Today brings us to the beginning of the month of June, dedicated to our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We speak of the heart as that part of the total human person which is the center of love, so the Church’s focus upon the Heart of Jesus is really our contemplation of the love which God has for each of us, and the fact that he asks us to love him in return. Please keep in your thoughts and prayers during this month of June the revelation of Our Divine Lord as a God of love who asks us to return that love, and thus enter into a reciprocity of love: God loving us; we loving God. This is the very heart of our Christian religion.
There is a great deal of talk right now in the press about the remarks made by our Holy Father on his recent trip to Brazil. He spoke about the coming of European civilization to South American in the days of the conquistadors and with it, our holy Catholic faith.
As a result of what he said, a group of people in Brazil who champion the native peoples there, and condemn the Europeans for treating them the way they did, are up in arms and are denouncing the Pope for distorting history and glorifying that which should be condemned. Let us remember that we are living in a time when it is very popular and fashionable to take pot-shots at the Church, ignoring the immense good that the Church has done in the twenty centuries of her existence. I do not deny that there were abuses in the way the Spanish and Portuguese treated the indigenous peoples whom they encountered, any more than I deny that the Indians who lived in what is now our own country were sometimes very badly treated by the Europeans coming to these shores. Even in those days, a number of our Catholic missionaries, like our Dominican Fr. Bartolome de las Casas in the Caribbean, and the Franciscan [Saint] Junipero Serra in California, vigorously protested the cruelty and injustice visited upon the native peoples, and repeatedly appealed to the King of Spain for help in curbing the greed and violence of some of the Europeans in the New World.
There is a movement afoot to glorify the life of those peoples before Columbus, not taking into account their paganism and in some cases their violence and cruelty. The Aztecs, for example, were much given to human sacrifice and killed thousands of surrounding tribes in their bloody rituals. It is both somewhat comical but also sad to see children and young people in Latin America now bearing the pagan names of pre-Colombian figures like Cuautemoc or Moctezuma. It makes as much sense as for people in this country today to give their children names like Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, or Rain-in-the-Face. Surely there were injustices in the Europeanization of America, but in return, the peoples of the Americas were given western civilization with its education, science, arts, government, standard of living, and above all, its religion.
Before his ascension into heaven, Our Lord told his apostles, “Go, make disciples of ALL NATIONS.” We can admire and praise those who came to these shores to carry out the mandate of Christ while at the same time lamenting the greed and cruelty of those who came with them, not for missionary purposes but to enrich themselves. Human nature being what it is in its fallen state, we will always have greed and injustice among us. But the Church being the divinely instituted society that IT is, we will also have zeal for the salvation of souls and the good of people on earth. To hold the Church or the Pope responsible for the behavior of some governors and soldiers in the 16th century is itself unjust and untrue. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.