The church justifying slavery

So someone had stated that tue church tried to use the bible to justify slavery. I asked him when did the church do this. Then someone else replied with this:

“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 153I in spite of a stronger condemnation of unjust types of slavery by Pope Gregory XVI in his bull In supremo apostolatus issued in 1839, some American bishops continued to support slave-holding interests until the abolition of slavery! Catholic missionaries such as the Jesuits,also owned slaves.Anymore question”

Is this true and how should we respond?

First off, whenever someone makes claims like this, ask them to cite their sources. If they cannot, or all they can cite is an un-annotated website or wikipedia article, then chances are the claim is fabricated by some anti-Catholic people who have no interest in actually history. People can make up anything they want, so don’t waste your time addressing unsubstantiated claims. The chances are, if they’re the type of person to believe anything without evidence then presenting actual history to them won’t do anything.

As for the actual question, the Church tolerated slavery because it was an absolutely integral aspect of ancient society. She had neither the ability, nor the authority, to abolish it world-wide. To do so would have required the Church to be in control of the entire ancient world which, despite what some loons like to claim, was simply not the case. What she did do was spread a Gospel and Doctrine that was ultimately incompatible with slavery. While it’s a historical fact that people have used words from the Bible to justify slavery, they’ve also used them to justify murder, sexual immorality, contraception, etc. If you’re willing to remove passages from their greater context and meaning, you can use the Bible to justify just about anything.

I’m not sure if there were Popes who “employed” slaves, but if they did then it was in name only, and nothing like how we picture slavery. The thing is, the meaning of that word has changed over time. For instance, after a military conquest, the Jews took prisoners as slaves. After a set period of time, those slaves were free to become members of Jewish society, and even take wives / husbands (if my memory serves, please, someone, correct me if I’m wrong.) This type of slavery is more akin to indentured servitude, and was almost universally regarded as superior to being killed. With the advent of Islam (and I’m sure with several pagan societies, though I can’t name one off the top of my head, aside form ancient Egypt), slavery became much closer to what we understand it to mean today. The slaves were considered property, with no human dignity. There were no provision for it ending, it was a life-long state. Since those who were taken as slaves were no longer considered full humans, they could be beaten and sexually assaulted with impunity (a common occurrence when women were enslaved by Islamic captors). It was this type of slavery that the Popes openly denounced as inhumane and intolerable.

Some people do a lot of bad things.The point is that the Church has stood against violations against human personhood since its earliest days. So did the Jews before us.

Besides, there are really two types of slavery. When people think of slavery today, they usually mean the second type.

The first is when the person is in what amounts to mere servitude, the “master” does not claim any sort of ownership over the person. This form is not intrinsically evil. It is the form of “slavery” or “bondage” very often spoken of in the Bible.
Serfdom in the Middle Ages(not really slavery) was also kind of in this category, although I think that anyone who calls serfdom “slavery” needs to have a mental health evaluation. I digress.

The second is when the person’s human personhood(and intrinsic dignity) is denied, and their are basically treated as animals. This form is intrinsically evil, and it became the most common form after the decline of serfdom(which is essentially contract labour).

Really, the burden of proof is on the accuser at this point. However, I think that there are likely three arguments at play here.

One, the fact that a certain member of the Church, clergy or otherwise, did something immoral, does not mean that the Church teachings justified slavery using any argument. The Church is full of sinners. That does not make Her teachings false.

Secondly, the fact that a pope did not make an infallible statement prohibiting something, does not mean that it was encouraged or desired previously to that statement. It simply means that point in time was when the question was called and the Holy Spirit sought to clarify the teachings of the Church.

Thirdly, I’m wary of the accusation that the Jesuits owned slaves. First of all, the Jesuits are a religious order and aren’t known for owning anything of value. I’m not a major history buff, but as I recall, when the Jesuits first arrived in America, it was because they had been thrown out of France by the revolutionaries who perceived them to be a threat to their ideals and goals. They were generally located in French colonies, where most slavery was actually indentured servitude, unlike in the British colonies where being black basically earned you a life sentence of slavery. I’m also careful of these claims because I know many an enthusiast of the confederacy that gleefully asserts that slavery must not have been that bad because they have historical proof that black freeman owned slaves. What they rarely say is that most of the documents that state purchases of slaves by freemen were actually documenting a freeman using his life savings to purchase his own wife, children, siblings, or parents. I would look at any proof that Jesuits owned slaves with equal scrutiny. How many of these purchased slaves were then freed? Again, I’d say the burden of proof is on the accuser.

I don’t know if ‘‘justify’’ is the word I would use. Slavery was just such a part of life that our relationship with the Lord was described as Master/slave. Paul described Jesus as a slave, obedient even onto death, death on a cross. Paul admonishes slaves to be obedient to their masters. Paul writes to Philamon concerning his slave Onesimus whom he returns to Philamon. Philamon must have released him because history shows Onesimus was the Bishop there.

Slavery was not the cruel vicious bondage enslaving generations of people that existed in America. The slave trade the Church fights today is far crueler than antebellum slavery.
Far from justifying slavery, the Church has been in the forefront of the battle to stop the evil practice

I have to admit I have often wondered why God allowed slavery to exist, has is written in passages of the Old Testament.
I wish someone would explain.

Bad things were done. I don’t think that you need to insist on proper references about the Church condoning slavery. That is part of history. So is the inquisition. So are the crusades. We have learned and we have moved on.

I believe John Carroll owned a slave:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Carroll_(bishop)#Attitudes_toward_slavery

The second form was also the form that existed during the Roman Empire.

Roman slavery was far crueler than slavery in the New World. Roman masters owned the life of their slaves. They could take it at will. This was not true in America.

With the facts.

What is referred to in other translations as “slaves” is more correctly rendered as “servants,” as the Douay Bible has it. When we 21st century people think of slaves and slavery, what comes to mind right away is the horrible atrocities committed by white men against blacks in the United States mostly during the 1800’s. But this is not the kind of slavery we read about in the Sacred Scriptures. God asked the Israelites to treat their servants well. Also, as pointed out in Leviticus 22: 10-11, the servants or slaves had some privileges which even some Israelites did not.

In Ephesians 6:5, 8 Paul is often quoted eagerly, but very seldom ver. 9: “Masters, do the same to them, and forbear threatening, knowing that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no, partiality with Him.” This equality before God encouraged the early Church to convert slaves – Pope Callistus (d. 236) had been a slave. With the demise of the Roman empire, the embrace of those in slavery continued and only ordination to the priesthood was denied.

“Priests urged owners to free their slaves, and by the seventh century there was considerable evidence of unions of free men and female slaves. In 649 Clovis II, king of the Franks, married his British slave Clotilda. After his death, Clotilda campaigned to halt the slave trade and to redeem those in slavery. On her death she was declared a saint by the Church.

“By the ninth century Charlemagne opposed slavery and the pope and many influential clerics strove for the freedom of slaves. During the eleventh century both St Wulfstan and St Anselm campaigned to remove the last vestiges of slavery from most of Christendom.”
See:* A Matter of Justice* By Mario Derksen
catholicapologetics.info/morality/deathpenalty/punishment.htm

catholic.com/thisrock/1999/9907fea2.asp
‘….we should be clear about what we mean by slavery and the real story of the Catholic Church’s position on it. As used here, “slavery” is the condition of involuntary servitude in which a human being is regarded as no more than the property of another, as being without basic human rights; in other words, as a thing rather than a person. Under this definition, slavery is intrinsically evil, since no person may legitimately be reduced to the status of a mere thing or object and thus become capable of being the property of another person. This form of slavery can be called “chattel slavery.” (There are other ways in which the term can be used, such as in reference to biblical slavery, where slaves were regarded as property but nonetheless as bearers of human rights.)

‘However, there are circumstances in which a person can justly be compelled to servitude against his will. Prisoners of war or criminals, for example, can justly lose their circumstantial freedom and be forced into servitude, within certain limits. Moreover, people can also “sell” their labor for a period of time (indentured servitude).

‘These forms of servitude or slavery differ in kind from what we are calling chattel slavery. While prisoners of war and criminals can lose their freedom against their will, they do not become mere property of their captors, even when such imprisonment is just. They still possess basic, inalienable human rights and may not justly be subjected to certain forms of punishment-torture, for example.’

So from the beginning the Catholic Church opposed, and did not justify, “slavery”.

Im not sure about that, Ive read alot about southern slavery in the US, Ive seen lots of pictures as well, those plantation owners OWNED those slaves, their lives, their bodies, everything, and they certainly could do whatever they liked to them, without fear of punishment.

The black slaves had ZERO say in anything, the slaver paid for them, so he owned them from then on, and they worked them up until they died, no letting them take it easy when they got old.

Im sure the CC was as a whole, against this, but i have a feeling, those churches in the south looked the other way most of the time, especially if the plantation owners and their families were a member of the church, Im sure the priests said nothing to them about owning slaves, it was probably just something they accepted since it was so popular at the time, they do the same thing in modern times to some degree, with things that are popular in the secular world, but are wrong in Gods eyes.

The problem and reality is that people haven’t moved on, and still attack the Church for things they thought the Church had done. If they really moved on they have already forgiven the Church. And it seems that they’re not willing to. People would use the abuses made by people in the Church to discredit her moral authority, mostly to conform with their suspicion of anything Catholic. They charge against the Church, not because they want to know the truth, but because they don’t like the Church.

Another problem is the one I bolded. Who’s version of history, I might add? Recent research and historical evidence into the history of the Church, including the events and phenomena associated with it (the Crusades and the Inquisition) have shown that the history of the Church most of us are being taught to are based on anti-Catholic biases and don’t necessarily fit with the evidence provided. Proper history includes lots of cross-referencing, interpolation, and context.

Insisting on providing proper references isn’t whitewashing the bad things done by people in the past. Yes, some crusaders did commit atrocities that would be considered as criminal in today’s standards, but how can we be sure if the people who wrote about those atrocities were accurate, considering that they wrote down those atrocities 200 years after the first movement of Crusades? You can’t just blindly accept a historical fact without looking into the historical evidence, especially when a historical fact sounds questionable. That’s just being intellectually lazy. We have to answer these charges by presenting what actually happened while at the same time admitting that mistakes were made. In my opinion the attitude of most Catholic today when it comes to the Church’s history is similar to a person accepting libelous and exaggerated remarks from people about something they’re too lazy to know more about.

Hans W #7
I don’t think that you need to insist on proper references about the Church condoning slavery. That is part of history. So is the inquisition. So are the crusades. We have learned and we have moved on.

False, as shown.

Christ’s Church “condones” none of these things, because She is “held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy.” [Vatican II, *Lumen Gentium, art 39].

In First Things (November 1997), Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon wrote that “the Pope himself has acknowledged the mistakes and sins of Christians in connection with, among other things, the Crusades, the Inquisition, persecution of the Jews, religious wars, Galileo, and the treatment of women. Thus, though the Pope himself is careful to speak of sin or error on the part of the Church’s members or representatives, rather than the Church in its fullness, that important theological distinction is almost always lost in the transmission.” [My emphasis].

Some have a lot to learn about the Church.

Study Roman slavery. They didn’t have pictures back them, but you can find descriptions. Remember, these were the people who had blood sports involving humans. Do you really think they were kinder?

As for the pictures there are some pictures of horrific whippings or at least one that is very popular. That happened. But that doesn’t mean all masters treated all slaves that way. Some slaves were treated very well. And why focus on southern slavery? Slavery existed in the North. Slavery existed in Mexico, South America, Cuba basically all over the New World. The US imported the least amount of slaves of any country and their slave had a high life expectancy. Brazil imported 60% of slaves at the end of the trade.

All slavery is about ownership. Slaves in all systems were obligated to obey the master. There wasn’t a slave system where the slave could tell the master he was going on vacation for a few weeks and that be acceptable.

It is not true that a US master could do whatever he wanted to a slave. He could not for instance kill his slave. He did not own the life of the slave. In other slave systems the master did. I know of at least one case in the South were a slave killed his master. He did so because the master was unjustly beating him. The jury, obviously all White, found the slave not guilty of any crime.

Slaves often would have Sunday off. It may be true that some masters worked their slaves hard until their last day. But some, maybe most, let the slaves take easier work as they aged. Back in those days hardly anyone retired. It wasn’t like the poor White sharecroppers had a pension.

The picture of slavery in the US is grossly distorted. You can be against slavery without having to paint the South as having some particularly gruesome slave system.

Brazil and Cuba should be bigger concerns. The US South was Protestant. Brazil and Cuba ended slavery after it ended in the US. Brazil didn’t end slavery until 1888.

There is no substantive evidence presented of The Church justifying slavery, That being the case, that is a baseless, unsubstantiated accusation.

To confirm the Portuguese trade rights, King Afonso V appealed to Pope Nicholas V for support, seeking the moral authority of the Church for his monopoly. The bull of 1452 was addressed to Afonso V and conceded Portugal’s right to attack, conquer and subjugate Saracens and pagans.

We grant you [Kings of Spain and Portugal] by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property …] and to reduce their persons into perpetual servitude.

Wilhelm Grewe finds Dum Diversas essentially “geographically unlimited” in its application, perhaps the most important papal act relating to Portuguese colonisation. Although undefined, Richard Raiswell finds that it clearly refers to the recently discovered lands along the coast of West Africa. Portuguese ventures were intended to compete with the Muslim trans-Sahara caravans, which held a monopoly on West African gold and ivory.

I think this is the right way to look at it. Acknowledge that mistakes were made, but equally acknowledging that the Church has learned and moved on.

Slavery is about economics, not religion.

Please do not be smug about thinking that we have abolished slavery and that we can consider ourselves morally superior to the barbarians of the past. In all cases, where cheap manual labor is needed on a large scale, we find a way to exploit our fellow man. This is true regardless of our religion as it is instead a matter of economics.

Today, most wealthy nations rely on an influx of immigrant labor who will do the jobs that no citizen would do.

When for example we talk about giving all of the undocumented farm workers in the US citizenship, especially those who have worked here for years putting food onto our tables, we have to confront the fact that if we gave these workers full rights, the price of food would skyrocket. Solution? Keep them as undocumented workers so that they can be exploited, but feel good about ourselves as we try to give them rights. In reality, economically we simple need them. We might say that our immigration system is broken, but in fact it is doing exactly what we want it to do.

Some nations are more open about their need to exploit immigrants such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In the US we like to always complain that we need to reform immigration, but in the end will always vote to continue to exploit immigrant labor to keep prices where we want them to be in those industries that are dependent on cheap labor.

Economic systems of the past, especially before the industrial revolution were even more dependent on cheap labor for the essentials of the society, so exploitation was more widespread than it is now.

Just as most folks don’t think of themselves as exploiting people when they go to the grocery store to buy lettuce, people of the past also thought nothing of exploiting people for producing food, clothing etc that they needed. We have a remarkable way of justifying anything that we really need when we see no alternative as a society.

The papal bull you cited isn’t part of Church doctrine. The Pope hasn’t put his stamp of infallibility anywhere in the bull. The King of Portugal merely asked for permission from the Pope to initiate colonization. Because of the interplay between Church and state during the 15th-16th century, European kings needed permission from the Pope to initiate certain actions which are of a political nature. The papal bull you cited is a matter of policy, not a matter of doctrine. If the Church was justifying slavery back in the day then the Pope would have put his stamp of infallibility on the bull - which he didn’t. The Pope merely tolerated it with a :shrug:, like a teacher who gave a student permission to leave school for a “legitimate” reason. There is a difference between tolerating and justifying.

The thing about people saying the Church has “moved on” is (1) there should be a distinction between the Church (and her doctrine) and the actions of people in the Church. Not making such a distinction would be an overgeneralization. (2) Most of the mistakes made are taken out of context. We’re looking these events at a 21st century context. Yes they were mistakes in our eyes today, but they were acceptable back then. That doesn’t mean we’re justifying them today; we’re just trying to understand what actually happened, instead of submitting to our preconceived notions of what we think happened. (3) Yes, we do acknowledge that mistakes were made, and we’re sorry. However is the other side willing to forgive us, especially if they keep on using the same mistakes, in an exaggerated form and in a way that is out of context, to discredit or attack the Church? Apologies and forgiveness work both ways.

THIS. :thumbsup:

None of that presented gives substantive evidence of The Church justifying slavery. That being the case, that is a baseless, unsubstantiated accusation.

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