Vatican Archives
One of the original Papal Bulls that decreed it was okay to take indigenous land and crush culture on Turtle Island.

Nuns Urge Pope to Rescind Doctrine of Discovery


A group of nuns is urging Pope Francis to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, the set of 15-century papal bulls that gave tacit permission to seize lands and justify colonization of Indigenous Peoples, most notably on Turtle Island.

RELATED: Vatican Releases Tantalizing Glimpse into Papal Documents About Columbus

“When I learned about it, I was horrified,” said Sister Maureen Fiedler, the nun who hand-delivered the letter to Pope Francis, speaking to Religion News Service. She belongs to the Loretto Community, made up of religious women and lay people, the news service said.

As Fiedler pointed out, the doctrine’s tendrils are woven throughout modern race relations, from sports mascots to the wiping out of indigenous languages and cultures, to treaty and sovereignty issues. And it has been on the U.S. legal books since 1823, when it was solidified by a Supreme Court decision that was cited in 2005 in a land case regarding the Oneida, Religion News Service said.

Revoking the doctrine will bring common sense and contemporary wisdom to bear in the 21st century, the letter’s signers said, and “all will know that today’s world is different from that of the 15th century as we move away from patterns of domination and dehumanization,” according to Religion News Service, quoting a resolution drafted in 2012 in collaboration with a member of the Osage Nation. Loretto and 12 other Catholic groups delivered the letter last fall.

It’s not the first time a pope has been asked to rescind the doctrine. In 2006 the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues called on Pope Benedict XVI to revoke and renounce those documents, which continue to color relations between the U.S. and Canadian governments with Natives today.

RELATED: Pope Asked to Revoke Papal Bulls

Many Christian denominations and groups have already done so, including the Episcopal Church and the World Council of Churches.

RELATED: Episcopal Church repudiates Doctrine of Discovery

Pope Francis has, as CNN described it last November, “made headlines by decrying the iniquities of modern capitalism, embracing the poor and people with disabilities and reaching out to gays and lesbians.”

"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," Pope Francis said in a statement at the time, according to CNN.

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MarinDemSolstice's picture
Submitted by MarinDemSolstice on
Yet another revelation of how 15th Century Catholic religion was ignorant yet powerful enough to unleash such scourges across the plant and on the people who failed to adopt their misguided doctrine. Hopefully, at least this Pope can make at least a symbolic move to start to right a wrong that will never truly be undone. Fight on Sisters :-) If you think ISIS is evil study the history of the Spanish Inquisitions and how they dealt with anyone who refused to believe as the Catholic Church demanded! Unfortunately, too many people on this planet still believe what 15th Century Catholicism promoted. Not that much has really changed :-(

andre's picture
Submitted by andre on
All the more interesting when we consider that many nuns suffered a fate just as barbaric as some of those who were colonized. This church is an interesting maze of hypocritical edicts. Amazingly they called their ideas Papal Bulls. I'd call them buffalo-chips.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
So much for the nun-hood since they've kicked the 'Habit' back starting back in the early 1960s with Vatican II. For 40 years now, they've managed to morph into a Club-filled (fill in the blank). There really is not anything that resembles Catholicism given to the FACT that traditions and standards are being thrown out the window in favor with incorporating those popular political themes of the Nightly TV Cable News! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Lastly, considering that Western society has supposedly evolved from the Middle Ages, ie. the Inquisition, 'HISTORY' today is being made by ISIS in being evil. From 700 AD to 2014 AD, Islam hasn't changed much considering strict adherence and apparantly those moderate muslims abiding to a code of 'silence' regarding Islamic transgressions. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Islam aggressively challeges western traditions and values and undertakes movements against women, alternative persuasions, etc. Yet, the voices that seemingly take the moral stance of human rights, fail to challenge Islam and those who practice the faith. They instead decidingly take the stance of attacking Western Christian Churchs or the Catholic Church.

Carol Ann
Carol Ann
Submitted by Carol Ann on
I believe the time has come. A truth is a truth no matter how many lied. Push..push..push. Ehhh, like a new birth. Who would have thought the good sisters would dare to do such a thing?? I am most happy to see this in the news. Anything in the news regarding Native "push" is GOOD news. Thanks for letting me comment.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Unless we're talking murder, rape, thievery, slavery, arson, poverty, war, discrimination, sexual-mental-psychological abuse what have "old world, organized religions done for anyone? __________________________________________________________ Natives were called pagans, heathens, savages by missionaries pushing European religions yet our Creator has never insisted that we hate anyone for the color of their skin, who they love or where they live. Our Creator has never demanded large cathedrals, ornate tombs or tithing. Our creator has NEVER justified hatred or aggression toward ANYONE for ANY REASON. ________________________________________________________ Having said that, I'm of the firm belief that people are either good or bad as the circumstances require, but I DO know one thing - religion itself has never stopped violence or hatred, it all comes down to the individual. The 10 Commandments have NEVER stopped murder, lying, cheating or anything else

Sammy7's picture
Submitted by Sammy7 on
Expecting the Pope to rescind the Papal Bull Inter Caetera is like expecting the U.S. Government to pardon Leonard Peltier. The Papacy and the Government are waiting for death to resolve the issue.

Mojaverat's picture
Submitted by Mojaverat on
If the Catholic church is so evil then let me point out this fact. Catholic Mexico has about 15 million indigenous people still alive and well. That number does not even include all the Mestizos. Even if you add up all the Native peoples in Canada and US, it still does not even equal half of the Native population in Mexico. And before the Mexico's War of Independence; the King of Spain and the Church had made efforts to protect Indigenous property. While at the same time Canada and America were pushing Indians off their lands.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
To Mojaverat: Tell Geronimo that Mexico is sympathetic towards NDNS. Tell the Yaqui that Mexico is sympathetic towards them. As I said before, religion has NEVER stopped anyone from killing, cheating, raping, burning or anything else they wanted to do on their way to more power or money.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
To Mojaverat again: Mexico treats its Native citizens in much the same way as Canada and the U.S. The God of the Europeans is only useful when justifying taking land. He has NEVER stopped murder, rape, arson or pillaging. Face it, Catholicism was brought to this continent by the Spanish; the same people who brought you the Inquisition and Don Juan de Onate who once chopped off the right foot of Pueblo NDNs for rebelling against their "compassionate and loving" God. ____________________________________________________________ Mexico: The Yaqui Tribe’s struggling to defend their water and territory 10/07/2014 04:22:00 AM With the detention of their spokespeople, and rejection of court injunctions in their favor, the Yaqui Tribe of the arid Mexican state of Sonora vow to keep struggling to defend their water and territory. Members of the Yaqui tribe are calling for a "mega march" on October 10th in the city of Hermosillo in the Mexican state of Sonora to demand the release of activists Mario Luna and Fernando Jimenez and to reject the Independence Aqueduct. The indigenous group, along with a list of civil organizations, are expecting a turnout of more than 30,000 people to participate. Luna and Jimenez, spokespeople and elected leaders of the tribe, were detained in September by plain clothed Sonora state officers for the presumed “illegal deprivation of freedom” of community member Francisco Romo and for “auto theft.” Arrest warrants were issued more than 16 months ago after Romo denounced the indigenous leaders for illegally arresting him in the community of Vicam. The traditional authorities of Vicam state said that Romo was arrested in accordance with the rules and customs of the Yaqui tribe recognized by the Mexican constitution and international treaties, after he, apparently intoxicated, allegedly attempted to ram his vehicle into a group of community members who were blocking a highway in rejection of the operation of the Independence Aqueduct. But neither Mario Luna or Fernando Jimenez were present during the arrest of Romo, and they deny that they ordered his detention. For the Yaqui people, the arrest of their authorities represents an attack on the community by the government of Sonora for the tribes incesant opposition since 2010 to the state sponsored aqueduct, and their overall history in defense of their land, resources and territory. ___________________________________________________________

eddiemac's picture
Submitted by eddiemac on
As I read these letters and postings, I am heartened to see that You are indeed NOT blinded by the European Religions and not fooled by their hypocritical shenanigans to further rape your lands, your fortunes and your children of all ages. Remember when you speak of the other "great" religions, Muslim, Islam,Isis, Hebrew etc., it is and was the Roman Catholic church, down through the ages, who always claimed to be the "MOTHER CHURCH" and the "ONLY CHURCH". That seems to help me place the blame where it belongs.

Ted Hewitt Ofs
Ted Hewitt Ofs
Submitted by Ted Hewitt Ofs on
It has really already been done, and within a hundred years of the original bulls: " Sublimus Dei: Pope Paul III (Topic: the enslavement and evangelization of Indians) To all faithful Christians to whom this writing may come, health in Christ our Lord and the apostolic benediction. ...The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God's word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith. We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect..." [Dated: May 29, 1537]

kurtklingbeil's picture
Submitted by kurtklingbeil on
The Doctrine of Discovery is not just some historical abstraction It is still alive and well in Canada and is the principal underlying the Canadian Government's FInal Solution to the "Indian Problem" Must-watch videos on the details and a possible work around using international treaties - since no remedy is available within Canada Exspecially with Harmer and the Boyz who take a perverse pleasure in putting the boots to disadvanted people not within one of their priviledge-cliques. Savage Anxieties on Youtube: The nuns need to up their game a bunch and ask for the pope to not just rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, but to repudiate it and declare it profoundly repugnant to the Will of God and a crime which has deeply harmed millions of people over many centuries. Based on his recently fiery dressing-down of the Curia, he could really let rip on this. Declare the Doctrine retroactively invalid, null and void and explicitly target any secular charters/laws for retroactive evisceration.

Mojaverat's picture
Submitted by Mojaverat on
@ Michael Madrid- Bro almost everyone struggles in Mexico not just the Yaqui. What about the 43 students kidnapped and killed in Mexico by the cartels? Yaqui aren't the only people struggling for water. And Geronimo's people before him killed thousands of Mexicans. Its not our fault we were dragged into the war by the Spanish. Geronimo was pissed that his parents were killed, so were many Mexicans who lost there loved ones to Comanche and Apache raids. It was a terrible war that happen 200 years ago. Many people of all races suffered and died painfully, a lot of blood was spilt on both sides. And not to mention Geronimo was eventually hunted down with the aid of his fellow Apaches who served the US army scouts. Our Lady of Guadalupe cries for all her children. And that God of the Europeans is the God of this Mestizo, not every Christian is white. I am sorry for suffering your people faced at the hands of some of my Catholic ancestors, I am truly sorry. Believe me I pray for healing for this land and the people in it. Not all Catholic Mexicans were conquistadors or bandits, just like not all Native Americans were raiders. I forgiven the Spaniards, its not worth holding on to old hatreds.

Mojaverat's picture
Submitted by Mojaverat on
@ Michael Madrid- And since we are on the subject of the Yaqui I got some points to make on that. My first comment was about the Catholic church in Mexico, not the Mexican government. The Mexican government is very oppressive and corrupt, I am not a fan of them either. The Yaqui's problems started under Mexico's first full blooded indian president, Benito Juarez. He was extremely anti-religious, he did away with the ward system that gave many indians free land under the old crown. He upset the Yaquis because he tried to seize their land. Which is why the Yaquis joined sides with the French during the Mexican-French war. Benito also laid down the foundations for the liberal party which would eventually lead to the formation of the infamous Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI, Mexico current politcal party dictatorship. Mexico's liberal party is extremely anti-indian and anti-Catholic. They use to hang Catholics from telephone poles in the 1920's for challenging PRI's anti-church laws. So yes many people have suffered in Mexico not just Yaquis. And the Church is not responsible for every bad thing in the world. Even liberalism among other things leads to war and other bad things.

Cweli Mayes's picture
Cweli Mayes
Submitted by Cweli Mayes on
The Doctrine is alive and well. A few nights ago on WABC in New York, 770 on the AM dial John Batchelor had a so called Historian on. Here is a comment by said historian that will forever burn in memory. When the Europeans came all that was her were forests , rivers and Indians. Think about the dismissive attitude to a People and their way of life, of that comment. No wonder in the sixteen hundreds it was legal to murder an Indian in Virginia, if you were a Colonist. It was a law.