Wednesday, March 19, 2008

OBama's Racism Speech Misses the Real Problem

'A more perfect union'

Full transcript of Sen. Barack Obama's speech on race as it was prepared for delivery by the Illinois senator on Tuesday.

I have to say that this is a very good speech by Obama and it is far more encouraging that he wrote it himself rather than spout lines written by someone else. I do have to say though that the entire problem of racism in America at present has largely little to do with race and far more to do with culture or the lack of it. The “N” word is a state of mind shared currently by nearly as many whites as blacks. The cultured person knows that the first place that darkness must be conquered is in him or herself. The uncultured person thinks there is no darkness to fight against, nothing morally despicable to be resisted and hence nothing moral or honorable to be attained aside from social appearances. Hence the rule of the appetites that so devastates the black community. The problem in this country between races has therefore, in my opinion, largely been a function of failing cultures and the devolved spirituality of overly simplified or overly literal religious frames of mind.

Now you might say, but Sean, the Catholic Church supported slavery in one way shape form or fashion or by some sort of complicit or tacit approval over the centuries and I would say that the failure of the Church to have consistently denounced slavery in all of its forms seems to have been based on the then prevailing economic models that viewed slavery as an economic and political reality that the Church could do little about. Was it excusable? Absolutely not but what the Church and the Popes actually taught about the matter and what they collectively let slide due to circumstance are two different things. See below.


The Truth About the Catholic Church and Slavery
The problem wasn't that the leadership was silent. It was that almost nobody listened.

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!

As early as the seventh century, Saint Bathilde (wife of King Clovis II) became famous for her campaign to stop slave-trading and free all slaves; in 851 Saint Anskar began his efforts to halt the Viking slave trade. That the Church willingly baptized slaves was claimed as proof that they had souls, and soon both kings and bishops—including William the Conqueror (1027-1087) and Saints Wulfstan (1009-1095) and Anselm (1033-1109)—forbade the enslavement of Christians.

Since, except for small settlements of Jews, and the Vikings in the north, everyone was at least nominally a Christian, that effectively abolished slavery in medieval Europe, except at the southern and eastern interfaces with Islam where both sides enslaved one another's prisoners. But even this was sometimes condemned: in the tenth century, bishops in Venice did public penance for past involvement in the Moorish slave trade and sought to prevent all Venetians from involvement in slavery. Then, in the thirteenth century, Saint Thomas Aquinas deduced that slavery was a sin, and a series of popes upheld his position, beginning in 1435 and culminating in three major pronouncements against slavery by Pope Paul III in 1537.

It is significant that in Aquinas's day, slavery was a thing of the past or of distant lands. Consequently, he gave very little attention to the subject per se, paying more attention to serfdom, which he held to be repugnant.

However, in his overall analysis of morality in human relationships, Aquinas placed slavery in opposition to natural law, deducing that all "rational ...

And from another article: (Let My People Go. The Catholic Church and Slavery by Mark Brumley)


…What about the charge that the Catholic Church did not condemn slavery until the 1890s and actually approved of it before then? In fact, the popes vigorously condemned African and Indian thralldom three and four centuries earlier-a fact amply documented by Fr. Joel Panzer in his book, The Popes and Slavery. The argument that follows is largely based on his study.

Sixty years before Columbus "discovered" the New World, Pope Eugene IV condemned the enslavement of peoples in the newly colonized Canary Islands. His bull Sicut Dudum (1435) rebuked European enslavers and commanded that "all and each of the faithful of each sex, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their earlier liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of [the] Canary Islands . . . who have been made subject to slavery. These people are to be totally and perpetually free and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of any money."

A century later, Pope Paul III applied the same principle to the newly encountered inhabitants of the West and South Indies in the bull Sublimis Deus (1537). Therein he described the enslavers as allies of the devil and declared attempts to justify such slavery "null and void." Accompanying the bull was another document, Pastorale Officium, which attached a latae sententiae excommunication remittable only by the pope himself for those who attempted to enslave the Indians or steal their goods.

When Europeans began enslaving Africans as a cheap source of labor, the Holy Office of the Inquisition was asked about the morality of enslaving innocent blacks (Response of the Congregation of the Holy Office, 230, March 20, 1686). The practice was rejected, as was trading such slaves. Slaveholders, the Holy Office declared, were obliged to emancipate and even compensate blacks unjustly enslaved.

Papal condemnation of slavery persisted throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Pope Gregory XVI's 1839 bull, In Supremo, for instance, reiterated papal opposition to enslaving "Indians, blacks, or other such people" and forbade "any ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this trade in blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse." In 1888 and again in 1890, Pope Leo XIII forcefully condemned slavery and sought its elimination where it persisted in parts of South America and Africa.

Despite this evidence, critics still insist the Magisterium did too little too late regarding slavery. Why? One reason is the critics' failure to distinguish between just and unjust forms of servitude. The Magisterium condemned unjust enslavement early on, but it also recognized what is known as "just title slavery." That included forced servitude of prisoners of war and criminals, and voluntary servitude of indentured servants, forms of servitude mentioned at the outset of this article. But chattel slavery as practiced in the United States and elsewhere differed in kind, not merely degree, from just title slavery. For it made a claim on the slave as property and enslaved people who were not criminals or prisoners of war. By focusing on just title servitude, critics unfairly neglect the vigorous papal denunciations of chattel slavery.

The matter is further muddled by certain nineteenth century American clergy-including some bishops and theologians-who tried to defend the American slave system. They contended that the long-standing papal condemnations of slavery didn't apply to the United States. The slave trade, some argued, had been condemned by Pope Gregory XVI, but not slavery itself.

Historians critical of the papacy on this matter often make that same argument. But papal teaching condemned both the slave trade and chattel slavery itself (leaving aside "just title" servitude, which wasn't at issue). It was certain members of the American hierarchy of the time who "explained away" that teaching. "Thus," according to Fr. Panzer, "we can look to the practice of non-compliance with the teachings of the papal Magisterium as a key reason why slavery was not directly opposed by the Church in the United States."

Another reason may have been the precarious position of the Catholic Church in America before the twentieth century. Catholics used to be a small and much-despised minority. They were subject to repeated attacks by Protestant "Nativists." In many ways, the American hierarchy of the day was trying to protect the Catholics immigrating to the U.S. and did not regard itself as in a position to be the leader in a major social crusade.

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