National Interfaith Conference, 24 June 2000

The role of religious law in society, a Catholic view

The role of the Church and of religious law in society cannot be discussed without reference to a definition of what the Church is. And since the Church, as the Body of Christ, is somehow the continuation of Christ's presence on earth, the Church cannot be defined without reference to a definition of Christ himself. The New Testament clearly affirms his divinity and his humanity, but controversies in the early Church led to several Councils, culminating in Chalcedon (451), which defined Christ as being fully God and fully man, with two distinct natures in the unity of a single divine person.

The Church, similarly, has both a divine and a human character. Its divine character consists primarily in its members being incorporated into the mystical body of Christ by sanctifying grace conferred at Baptism. This grace empowers them to relate to God by faith, hope and love in this life, and the beatific vision in the next life. It entitles them to live their Christian life by the assistance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, received particularly through the sacraments of the Church. The divine character of the Church also is operative in the work of its ordained members who are entrusted with teaching the Faith and sanctifying the people of God by conducting liturgical worship and administering the sacraments.

The human character of the Church consists in all the people who belong to it, with all their diversity of personalities and corporate cultures. In most religions people distinguish between a divine element which is ideal and pure good, and a human element which is a dilution of that ideal, since people do not live up to their religion as they should. But the Catholic Faith does not view the human element of religion so negatively. Yes, sin is a terrible reality, and its results are seen in the devastation of wars, corruption and neglect of responsibility. Yet the Church recognizes that each person and each nation is divinely endowed with many natural gifts and that human intelligence is capable of magnificent achievements in the areas technology, science, the fine arts, philosophy and social organization. As Jesus is true God and true man, so the authenticity of the Church demands that it respect not only the realm of revelation and grace but also the realm of human talent and achievement, since it is God's creation and is therefore good. And, as Jesus' humanity and divinity are not two separate persons but one person, so the Church is one Church, and each Christian is one Christian with two dimensions, a divine and a human side.

When we come to law we find the same perspective. There is one divine and eternal law in the mind of God, but it comes to us in two ways. Revelation is one of them. God spoke through the prophets, and lastly through Jesus his divine Word, which is the fullness of revelation. Jesus reaffirmed the basic moral law of the Old Testament, such as the Ten Commandments, and he added new teaching, expressed chiefly in the Sermon on the Mount, but also explained throughout the New Testament. On the other hand, God gave us reason and the power to know good and evil by a law engraven in our consciences (cf. Rom 1:19-21). This is what we call the natural law. Its basic most general principles are evident to everyone, but much confusion and error comes into the details of this law without the help of revelation.

Both revealed and natural law are universal norms. They leave many areas of human life undetermined, because there are many ways the same aim can be achieved. This leaves a considerable amount of freedom to the individual and considerable variability to social order and culture. Social order, however, requires determination of some matters. This is where human law comes in. For instance, revealed and natural law do not say whether we should drive on the right or on the left. But it is a matter that cannot be left undetermined, and some societies decide for the right and some for the left.

The New Testament and all Christian tradition puts considerable stress on Christian freedom. This is neither licence to do wrong nor is it removing certain areas of human life from divine jurisdiction. The point to note is that Divine law, as manifested in revealed and natural law, touches everything we think or wish or do. For instance, we are left free to marry or to remain unmarried in religious life. But both are ways of dedicating ourselves to God under the unity of common moral principles, particularly that of love of God and of neighbour.

Development of doctrine

According to the Catholic Faith, revelation reached its culmination when the Father spoke through his divine Word which is the full expression of the divine nature. Even though Jesus said, "All that I have heard from the Father I have made known to you" (Jn 15:14), he went on to say, "I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them yet. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you to the whole truth" (Jn 16:12-13). The experience of the Spirit at Pentecost enabled the Church to articulate this truth in a marvelous way in its preaching and in the New Testament writings.

Yet the infant Church had quite an imperfect assimilation of this teaching. It took several ecumenical Councils to resolve the controversies over the Trinity and the identity of Jesus. These Councils, like that of Jerusalem mentioned in Acts 15:28, issued their decisions under the title of "we and the Holy Spirit". In other words, the Holy Spirit will remain with the Church (cf. Jon 14:17), just as Jesus promised to be with the Church until the end of time (cf. Mt 28:20).

These Councils, however, were not sessions where people went into trances and received oracles from on high. If we remember our point of reference that Jesus is true God and true man, we see that the activity of the Church is not purely a divine activity where human beings are purely passive. Rather, the Councils were sessions of intense study and debate. The human intelligence of the participants was taxed to the utmost. Yet the whole process and the final decisions were not merely a human exercise, but were all under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so that the Council Fathers' deliberations became the instrument of God and their decisions became articles of faith.

As time went on, through the complex interaction of theologians, Councils and the Papal magisterium, the cumulative wisdom of the Church grew, so that today the Church has a better understanding of Jesus' teachings than the Church of the 1st century. As we shall see, this view is quite different from the common Muslim and Protestant view that the people closer to the time of the founders understood the religion better than we who are so far distant in time and culture. Let us illustrate the growth of Church wisdom with a brief summary of its social teachings. (1)

The social teaching of the Church

During the first three centuries of its existence, the Church survived by accommodating to the non-Christian society of the Roman Empire. After Constantine it achieved an influential and priviledged position in society. Except for the Papal States and certain prince-arcbishoprics, which resulted from rescue operations from the chaos of the dark ages, the Church in principle shunned direct administration of the state. But it always insisted upon being the guiding conscience of society, even in the face of the scant cooperation and resistance that it so often met, even in the most "Christian" states. The role of the Church in society is to be understood in the same way as Jesus and the Church, a divine reality fully immersed in human reality, as Tertullian said: "I am a Christian; nothing human is alien to me." Accordingly, the Church constantly tried to make peace between warring lords and kings and not only preached justice to the poor, but promoted rural development and the formation of workers' associations in the form of guilds. As for the restrictions placed on the religious activities of non-Christians, see my Views on Christian-Muslim relations.

The Church's position in society then went through several centuries of turmoil which led to a sharper understanding of its true role. Several factors were operative. First, numbers of comfortable, aloof and often corrupt leaders in the Church lost the respect of the people. Secondly, greedy princes saw in this their chance to expropriate the assets of the Church. Thirdly, the Protestant schism, with its continuance of the principle "cuius regio, eius religio" led to religious wars which made people tired of established religion. Fourthly, the development of international trade, capitalism and eventually the industrial revolution produced a bourgeoisie alien to Christian values who turned to Enlightenment philosophies, Free Masonry and the like as their secular religion. Fifthly, Jews, who had long chafed under restrictions imposed by Church establishment, supported the new secular religion as a way of achieving greater liberty for themselves.

So, in the 18th and 19th centuries the Church in Europe found itself disestablished and persecuted. The Church was not silent during all these events. Many letters and encyclicals dealt not only with the question of the liberty of the Church but also with the oppressive conditions created by the capitalist social order and the dangers of the socialist alternative. This culminated in Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum novarum in 1891. In the face of a world dominated by self-confident irreligious people who believed in inexorable progress based on science alone, he defended the right of workers to tolerable work conditions, a living wage, and to organize in unions which themselves must be guided by Christian principles. Leo XIII had an effect on the Catholic faithful, but was ignored by the leaders of society.

Their world collapsed with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, the First World War, and the Great Depression of 1929. Pius XI addressed his Quadragesimo anno in 1931 to a world in despair. His chief message was that of social justice, rejecting class struggle in favour of cooperation for the common good. He continued to defend oppressed workers and went into great detail about the respective rights and obligations of workers and employers. Above all, he called for a reform of society based on Christian principles, seeing the abandonment of religion as the chief cause of social injustice.

Another World War, the nuclear stand-off of the cold war, and the independence of many countries in Africa and Asia set the scene for John XXIII's Mater et magistra and Pacem in terris. These continued to insist on social justice, with new detailed discussions on distribution of wealth, social welfare, political freedom and democracy, aid to less developed lands, international cooperation and human rights. While insisting that only if Catholics are committed to their faith will they support this social programme, the innovation of John XXIII's encyclicals is that they urge Catholics to cooperate with those who do not share their faith in pursuing the goal of a better society.

The Vatican II document Gaudium et spes (1965) avows that the Church has to come to terms with rapid changes in thought, culture, technology and social relations. While insisting on the spiritual dimension of man and his eternal destiny, it does not divorce this from full engagement in the world and its development, in dialogue and cooperation with people of whatever other religious persuasion. Unlike any previous document, it speaks at length of culture and international development. Vatican II's Declaration on religious liberty is another landmark and the culmination of over a hundred years of reflection on a thorny topic. It insists that one is obliged before God to seek the truth and embrace it when convinced, but that civil authority must allow complete freedom to choose or leave any religion and to practice and advertize one's religion.

Paul VI's Populorum progressio (1967) addresses the problem of world imbalance between the have and the have-not nations. It is optimistic, coming at a time of many world initiatives to address the problem. Its most famous phrase is "Development is the new name for peace" (n. 87). The 1971 Bishops' Synod document, Justice in the world, amplifies the same problem in greater detail.

John Paul II, for the 90th anniversary of Leo XIII's Rerum novarum, issued Laborem excercens in 1981, amplifying the question of labour and capital. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Paul VI's Populorum progressio, he issued Sollicitudo rei socialis in 1987. In it he pointed out the failure of nations to carry out what Paul VI called for, noting the widening gap between the developed North and the developing South, particularly the debt problem and economic neo-colonialism and calls for many changes in thinking and practice. One of the encyclical's catch phrases is "preferential love for the poor". His last major work, Centesimus annus (1991) to mark the 100th anniversary of Rerum novarum updates his teaching on the social problems of the time, particularly after the downfall of Communism in Eastern Europe. He warns about the explosiveness of pent up hatred between lands once dominated by Russia. He advises that help for Eastern Europe should not mean less help for countries of the Third World. He also protests against new religious fundamentalism which restricts the religious rights of the minorities and forbids preaching of the Gospel and punishes converts to Christ. He goes on to talk about the difficulties of the Third World's participation in international trade, drug traffic, ecology imbalance, enforced population limitation and many other problems, inviting the cooperation of all people of whatever religious persuasion.

In this most sketchy summary of the Church's social teaching, we can observe that it has undergone a constant updating. This is in response to changing circumstances, but also represents a progress and maturation of thinking, with deeper theological insights into the implications of Christian revelation and a better comprehension of the dynamics of social realities today. We can also observe that, while the social teachings of the Church point the way forward to a just society, their concrete realization is open to a variety of political and technical options which the Church has said do not belong to its competency, but to that of the politicians and experts in the field.

The different perspective of Islam

Different Muslims give different interpretations of Islam. I will first present the more general view before noting divergent directions of thought. In Islam the Qur'ân is the eternal word of God which in time became book. The equivalent of the Qur'ân in Christianity is Jesus, not the Bible. Most Muslims see the Qur'ân as completely divine in nature, with only the ink, paper or outward sound as created. It comes forth from God and in no way comes forth from man. So the common Muslim conception corresponds to Monophysite Christology, which said that Jesus had only one divine nature, and his human nature was only a masque.

This Monophysite idea of the Word of God quite logically leads to a monophysite idea of Muslim society. Although the Qur'ân states that Muslims are "the best community ever raised up on earth" (3:110), this excellence is not an uplifting of human nature to a "share in the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). Any idea of supernatural life or sanctifying grace is foreign and even abhorrent to Islam. The idea that human beings can share the high table with God, sitting at his right and his left in the Kingdom of Heaven, sounds to Muslims like the sin of shirk, asociating creatures with God, or idolatry. For Islam, God is God, high above all creation, while man remains man and his highest honour is to be the "servant of God" (`Abdallâh). The Qur'ân verse I quoted goes on to say that the reason the Muslim community is the best on earth is because it obediently "commands the good and forbids evil".

The same Monophysite perspective, whereby God and man do not mix but God prevails, carries over to the constitution of society. God's law, Sharî`a, is revealed in the Qur'ân and the Hadîth, and cannot be discovered by human reason. Therefore Sharî`a must reign supreme and totally, and there is no place for philosophical ethics which investigates natural law. And there is no place for human legislation. All these are seen not as manifestations of divine law, as in Christiantiy, but as rivals competing with God's law and challenging his authority. Thus many Muslims say that Sharî`a is a total or comprehensive programme of life, sweeping away all traditional custom or culture to replace it with Islamic culture. Thus Islamic society has one divine nature and no human dimension at all.

The development of Muslim law

As for development and updating, Sharî`a, as God-given, cannot be tampered with. Only fiqh, the human codification and application of Sharî`a to new circumstances, can change. In practice, for traditional Muslims there has been no development of fiqh since the formation of the four schools of jurisprudence in the 9th century. This could be expected, since in Islam there is no magisterium or doctrinal authority. The Catholic development of doctrine, based on the authority of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church, would appear to many Muslims as a human encroachment on divine authority.

Although this stagnant Monophysite view of Islam and Islamic society is loudly championed by many if not most Muslim spokesmen today, there have always been dissident voices. The same absence of a doctrinal magisterium supports the Protestant principle of private interpretation of Scripture. Each Muslim is free to interpret the Qur'ân as he sees best and there is no Pope to determine which is the orthodox interpretation.

Notable among the minority voices were the Mu`tazilites of the Middle Ages. And hundreds of writers over the last century, especially in the Arab world, have championed the study of philosophy, defended the place of national culture and embarked on a radical ijtihâd or rethinking of fiqh. Their principle is not "Whatever is outside Sharî`a is anti-Islamic", but "Whatever can be found of good or value anywhere, even in China, can be considered Islamic."

Other Muslims have pressed the case that Qur'ânic laws must be interpreted in the light of the circumstances or asbâb which they addressed and cannot be applied indiscriminately to different circumstances of different ages and places. For instance, marrying four wives was introduced to provide for war widows. But the situation of women has changed. So Tunisia, under Bourghiba, outlawed polygyny, ostensibly because it deemed that the equal treatment of wives demanded by the Qur'ân is impossible in modern society. Similarly, Egypt, like most Arab countries, does not allow amputation as a punishment for theft. As a matter of fact, Cairo is one of the safest cities in the world. You can walk the streets any time of the day or night carrying any package and you will not be molested. This is mainly because of the religious conscience of the people.

It is not for me to say how Sharî`a ought to be interpreted. The main point I want to make is that we cannot put all Muslims in one bag. There is considerable diversity of opinion among Muslims about Sharî`a.

Sharî`a in a pluralist society

The monophysite logic of Ash`arite Islam would not allow a genuinely pluralist society. Sharî`a would have to reign supreme, with tolerated and protected dhimmî millas of Jews or Christians in a strictly subordinate and restricted place.

To say that Sharî`a is for Muslims alone and does not affect Christians is false. The provisions of the "Covenant of `Umar", repeated by Turtûshî and `Uthmân dan Fodiye, can be presumed to be part of the Sharî`a agenda unless explicitly repudiated. These provisions include the death penalty for a Muslim who converts to become a Christian and for the Christian who led him to convert. There is death also for anyone who insults the Prophet, and in Pakistan today Christians are easily accused of this if any quarrel arises. Christians may not publicly manifest or advertize their religion. They may not build new churches or repair old ones. Only Muslims may rule, and Muslims are to be preferred in contracts and employment, etc. In other words, Christians are relegated to a distinctly second-class citizenship in their own country.

Yet in this question of treatment of Christians, as in other questions, Muslims are not unanimous. Most Muslim countries do not enforce these provisions, or only discriminate in subtle ways.

Other Muslims, such as Muhammad Talbi, strongly repudiate all discriminatory treatment of non-Muslims and defend a social order of religious pluralism with equal rights for all.

What is the Christian attitude to Sharî`a in Nigeria? Certainly Christians will resist any Sharî`a that does not allow them full liberty of religion. As for those social values which Christians and Muslims share in common, we would support embodying them in legislation, and much of this has already been done. But we would not support any establishment of Sharî`a that would use government to coerce Muslims in the practice of their religion. Some Muslims have claimed that even Muslims are not obliged to be tried by a Sharî`a court. But that is not what has been happening in Zamfara, where the Governor recruited vigilante thugs to terrorize people into compliance. Christians look on this with horror. The Qur'ân itself says there should be no compulsion in religion (2:256).

Yet the way Sharî`a is being pushed in the North gives credence to the accusation that Islam is spread and maintained by force. It also gives the impression that if there is no Sharî`a or Muslim environment to hold them in they will all run out and become Christians. Yet in places like the United States where there is no Sharî`a or protective environment you find some of the most serious Muslims who faithfully practice their Faith from sheer conviction. Many Christian pastors are dismayed that some of their people run away to other churches or even the mosque. But the answer is not to threaten them, but to attract, persuade and teach them. A free competitive environment makes religion sit up, just as it does for business.

Muslims complain that in the South they are deprived of Sharî`a courts and cannot satisfy their legitimate aspiration to settle their affairs according to Sharî`a. The solution I would suggest to this problem is that the Muslim community should set up and administer their own courts which Muslims can freely patronize. The judgments that they agree upon can be given legal recognition, just as Church marriage registration is legally recognized. The Church has courts and judges of its own to try marriage cases when nullification is sought. The Church issues decrees of nullification, but unfortunately these must then be ratified by a civil divorce. I think government recognition of some legal status for non-governmental religious courts is a matter that should be pursued.

I cannot go into it here, but we also have to be well aware how Sharî`a is being manipulated by politicians for all sorts of aims that have nothing to do with religious welfare. It must also be pointed out that Sharî`a alone, without codification, is open to an extremely wide variety of interpretations, from those of the classical four schools of law to all sorts of modern interpretations. Without codification we could go from court to court and judge to judge and find so many different and arbitrary interpretations that the result would be chaos. That is why the Muslims of the North, led by the Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, opted for the present Penal Code, which is a codification of Sharî`a as they saw it applicable for the present time and circumstances in a pluralist society. Similarly, Egypt has codified law, and every time they change something, as they did last December with family law, they take it to a committee of al-Azhar scholars who decide if it is a reasonable application of Sharî`a. Definitely, they could not leave Sharî`a to the courts without codified legislation.

Which way will Nigeria go? I hope that the other papers and the discussion will set a positive direction forward.

Appendix: The question of slavery

Slavery was an institution of Roman society since the time of Julius Caesar who substituted the killing of enemies captured in war with servitude. Roman Law then recognized slavery as a legitimate punishment for crime, in place of capital punishment.

The first time Paul mentions slavery, in 1 Corinthians, he sees it as a social evil which he could not overthrow, but perhap alleviate: 7:21 dou/loj evklh,qhj( mh, soi mele,tw\ avllV eiv kai. du,nasai evleu,qeroj gene,sqai( ma/llon crh/sai( 7:22 o` ga.r evn kuri,w| klhqei.j dou/loj avpeleu,qeroj kuri,ou evsti,n( o`moi,wj o` evleu,qeroj klhqei.j dou/lo,j evstin Cristou/) 7:23 timh/j hvgora,sqhte\ mh. gi,nesqe dou/loi avnqrw,pwn)

In four other places he stresses the basic equality of Christians before God, in spite of the distinctions imposed by society: 1 Corinthians 12:13 kai. ga.r evn e`ni. pneu,mati h`mei/j pa,ntej eivj e]n sw/ma evbapti,sqhmen( ei;te VIoudai/oi ei;te {Ellhnej ei;te dou/loi ei;te evleu,qeroi( kai. pa,ntej e]n pneu/ma evpoti,sqhmen) Galatians 3:28 ouvk e;ni VIoudai/oj ouvde. {Ellhn( ouvk e;ni dou/loj ouvde. evleu,qeroj( ouvk e;ni a;rsen kai. qh/lu\ pa,ntej ga.r u`mei/j ei-j evste evn Cristw/| Vihsou/) Colossians 3:11 o[pou ouvk e;ni {Ellhn kai. VIoudai/oj( peritomh. kai. avkrobusti,a( ba,rbaroj( Sku,qhj( dou/loj( evleu,qeroj( avlla. pa,nta kai. evn pa/sin Cristo,j) Philemon 1:16 ouvke,ti w`j dou/lon avlla. u`pe.r dou/lon( avdelfo.n avgaphto,n( ma,lista evmoi,( po,sw| de. ma/llon soi. kai. evn sarki. kai. evn kuri,w|)

In Ephesians 6, Paul brings up the Gospel theme of showing goodness in the face of evil: 5 Oi` dou/loi( u`pakou,ete toi/j kata. sa,rka kuri,oij meta. fo,bou kai. tro,mou evn a`plo,thti th/j kardi,aj u`mw/n w`j tw/| Cristw/|( 6 mh. katV ovfqalmodouli,an w`j avnqrwpa,reskoi avllV w`j dou/loi Cristou/ poiou/ntej to. qe,lhma tou/ qeou/ evk yuch/j( 7 metV euvnoi,aj douleu,ontej w`j tw/| kuri,w| kai. ouvk avnqrw,poij( 8 eivdo,tej o[ti e[kastoj eva,n ti poih,sh| avgaqo,n( tou/to komi,setai para. kuri,ou ei;te dou/loj ei;te evleu,qeroj) The same idea is repeated in Colossians 3:22 Oi` dou/loi( u`pakou,ete kata. pa,nta toi/j kata. sa,rka kuri,oij( mh. evn ovfqalmodouli,a| w`j avnqrwpa,reskoi( avllV evn a`plo,thti kardi,aj fobou,menoi to.n ku,rion) The evangelical dimension of this policy is brought out in 1 Timothy 6:1 {Osoi eivsi.n u`po. zugo.n dou/loi( tou.j ivdi,ouj despo,taj pa,shj timh/j avxi,ouj h`gei,sqwsan( i[na mh. to. o;noma tou/ qeou/ kai. h` didaskali,a blasfhmh/tai)

When the Portuguese started the West African slave trade in 1486 by buying them in Benin and selling them at Elmina for gold, they justified their action by assuming that these slaves were condemned criminals. King João III, however, in 1521 saw through the pretence and called a halt to this slave trade, protesting that no consideration was being given to the spiritual redemption of these captives but they were simply sold off for money. The Portuguese merchants, however, ignored the scruples of this Catholic king and began exporting slaves to Brazil.

The Dutch drove the Portuguese out of Elmina in 1637 and for a time from Angola and São Tomé. They and the English, who had no Catholic scruples whatsoever, developed slave exportation into a colossal business. The Portuguese continued, however, on a reduced scale, and it is these that the Catholic missionaries engaged in controversy. The missionaries' complaints to Rome led Pope Urban VIII in 1639 to condemn all who dared to take the peoples of these lands, whether pagan or Christian, and "make them slaves, sell them, buy them, give them away in exchange or as presents, separate them from their wives and children, deprive them of their property and goods, lead them to other localities or transport them,. Deprive them of their freedom in any way whatever or keep them enslaved. Subject to the very same condemnation are all those who in any way cooperate iwth the aforesaid groups, be it by way of counsel, assistance, moral support or service, no matter what the pretext or how creditable the excuse; likewise those who preach or teach that it is licit, as well as those who in any other way cooperate, no matter what the reasons." (2)

Further complaints led Innocent XI in 1686 to have the Holy Office to issue a declaration a series of questions put before it:

1. It is licit to take captive by force or stratagem Negroes and other uncivilized peoples who are harmless. Judgement of the Holy Office: It is not licit.

2. It is licit to buy, sell and make other contracts regarding Negroes and other uncivilized peoples who are harmless and were captured by force or stratagem. Judgement of the Holy Office: It is not licit.

3. When Negroes and other uncivilized peoples, unjustly captured, happen to be mixed in with others who in justice may be sold, it is licit to buy all of them, whetheras is said they be good or bad. Judgement of the Holy Office: It is not licit.

4. Those who buy Negroes and other uncivilized peoples are not bound to inquire under what title they were made slaves, whether justly or unjustly, even though they know that many of them were unjustly taken captive. Judgement of the Holy Office: They are bound.

5. Those who own harmless Negroes and other uncivilized peoples taken captive by force or stratagem are not bound to set them free. Judgment of the Holy Office: They are bound.

6. Those who capture harmless Negroes and other uncivilized peoples by force or stratagem, as well as those who buy or possess them, are not bound to render them compensation for damages inflicted. Judgment of the Holy Office: They are bound.

7. It is licit for owners of Negroes and other slaves to go ahead on private authority and expose them to almost certain danger of death, to wound them, cremate them, or kill them. Judgment of the Holy Office: It is not licit.

8. It is licit to baptize Negroes and other pagans capable of learning the mysteries of faith necessary for salvation without first giving them such instruction, and likewise to leave them without such instruction once they are baptized. Judgement of the Holy Office: It is not licit, except in danger of death.

9. The masters of Negroes and other slaves are not bound to prevent these from living in concubinage. Judgment of the Holy Office: They are bound.

10. It is licit to keep captives in slavery after their baptism, whether they were made slaves justly or not. Judgment of the Holy Office: It is not licit, if they were made unjustly.

11. It is licit to buy Negroes mediately or immediately from heretics, and after thehy are purchased or donated or received in virtue of any other contract they remain slaves; it is likewise licit to sell slaves to heretics. Judgment of the Holy Office: It is not licit if the person is in bad faith. (3)

Again in 1741 Pope Benedict XIV attacked slavery, but the slave trade continued. Only with the abolitionist movement in Denmark and England at the close of the 18th century was legislation passed banning slave trade. The implementation of this legislation took longer, up to the middle of the 19th century.


1. For further information see John A. Coleman, One hundred years of Catholic social thought (Orbis, 1991); David J. O'Brien & Thomas A. Shannon, Catholic social thought, the documentary heritage (Orbis, 1992).

2. In R.M. Wiltgen, Gold Coast mission history 1471-1880 (Techny, 1956), 99.

3. Ibid., p. 100-101.