September 24, 2015 Faith

Movement to Revoke Doctrine of Discovery Gains Momentum


In May, Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si, which among the many positive ideas it professed, contained the Catholic Church’s unprecedented expression of admiration for Indigenous peoples and for the heritage of their integrative approach to the environment.

As a parent organization to the Lakota People’s Law Project, The Romero Institute is both heartened and emboldened by the recognition by Pope Francis and the Catholic Church that the human family has much to learn from the Indigenous perspective on land, economic distributions systems and natural resources .

However, our organization remains steadfast in asserting that some of the very evils that Pope Francis criticizes in his encyclical are rooted in the history of the Catholic Church — particularly the Doctrine of Discovery, a series of Papal bulls from the fifteenth century.

These antiquated documents authorized colonial powers to massacre, enslave and occupy the homelands of countless Native peoples, the justification being that as non Christians, they were not entitled to property or freedom.

The Romero Institute is calling upon Pope Francis to officially revoke to the Doctrine of Discovery in an attempt to acknowledge the iniquities of the past while moving forward toward reconciliation.

The Doctrine has no place in the Catholic tradition of compassion and grace, nor the legal systems of dozens of countries where it is cited and used to disenfranchise Indigenous peoples across the world to this very day.

Over the past month, the national media has begun to join the dialogue over this issue as a result of Pope Francis’s present visit to the United States. The National Catholic Reporter launched a series of articles over the summer that condemned the Doctrine’s lasting impact and continued repercussions for Native Americans. On Wednesday, Counterpunch released an open letter to Pope Francis beseeching him to revoke these edicts to heal the wounds inflicted upon Native communities. This morning, Democracy Now host Amy Goodman invited Romero Institute ally and colleague Valentin Lopez on the show to speak about the Doctrine’s continued negative consequences for Native peoples.

We are proud and delighted in the momentum that this event has generated for our cause. It is our great hope and expectation that the continually growing exposure and condemnation of the Doctrine of Discovery will persuade Pope Francis to formally disavow this disgraceful part of history, and allow restoration and renewal to begin.