July 6, 2011
(Previous posts on the Doctrine can be found by clicking on the “Doctrine of Discovery” category at… http://wp.me/POlE)
Word of Colón’s return and stories of land previously unknown to Europeans preceded his March 15, 1493 arrival to Barcelona. The mistaken European belief of land not currently under the rule of an European empire was open for the taking unnerved Pope Alexander VI.
Christianity had come a long way since Emperor Constantine. Now settled solidly into the political structure of many European empires, Alexander recognized a wholesale rush to claim land was surely to create conflict, lead to wars, and damage Christian church power. Alexander’s fear led him to write a number of papal bulls concerning the probable conflict rising from the claiming of non-European land. His most important bull concerning indigenous peoples throughout the world was the Inter Caetera papal bull on May 4, 1493 where he declared “his desire that ‘barbarous nations’ be overthrown or subjugated and brought to the Catholic faith and Christian religion ‘for the honor of God himself and for the spread of the Christian Empire.’” Through this writing, Alexander made it clear that by the authority that the Almighty God conferred upon the vicarship of Jesus Christ, any land not currently under the purview of a Christian king or prince is granted to those “kings of Castile and Leon, forever.”
Through the Inter Caetera papal bull, Pope Alexander VI provides Spain with the legal Christian authority to conquer all non-Christian indigenous nations. Thus begins the Christian Doctrine of Discovery.
© David B. Bell 2011