Catholic history & racism
Guest columnist John Chuchman thought a bit about Catholic Church history.
In the 15th century,
the Catholic Church became the first global institution
to declare that Black lives did not matter.
In a series of papal bulls
beginning with Pope Nicholas V's Dum Diversas (1452)
and including Pope Alexander VI's Inter Caetera (1493),
the church not only authorized the perpetual enslavement of Africans
and the seizure of non-Christian lands,
but morally sanctioned the development of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
This trade forcibly transported
at least 12.5 million enslaved African men, women and children
to the Americas and Europe
to enrich European and Catholic coffers.
It also caused the deaths of tens of millions of Africans and Native Americans over nearly four centuries.
In the land area that became the United States,
the Catholic Church introduced African slavery in the 16th century
long before 1619.
In fact, at various moments in American history
from the colonial era to the U.S. Civil War,
the church was the largest corporate slaveholder
in Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri.
We must also never forget Roger B. Taney,
the nation's first Catholic Supreme Court Justice
and a descendant of prominent Catholic slavers from Maryland,
infamously declared that Black people
had no rights which the white man was bound to respect,
while denying the freedom petitions
of Dred and Harriet Scott and their two daughters in 1857.
Following the abolition of slavery,
the Catholic Church stood as the largest Christian practitioner of segregation.
In the United States,
where the history of many Black Catholics
predates that of white and ethnic white Catholics
by over three centuries,
the vast majority of Catholic institutions
and religious orders of men and women
systematically excluded African-descended people,
especially U.S.-born Blacks,
from admission solely on the basis of race
well into the 20th century.