Law | Opinion

Steven Newcomb: Pope Francis endorses system of domination

Pope Francis at the U.S. Capitol on September 24, 2015. Photo from Rep. John Boehner / Facebook

Steven Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute analyzes the speech delivered by Pope Francis to a joint session of Congress during his historic to the United States:
During his address to the U.S. Congress on September 24, Pope Francis alluded to the collision between the colonizing nations of Christendom and our original nations and peoples of this continent. In a classic example of a bureaucratic side-step, the pope said: “Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected.” Is this meant to suggest that the rights of our ancestors and our nations were mostly respected, just not always respected? History provides ample evidence that the right of our nations to live free from domination and dehumanization has hardly ever been respected by dominating societies, such as the United States.

Pope Francis also said: “Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present.” With regard to U.S. federal Indian law and policy, the pontiff made two errors of logic with that one simple statement. The issues we’re dealing with regarding the doctrine of Christian discovery and domination are not “in the past.” The doctrine of Christian domination has been carried forward and maintained by each new generation of the society. It is still being maintained in 2015.

Additionally, no reform has ever been created by arguing that unjust patterns of thought and behavior from the past must be maintained in the present. If that were the case there would be no Supreme Court ruling Brown versus Board of Education because Plessy v. Ferguson (separate but equal) would not have been overturned. Given that approach, segregation would still be the law of the land in the United States.

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: Pope Francis’s Careful Side-Step (Indian Country Today 9/26)

Another Opinion:
Tupac Enrique Acosta: Pope should rescind 'Doctrine of Discovery' (The Philadelphia Inquirer 9/8)

Also Today:
Junipero Serra statue at Carmel Mission vandalized days after he was made a saint (The Los Angeles Times 9/28)
Carmel Mission supporters make quick work of cleanup (The Salinas Californian 9/28)
Vandals Desecrate Carmel Mission Where Junípero Serra Is Buried (The New York Times 9/28)

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