Popes, Bishops, Slavery – and Us, by Randall Smith

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*Image: Pope Pius VII by Jacques-Louis David, 1805 [Louvre, Paris]

By Randall Smith, The Catholic Thing, May 15, 2021

Randall B. Smith is a Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas. …

Randall SmithThe old saying is that: “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”  In other words, we can and should learn the lessons of history. But experiencing current events can also help cast and unexpected light on things that might have puzzled us about the past.

Consider, for example, the history of the papal condemnations of racial slavery, starting with Pope Eugene IV’s 1435 bull Sicut Dudum. Then there was Pope Paul III’s 1537 bull Sublimis Deus, in which he condemned slavery as “stirred up by allies of the enemy of the human race,” i.e. Satan. And finally Pope Gregory XVI’s condemnation of slavery in 1839, In Supremo, in which he wrote: “Certainly many Roman Pontiffs of glorious memory, Our Predecessors, did not fail, according to the duties of their office, to blame this way of acting as dangerous for the spiritual welfare of those who did such things and a shame to the Christian name.” …