Slavery and the Shock of the Old

Sitting in a Cambridge, Mass., movie theater with a friend, I forced myself not to look or shy away from the violent scenes in Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave.” Unlike the gratuitous violence of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” or Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” there was nothing over-the-top, nothing selfish about what was painfully depicted on screen in McQueen’s adaptation of the story of Solomon Northup. That is what made it so difficult to watch and why I wanted to look away so badly. The presentation seemed so real.

As the Yale historian David Blight, an expert on American slavery, said in an NPR interview, “We love being the country that freed the slaves, [but] we’re not so fond of being the country that had the biggest slave system on the planet.” Whereas Gibson’s depiction of the Passion was an idiosyncratic reflection of his own personal piety and Tarantino’s slave film was fictive, “12 Years a Slave” offers an indicting narrative that forces its viewers—particularly its white American viewers—to confront a dangerous memory that we would collectively like to forget.

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Blight said that the history of American slavery is “a problem in our culture because, to be quite blunt about it, most Americans want their history to be essentially progressive and triumphal, they want it to be a pleasing story. And if you go back to this story, it’s not always going to please you, but it’s a story you have to work through to find your way to something more redemptive.”

The way Blight talked about the importance of McQueen’s film reminded me of the work of the German theology professor Johann Baptist Metz. In his book Faith in History and Society, Father Metz describes two types of memories. The first is the sterilized form of memory, “in which we just do not take the past seriously enough” and recall everything in a soft, glowing light. This type of memory is usually evolutionary or progressive, reflecting a trajectory of history moving toward an increasingly better world. The other type is what Metz calls “dangerous memories, memories that make demands on us.” The latter are what he sees constituting the Christian narrative when we take seriously the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Metz explains that these dangerous memories “illuminate for a few moments and with a harsh steady light the questionable nature of things we have apparently come to terms with, and show up the banality of our supposed ‘realism.’”

Far too often the history of slavery in the United States is reduced to the sterile, clichéd and comforting former type of memory. The stark reality of slavery and our collective complicity in its perpetuation are reduced to a caricature. Alternatively, we tell a story about the triumphant work of the “liberator-martyr” Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, which overshadows the complexity of a past marred by the indescribable suffering of generations of persons who have been dehumanized, sold, owned, raped, murdered and destroyed. Many who have the luxury to look away and forget do so. This selective memory silences the oppressed, the victims and the dead. This is a kind of memory that allows the sins of American racism and white privilege to continue today, an unquestioned status quo shielded by our willful ignorance and desire for historical “progress.”

But slavery in this nation is a memory of the latter kind, a dangerous memory. Like the resurrection of Christ, which can never be separated from his life and death, there is something redeeming about calling to mind the suffering caused by American slavery and its continuing effects.

What is redemptive is not the belief that “all is O.K. now.” Rather, the way toward redemption is directed by an awareness that things are far from O.K. What makes the memory of American slavery so dangerous is that in calling to mind the suffering of history’s victims, we begin to see that the suffering continues. Hope is found in the interruption that films like “12 Years a Slave” make in our everyday lives and presumptions. This interruption should shock us into hearing the muted cries of history’s victims (Psalm 34) and recalling that, although we are many parts, we are one body in Christ (1 Cor 12:12).

The body of Christ continues to suffer. The dangerous memory of slavery calls us to take seriously the question: What are you and I going to do about it?

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Tim O'Leary
4 years 5 months ago
Fr. Horan rightly notes that "most Americans want their history to be essentially progressive and triumphal" but this is surely not a defect only of Americans (realism is hard). On the other hand, it is an essential component of the Christian message that there is a positive trajectory in history, even if we must pass through an apocalypse. An optimistic outlook also has a rightful place in politics (note the redemptive words of the Republican Lincoln and the Democrat Martin Luther King, Jr.). It remains true that many Christians failed when they came into contact with less advanced peoples in Africa and the Americas. But also, Christian witness was the driving force in ending slavery in the Europeanized world, just as it had done in the pagan world (Rome and barbarian). But, it is not over. The number of US Slaves peaked at 4 million. The UN estimates that there are 29-30 million slaves today, almost all in non-Christian countries. As to some facts on the slave trade (see http://www.slavevoyages.org/tast/assessment/intro-maps.faces), the issue is hardly American or even European. In the Atlantic Slave Trade from 1500-1800, only a small minority (4%) of the 12 million transported Africans were brought to Anglo-America (40% went to the Caribbean and 50% to Latin America). Slavery was endemic for centuries in Africa and it was introduced to the Portuguese by Africans. In the same 300 year period, more than 12 million Africans were sold to the Muslim and Hindu world as slavery was endemic in those cultures and is not yet completely eradicated. The Ottoman Empire probably has the worst slavery record in history, in terms of number and longevity (>500 years), and the harems and the practice of Devsirme (tribute of sons to the Sultan – ended only in 1848). As to Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, that movie has become a part of Holy Week for millions (including me and my extended family). We do not find the violence gratuitous, even though it is shocking and never fails to produce tears. It is a masterpiece that interweaves the Divine mission with the frailty of human nature and the real evil forces our souls have to contend with. It annually renews our awareness of the great gift God made for the salvation of the whole world. No other movie has had that effect, that I am aware of.
Michael Barberi
4 years 5 months ago
Catholic teaching is replete with inconsistency on the issue of slavery and this fact cannot be ignored as well. Consider that after the bloody U.S. Civil War, Pius IX issued the following proclamation in 1866: “Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons.... It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given”. Pius IX (Instruction 20 June 1866 AD). J.F.MAXWELL, ‘The Development of Catholic Doctrine Concerning Slavery’, World Jurist 11 (1969-70) pp.306-307. Equally important is the fact that following these comments, his Holy Office (the CDF today) issued a formal decree supporting this proclamation. Did not these papal and curia statements have the force of truth or were they merely non-infallible teachings to be ignored by the masses? Apologists will point to various popes that have condemned slavery. However, they fail to recognize or make explicitly clear that such condemnations were about "unjust slavery", not slavery per se. For example, Gregory XVI in Supremo Apostolatus in 1839 condemned unjust slavery, but not "just" slavery, nor did he excommunicate slave traders. It was Pope Leo XIII in his 1891 Rerum Novarum that finally condemned all forms of slavery. Other apologists argue that slavery was never a doctrine of the Church. However, they ignore that several papal bulls were issued on this subject condoning the moral righteousness of slavery. Did not such teachings encourage the further practice of this intrinsically evil voluntary human act? We cannot dismiss the past teachings on slavery as the mere error of humans, including popes. That would be like sterilizing and ignoring the truth that the Church has changed past teachings that were wrong. I find it perplexing that the pope and the hierarchy can interpret not only scripture and tradition but past papal and curia statements to fit their own situations and understandings. As Fr. Horan makes clear, slavery exists in our time and the dangerous memory of slavery calls us to take seriously the question: What are you and I doing to do about it?
Tim O'Leary
4 years 5 months ago

While Fr. Horan’s article was not about the consistency or development of doctrine of Catholic teaching on slavery, Michael Barberi’s comment (aimed not at slavery per se, but at diminishing our confidence in Magisterial Catholic teaching) requires a response, since it follows a long history of distortion on the Church’s long-standing teaching against chattel slavery (the type discussed in the article above) - including Gregory Nyssa anti-slavery writings way back in 365 AD. For those who would like a recent book-length response, I suggest Fr. Joel Panzer’s book The Popes and Slavery.

As to just servitude and unjust slavery, note that slavery has meant different things over six millennia, and included chattel slavery, indentured servitude, serfdom, concubines, prisoners of war, convicts, etc. Even the 13th amendment has an explicit exception (“except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”). So, the historical literature requires careful reading to make the distinctions and understand the definitions.

For an excellent quick read from a non-Christian historian, Rodney Stark’s 2003 article in the Protestant Christianity Today is excellent, and replete with the multiple calls for emancipation and excommunication for the recalcitrant before 1866 (including Popes Eugene IV (1435), Paul III (1537), The Inquisition (1686), Gregory XVI (1839). Stark leads with “Some Catholic writers claim that it was not until 1890 that the Roman Catholic Church repudiated slavery. A British priest has charged that this did not occur until 1965. Nonsense!” http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/julyweb-only/7-14-53.0.html.

Stark discusses St. Thomas Aquinas’s teaching against slavery and that of many popes. The problem was that Catholic laity did not adhere to the teaching and that an historical bias in Protestant (now secular) circles continues into this century. According to Stark: “The problem wasn't that the leadership was silent. It was that almost nobody listened.” Plus ça change...

Joseph Jaglowicz
4 years 5 months ago
I recommend John T. Noonan, Jr's A CHURCH THAT CAN AND CANNOT CHANGE: THE DEVELOPMENT OF CATHOLIC MORAL TEACHING, which devotes several chapters to the church's abysmal record on dealing with slavery. Context is important, but actions speak louder than words. Church history largely shows words. The Church of Rome did not finally condemn slavery until December 1965 at Vatican II.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 5 months ago
As Rodney Stark said (see link below that you obviously did not read): "nonsense". In the time of Protestant Supremacy, a social inferiority complex in a subset of Catholics resulted in their assumption of the reigning prejudices of Protestant propagandists. Today, this still goes on, only now it is secular anti-Catholicism that holds sway on their hearts. Hence, a saintly and courageous Pope Pius XII gets called Hitler's Pope. I imagine some time in the future, Pope Francis will be condemned for not saying enough to defend the unborn, when the fault lies in selective media deafness.
Joseph Jaglowicz
4 years 5 months ago
I'll stick with Noonan. The publisher's website is at http://undpress.nd.edu/book/P00980. From Noonan, we learn the following: + Nicholas V granted the king of Portugal in 1452 the right, inter alia, "to make war on Saracens, pagans, and infidels; to occupy their dominions; and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery." In 1455, Nicholas V "issued the bull 'Romanus pontifex' confirming the first bull..." (p. 62). + Popes Calixtus III (1456), Sixtus IV (1481), Leo X (1514), and Alexander VI (1493) issued bulls in the same vein as noted above (p. 65). The bulls issued from 1452 to 1514 "show that slaving was an enterprise requiring no special scrutiny. Nicholas V and his successors approved the enslavement of whole peoples...without setting conditions on the right to enslave" (pp. 66-67). + In 1434, Prince Henry the Navigator and his men pillaged two Canary islands populated by Christians, who complained to Pope Eugene IV. In his 'Creator omnium', Eugene IV "forbade the enslavement of Christian natives...but in the bull 'Romanus pontifex' of 1436 [he] granted to Portugal the exclusive right of conquest over such of the Canaries as were populated by infidels..." (p. 243). + Pius V received "558 [Muslim] slaves after the naval victory of Lepanto" in 1571. "Galley slaves [were] obtained from the knights of Malta by Urban VIII in 1629 and by Innocent X in 1645" (p. 78). + "In 'Sublimis Deus', Paul III denounced the enslavement of Indians. He did not denounce enslavement at home [i.e., "the papal states"]. In 1548,...he declared that, 'from a multitude of slaves, inheritances are augmented, agriculture better cultivated, and cities increased.'...[T]he pope decreed that slaves fleeing to the Capitol and there, according to custom claiming freedom, were not freed and were 'to be returned to their masters in slavery and, if it is seen appropriate, punished as fugitives.' The decree, the pope added, included those slaves who had become Christians after their enslavement and slaves born to Christian slaves" (p. 79). + "The catechism based on the decrees of the Council of Trent dealt with slaves under the commandment against theft [as well as] the commandment against coveting a neighbor's goods" (p. 79). + "By mid-eighteenth century, the moral issues arising from slavery aroused even less attention among those [casuists] working in the main tradition" (p. 85). + "In 1814, two Irish Dominicans [informed Archbishop Carroll of Baltimore] that the [Jesuit and Sulpician] clerical slaveholders of Maryland were 'stumbling blocks in the way of their Quaker brethren [and others who had started to limit slavery].' The Dominicans carried their complaint to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, then in charge of affairs in the United States. The congregation did nothing" (p. 92). + "Slavery continued to exist in the Papal States into the early nineteenth century. From 1600 to 1800 a total of two-thousand slaves, almost all Moslem, manned the galleys of the pope's navy. As late as 1800-1807 in the troubled papacy of...Pius VII, four privately owned slaves and eleven slaves of the state were registered in Rome at the Casa dei Catecumi" (p. 102). + "As early as 1814,...the British...had pressed...the pope's secretary of state, to obtain a papal prohibition of the international slave trade. Pius VII responded by writing personally to the monarchs of France, Portugal, and Spain deploring the trade, but published nothing...In 1822, [the British again asked Rome to prohibit slave trading]. The report back [from the Vatican] was not favorable. True, there was suffering caused by the trade, but abolition was a notion of the antireligious philosophers of the eighteenth century. The most competent theologians and canonists held slavery to be not contrary to natural law and to be approved in principle by the Old Testament. A papal prohibition would please the British, who oppressed Catholics, and it would compromise the colonial interests of France, Portugal, and Spain. Pius VII did nothing" (pp. 103-104). + In December 1839, Gregory XVI issued his 'In supremo Apostolatus fastigio', "opening words calling attention to the pope's authority rather than to the subject [slavery] under scrutiny. Published in Rome as a pamphlet, the document was given a title that tried gamely to find a Latin equivalent of the standard European term for the international traffic out of Africa, 'the trade'...The pope wrote to unspecified addressees to dissuade the faithful 'from the inhuman trade in Blacks or any other kind of men.'...The pope mentioned measures of [previous popes]...Gregory XVI strictly prohibited it and ordered the prohibition to be posted in Rome...['In supremo'] referred to papal actions without acknowledging their limited scope. The prohibition, when it was announced, was not anchored in natural law or in the Gospel. A theologically literate reader would see that with these remarkable omissions there are what a modern observer accurately notes as 'ambiguities and silences'. The pope stigmatized the trade as 'inhuman' without developing an argument" (p. 107). + Bishop John England of Charleston, SC "indignantly noted that the pope had in view only the international trade; he quoted Gregory XVI himself as telling him in person in Rome that the Southern states 'have not engaged in the negro traffic.' Bishop England [asserted] that the Catholic Church had always accepted domestic slavery; it was 'not incompatible with the natural law'; and, when title to a slave was justly acquired, it was lawful 'in the eye of Heaven'" (p. 108). + "In 1843, in his treatise on moral theology, Francis P. Kenrick defended the institution of slavery in the United States, going so far as to argue that any defect in title to slaves in this country was cured by prescription: the passage of time made it too late to challenge the owner's assertion of ownership...His 'Theologia moralis', written in Latin and evidently designed to educate seminarians, was the first textbook on Catholic moral theology produced in the United States; he was bishop of Philadelphia when it appeared...[He became archbishop of Baltimore in 1851], and he presided as apostolic delegate at the First Plenary Council of the bishops of the United States in 1852. His views were those of his colleagues and of the Roman authorities. The trade out of Africa was one thing; slavery as an institution was quite another" (pp. 108-109). + "Gregory XVI's letter had no obvious impact on the two nominally Catholic countries engaged in the slave trade, Portugal and Brazil, nor on seminary teaching in France." "It was [eventually] British resolution and sea power that brought a stop to the business [of slave trading]" (p. 109). + "As early as 1878 [the archbishop of Algiers] had addressed to Rome a memoranda on [the slave trade], calling for 'a great crusade of faith and humanity, which would reclaim honor for the Church' and 'crown the immortal papacy of Pius IX.' Rome made no response" (pp. 111-112). + Leo XIII issued his 'In plurimis' in 1888, "addressed to the bishops of Brazil, congratulating them on 'this happy event' [i.e., legal abolition of slavery]." The pope wrote that "[t]he pagan attitude toward slavery was 'marked by great cruelty and wickedness,' the Christian attitude 'by great gentleness and humanity.'...He noted that slaves had duties to masters, an implicit acceptance of the institution. He accepted the patristic teaching that slavery was a penalty for sin without explaining how the penalty was visited upon the innocent upon birth to a slave mother. He cited letters of the popes rebuking isolated instances of slave trading without mentioning the popes who authorized the kings of Portugal and Spain to invade and enslave the unbelievers. He held up Pedro Claver as a model identifying him as 'the Apostle of the Moors,' a phrase quaintly marking as Moors the slaves brought from Africa. Leo did not remark that St. Pedro criticized neither slavery nor the slave trade...Leo labeled [slavery] 'base' and 'cruel'. He did not condemn it as intrinsically evil" (pp. 112-113). The pope did, however, mention "'human dignity'" in his document. The following information is from Thomas Bokenkotter's A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: + "As recently as June 20, 1866, the Holy Office had upheld the slave trade as moral. The justification was based both on philosophy (natural law) and on revelation (divine law). Various quotations from Scripture were cited in support of this position...The Fathers of the Church and local church councils, laws, Popes, and theologians were cited in the attempt to show that the approval of slavery was part of an unbroken, universal tradition" (pp. 487-488). + "The statement signed by Pope Pius IX declared that 'it is not contrary to the natural or divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged, or given, provided in the sale, purchase, exchange or gift, the due conditions are strictly observed which the approved authors describe and explain'" (f.n. 22, p. 488). Returning to Noonan: + The 1917 Code of Canon Law "maintained the positions set out in the old law that a free person contracting marriage with one believed to be free but in fact a slave contracted invalidly; and that slavery was an impediment to the reception of holy orders" (p. 117). + "Also close to the era of Vatican II, Karl Rahner...published the thirtieth edition of 'Denzinger'. This authoritative and convenient handbook, first produced in 1854...contained the teaching of popes and councils from Clement I in the first century to the date of the edition...Not a single word repudiating or condemning slavery occurred in the collection" (Noonan, p. 117). + Noonan describes how slavery was condemned at Vatican II. He notes that it was "not [done] with fanfare and trumpets." Nonetheless, according to the author, "[t]he Council's action was the first categorical condemnation by the Church of an institution that the Church had lived with for over nineteen hundred years" (p. 120). The condemnation appears in 'Gaudium et spes'. As I previously wrote, actions speak louder than words. Popes, being temporal as well as religious rulers, had to be careful in dealing with fellow rulers, Catholics included. There's no anti-Catholicism here. Indeed, Noonan is a devout Catholic layman and distinguished scholar, and Bokenkotter --- with a PhD in history --- is a presbyter with the Cincinnati archdiocese.
Michael Barberi
4 years 5 months ago
Joseph….outstanding commentary, inclusive of references and quotations about Slavery and the Catholic Church. I don't have Noonan's book, but I will get it. I do have his comprehensive book Contraception…which is the definitive source of the history of this teaching.
Michael Barberi
4 years 5 months ago
Here is a mouth full from Cardinal Avery Dulles about slavery and the Catholic Church including the 1966 Holy Office Instruction signed by Pius IX which is discussed in detail throughout the article along with other papal bulls et al. Note the excellent commentaries that follow this article. Joseph S. O'Leary homepage: Cardinal Avery Dulles on Slavery josephsoleary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/02/cardinal-avery.html‎ Feb 2, 2008 - Specific regulations rarely have the universal and permanent character that belongs to dogma.” ... Is this still the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church? ... In 1866 the Holy Office, in response to an inquiry from Africa, ruled ...
Michael Barberi
4 years 5 months ago
Slavery by any definition is immoral and popes, bishops and councils have approved of various forms of slavery from the earliest of times until Leo XIII and the Second Vatican Council formally condemned all forms of slavery as intrinsically immoral. To Joseph's excellent suggestion, I add two outstanding books on the subject of slavery and the Catholic Church: 1. "Slavery and the Catholic Church" by John Francis Maxwell, and 2. Chapter Five "Reflections on Slavery" in Change in Official Catholic Moral Teachings, Edited by Charles Curran. For the record: 362 AD: The local Council at Gangra excommunicates anyone encouraging a slave to despise his master or withdraws from his service. This became part of Church La from the 13th century. 354-440 AD: St. Augustine teaches that the institution of slavery derives from God and is beneficial to slaves and masters. This was quoted by many later popes as proof of "Tradition". 650 AD: Pope Martin I condemns people who teach slaves about freedom or encourage them to escape. 1179 AD: TheThird Lateran Council imposed slavery on those helping the Saracens. 1226 AD: The legitimacy of slavery is incorporated in the Corpus Iuris Canonici, promulgated by Pope Gregory IX which remained official law of the Church until 1913. Canon lawyers worked out four just titles for holding slaves: slaves captured in war, persons condemned to slavery from a crime, persons selling themselves into slavery, including a father selling a child, children of a mother who is a slave. 1435 AD: Pope Eugenius IV condemns the indiscriminate enslavement of natives in the Canary Islands, but does not condemn slavery per se. 1493 AD: Pope Alexander VI authorizes the King of Spain to enslave non-Christians of the Americas who are at war with Christian powers. 1537 AD: Pope Paul III condemns the indiscriminate enslavement of Indians in South America. 1548 AD: This same Pope Paul III confirms the right of clergy and laity to own slaves. 1741 AD: Pope Benedict XIV condemns the indiscriminate enslavement of Indians of natives in Brazil, but does not denounce slavery as such, nor the importation of slaves from Africa. 1866 AD: The Holy Office in an instruction signed by Pope Pius IX declares: Slavery itself, considered as such in it essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be severe just titles of slavery, and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons. It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 5 months ago
Michael - this list seems to come from the womenpriests.org site so I think I know the purpose of it. Again - way off from Fr. Horan's article. When one wants to get away from the propaganda, definitions matter. For example, is the 13th amendment to the US Constitution immoral as it has an exception, or is your first sentence wrong? Was Jesus wrong in not speaking out against slavery in His time? Was St. Paul wrong? Why did nobody listen to Aquinas? Is it wrong to demand that convicted prisoners work while in prison (such as your example in 1179)? Definitions matter. By the way, why, in your opinion, after all of Europe and the Americas had outlawed slavery, would Blessed Pope Pius IX want to defend chattel slavery? Was it to curry favor with the Ottoman Empire (who outlawed it in 1882)? Did he specifically say St. Thomas Aquinas was wrong? Or have you missed the context? Do you have access to the original document? This quote is everywhere on anti-catholic or dissident catholic sites but I can't get the original document and see the context. Or, maybe that would mess up the meme.
Michael Barberi
4 years 5 months ago
Definitions clearly matter and the purpose of it is to lay bear the facts. Your questions deflect from the fundamental issue, specifically, that the CC has condoned various forms of slavery for centuries and the Church has been "profoundly inconsistent" with this teaching of truth. What was moral became immoral only in 1891 (Leo XIII) and 1965 (Second Vatican Council) on the issue of slavery. I did not miss the context and my comments were not "way off" as you erroneously assert. More importantly, it is not anti-Catholic or unfaithful, as you imply, to state the facts and disagree with certain teachings. Your argument is an argument based on rhetorical questions which take us 'off-base', unless you are claiming that the facts presented are erroneous. If so, go argue with the many scholarly authors who have written books on this subject (e.g, those suggested for further reading). I read these sources as well as the counter-arguments defending the Church. Unfortunately, the facts speak for themselves. I could easily have quoted from various sources, but choose for convenience information at www.womenpriests.org. These facts are no different from the information in the two books I suggested. If your argument is "now I know the purpose of it" to connote a derogatory sarcasm, I will not get into the gutter of dialogue that you seem to want to move this conversation. I will let readers of this blog to formulate their own prudential judgment about whether the CC has changed its teaching about slavery.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 5 months ago
And the original document for Pius IX's statement? Have you read it? Can you send me a link? Surely, you want to share it to "lay bear the facts"?
Michael Barberi
4 years 5 months ago
The June 20,1866 Instruction of the Holy Office signed by Pius IX was from two sources: 1. J. F. Maxwell, “The Development of Catholic Doctrine Concerning Slavery,” World Jurist 11 (1969–70): 306–7. 2. "Reflections on Slavery" by Diana Hayes in Change in Official Catholic Moral Teachings, Editor Charles E. Curran (New York: Paulist Press (2003), p.69. Here is the context: The U.S. Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, the U.S. Civil War ended in 1865, and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted at that time, abolished slavery. "Rome had never unequivocally condemned slavery, mostly out of fear of offending Spanish and Portuguese royalty. Gregory XVI finally condemned the slave trade in 1839, but not slavery itself. If pressed, the Vatican fell back on the medieval argument that, while slavery was an evil, it was not an unmitigated evil, for it allowed slaves to be Christianized. Although the Vatican was officially neutral during the Civil War, Pius IX made not secret of his sympathies for the Confederacy. However, deplorable its social system, the South at least was not infected with the virus of liberalism" (Morris, p. 78). The 1866 quotation appears in many other sources such as the Society of Biblical Literature. Also, Noonan in "Development in Moral Doctrine" summarizes the conclusions about the issue if the Church changed its historic teachings when he stated "What was forbidden became lawful (the cases of usury and marriage); what was permissible became unlawful (the case of slavery) and what was required became forbidden (the persecution of heretics". Noonan also concluded that the Church for more than nineteen hundred years did not condemn slavery per se. I did not search for the original document but relied on published books and essays that vetted the material. It was only until 1891 and 1965 that the Church condemned slavery in all its forms. Therefore, history makes clear that the Church has been morally inconsistent on the issue of slavery.
Michael Barberi
4 years 5 months ago
I might add a most important piece of history that speaks to the culture of the Church and its practices and teachings. For example, the same Pope Pius IX who signed the Holy Office Instruction in 1866 asserting that slavery is not against the natural or divine law also enslaved a young Jewish boy against his will and that of his parents….see below! The Jewish boy (Edgardo Mortara) was forcibly converted by baptism (the Catholic midwife feared for the life of the child during delivery and baptized him without his parents' permission...but he survived) and was forcibly taken from his parents (by Vatican police per the instruction from Pius IX ). Note: the persistent pressure and outcries from the local Jewish authorities, the child's parents and international condemnation from most countries, did not persuade Pope Pius IX to free the enslaved child to his rightful parents. Is this not against the natural law to focibly kidnap a child from his Jewish parents in order that he be brought up as a Catholic against the wishes of his parents?….who never gave permission to the midwife to baptize the Jewish child!! Is this not a form of slavery according to one definition of it as it relates to the state of someone being under the control of another person against his will and agaisnt the will of his parents? It is true that decades after his being held and propagandised against the will of his parents, he signed a statement to the effect that he was happy several decades after being kidnapped (is anyone surprised given his brainwashing and the Vatican lifestyle). You can check this out in the Jewish encyclopedia: "A case of forcible abduction in which a child named Edgar Mortara was violently removed from the custody of his parents by papal guards in Bologna on June 23, 1858." More at: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/vi...d=809&letter=M A better description of this event can be found at Edgardo Mortara - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgardo_Mortara. Evidently there were various states of slavery that were morally permitted by the RCC until 1891 and 1965.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 5 months ago
Oy vey! – how to respond to both Michael Barberi and Joseph Jaglowicz? Apologies to Fr. Horan again for staying off the point of his article. Michael - you now call the Mortara affair enslavement. It was not slavery, it was not doctrinal teaching. Pius IX did not send the police to take the child. His role was in dealing with the issue once the police enforced the bad law. I know of no doctrinal teaching that came from this exercise of judgment (imprudent and wrong as it might have been). Pope Pius IX, renowned for his immense personal charity (similar to Pope Francis - as bishop Pius gave away most of his income and sheltered women rescued from prostitution) was trying to act in the best interests of the child, not trying to enact a principle of slavery. There was no systematic attempt to baptize Jewish children (in fact, it was against the law to do so, and the removal of Edgardo occurred years after the near-death baptism occurred). The question was how to deal with a child once baptized (that is, if you really believe in the effectiveness of baptism). It is no surprise that popes, even saintly popes, did not always do the right thing. This was all investigated during the Beatification process. People can disagree and especially those with an agenda, will be harshly judgmental. But, it hardly gets to the issue of slavery. Moreover, Edgardo made a different judgment. He chose to become an Augustinian priest. Compare this with devşirme where the Ottomans took literally millions of Christian sons from their parents and forced them to become Muslims, and abducted thousands of girls for their harems. Getting back to chattel slavery and the correct way Doctrine is Developed, Michael doesn’t even link to Cardinal Avery Dulles’s actual review of Noonan’s book and his interpretation on Development of Doctrine, but to a critique of it (who doesn’t link to it either). Here is the original for those who want to get all the facts. http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/development-or-reversal-37. It opens with: “Doctrinal development follows a different course in social ethics than in the realm of revelation. The formulation of revealed truth develops through the discernment of new truths that are formally implicit in the apostolic deposit. Such truths, once proclaimed by the Church as divinely revealed, are dogmas and must be held by all as matters of divine and Catholic faith. Social teaching, on the other hand, consists of behavioral norms for social conduct in conformity with the gospel. While the principles remain constant, the proximate norms are not free from contingency because society itself is in flux. Specific regulations rarely have the universal and permanent character that belongs to dogma. Development in social teaching is not simply a matter of articulating what was always implicitly taught but a way of applying the teaching to new social situations.” I do not have Noonan’s book but surely the reference to the pope’s statement can be found therein, unless the context would weaken his argument. Joseph might post it next. This is relevant since some people conflate many different meanings under the term slavery, as Michael just did with Mortara. Interestingly, Dulles says Noonan credits Pope John Paul II (and not even VCII) with “finally” emphatically condemning all slavery as sinful. But, Dulles recounts the many and varied condemnations of specific forms of slavery since the 1400s. I do agree that the Catholic Church has in the past allowed for certain types of slavery, as indeed our Lord and Peter & Paul seem to have done, or at least they did not oppose them vigorously enough (forcing captive prisoners to work even goes on today in the USA – but that is not slavery). And, in most periods, the saints and popes were fighting the conventional wisdom (perhaps, insufficiently, to our modern minds) and being opposed at every step by the recalcitrant laity. Look at all the teaching against abortion today and still, millions are aborted by self-identifying Catholics. As Rodney Stark argued (link below), there was no similar attempt in the Muslim or Jewish or Protestant world (until the 19th century) to restrain the advance of slavery like there was in the Catholic Church. Muslims & Jews might be excused since Abraham and Mohammed owned and traded in slaves themselves. The popes’ work would have been greatly aided by an outright condemnation on slavery by Jesus or Peter or Paul. But, for some reason, we do not have it. I do not doubt Jesus’ authority because of this, and I don’t the teaching authority of His Church or the Holy Spirit.
Michael Barberi
4 years 5 months ago
Tim, You deliberately distort any argument that is different from your position. I provided further details on the Mortara kidnapping but you dismissed it and did not mention it because it did not suit your argument. Your rhetoric is a foolish point. In the Papal States, Church law was the law. No one is arguing that the Jewish child Edgardo Mortara was not baptized by a Catholic midwife because she feared for his life during delivery. Nor is anyone arguing that the boy was taken from his parents years later. The issue is that once the fact was revealed that the midwife baptized the child, an inquisition was called for, and despite conflicting testimony, the child was declared "Catholic" because of his so-called baptism. Pius IX's decision was based in part on the belief that Jewish parents could not be trusted to bring up the child Catholic. Not only was the child kidnapped, he was effectively enslaved to live in the Vatican and under the guidance of the pope and clergy. The protests from the local Jewish authorities and foreign heads of state did not convince Pius IX to free the child to his rightful place with his Jewish parents. The fact that as a young adult Edgardo Mortara became a priest is not surprising given his brainwashing and secluded and protected life style. Mortara could have chosen not be become a priest, but that misses the point. I offered this as one example of enslavement defined as forcing someone to do something against their will (and the will of parents who were the guardian of this child). It was a side argument, and not the facts about how the Church supported various states of slavery for nineteen hundred years. This was not conflating the definition of slavery, but pointing to the judgment of Pius IX (the same pope who declared himself and all pope infallible). I might add that his Syllabus of Errors was a papal encyclical that no one in his right mind today believes it is truth. I have no agenda but to factual propose a scholarly argument. As usual Tim, you did not address my argument and the major facts presented. The point of my argument is this: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH'S TEACHING ON SLAVERY IS A TEACHING OF MORAL INCONSISTENCY FOR NINETEEN HUNDRED YEARS UNTIL SLAVERY PER SE, IN ALL ITS FORMS, WERE FINALLY CONDEMNED BY LEO XIII AND THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL. If you disagree with my argument, then offer your counter-argument for the many papal bulls and other evidence presented, especially the 1866 Holy Office Instruction signed by Pius IX. All you did was select a few details and distort them like the Mortara issue, and then quote the definition of Doctrinal Development, as if I was ignorant of it. You also rest on the fact that in the time of Jesus, slavery was not immoral, and in centuries after, slavery was not restrained even in the Muslim, Jewish and Protestant world. Then, ipso facto, you think you have won the argument with your sense of moral superiority. Again, you missed the point I was making all along. The only cautious conclusion I can reach about your weak rhetoric is that "you do agree that the CC has in the past allowed for certain types of slavery". If so, I also agree. I repeat>>The CC has changed its teachings on slavery, period, end of discussion. Slavery was once morally permissible, it was a teaching of truth, then forbidden, then claimed by JP II as "intrinsically evil". If you are thinking that this is doctrinal development….I also agree. When the teaching about contraception, and other sexual ethical teachings are reformed, they will also be doctrinal development. Of course, you will disagree.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 5 months ago
Michael – You characterize the Mortara event with inflammatory words: “inquisition” - “Jewish parents could not be trusted” – “kidnapped” – “enslaved” - “brainwashed,” and that the whole affair was a proper example of “enslavement.” But you complain that I “distort” your argument and use “weak rhetoric. You have taken the worst interpretation of a child welfare situation, and turned it into rank “kidnapping.” You seem to have no problem defaming a saint just to reduce confidence in papal teaching. Your whole argument sounds more like propaganda and is devoid of any attempt to understand the historical context. Contrast that with the tone and method of Cardinal Dulles, SJ. . You say I ignore some of your points, but you never address many of mine, such as why you think Jesus or Paul did not actively oppose slavery. You give the Papacy no credit for the many acts of resistance shown to the many forms of slavery despite little explicit support from Scriptures. You say you “have no agenda”, but every piece you write is to get the Church to change its teaching on contraception, abortion and homosexuality. It is there again in your penultimate sentence. I do not have to convince you and you don’t have to convince me. But, try to see the side of the Church in these many difficult debates, and give defenders of the Church the benefit of the doubt that we believe what the Church teaches and follows from what Jesus taught. That is my agenda.
Michael Barberi
4 years 5 months ago
Tim, The Mortara event was an egregious immoral act despite the perspectives of the times. The term inquisition is appropriate because I used it to refer to a hearing to determine what happen. It is not inflammatory nor is it untruthful. The words kidnapped, enslaved and brainwashed is likewise accurate if you don't exaggerate the meaning. Your description of that the Mortara event was a "child welfare situation" would be laughable on its face except for the fact that it is a profound distortion of the truth. This Jewish child was not being neglected, harmed, poorly cared for by inept and cruel parents, nor was his welfare being threatened unless you believe that bringing up the child in the Jewish religion is some type of evil requiring that forceful removal of the child from his parents forever as a distorted rescue attempt that you think is benevolent. If you believe that your judgement is both foolish and profoundly inaccurate. Within Catholic theology there is room for disagreement as long as it is fair, appropriate, accurate, scholarly and not unjustly disparaging. If someone disagrees with a pope or a teaching of the Church, regardless if one has legitimate philosophical and theological reasons, will be subjected to your exaggerated and often degrading characterizations. I did not address you point about Jesus and Paul because you were not grasping my point. I never questioned or was arguing whether slavery was considered immoral in ancient times, or whether or not Jesus and Paul condoned or condemned slavery. This fact was not materially important to the question about if the Church changed its teachings about slavery…namely, morally permitting it, then selectively condemning unjust slavery, not so-called just slavery, then classifying morally permitted states of slavery, then condemning all forms of slavery, then pronouncing slavery as intrinsically evil. When someone is making a strong and convincing argument based on facts with references, and you cannot address the argument adequately, you resort to exaggerated and unwarranted chastisement. To claim that I am defaming a saint is preposterous and highly insulting. It speaks to your style of argument which many other bloggers are acutely aware of. It is not about "giving the Church some credit for many acts of resistance to many forms of slavery". That was not the point under consideration, that you constantly missed. You only want to see what you want to see, which is often an unjustified negative description of someone's argument. I am honest, well educated, a faithful Catholic and I strive to be civil and polite. That does not mean I am perfect, but I don't like being dragged into the gutter of an argument that frequently occurs in any lengthly debate with you about different perspectives of truth and legitimate and scholarly disagreements about certain Church teachings. If you don't like legitimate arguments over abortion, contraception, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, then you should not be blogging on America Magazine because healthy respectful debate is permitted. I never disparage your beliefs or anyone else's. You are entitled to believe in every Church teaching, but don't force you beliefs on me and degrade them. No one sees the complete truth. Some see things from a 4th story window, others a 14th story window, but this is only a partial view of the truth even if you are at the 125th floor. The teaching about slavery changed because the people of God gained a better understanding of truth through our growing knowledge of the world, our human condition, Scripture, theology, philosophy, anthropology, the sciences, et al. That was my point and because it was in tension with your argument, and you could not refute it with an adequate response, you lost perspective and that is being kind. My agenda is no different from yours if you mean to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves…to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses each day and follow Jesus…to minister to the poor and disadvantaged…to spread the good news of the gospel, et al. We are lead to the truth by the Holy Spirit in both agreement and disagreement. This is something that you do not accept. However, exaggerated, unjustified and dispirited discourse is never an appropriate argument especially if they harm human integrity and a person's character and intentions. Think about your own choice of words when you say my arguments are propaganda, inflammatory, they defame a saint, they give no credit to the Papacy or to fellow bloggers the benefit of doubt, et al. Tim, this will be my last comment.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 5 months ago
Michael - you use the term gutter to refer to my arguments rather frequently. And you say you never disparage my beliefs. You deny you have an agenda yet on almost every topic you manage to bring in contraception or your disbelief in the authority of the Church's teachers. You think it is reasonable to say again that Mortara must have been brainwashed to become a priest. How can you know this? I do not think you are aware of how many times you contradict yourself. I do my research and present real quotes and real opinions but you seem to think no arguments are worth your prejudiced opinions. I think the reason (just before you sign off from a string) you end up descending to this level of attack, is that you are not used to people coming back at your unsubstantiated arguments. I am sure you are trying to lead a good life and care about what you say. But, you are also very judgmental but you do not seem aware of what you are doing. God bless.
Joseph Jaglowicz
4 years 5 months ago
COMMONWEAL's dotCom had a thread about Noonan's book several years ago. See https://commonwealmagazine.org/blog/church-can-and-cannot-change. Title of thread is "A church that can and cannot change".
Tim O'Leary
4 years 5 months ago
Joseph - thanks for the link. It appears to me to be a reasonable review of Noonan's book (by Cathleen Kaveny). There are two references to Noonan's work that bear well on the discussion below: Not only did the laity ignore or oppose the Pope’s teaching, but so does a Maryland bishop, a theologian and some Jesuits: “As incipient recognitions of the horror of slavery are reported, popes speak out while theologians and local religious leaders seem remarkably blind. For instance, in 1839, Pope Gregory XVI decries the inhuman trade of slavery (107), but the leading prelate in the United States, Bishop John England, asserts the lawful title to slaves, the moral theologian Francis Kenrick defends the practice of slavery, and the Jesuits of the Maryland Province actually own more than two hundred slaves.” Noonan also seems to be less a victim of chronological chauvinism than the less historically aware critiques below, who so quickly condemn past popes out of context: “Declaring moral teachers from previous generations innocent for the positions they held, he explains the acquittal with an overarching assertion: We must be judged by the moral criterion we know (200). Did no one have a responsibility to learn what he did not yet know? Is there not any culpability for ignorance? Do not the prophets rightly condemn when we do not bother to understand? This brilliant book teaches us that, if we appreciate history, inevitably we are called to understand more than we presently know.” And finally, what can only be seen as a balanced judgment (praise & critique) from Cardinal Dulles: “All in all, Noonan has written a stimulating book dealing with questions of great importance. He shows himself to be knowledgeable about the history of the four problems here treated. He brings to bear many of the skills of a historian, a civil lawyer, a canon lawyer, and to some degree those of a theologian. Anyone who wishes to question Noonan's conclusions must at least take account of the facts he has unearthed. He renders no small service in presenting the most powerful objections against continuity that can be raised. The reader should be warned, however, that Noonan manipulates the evidence to make it seem to favor his own preconceived conclusions. For some reason, he is intent on finding discontinuity—but he fails to establish that the Church has reversed her teaching in any of the four areas he examines.”
Michael Barberi
4 years 5 months ago
I find Dulles' criticism of Noonan's book lacking. For example, he speculates about what JP II meant in Veritatis Spendor when he pronounced slavery as intrinsically evil. Dulles says JP II did not define it, did not nuance it and that he likely did not mean slavery per se was intrinsically evil, for that would contradict past teachings. The definition of intrinsically evil is something that will always be immoral regardless of ends, intentions and circumstances. It is a moral absolute. If JP II meant that only certain forms of slavery were intrinsically evil, then it is perplexing why he did not do so. If we accept that, then deportation would require some nuance and definition because few people would argue that deporting an illegal alien who committed a felony is not immoral. If we are to speculate about the definitions of actions called intrinsically evil in VS, then we need to ask what other so-called intrinsically evil actions could be nuanced and redefined, like contraception. I don't think JP II would agree with that. Dulles' speculation minimizes the review process of papal encyclicals by the Roman Curia and the theologians that advise the Pope and Curia. If something like slavery did not mean slavery per se, then we are left with the dilemma of knowing exactly what was meant by every other term pronounced as intrinsically evil. Dulles' argument and speculation is not convincing. Usury according to Dulles was doctrine development by claiming that excessive interest is still condemned by the Church and is against the Divine law. If that be the case, why has not the Church condemned the many financial institutions that charge as much as 26.99% interest on loans? My Mexican housekeeper fell into such a loan from her dentist that offered an installment loan from GE Capital to her. The poor woman had no idea about the interest rate, for she had no credit and need someway of paying for emergency dental services. I had to co-sign the loan for her. Unfortunately, I did not realize that she, as a poor person, often paid her debts late. This impacted by credit score so I paid off then GE Capital loan for her and took on the loan, charging her 0% interest. I was shocked that such a loan was common. We all know about credit card interest as well. I did not find Dulles' argument convincing in this case as well. Clearly, many bishops dissented or did not speak out against slavery. However, to say that every pope, every papal bull, all council and Holy Office pronouncements over a nineteen hundred year period condemned slavery in all its forms, is not supported by the facts. Slavery was morally permitted, then only just slavery, then certain states of slavery were define as morally permissible, then all forms of slavery were condemned, then finally slavery per se was pronounced as intrinsically evil. No one has yet explained the 1866 Holy Office Instruction signed by Pius IX, which made clear that slavery was not against the natural or divine law…., et al, as quoted in this blog in more detail. There will always be a disagreement whether the Church changed its teaching on slavery, meaning whether it was doctrinal development or it was real change/reform. Doctrine development means that future teachings on a subject cannot contradict the original teaching. For example, it the truth claim is a man is standing in the room, a future teaching that a man wearing a suit is standing in the room is not a contradiction of the original truth claim. This is doctrine development. However, if slavery was permitted, then only certain forms of it were, then all forms of it were condemned, then the future teachings contradict the original truth claim. This is real change/reform, not doctrinal development. Or am I missing something?
Tim O'Leary
4 years 5 months ago
Yes. I know of no one who argues that "every pope, every papal bull, all council and Holy Office pronouncements over a nineteen hundred year period condemned slavery in all its forms." Certainly, Cardinal Dulles does not. Unfortunately, it is easy to be misled by one's reasoning, bound as it is to the time and geography one finds oneself in, and biased by one's own self-interest (conscious or not). So, the virtue of humility should dominate any critique of historical persons, especially when their good motives and sincere attempts at doing good are evident from how they lived their lives. For example, most agree that Abraham Lincoln was a great emancipator and a good person, even though he held some views of the black man that we would find intolerable today. But, we generally see these views as less the fault of Lincoln and more that of his time. I use the same test when judging the actions of those popes who are blessed or saints, who have led lives of heroic virtue, of great generosity to their fellow men, etc. Even when they fight for an end of part of slavery, I do not complain that they didn't go as far then as I would insist now. Some wanted slaves to be treated better by their masters, others condemned the slave trade, and others demanded the excommunication of obstinate slave owners. I see them as on the side of the angels. Here are a string of Pius's I think were on the side of the angels: Pius II declared slavery to be "a great crime" (magnum scelus) in 1462; Pius VII demanded in 1815 that the Congress of Vienna suppress the slave trade; and Pius IX branded the "supreme villainy" (summum nefas) of the slave traders when beatifying Saint Peter Claver in 1850 (cf Pii IX Pont. Max. Acta, Part I, p. 645 ff.). And so was another Pius (XII), who saved so many Jewish lives and was judged a hero by the Jewish community after the war (even though now some say he didn't do enough). Each Christian should start with the clear acceptance that their own moral judgment is inferior to that of Jesus. He did endorse the whole Mosaic law (Mt 5:18 "jot" and "tittle") yet few would endorse all of that law now. Since I am certain that Jesus knows more than me, I have to accept that I cannot understand it all, or that my interpretation of the historical situation is limited by my present biases. I wish Jesus spoke out more against slavery, against abortion, for democracy, and many other things. For some reason, He did not deem it necessary for our salvation to lay it all out for us. But He gave us a living Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to keep us safe from our own (my own) arrogance. I make the rational judgments as I can, and inform myself as much as my time will permit, but listen with humility to the Church teachers who, though flawed human beings, were promised by Jesus to be able "to bind and loose" on the truth of faith and morals. Even these leaders never have all the truth, and hence, there is a development of doctrine, as the circumstances change. That is why I think Avery Cardinal Dulles has got it right.
Michael Barberi
4 years 5 months ago
In respectful theological debate, different perspectives and disagreements are normal and healthily. It is through dialogue and debate that we come to a better understanding of truth. Humility is a given for we all do not see the full truth no matter what lens or window to reality and theology we are looking through. Those who disagree with certain Church teachings are not to be confused with evil, unfaithful ends or intentions even if the actions of popes are constructively criticized. People who disagree with certain teachings for legitimate and well explicated philosophical and theological reasons are not less of a Catholic than those who believe in every Church teaching. Giving respect to the Church and its teachings is what we all should do. However, that does not mean blind obedience to every teaching, nor does it forbid legitimate constructive criticism in healthy disagreeing debates. On the other hand, what healthy disagreement does require of those who disagree with certain Church teachings is to keep an open mind to the reasons and arguments of others who have a different perspective and to constantly further their education on the issues of disagreement. They should be knowledgeable about both sides of the argument at least as best as they can. They should also consult theological mentors and their local parish priest, pray often and receive the sacraments, et al. Those who want certain teachings to be "responsibly reformed" should not be characterized by disparaging remarks, implicitly or explicitly implied or stated. Nor should they be classified as having an agenda that is disrespectful, misguided, invincibly ignorant, or blinded by a distorted reasoning, merely because of their arguments that point to legitimate reasons for change. It was through the process of dialogue, often heated, that has lead to changes in the teachings on slavery, usury, the freedom of religion and the torture of heretics. These teachings were influenced by the knowledge and culture of the times and no one is accusing, slenderly or defaming popes or the Church because teachings were changed, or if actions may have been inadvertently evil. Nor do most people who disagree with certain Church teachings have a unjustified and overly negative view of individuals "as subjects" in hierarchy, save for their actions (e.g., those who covered up the clergy sex abuse of children). Those who disagrees with certain Church teachings are not forcing their views on others that hold to every church teaching, nor should those who believe in every church teaching consider those who disagree as inappropriately leading people away from the Church, disparaging the good news of the gospel or degrading the authority of the Church to proclaim the truth. The Church has the authority to proclaim the truth, the issue is whether specific teachings reflect the full truth and whether there are legitimate and responsible reasons for change/reform especially those teachings that are proclaimed to be a moral absolute. The Church also has the authority to bind and loose as its sees fit. To be clear, I am not referring to the fundamentals of the Catholic faith, but to certain moral teachings, especially marital sexual ethics and whether the Church has changed its past teachings, as this blog was focused on the issue of slavery. I, like most Catholics, follow Jesus as best they can and are lead by his Holy Spirit. This does not mean that anyone of us does not make mistakes, including those who disagree and agree. Let us strive toward a healthy, respectful dialogue devoid of unintentional disparagements.

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