Citizens born in this country to emigrant parents.


#20

[quote=jimmy]St. Thomas speaks about invincible ignorance. Since St. Thomas predates the Spanish conquest of the Americas it is safe to say it was a Catholic teaching.
[/quote]

Aquinas also speaks about Limbo, is it also “safe to say it was a Catholic teaching.”?

Blessings,
Richard


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