Steven Newcomb: The Vatican still in denial on domination
"The Vatican did not hesitate to respond when Tonya Gonnella Frichner formally presented a Preliminary Study on the Doctrine of Discovery at the Ninth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York April 27. Monsignor Dr. Kuriakose B., a counselor for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, delivered a response focused on the Inter Caetera papal bull of 1493. (The Holy See uses the spelling “Inter Coetera”)

In the Holy See’s statement, Msgr. Kuriakose B. said that “Inter Coetera, as a source of International Law, the division of lands between Castile-Aragon (Spain) and Portugal was. … abrogated by the Treaty of Tordesilla in 1494.” This comment makes it seem as if “the division of lands,” otherwise known in history as “the demarcation line,” between Spain and Portugal is the issue that Birgil Kills Straight (Oglala Lakota) and I began raising in 1992 when we founded the Indigenous Law Institute. However, Pope Alexander VI’s supposed division of the world between Spain and Portugal is beside the point. The main issue that indigenous peoples have been focused on for the past 20 years is the framework of domination illustrated by Vatican authorizations of “subjugation” and “the propagation of the Christian empire” found in the papal bull Inter Caetera.

At best, the Holy See’s recent statement at the United Nations is nonsensical. The 1494 Treaty of Tordesilla referenced by the Holy See was an agreement between two civil powers, Portugal and Aragon-Castile (Spain). In the Inter Caetera papal bull, Pope Alexander VI referred to a line 100 leagues west of the Azores that would divide the respective spheres of influence or empire and dominion between the two monarchies. By the terms of the treaty, Spain and Portugal agreed to move the imaginary demarcation line, not to do away with the line. Obviously, an agreement between two civil powers to move an imaginary line is merely an adjustment of the line, not an abrogation of it. And an agreement between two civil powers to move an imaginary line could not possibly abrogate a papal bull."

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: The Holy See’s response misses the point (Indian Country Today 5/10)

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