Is colonization itself sinful?

Seems like the OP wants to know about colonisation in the sense of invading and conquering native peoples, as opposed to simply peopling another country, or evangelisation.

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imo I don’t see how that could ever be stretched into being a just action.

People in the past argued that it did, including bishops, but that was their opinion. “Just War” tended to be understood quite liberally by societies in the past, and so what was allegedly a just war was deeply wrapped up with vainglory or avarice or even military action for the sake of personal pride because of some slight or another. Contemporaries in recent years like Pope St JPII or Benedict or Francis are far more strict with it.

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yes, exactly, our countries are basically built on that after all

so the discovery and creation of the Americas we know of today was complete wrong then?

could you be a bit more specific? depends on what?

It is not black and white. Evils were committed for sure, but good also came out of it. Here in Canada a number of Catholic martyrs were killed by the natives. The French especially brought about many conversions and intermarried with the natives. The British, already Protestant, did not even consider the natives human.

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The Old Testament is conquest after conquest. Do you have a problem with it?

Conquest, until relatively recent times, was how nations survived and built their economies.

Our relative disillusion with it nowadays can be credited to mankind over time learning and growing and receiving wisdom to understand that there are better and more cooperative ways to work with the people of other nations in order to hopefully grow the pie for all of us, rather than focus on taking their pie to increase our pie.

well, the old testament also operated under an eye for an eye mentality. The new testament does not. are you able to explain how conquest fits in catholic moral teaching? and I am really genuinely trying to understand, not looking for an argument

You can start here:

For anyone who considers colonization a thing of the past, think about Evangelical Christian missionaries who go about the world seeking converts. Think about John Allen Chau going to the North Sentinel Islands.

Think about English teachers immigrating to China and other parts of Asia.

I know that the historically well-known pattern of exploration, conquest and colonization are kaput, but there is plenty of low-grade colonization if you know where to look.

To colonize an uninhabited land? No, nothing wrong with that.

To colonize by way of subjugating the native people? Yeah, lots of wrong with that.


oh I did already read that when I was trying to do some research, it doesn’t exactly paint the church in a good light. so still struggling to understand this whole concept

I think the problem is that you’re evaluating the Church several centuries ago in view of the socially acceptable standards of today. When one studies history in college, the professor will at the beginning of the courses say that it’s important to understand historical actions in view of the “social construction of the people’s reality”. That means that what someone said and did 200 years ago, rooted in the social conventions then, is often going to look really politically incorrect if we evaluate it by the standards of today regarding acceptable behavior. The professor will discourage that type of thought because someone sitting in class being outraged every two minutes because the people of 1500 did something “offensive” by today’s standards is not going to learn or understand history very well.

The Church back in the age of discovery was concerned with bringing the Gospel to people who had never heard of it. They thought this was super-important from a standpoint of saving souls. There wasn’t a good understanding of stuff like communicable disease whereby Europeans coming in contact with indigenous peoples might very well give them some disease that would kill off a huge part of the population. On the plus side, the Church representatives, such as missionaries, often ended up preserving a huge body of indigenous peoples’ language and culture through their own journals and translations. The Church representatives in many cases (not all, but many) also had more respect for the human dignity of the people they were interacting with than the other European people who came to colonize for secular reasons of making money.

I think if you really want to learn about this subject, you need to read a number of sources about it (the Wiki article likely cites a number) and if you have very specific questions then ask, but you seem to be coming here asking a very broad question or expecting us to somehow justify hundred years of stuff - some good, some bad, some specific to the time, much of it inevitable in view of past events - and as someone else pointed out your question is simply too broad. Nobody is going to be able to wrap this up for you in the context of one or two posts. I recommend you do some research on your own and think and pray about the issue. God bless.

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no I don’t want to think of past history in the context of today, that’s why I’m asking. I’m trying to find sources but a lot of it is really biased. did the pope not authorize the secular reasons as well?

I’m sure you’ll have an exception in mind.

It’s impossible if the colonized population fights the colonizing force (practically this may seem inevitable, but principally it is not). Again, the question asked by OP is whether the act of colonization is sinful. Any missionary that leaves his land to establish Catholicism in another land is, effectively speaking, colonizing and replacing their culture.

Colonization or annexation is not (intrinsically) an act of war (I’ve never seen any Catholic resources say so either).

In response to your example, yes. The duty to preach to all nations involves eradicating the evils of those nations to which we’re called to preach. If Americans were to fight, we would fight back defensively and justly according to Catholic morals.

Colonization, in of itself, is not sinful. Now, sins were committed. But colonization in of itself is not sinful.

Most of the people who argue that it is view the spread of Christianity as bad.

Example: I had a discussion with a leftist college student working at a museum. She tried to say that it was wrong for the Spanish to convert people away from the human sacrificing religion of the Mayans.


First and foremost, that was NOT the original goal in 1492.

The original goal was to reach the Far East to establish a safer & faster trade route. The original goal also including the evangelization of non-Christians to the Church by setting up missions.

Their long term goal was the spread of Christianity & eventual liberation of the Holy Land. That’s why Spanish & Portuguese brought Church missionaries with them to evangelize the peoples they encountered. Their secondary goal included the hope for a day when Catholics would be on both sides of the Middle East and they could drive the Muslims out of the Holy Land from both sides.

BTW - empire building was never really part of the initial plans, it sort of just happened. In regards to the English, Dutch, and a few others; it was trading companies (corporations) that set-up colonies. Eventually, the Kingdoms annexed lands because they have enough subjects living there & they wanted to be united with their homelands.

In regards to the Spanish & Portuguese, they were granted exclusive trading rights to the New World by Pope Alexander VI so they could evangelize it.

Their presence eventually lead to wars with the Kingdoms they encountered. Sometimes, the Spanish simply invaded. Sometimes the Spanish were attacked. And sometimes the locals (eps the Catholic converts) even begged the Spanish to conquer their governments, in order to free them from the Human Sacrifice.

The truth is, the history is far more complex. But it is true that by the 18th and 19th centuries, colonization was simply to gain land. But the reason for this was because colonization was the “nuclear arms race” of the 18th & 19th centuries.

Since the whole world was given for the sustenance of all men, there is a natural right to migrate and colonize. Of course, migrants and colonists must treat those already in a place with true justice and charity.

On the other hand, it is wrong to forcibly displace a people from their home land.

Pope Pius XII addressed a lot of this in his radio messages, etc. as summed up in his Apostolic Constitution on immigration, Exsul Familia Nazarethana:

In these addresses and in our radio talks, we have condemned severely the ideas of the totalitarian and the imperialistic state, as well as that of exaggerated nationalism. On one hand, in fact they arbitrarily restrict the natural rights of people to migrate or to colonize while on the other hand, they compel entire populations to migrate into other lands, deporting inhabitants against their wills, disgracefully tearing individuals from their families, their homes and their countries.

It should also be pointed out there is a supernatural right and duty for the Church to enter new lands and establish missions seeking the natural and supernatural good of all peoples.

fight back,yes, but invade an already established civilazation, doesn’t seem right

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