Fr. Thomas Reese SJ wrote a piece at Religion News Service in which he was gobsmacked that Pope Francis didn’t know about a papal document from the 15th century.
Pope Francis’ six-day pastoral visit to Canada was a great success. It wasn’t until the news conference on the plane back to Rome that it became clear he wasn’t properly briefed for his visit.
Francis, in Canada on what he called a penitential pilgrimage, apologized to the Indigenous peoples of the country for the Catholic Church’s cooperation in their forced assimilation to colonizing Europeans’ culture over the centuries, especially in residential schools run by the church.
People from the First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities who listened to the pope’s apologies responded for the most part positively. Many, however, regretted that it took so long for the pope to apologize, and some wanted him to say more.
Some Indigenous leaders wanted the pope to denounce the Doctrine of Discovery, a 15th-century theory enshrined in the papal bull, “Inter Caetera,” that allowed Christian nations to conquer and colonize “barbarous” nations in order to convert them to Christianity. At that time, Christians believed that those who were not baptized could not go to heaven.
The first question addressed to the pope on the plane returning to Rome was from an Indigenous reporter for CBC Radio, Jessica Ka’nhehsíio Deer.
“As a descendant of a residential school survivor, I know that survivors and their families want to see concrete actions following your apology, including the rejection of the ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’” she said. “Considering that this is still enshrined in the Constitution and legal systems in Canada and the United States, where Indigenous peoples continue to be defrauded of their lands and deprived of power, was it not a missed opportunity to make a statement to this effect during your trip to Canada?”
The pope’s response was shocking. “I didn’t understand the second part of the question. Could you explain what you mean by Doctrine of Discovery?”
What? The pope does not know what the Doctrine of Discovery is? There isn’t an excuse for this lapse.
Hahahahahahaaaaa. That’s because Pope Francis doesn’t acknowledge that the Church had any valuable teaching before Vatican II. Anything before then is just bad and he is the one who comes to wash the Church clean of anything before 1962.
The past is bad and because I acknowledge the past as bad I am therefore good. Do you understand it now? This is kind of a fun way to view morality because the living will always be right and the dead always wrong.
So dear Fr. Reese, don’t be upset that Pope Francis hasn’t read those old dusty documents. They don’t matter. He is all that matters because he is NOW.