Vatican Says ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ Never Was Church Teaching

Mar 31, 2023 | 0 comments

Two Vatican department have issued a joint statement insisting that the ‘so-called’ ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ was never Catholic church teaching.

‘Doctrine of Discovery’ is a descriptive term first used by the US Supreme Court to denote an outlook supposedly based on 15th and 16th century papal statements used by European conquerors to justify European confiscation of lands inhabited by indigenous peoples in the Americas and elsewhere after that time.

Pope Francis in 2022 in Canada came under pressure to repudiate or rescind the ‘doctrine’ from numerous indigenous leaders, following his apology for abuses suffered by indigenous children forced into church-run schools for the purpose of assimilation in the 1800s and 1900s.

The statement – by the Vatican Dicasteries for Culture and Education and for Promoting Integral Human Development – has been broadly welcomed by representatives of ‘first nations’ in Canada and other former colonial territories, as it strengthens the legal case of dispossessed indigenous peoples for the return of contested lands by courts dependent upon European legal precedents in the Americas.

However, one Canadian indigenous spokesperson, Ghislain Picard of the Innu people of Labrador and Quebec, remarked that “The Vatican seems to be washing its hands of its role in the whole colonization of our lands and to me it would be so simple to just accept the fact that they played a role.”

For an expanded account of this issue in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), click here.


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