20th July 2012

“Since the sixth century and right up until the the twentieth century it has been common Catholic teaching that the social, economic, and legal institution of slavery is morally legitimate provided that the master's title of ownership is valid and provided that the slave is properly looked after, both materially and spiritually. The institution of genuine slavery… was not merely tolerated but was commonly approved of in the Western Latin Church for over 1400 years.”

J.F. Maxwell

7 Responses to “20th July 2012”

  1. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    The Confederates, what would become the Democrats, truly believed in the legitimacy of slavery: As in OK with God, even endorsed.

    This sub-culture, Southern Democrats, moved on to hijack the Republican party of today.

    The so-called religious right are the original Confederates. Born again, evangelical, and vile. An embarrassment to humanity.

  2. The Heretic Says:

    Slavery is an institution that has gone back thousands of years in many places all over the world. In some places, it may well exist today. To say that the Cathlic Church supported it, is singling out one of many and is unfair. The world civilization evolved over thousands of years and now such practices are frowned upon. That is all.

  3. reetBob Says:

    Evidence that the moral authority of the Catholic church was never more than a reflection the values of the society of the time, and often several centuries behind.

  4. Xhim Says:

    Slavery is alive and well in – among other places – the USA and Europe.

  5. Carbon14 Says:

    Xhim, it’s shocking to think of the prevalence of human trafficking in our own societies. Obviously it’s rightfully condemned by all right-thinking people.

    What are your thoughts on the Bible’s position on slavery?

  6. Capt'Z Says:

    Republican’s are even today supporting slavery in the Northern Mariana Islands. You can find lots about their involvement with a Google search of “northern mariana islands slavery”.

  7. Xhim Says:

    Carbon14: Hope you see this, when I’m traveling I can’t get at the computer until evening when the new quote is already up.
    Let me start by saying I find – even as a non-Catholic – Maxwell’s quote disturbing, and I hope to do some research soon. Aside from that….
    As to the Bible and slavery, there are a couple of background assumptions. The first is that there is a significant difference between the Old Testament and New Testament attitude toward human behavior. The OT accommodates basic human weakness to a certain degree, while the NT (because of the availability of the Holy Spirit since the day of Pentecost) works on the basis that people no longer can hide behind their weaknesses (“I tried, but I just can’t do it!”) because any Christian can draw on the HS’s strength.
    The way that applies to slavery is this: it was not outright banned because of human weakness in the contemporary environment. Instead, slaves were given rights (Exodus 21:20, 21:26, Leviticus 19:20, Deuteronomy 23:15) and some had their tenure limited (Leviticus 23:39-41). These seem pretty mild by modern standards, but compared to the societies around, they were quite revolutionary. Still, these were not the final word.
    By NT times things looked different. The teachings of Jesus went beyond mere restraint of abuse to active love (“you have heard it was said…. but I say to you….”). All this would have been as effective as New Year’s resolutions before, but because of the Holy Spirit it was time to push the envelope.
    Strangely, slavery was not forbidden, it was simply made impossible for a follower of Jesus. There was no overt attempt to change the Roman Empire, but the instructions Paul gave Philemon in the book of that name made slavery essentially contradictory to following Jesus: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever – no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” (Vs. 15-16) Also: Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (this thought is repeated in Colossians 3:11). Ephesians 6:5-7 (“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people”) is sometimes quoted as early Christian support of slavery, but this is wrong. Rather, in a society where Christians had absolutely no political influence, they did not attack the institution head on, but rather by loving their enemies (and owners) attempted to change the world one human being at a time, often at huge personal sacrifice. There are more NT texts, but they pretty much reiterate what has been stated above.
    A quick internet scan seems to support Maxwell’s thesis that even Christians were tolerant of slavery. I have two evidences to the contrary, however. 1) Even though slavery was not officially declared illegal in the Empire, its demise corresponds with the rise of Christianity there. 2) I have been reading the unabridged Church Fathers for about the last 10 years (it’s a lot of reading). I am about at the year 270 or so, and don’t recall reading a word in support of slavery. I’m on the road at the moment, though, and to be more certain of that I have to wait until I’m home (in about a week) to check the index.
    Hope this helps.