Can’t Apologise for the Truth

The Venezuelan dictator Huge Chavez has demanded that the Pope apologise for comments he made in Brazil.

I haven’t seen the exact words the Pope said, but news reports indicate that he opined that the Roman Catholic Church had purified the South American Indians and that a revival of their pre-Christian religions would be a backward step. Whether Chavez likes it or not, the Pope can’t take back his words. He simply spoke the truth.

The Catholic Church brought the Gospel to the Indians. Without Christ they were in sin. Reverting to non-Christian religion is to reject the Gospel of Jesus, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Jecinaldo Satere Mawe, chief coordinator of the Amazon Indian group Coiab, said, “It’s arrogant and disrespectful to consider our cultural heritage secondary to theirs.” It’s nothing about cultural heritage. The Gospel cuts across cultures. It’s about salvation.

Indian leaders rely on the revisionism of leftist historians who have tried to portray the conquistadors as evil, genocidal maniacs. There certainly were many deaths – more from disease because of the lack of understanding about this in the 16th century – but the priests who accompanied the expeditions did not do this just to pronounce blessings upon the European soldiers. They were in the business of saving souls.

There were mistakes made and the previous pope apologised for those in 1992. But this doesn’t change the spiritual reality of evangelisation. Nor does it mean that Indians should reject Christianity for demon-inspired pantheistic or polytheistic religions.


7 Responses to Can’t Apologise for the Truth

  1. Huw says:

    And although I’ve not seen the full text of the comments – can’t find ’em yet – Reuters reports even Brazilian clergy were upset.

    Pope Benedict not only upset many Indians but also Catholic priests who have joined their struggle, said Sandro Tuxa, who heads the movement of northeastern tribes.

    “We repudiate the Pope’s comments,” Tuxa said. “To say the cultural decimation of our people represents a purification is offensive, and frankly, frightening.

    “I think (the Pope) has been poorly advised.”

    Even the Catholic Church’s own Indian advocacy group in Brazil, known as Cimi, distanced itself from the Pope.

    “The Pope doesn’t understand the reality of the Indians here, his statement was wrong and indefensible,” Cimi advisor Father Paulo Suess told Reuters. “I too was upset.”

    As with Orthodoxy in most cases, the RCC brought a whole lot of garbage that they called “religion” but it really was Culture. If the missionaries had brought the faith that might have not left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. The Gospel transcends culture, yes, but most Christians have yet to learn how to share Christ without forcing their culture, politics and problems on others.

  2. Dave says:

    I agree that the Catholics brought a of of culture with them as well. But I think this just brings to the forefront the question of whether there are inherently Christian and non-Christian cultures.

    Culture is necessarily tied to religion and is in part an outworking of it. I don’t think that someone heathens have something they have developed in pure innocence waiting for the Gospel to complete it, yet leave it inherently unchanged. There are obvious things like polygamous, polyandrous, matriarchal, and cannibalistic cultures – but those are just off the top of my head. I believe that the Gospel is culturally salvific.

    I am not saying that every bit of culture the Spaniards brought to the New World was culturally salvific and some of it may have even been culturally destructive. However I do believe that the faith itself would have left a bad taste in the mouths of those who did not want to convert from, or had a vested interest in, maintaining the existing savagery.

  3. the Grit says:

    Hi David,

    I did a bit on this subject. I’ve lost the link to the source, but here is part of what the Pontiff said:

    Benedict said Latin American Indians had been “silently longing” to become Christians when Spanish and Portuguese conquerors took over their native lands centuries ago, though many Indians were enslaved and killed.

    “In effect, the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture,” he said.

    Amen and pass the collection plate!

    the Grit

  4. Dave says:


    I actually saw it on your blog first, but I couldn’t think of a way to H/T to you without it appearing that you shared my views. Poor writing on my part, clearly.

    As for the silent longing, this is a oft-used theme, harkening back at least as far as Augustine. I think it is entrely valid. As for the alienation of the pre-Columbian cultures, I would disagree with His Holiness. As I’ve said above, I think the Gospel necessarily alienates those aspects of a culture with which it is incompatable – something it does with post-Columbian cultures as well. I would also disagree about the imposition of a foreign culture. Inasmuch as this was uniquely Spanish culture, this was not necessarily as good thing.

    However, I don’t buy the liberal view of the noble savage. The Gospel is good news for everyone everywhere in the world. It changes lives regardless of time, place, or culture, because everyone needs redeeming.

  5. Huw says:

    inherently Christian and non-Christian cultures.

    We shall have to disagree here, David. If it is that way, St Paul has no business playing the “neither jew nor greek” card. Either it is beyond culture or it’s not the Gospel. Cultures don’t change: peoples hearts do. The faith changes people… and they change cultures… but importing a culture on top, forcing it… that’s not Evangelism. And the Gospel stays the same, but it will fit in many cultures – even ones we might think of as “lesser” (morally or ethically or politically) than ours. Or it’s not the Gospel.

    But as I said, we shall have to disagree here.

    Peace out.

  6. Dave says:

    Huw, “neither Jew nor Greek” has nothing to do with culture, but rather to do with ethnicity or nationality.

    You contradict yourself: if faith changes people and they change cultures, then cultures do change.

    I think the Gospel can be received by any culture – otherwise God wouldn’t desire that all be saved. Once received by the people of a culture, it will necessarily transform that culture to a greater or lesser degree. It has nothing to do with whether the culture is greater or lesser than ours, but only the degree to which it is compatible with the revealed truth.

  7. Huw Raphael says:

    I don’t contradict myself (here, at least) as there is a difference between (a) generations of people shifting a culture n response to the Gospel; and (b) Victorians telling the Polynesians they have to wear clothes in order to be Christian. And what most of the west (and the east for that matter) needs to apologise for is trying to fix cultures instead of letting the Gospel take root on it’s own.

    Btw… “neither Jew nor Greek” has nothing to do with culture… if that were true we’d all still be cultural Jews. It may have had *something* to do with ethnicity, but it also had a lot to do sith cultural choices. The NT Authors were constantly focusing on cultural choices – food, circumcision, sabbath, etc – and saying those things were unimportant.

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