“We trust that, as long as you are on earth, you will compel and with all zeal cause the barbarian nations to come to the knowledge of God, the maker and founder of all things, not only by edicts and admonitions, but also by force and arms, if needful, in order that their souls may partake of the heavenly kingdom.”Needless to say, this sounds very harsh; indeed, it seems on the surface that the Pope is giving the “OK” on using force to convert and bring the Native Americans to God. This was the first time I had ever heard of Intra Arcana. How are we as Catholic Christians to respond to the charge that, right here, is proof that the Church believes it’s permissible to forcefully convert people? How does one respond to the claim that Paul III contradicts his predecessor Clement VII? The answer is multi-faceted. Once we determine how much authority the Pope was pronouncing, explore the context of the document, understand what the content of the papal bull in its entirety contains (instead of just one quote), and delve into what the Church truly teaches on religious freedom, it will become apparent that the Church’s teaching on how to bring people to the knowledge of God, and how to bring them into His Church, has remained consistent and maintained respect of a person’s free will for two millennia.
|Pope Clement VII|
First, before we get into the meat and potatoes of what is contained in Clement VII’s letter, let’s briefly tackle how the Catholic Church differentiates between different papal documents, and determines how much authority the Pope wishes to convey in these documents. When people think of the Pope, they usually think of his ability to speak infallibly for the Church. This exercise of the Extraordinary Magisterium is called “speaking ex cathedra”, literally meaning “from the chair (of St. Peter).” When the Pope speaks ex cathedra, he is exercising his universal authority as shepherd and teacher of all Christians in defining a doctrine on faith or morals, which must be held by the whole Church. This type of infallible pronouncement has been used very sparingly, and has only been formally declared twice (on the Immaculate Conception in 1854, and on the Assumption of Mary in 1950) in the Church’s entire history.
This is why charges that Catholics believe the Pope to be infallible in everything he says are ridiculous; what people really mean to say is that they think Catholics believe the Pope to be “impeccable”. Sorry to say, but the Pope is neither impeccable nor infallible in everything. But does that mean the Pope can’t define an infallible teaching outside of speaking ex cathedra? This is where the Ordinary Magisterium comes into play, which happens to be the more typical and common manner in which infallible doctrine is taught to Catholics… which is why it’s called “Ordinary”. When the pope reinforces, reiterates, or restates the consistent teaching of his predecessors and of the bishops united with him around the world in a document, that’s considered the Ordinary Magisterium and are to be treated as infallible doctrine. The types of papal documents are as follows:
• Papal Bulls
• Papal Encyclicals
• Papal Briefs
• Apostolic Exhortations
• Apostolic Constitutions
• Apostolic Letters
• Motu Proprios
It would seem that Intra Arcana was a papal bull. Now that begs the question: Are all papal bulls, and other papal documents, infallible? The answer is an emphatic no. According the The Catholic Encyclopedia, “for practical purposes a bull may be conveniently defined to be ‘an Apostolic letter with a leaden seal’… As for the binding force of these documents it is generally admitted that the mere fact that the pope should have given to any of his utterances the form of an encyclical or bull does not necessarily constitute it an ex-cathedra pronouncement and invest it with infallible authority. The degree in which the infallible magisterium of the Holy See is committed must be judged from the circumstances, and from the language used in the particular case."
Now that we have our definitions in order, we can start to apply all this to Intra Arcana. First, how much authority was Clement VII pronouncing, and what was the context? After reading the document, we can see that this papal bull has nothing to do with faith and morals. It is simply not a teaching document; the context of this document, is that it is a letter to Charles V of Spain. This papal bull would fall into the category of not being an infallible pronouncement, and no teaching authority is being exercised here. So what exactly is the Pope telling Charles V to do here?
To answer that, let’s find out where the translated quote I posted above actually came from. There are many websites, including Wikipedia and a few anti-Catholic pages, which talk about Intra Arcana, and give the quoted portion of the text. You can see how biased Wikipedia’s pages had been written before relevant edits were made.
“Confidimus te, quoad in humanis degeris barbaras nationes ad rerum omnium opificem et conditorem deum cognoscendum non solum edictis admonitionibusque, sed etiam armis et viribus (si opus fuerit) ut earum animae caelestis regni fiant participes compulsurum.”Hanke, who died in 1993, was regarded as a preeminent historian of colonial Latin America, specifically on the subject of the Spanish conquest of Latin America. Now Hanke’s essay also only featured one section of Intra Arcana. And you guessed it; it’s the same one we’ve seen in the books and web pages I have listed. However, this is without a doubt where the translated portion originates from, and is to my knowledge, the only scholarly translation of Intra Arcana into English. What I found interesting when reading Hanke’s essay, was that he was not very critical at all of the Church’s attitude towards the Native Americans during the age of exploration. In fact, he had been known to work against the common narrative heard then and today that all Spaniards were uniformly exploitative of the Native Americans. Although he seems surprised to find such a letter after reading Paul III’s document, he notes that the scope of the letter is basically limited to patronage power in the Americas to Charles V. Also, note that Hanke translated this selection himself, and it is my opinion that his translation leaves something to be desired; with his one translated selection he seems to have misinterpreted the context a bit. Just why I believe this will become apparent when I present another translation.
But first, we are left with a conundrum: where is the original document? The same Google Group I posted above was able to track down a copy of Intra Arcana in a collection of documents with the header translating to:
“Privileges of nominations [i.e., naming people to offices] of Louvain by the Supreme Pontifex Sixtus IV, as well as by his Successors Leo X, Adrian VI, and by Clement VII, Gregory XIII, and Paul V, with those things added by the Princes of the Belgians, and in what way concordats have been conceded, extended, restricted, and altered in diverse fashions.
“To which, for greater elucidation, have been joined some titles of the concordats of the Kingdom of France, and German concordats; and not a few other various nomination indults for benefices and dignities to Charles V, Emperor of the Romans, etc. of glorious memory; and to his son Philip V, King of Spain; and to the Princes of the Belgians; bestowed by the Supreme Pontifexes.”
To view the entire Latin text of the bull, follow this link; you can find the section in question six lines up from the foot of the page. So, we’ve gone pretty far down the rabbit hole. Our journey has taken us from a few random citations, to the original scholarly paper said translation came from, all the way back to a copy of the text of the original papal bull. Now, it would seem all we need is a translation of more than just the one selection, in order to determine the context in which Clement VII was communicating with Charles V. Fortunately, translator Maureen S. O’Brien was kind enough to give me a translation of the majority of Intra Arcana. You can see her entire translation here, but as this translation is so very important, we will quote it at length here as well. Hanke’s selection will be bolded in this new translation:
“COPY OF THE INDULT OF NOMINATION TO BENEFICES AND DIGNITIES FOR CHARLES, KING OF THE ROMANS AND THE SPANISH, ELECTED AS THE EMPEROR; GRANTED BY THE SUPREME PONTIFF CLEMENT VII, IN THE YEAR 1529.
Clement, Servant of the Servants of God,
To Our dearest son in Christ, Charles, King of the Romans and the Spanish, elected as the Emperor:
Health and the Apostolic Blessing.
Among the secrets of Our heart and mind for a long time since, going back over many things —For that, and for the greatly renowned memory of Ferdinand the Catholic King, your maternal grandfather; for the guardianship and exaltation of the Catholic Faith; and for the propagation of the Christian Religion against the Moors and other enemies of Christ’s Name; on behalf of this Holy See which governs it, upon which We preside by the Divine Kindness; hoping you (who adhere to the same Royal King in the Spains and the Sicilies, on this side [of the ocean] and beyond it, and prove to be the Advocate of our Church the Bride) will be supported by it in His footsteps; and his renowned works will be supported; and for greater growth of the said Faith by the excelling of the terrestrial army and the maritime fleet,
Inasmuch as it is so that the dwellers on those islands vulgarly named the Spannolas, which were discovered under this King Ferdinand, may be led back to the knowledge of the Faith; but also beyond that, for [the dwellers on] each one of the other islands in the Indian Ocean which were absolutely unknown until now; which [islands] may not unmeritedly be called “the New World;” which you have placed under your leadership and your auspices by your authority; and the peoples of them having found nothing of the Christian Religion; you have managed recognizing and watching over the recognition for them with all care and diligence, thus far;
And following on this, we entrust the barbarous nations to you, until you take them to the Workman of all things, and they be recognized by God the Creator; driven along not only by edicts and admonitions, but also by arms and forces (if only so the work will [be able to] exist); so that with all care of bringing it about, their souls may become partakers of the Heavenly Kingdom.
"Charles V at the Battle of Mühlberg"- Tizian
Wherefore we deservedly introduce this [document], to grant it to you with the most eager soul, through which the honor of Your Highness may increase and your pleasing regard; and receiving to yourself suitable Ecclesiastical persons for Ecclesiastical benefices, may you be able to provide for them. The motu proprio is not on account of your earnestness, or that of another for you about this offered petition, but simply out of Our Own liberality; so that by Our authority, from precisely whatever experienced bishops and archbishops will be chosen; for the Ecclesiastical persons; and also whosoever and howmanysoever and whatsoever kind of Ecclesiastical benefices with an office or a boundary of an office, you will name them for this through yourself;
Also We wish them to have any Apostolic dispensations obtained and awaited whatsoever; the kinds and values of these benefices; and the courses of these kinds of dispensations for pronouncement, and on these persons and each one of them, to whatever excommunications, suspensions, and interdictions, or other Ecclesiastical sentences, censures and punishments exist by law, or by any human occasion or broad case; if by those in whatever way they are knotted up from the effect of validity [of Sacraments], We absolve them from these grave matters, following the making of the nomination to them; and We wish them to be absolved; and We announce it in each cathedral (except Liege, which is run by Our dear son Erardus, titular Cardinal Priest of St. Chrysogonos) and in each college church which has been conferred Canons and prebends by the Apostolic Privilege on the towns, lands, and villages in your patrimony of Flanders which remain subject to you…”
The document goes on from there with the Pope giving Charles V permission to run a recruiting drive for clergy to venture to the new world and make “the work” (that is, the missionary outreach to the Americas) a realty. To reiterate my earlier question, what exactly is the Pope telling Charles V to do here? Again, it’s clear that this is not a teaching document at all. It’s not even binding on the Church at all. We see here, according to this translation, that when read in context, the Pope is simply granting permissions and privileges to one person (i.e., Charles V) and his kingdom, in order to promote Spain’s control over its territory and missionary work. One might ask further, what permissions and privileges? Catholic apologist Dan Marcum of History and Apologetics ) is able to put it much more eloquently than I:
“Assuming O’Brien's translation is correct, it seems to vary essentially from the one cited on Wikipedia. The bulk of the letter seems to address two things: Spain's control over territory in the New World, and bringing people to God. Let me repeat that and give evidence for it. The bull is discussing two things:
(1) Spain's control over territory in the New World: “you have placed [certain islands] under your leadership and your auspices by your authority.” And: “[these islands] were absolutely unknown until now ... [and may] be called 'the New World.’”
(2) Bringing people to God: "the dwellers on those islands... [should] be led back to the knowledge of the Faith." And: "for greater growth of the [Catholic] Faith."
Thus, we can see that the document discusses both of these things. Now, in the section where the pope mentions the use of arms and force, the context mentions both of these things together: " we entrust the barbarous nations to you... [so that] their souls may become partakers of the Heavenly Kingdom." Now, assuming that translation is correct, I think the document is perfectly defensible, and does not at all imply that conversions can be forced.
Let me illustrate why: leave out for a moment one of the purposes of the bull, we'll bring it back in a minute. But for a minute, suppose the bull didn't mention bringing people to God. Suppose it merely talked about Spain's control over some territory in the New World. Now, every nation must use compulsion in order to enforce its laws. If a people is not compelled to obey laws, they cease to be a nation and become an anarchy. Therefore, the bull would be perfectly defensible if it merely said that Spain had a right to use arms and forces within its own territory.
Okay, now we can bring back in the other purpose mentioned by the bull: bringing people to God. Well, that happens to be a principle purpose of Christian government. They do not exist merely for this life. The purpose of a Christian government is to make things peaceable precisely in order that people may focus more easily on the attainment of eternal life. This interpretation is actually explicitly mentioned by the section in question: "the barbarous nations... [should be] driven along not only by edicts and admonitions, but also by arms and forces (if only so the work will [be able to] exist)."
Of course these nations should be driven along by edicts, admonitions, arms, and forces. If they were not, they would not be nations. But does it say that this should be done in order to force them to believe? No, it only says that the ultimate goal of all these edicts, admonitions, arms, and forces, is so that these nations may enter heaven, and so that "the work" (i.e. the missionary outreach) "will exist."
Therefore, it seems to me that Wikipedia and the other documents you mention are ripping this document out of context. It says that Charles V had a right to use force and arms, not in order to force people to believe, but in order to govern his territory; and it is within that context that the document mentions that a missionary work should be at least able to exist "[so that] their souls may become partakers of the Heavenly Kingdom."Marcum has brilliantly summed up the purpose of the bull here, but there is another avenue worth exploring as well when it comes to understanding why this bull was written in the way that it was. The other avenue comes from the mind of noted Thomist, Bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler. Intra Arcana opens the door for discussion, primarily now in our modern times, as to whether or not forced conversion was an issue at the time of this writing. In “The Social Teachings of Willhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler”, Ketteler’s work “Freedom, Authority and the Church”, first published in 1862, is included and focuses on this issue, which you can read online here. Notice that in the bull, Clement VII writes that those living in newly discovered lands should “be led back to the knowledge of the Faith”. It is a fact that knowledge of God is not the same as faith in God, as the process of coming to know God comes through natural reason. We see this spelled out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which says:
Now when we do come to that faith through reason and acknowledge God as our Father and Creator of the Universe, we are living a natural virtue (as opposed to a theological virtue, i.e. faith, hope and charity), the virtue of religion which corresponds to the cardinal virtue of justice.
“Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God's existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.” (CCC 35)
Bishop Willhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler
As we’ve mentioned, Ketteler realizes that this faith cannot be compelled, however justice can be. We see this happening in our own time where the state promotes laws that punish a multitude of vices so that people may act more virtuously. However, as we will see Ketteler explain, this doesn’t happen if there is a greater good to be had by tolerating such vices. For example, drinking to excess is a vice; if I do it in my own home, by myself and where no dependent children are present, the state won’t intrude and lock me up for acting unvirtuously. That being said, if I’m the captain of a jumbo jet, and drink to excess right before piloting the plane, the state has every right to use its power to prosecute me and ensure I don’t get in the pilot’s seat. To better understand how this applies to timeless Catholic teaching, that is, from Spain during the age of exploration to how Catholic social teaching is presented today (as is reflected in the CCC) Ketteler will be quoted at great length, specifically from Chapter XXIII of his “Freedom, Authority and the Church”. From Ketteler’s own pen, with select footnotes included from the editor of “The Social Teachings of Wilhelm Emmanuel Von Ketteler” (emphases mine):
We come now to the all important question whether religious freedom...is opposed to the principles of the Catholic Church. May Catholics who wish to remain true to the principles of their church concede to those of other religions such a position in the state? May Catholic rulers legally permit to their subjects such freedom of conscience without violating their own consciences? Can there be situations in which rulers are even bound in conscience to grant such freedom?
…Moral freedom is not a right to do evil, but simply the free and inner self-determination towards what is good; it involves free choice which includes the possibility of choosing what is evil without external compulsion. The freedom to make up one's own mind is, in itself, no right to choose error and to lie. It is the free inner self-determination towards what is truth without external compulsion. The choice of what is good and what is true is at the same time our bounden duty, in fact, the highest obligation that a man has. The choice of what is evil and untrue, on the other hand, is the wonton abuse of our legitimate liberty. Only in this sense can we speak of freedom of religion. The right to adopt a false religion, to organize it, to propagate it does not exist, as such. On the contrary man's first and highest obligation is to seek out the true religion and to give all of his devotion to it. For that reason, the Catholic Church cannot cease to regard the existence of all false religions as the gravest abuse of freedom that it must fight against with all of its might.
As opposed to this we are faced with the question whether the Catholic Church can remain loyal to her principles and waive the exercise of external force in the area of religious freedom, or in the area of moral freedom; whether she may leave to the individual freedom of choice in this matter of choice of religion, as she does regarding his freedom to choose between good and evil; and finally, whether, since she possesses no means of external compulsion, she must demand the exercise of such compulsion by public authorities or at the very least by Catholic rulers? That is the real nub of the problem.
…We regard St. Thomas, as certainly the most reliable exponent of Catholic teachings, and he lived in the very times (d. 1274) when it is maintained nowadays, albeit wrongly, that the Catholic Church exercised limitless power. He answered the questions: whether the unbeliever may be forced to accept the true religion as follows:
"The non-believers who, like the pagans and the Jews, have never accepted the true Faith may in no way -- nullo modo -- be forced to accept it, since Faith is a matter of free consent by the will. (ST. ii-ii., 10)"
The noted and learned Jesuit Suarez addressed himself to the same question 400 years later when he was discussing the power of the Catholic Church and Christian rulers. He said: "It is the universal opinion of theologians that non-believers, whether they are one's subjects or not, may not be forced to accept the Faith even if they have attained sufficient knowledge of it." (Suarez, Tract. de Fide Disp. 18 Sect. III, n. 4.) [Ed: To know the Gospel merely in its exterior form is not sufficient, in itself, to beget conviction or bind in conscience: “The Indians are not held to believe as soon as they have heard the preaching of the Christian faith, so that they would sin mortally against the faith from the sole fact that it is announced to them and that they are assured that the Christian religion is true…They would be held to believe only if the Christian faith had been proposed to them with worthy witnesses to persuade them. Yet I do not hear that miracles have been performed among them or that they have been shown extraordinary examples of sanctity; on the contrary, they have been given a spectacle of scandals, horrible crimes, and innumerous impieties.”]
|Francisco Suárez, S.J.|
He then enumerated a long list of the most reputable theologians who supported this position and came to the conclusion that: "This opinion is therefore completely true and certain." To make it the more conclusive, he added: "We regard it, first of all as intrinsically evil – intrinsice malum – to wish to force non-believers who are not one's subjects to accept the Faith, because such force, to be applied, presupposes the existence of legitimate authority, as must be obvious. The Church, however, does not possess legitimate authority over such persons." (ibid. n. 4) He continues: "Secondly, the Church cannot compel even non-believers who are subject to her temporal authority to accept the Faith. That is because the direct use of force presupposes full authority and jurisdiction, and it is clear from what has been said that the Church has not gotten such full power over her temporal subjects by any specific commission from Christ." (ibid. n. 7)
Until now we have only spoken of non-believers as individuals. St. Thomas went further now and asked whether the religious practices of non-believers must also be tolerated. In other words, we are face to face with the issues...integral to religious freedom. St. Thomas first mentioned the possible objections to his position in his accustomed manner: "It appears as though the religious practices of unbelievers must not be tolerated inasmuch as it is obvious that by their observance of these practices they are sinning; and we must conclude that he who does not prevent such a sin when he is able, himself shares in its guilt." The Saint answered:
"Temporal government has its origin in divine government, and it must, therefore to the extent that it can, imitate it. God, however, though He is almighty and infinite, permits certain evils to occur on earth, even though He could prevent them from occurring. He does this because, first of all, by preventing evil in this manner He would deprive man of greater benefits and secondly, because therefore greater evils would result." (ST. ii-ii, 10, 11)
The greater benefits which St. Thomas had in mind here are not hard to determine. God would have to deprive a man of his liberty which is the highest endowment that man has, if He were to deny a man every possibility of abusing that liberty. Applying that principle to temporal governments, St. Thomas concluded that they too must tolerate certain evils, and he stated finally: "Even though the non-believers sin because of their religious practices, these must nevertheless be tolerated, either because of the good that they still have in them, or because of the greater evil that would result." Among such evils, he listed the scandal and discord which might result from forceful interference or, even more important, the hindrance that such interference could prove to be to the true conversion of the unbelievers.
…Suarez not only confirmed St. Thomas' opinion regarding the toleration of the religious practices of unbelievers, he went further and sets the precise limits to which such toleration can go. His determination is of the greatest practical significance in dealing with the question of how far the limits of religious freedom can extend in our own time and remain in conformity with the Church's principles. In his commentary on St. Thomas, Suarez begins much in the style of the latter:
"It appears as though the religious practices of the unbelievers, notably all of the unbaptized as, e.g., pagans and Mohammedans, may not be tolerated in Christian nations since they involve superstition and injury to the honor that is owed to the true God, whose honor Christian rulers have an obligation to uphold. St. Thomas, however, rightly distinguishes two kinds of religious practices: there are those which go against reason and against God insofar as he can be recognized through nature and through the natural powers of the soul, e.g., the worship of idols, etc. Others are contrary to the Christian religion and to its commands not because they are evil in themselves or contrary to reason as, for example, the practices of Jews and even many of the customs of Mohammedans and such unbelievers who believe in one true God.
|"St. Thomas Aquinas Striking Down Heresy"- Michel Serre|
"Regarding the first, the Church may not tolerate them on the part of her own unbelieving subjects. But that is merely the general principle. It may happen often that Christian rulers cannot prevent even such practices without causing greater harm to the nation and to the Christian inhabitants. In that case, the ruler may tolerate such evil with a clear conscience on the basis of what Christ said to the servant who asked the master whether they should remove the weeds from the field. He replied, ‘No, or perhaps while you are gathering the tares you will root up the wheat with them.' (ibid. sect. IV, n. 9)
"As regards the other religious practices of unbelievers which go contrary to Christian beliefs but not counter to natural reason, there is no doubt but that the unbelievers, even though they are subjects, may not be forced to abandon them. Rather the Church has to tolerate them. St. Gregory addressed himself clearly to this problem regarding Jews, and he forbade anyone to deprive them of their synagogues or to prevent them from observing their religious practices therein. (Lib. I Epistol. 34) Elsewhere he reaffirmed that no one should prevent Jews from participating in their religious observances. (Lib. II. Ep. 15) The reason is that such observances do not in themselves violate the natural law, and therefore, the temporal power of even a Christian ruler does not confer a right to forbid them. Such action would be based on the fact that what is being done goes contrary to the Christian Faith, but that is not enough to compel those who are not subject to the spiritual authority of the Church. This opinion is also supported by the fact that such a ban would involve, to some extent, forcing people to accept the Faith; and that is never permitted. (ibid. n. 10)"
From all of what these authorities have said, we are able to derive certain important principles regarding how the Catholic Church and Christian rulers must conduct themselves in the matter of religious freedom of the unbaptized:
1. The acceptance of the Christian Faith, which is before God the greatest obligation facing any human being, must be an act of the free will and free self-determination of each individual, and no one may in any way -- nullo modo -- as St. Thomas said -- be compelled to do so by the use of external force.
2. The spiritual authority of the Church, like that of any temporal authority, is limited. Those who exercise that authority may not do all that they would be capable of doing, or what they regard as useful, nor may they use any force at their disposal to accomplish such ends. The application of external force can only be justified to the extent that the nature of authority indicates…
3. …The unbaptized and the non-Christians are not subject to the Church's authority. Thus, she has only the right to preach the gospel to all men and to urge them for the salvation of their souls to join the Church. She does not have proper authority to use external force directly or indirectly to compel anyone to become a member of the Church, or to order anyone else to use such force.
4. The temporal power exercised in the state, whether by Christian rulers or by others, concerns itself only with a part of the temporal well-being of the subjects, not with the supernatural truths of revelation… The scope of that authority can be extended if the Church chooses to confer more powers, as the Church did grant additional rights to the ancient Christian rulers -- powers which they then exercised in the name of the Church. Likewise, certain historical situations may develop which add to the state's power. Yet, the basic limitation of its authority derives from laws of God who, in laying down His plan for order in the universe, also included a proper sphere for the temporal community. No one, either the Church or the people, has a right to transgress these limits.
5. On the other hand, religious freedom has its own natural limits as dictated by reason, by natural morality, and by the natural order of things. No reasonable moral freedom can go so far as to destroy moral order to which everyone has a right. Therefore, Christian as well as non-Christian rulers and those who hold temporal authority are obliged to oppose religious teachings and practices which are in latent violation of the laws of reason and morality. For this reason, Christian rulers may not tolerate, for example, the worship of idols by their subjects, if they are able to prevent it…
|"Christ on Throne"- Iconostasis of Greek Catholic Cathedral of Hajdúdorog, Hungary|
We have purposely taken pains to discuss this matter at length to show that we are not dealing with a casual opinion, but a matter which has been subject to painful scrutiny and one which rests on important principles. The Church places so high a value on freedom of conscience and freedom of religion that she rejects as immoral and illegitimate any use of external force against those who are not her members.
… As regards the use of spiritual compulsion against heretics in the context that we have been discussing, the Church has always affirmed the authority to use such force on those who are by belief and by baptism her own members. Such force consists in spiritual and ecclesiastical penalties which have as their special purpose to bring about their spiritual improvement. The most severe of these punishments is excommunication…
Even when the Church used external means of compulsion, this too was done for improvement and enlightenment purposes, not in the sense that the Faith has to be forced on people or that it is something other than an act of inner conviction. The family as well as the State uses external means of punishment also to bring about inner moral betterment…
If now, after our discussion of the question, to what extent the Church must use external compulsion against the abuse of religious freedom, and whether Catholics may regard religious freedom as essential, we wish to answer the questions as they apply to our own times, we have to present the following conclusions:
In general, the Church regards the acceptance of religion as a matter for inner self-determination, and would contest the right to use external force by either the state or by ecclesiastical authority…
Where other religious organizations exist legally, a Catholic ruler is required to give them the full protection which the law affords. If he were to use external force against them he would violate the principles of his Church…
We have to insist upon the limits of religious freedom referred to earlier, whereby it is an abuse of that freedom if the state, under the guise of religious freedom, tolerates sects which deny the existence of a personal God, or which jeopardize morality.The theological richness of Bishop Ketteler is so profound, that it’s hard to select only certain sections from his writings. It can plainly be seen from such theologians as Ketteler, Aquinas, Suarez and even St. Gregory the Great that the Church has always been consistent on the autonomy of people’s decisions in matters of faith. This extends to the Native Americans that are discussed in Intra Arcana. After all this has been said, we can definitely see that there is an issue of prudence; that is, was Clement VII prudent in how he worded his letter? After getting a fuller translation, it would seem that the accusations being thrown around at him and the Church were over exaggerated and his true intentions misunderstood. But were they completely unwarranted? No. The bull does not necessarily violate Catholic doctrine as seen above through the writings of Marcum and Ketteler. But it’s possible such compulsion would do more harm than good, as Suarez mentioned (“…they [the Native Americans] have been given a spectacle of scandals, horrible crimes, and innumerous impieties”) and that would be true then and today.
|"The Consoling Christ"- Bernard Plockhorst|
Here’s the crux of the matter, though. Intra Arcana was a bull intended to confirm the ecclesiastical and territorial rights of one country, Spain, and it’s ruler in Charles V. Clement VII could’ve certainly chosen a better way to convey this message of patronage powers. In addition, many Europeans, including missionaries, totally acted contrary to Christ’s teachings, and therefore the Church’s teachings, when dealing with the Native Americans they encountered. But even though these people ignored the commands of the Church, this does not implicate the Church of the crime that it has given, or ever gave, its approval to force conversions. That matter is absolutely defined. There has never been a contradiction between what the Church taught then and now; that consistency remains. Now that we have a better understanding with a fuller and more accurate translation of the papal bull in question, the attacks and accusations of the past century or so can be answered and disproved. If anyone ever compels someone by force to accept Christianity, even a pope, that person is in the wrong and will have to answer to the Just Judge for his crimes and negligence of human compassion. The Church sincerely hopes that all people come home to the loving embrace of Christ, but the Church realizes this must be done of one’s own accord and free will. Until that act of faith is made manifest, Christ awaits patiently with open arms.