All right, being (currently) a Protestant, I have currently read/heard very little on the topic of slavery as the Catholic Church understands it. So, please forgive any issues with sources/citations I may have belowI believe there was a(n infallible?) document that came out of the 1860s(?) that stated that slavery was not contrary to natural law (and, thus, not inherently evil?).
I also understand however, that many popes, at least since the 1500s(?) condemned slavery/the slave trade. From what I have read, however, this was because of what the Church apparently perceived as the injustices surrounding the institution of slavery as it existed at and after that time period and that these letters should not be understood to condemn the whole institution of slavery throughout all time/all cultures.
Am I correct in this understanding? Does the Catholic Church now, and has it always, believed that slavery, at least as it is justly practiced, is not inherently evil but that the evils that arose because of the institution especially during the 1500s on onward were enough to incite the popes of these eras to condemn the institution as it currently existed? Then, all forms of slavery are not necessarily wrong, but, slavery under Christian principles is, theoretically, not inherently evil?
More specifically: If a slave is captured from the enemy, say, in war, is subjected to slavery (i.e., involuntary servitude) and he is treated according to standards of Christian justice while in captivity.as a slave, this is theoretically not an inherent evil?
Be aware that I am in no way advocating any reinstitution of modern slavery here, even on the ground I cited above. Obviously the social situation is completely turned against it because of the abuses suffered by those under it in recent centuries. Plus, modern economic conditions have changed to too great a degree as to perhaps justify it. Thirdly, there today simply exists no real desire for such practices. Fourthly, frankly, our laws prohibit it. Fifthly, modern warfare is not ancient warfare and the former differs markedly now from the latter.
Also keep in mind that–and I believe that the Church and I are in agreement on this point–in no way support racially-based slavery. In fact, I see racially-based slavery, because it dehumanizes a person based on his race, unjustly enslaves and places one human’s humanity/dignity above another as indeed inherently evil.
Further, I am not trying to be provocative here. I am merely trying to understand the Church’s teaching on this subject throughout history.
I guess what’s at the heart of this question is whether the Church considers slavery–defined as involuntary servitude of another as a result of “just” captivity, say, in war as a punishment and/or an alternative to death in war)–as long as it is accompanied by Christian treatment, is not inherently evil in and of itself.
After all, Paul never told all Christians to give up their slaves. He only gave the slave-master relationship a kind of Christian code.
Just looking for clarification. Is this how we should understand the teachings of the Church on slavery throughout time?
Is my understanding the Catholic understanding on this issue? This is really the only way I have found indeed to reconcile what biblical/papal/council pronouncements that, at elast on their surface/taken alone, may appear contradictory.
Let me reiterate that I am not trying to be provocative. I am not trying to condemn the Catholic Church in any way. (In fact, I have been strongly considering “swimming the Tiber” for some time now myself!) I am only trying to come ot a better understanding of the Church’s moral teaching on slavery in its various aspects. This will not only hlep me to come to a better understanding of the Scriptures/tradition/etc., but it will also help me to defend the Catholic Church against charges brought against it, but to do so correctly/properly, not going to one extreme or the other, but taking a balanced approach. Still further, as a classicist by training with an interest in the Graeco-Roman world which was obviously largely built around the institution of slavery, this holds some interest for me so that I can come to a better understand of how I should see their forms of slavery in a properly Christian light.
Thanks, all, in advance.