Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Leo XIII's In Plurimis: Natural Law and Slavery, Part 3

WE CONCLUDE THIS THREE-PART SERIES on Pope Leo XIII's encyclical In plurimis. From a practical standpoint, the Church made some significant effort to provide practical remedies against slavery: she imposed canonical penalties, even excommunication; she allowed slaves sanctuary; those slaves that came into the possession of her bishops and religious, "according to times and places," she required bishops to divest themselves of after the slaves showed themselves capable of self-government; she put pressure on civil authorities to ameliorate, if not banish slavery. Through her efforts, the only institution of any size siding with the slaves, the slavery was "nearly blotted out from among Christian nations."

Unfortunately, the Church was to confront the Old World slavery's atavism in the New World and in the colonization--in America, Africa, and Asia--that followed, and she found herself at the forefront of confronting the effort revive the plague. Rome "took the greatest care that the evil germs of such depravity should nowhere revive." IP, 15. Pius II (r. 1458-64), Leo X (r. 1513-21), Paul III (r. 1534-49), Urban VIII (r. 1623-44), Benedict XIV (r. 1740-58), and Pius VII (r. 1800-23), Gregory XVI (1831-46) all showed themselves in one way or other concerned with slavery and the slave trade, condemning one or both for their part. Unfortunately, the cries and warnings of the Popes went unheeded, and slavery's ugly mien rose again and reigned for centuries. But, eventually, the Church's "long-continued and most just complaints of nature and religion," were to obtain remedy, at least in the Christian countries. IP, 17.

Not so the rest of the world, especially that part of the world governed by Islam, "it having been perversely laid down by the Mohammedans that Ethiopians and men of similar nations are very little superior to brute beasts." The African natives are likewise brutally treated by Muslims and by colonialists.
We open Our arms to them, how ardently We desire to be able to afford them every alleviation and support, with the hope, that, having cast off the slavery of superstition as well as the slavery of man, they may at length serve the one true God under the gentle yoke of Christ, partakers with Us of the divine inheritance. Would that all who hold high positions in authority and power, or who desire the rights of nations and of humanity to be held sacred, or who earnestly devote themselves to the interests of the Catholic religion, would all, everywhere acting on Our exhortations and wishes, strive together to repress, forbid, and put an end to that kind of traffic, than which nothing is more base and wicked.
IP, 19.

Bronze Statue of St. Peter Claver, Cartegena, Colombia

In another encyclical, Libertas praestantissimum, Pope Leo XIII summarized the Church's role in the slavery question thus:
It is sufficient to recall the fact that slavery, that old reproach of the heathen nations, was mainly abolished by the beneficent efforts of the Church. The impartiality of law and the true brotherhood of man were first asserted by Jesus Christ; and His apostles re-echoed His voice when they declared that in future there was to be neither Jew, nor Gentile, nor barbarian, nor Scythian, but all were brothers in Christ. So powerful, so conspicuous, in this respect is the influence of the Church that experience abundantly testifies how savage customs are no longer possible in any land where she has once set her foot; but that gentleness speedily takes the place of cruelty, and the light of truth quickly dispels the darkness of barbarism.
LP, 12.

The model that is required to overcome this evil was the Jesuit St. Peter Claver, patron saint of slaves:
Let them look at him who for fully forty years gave himself up to minister with the greatest constancy in his labors, to a most miserable assembly of Moorish slaves; truly he ought to be called the apostle of those whose constant servant he professed himself and gave himself up to be. If they endeavor to take to themselves and reflect the charity and patience of such a man, they will shine indeed as worthy ministers of salvation, authors of consolation, messengers of peace, who, by God's help, may turn solicitude, desolation, and fierceness into the most joyful fertility of religion and civilization.
IP, 20.

The extirpation of slavery de jure must also be accomplished de facto, but in removing slavery and its badges and remnants "let all be done lawfully, temperately, and in a Christian manner."
It is, however, chiefly to be wished that this may be prosperously accomplished, which all desire, that slavery may be banished and blotted out without any injury to divine or human rights, with no political agitation, and so with the solid benefit of the slaves themselves, for whose sake it is undertaken.
IP, 21.

Finally, Pope Leo XIII turns to the newly-freed slave, and renders this advice, which is the advice that ought to be given and received by any true free man:
Let them, then, endeavor piously and constantly to retain grateful memory and feeling towards those by whose council and exertion they were set at liberty. Let them never show themselves unworthy of so great a gift nor ever confound liberty with licence; but let them use it as becomes well ordered citizens for the industry of an active life, for the benefit and advantage both of their family and of the State. To respect and increase the dignity of their princes, to obey the magistrates, to be obedient to the laws, these and similar duties let them diligently fulfill, under the influence, not so much of fear as of religion; let them also restrain and keep in subjection envy of another's wealth or position, which unfortunately daily distresses so many of those in inferior positions, and present so many incitements of rebellion against security of order and peace. Content with their state and lot, let them think nothing dearer, let them desire nothing more ardently than the good things of the heavenly kingdom by whose grace they have been brought to the light and redeemed by Christ; let them feel piously towards God who is their Lord and Liberator; let them love Him, with all their power; let them keep His commandments with all their might; let them rejoice in being sons of His spouse, the Holy Church; let them labor to be as good as possible, and as much as they can let them carefully return His love.

Ergo illi memoriam et voluntatem gratam pie ad eos servare diligenterque profiteri studeant, quorum consilio quam prasbeant indignos, nec umquam libertatem cum licentia cupidilatum permisceant; ea vero utantur quo modo cives decet bene moratos, ad industriam vitae actuosas, et commoda et ornamenta quum familias tum civitatis. Vereri et colere majestatem principum, parere magistratibus, legibus obtemperare haec officia et similia, non tam metu adducti quam religione assidue exsequantur: etiam cohibeant arceantque alienae copiae et prestantiae invidiam, quae dolendum quam multos ex tenuioribus quotidie torqueat et quam multa ministret nequitiae plena instrumenta adversus ordinum securitatem et pacem. Re sua et statu contenti, nihil carius cogitent, nihil appetant cupidius quam bona regni caelestis, quorum gratia in lucem editi sunt et a Christo redempti: de Deo eodemque Domino ac Liberatore suo cum pietate sentiant, eum totis viribus diligant, ejus mandata omni cura custodiant. Sponsae ejus Ecclesiae sanctae, se filios esse gaudeant, esse optimos laborent, et quam possint amoris vicem sedulo reddant.
IP, 22.

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