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February 25, 2007

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scriblerus

There's a great book on the Wilberforce sons:

Newsome, "The Parting of Friends." Learned but quite readable.

It's important to remember that Wilberforce senior was a staunch member of the Church of England. When evangelicalism got a little weirder (dispensationalism, speaking in tongues) and rejected any sort of institutional, sacramental Church, the sons began to fall in with the Oxford Mvt.

Sean Gallagher

As I suspect the Catholic Encyclopedia articles will attest, the Wilberforce brothers who became Catholic were quite active in the Oxford Movement and, to varying degrees, close companions of John Henry Newman.

I believe that one of them wrote some of the 'Tracts for the Times.'

Mitch S.

there was a link to saumuel wilberfoce on one the links to w. w. . Seems he was a bishop who supported the oxford movement and help in the establishment of anglican religious communities.

Clare Krishan

Perhaps under the influence of the writings of, amongst others, the Dominican Bishop of Chiapas Bartolomé de las Casas, Scottish Scholastic John Mayor, and those at Salamanca influenced by their ideas and advised the Spanish Royal court and subsequently the Holy Roman Emporor Charles V, Pope Paul III issued the bull decrying the denial of the sacraments to the 'invicibly ignorant savages' as early as 1537. He reasoned a Catholic ought to be scandalised by their treatment, not as humans -- with proper respect of inate rights of family relationships and domestic property derived from their dignity as imago dei -- but rather as beasts of burden. Many if not most Conquistadors resisted Charles V's New Laws, forcing their amendment by violent revolt. The English-speaking world maintained an anti-Catholic bias:

"The inhabitants of America were thought at first to be not men but satyrs or large monkeys, that could be killed without remorse or blame. Finally, adding a touch of the ridiculous to the disasters of those times, a Pope issued an original Bull, in which he stated that, desiring to found bishoprics in the richest provinces of America, it pleased him and the Holy Spirit to acknowledge the Americans as real men. Without this decision by an Italian, there would thus, to this day, still be doubt in the minds of the faithful whether the inhabitants of the New World were in fact men."

The Jesuits countered for two long centuries right up to Wilberforce's time. See Silvio Zavala's "THE DEFENCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN LATIN AMERICA (16th - 18th C)" published online in pdf by U N E S C O.

Noteworthy tie-in to Just War Theory also from a couple of centuries earlier, during the crusades where the rights of Muslims were debated ('infidels' rights, being of the natural order, cannot be nullified even by arguments from first things, ie the spiritual authority of a Pope awarded to Christian rulers). Let's hope and pray that the forthcoming elucidation of the Natural Law promised by Vatican sources can bear as prodigious fruit in the pro-life movement as Catholic thought did in the abolitionist movement!

Sherry Weddell

Clare:

It is very interesting to attempt to trace the flow of ideas on this topic. Did the early Catholic ferment in early 16th century Spain eventually influence evangelical Anglicans and Quakers in England two centuries later?

While there were several papal documents that forbade the slave trade from the late 15th century on and the Dominican's pioneering work on human rights at the University of Salamanca in Spain, its seems to have not made much impact at all on Catholic practice in this area.

Pratically, there was very limited Catholic involvement in either the British or American abolition movements for a variety of reasons.

Many abolitionist leaders were anti-Catholic and in both countries, Catholics were a persecuted minority who tried not to rock the boat. The vast majority of US bishops (with the remarkable exception of the Archbishop Purcell of Cincinnati) in their Baltimore gathering of 1840 interpreted the papal encyclical of 1839 as not pertaining to the practice of American slavery.

The majority regarded slavery as tragic and some of the practices involved as evil but did not regard slavery per se as evil. They thought that the disruption of societal order involved in abolition would be the greater evil.

In the end, of course, no pope or bishop could have ended slavery. Only lay people who have the responsibility for governing, politics, business, etc. could have done so. So the real issue is the absence of lay Catholics ready and capable of engaging in such a battle. We simply had no equivalent of the sophisticated, influential laygroup that gathered around Wilberforce.

There is some evidence that Wilberforce and his movement did influence Leo XIII and the development of Catholic social teaching in the late 19th century - through Cardinal Manning, who, as as young Anglican clergyman had married a young woman whose sisters married two of Wilberforce's sons!

I've written on this at more length at Intentional Disciples.

John L

I second the recommendation of the Newsome book

Clare Krishan

Sherri,
thanks for the links, I'm keen to learn more. Rather than excusing the weaknesses of persecuted English-speaking Catholics, we ought to draw some wisdom from churchmen's tolerance of centuries of foot-dragging by Portugal's cafeteria Catholics (Portugal was the last European power to abolish slave trading; Brazil, their Portuguese-speaking colony, the last South American territory to abolish slavery, naval history timeline). Brazilian and Portuguese Catholics profited from the lion's share (37%) of the African men, women and children enslaved in mines and plantations, enriching themselves in trade in minerals and sugar. Let's not overlook that the British motive wasn't entirely indignation of faith and morals. When fortunes could no longer be made in translatic shipping of human cargo, British merchant seamen took umbrage that their West Indian sugar cargo wasn't commercially viable against competition from the cheaper slave-produced Brazilian product.

Similarities echo into the present -tolerance for communist China's social practices that guarantee dollar-store/WalMart prosperity for the masses at the expense of aborted persons and persecution of Christians who seek to give our Lord the respect he is owed. We wage preemptive wars to secure trade routes to petrochemicals our economy has slothfully permitted itself to become dependent on. Our political leaders promote global free-trade competition for pharmaceutical research dollars by sacrificing embyros to the lowest bidder... when the Church fails to raise rigorous arguments or fails to teach the deposit of faith, we layman can console ourselves that financial freedom is what counts, no matter the depletion of grace in our souls from protracted injustices to our Creator.

Our Lady of Apericida, pray for us!

Donald R. McClarey

"When fortunes could no longer be made in translatic shipping of human cargo, British merchant seamen took umbrage that their West Indian sugar cargo wasn't commercially viable against competition from the cheaper slave-produced Brazilian product"

Actually the slave trade remained quite profitable up to the year of the outlawing of it in 1807. See Econocide, 1979, by Herman Drescher. That makes the accomplishment of Wilberforce and his colleagues all the more remarkable. Cardinal Newman knew all the children of Wilberforce and met the great man himself before his death.

reluctant penitent

"Daniel O'Connell, the Roman Catholic leader of the Irish in Ireland, supported the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and in America. O'Connell had played a leading role in securing Catholic Emancipation (the removal of the civil and political disabilities of Roman Catholics in Great Britain and Ireland) and he was one of William Lloyd Garrison's models. Garrison recruited him to the cause of American abolitionism and O'Connell, the black abolitionist Charles Lenox Remond, and Theobold Mayhew, the temperance priest, organized a petition with 60,000 signatures urging the Irish of America to support abolition. O'Connell also spoke in America for abolition."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolitionism

Clare Krishan

While I feel no need to dampen the celebration of the Holy Spirit in the life of Wilberforce and his admirable role in the history of abolition, lets not imagine that the moral of the tale took root. Brazil is the ninth largest global economy yet has one of the direst inequalities in income in colonial Christendom. Anyone with the stomach for it, ought to watch the film Cidade de Deus for an eye witness's view of the brutality indifference to poverty engendered in that majority Catholic nation in the 60s, 70s and 80s. At 300 murders a year and growing here in Philly, we've got a rate of violence four times greater than that depicted in the controversial Brazilian film (7,000 per 120 million)... nothing to crow about...

reluctant penitent

Fr. Joel Panzer's "The Popes and Slavery" is an excellent source. The executive summary: Popes spoke clearly about the immorality of slavery. American Bishops finessed the message in order to avoid disturbing American sensibilities. Le plus ca change...

Something about the book:
http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=1201

Sharon

Thomas Sowell in 'Black Rednecks and White Liberals' devotes a chapter to 'The Real History of Slavery' which, although not mentioning the work of the Church in condemming slavery gives a good overview of the history of slavery.

S

Amy,
Thanks for posting this! At the end of this excellent film, my husband said, "Hmm...I wonder how he felt about the persecution of Irish Catholics?" Now we know. It is a fantastic film, with the paralells to abortion readily apparent. I don't think it is too much of a stretch to say that Newton is Bernard Nathanson, Equiano is Norma McCorvey, and men like Rep. Chris Smith are Wilberforce! I am hopeful.

S

Amy,
Thanks for posting this! At the end of this excellent film, my husband said, "Hmm...I wonder how he felt about the persecution of Irish Catholics?" Now we know. It is a fantastic film, with the paralells to abortion readily apparent. I don't think it is too much of a stretch to say that Newton is Bernard Nathanson, Equiano is Norma McCorvey, and men like Rep. Chris Smith are Wilberforce! I am hopeful.

Father Elijah

It took four hundred years for the Western Christian world to begin finally to 'catch up' with the papal teaching that Native Americans and Africans are human beings-and in many ways it is still being wrestled with.

How long will it take the West to come to terms with the Gospel of Life, the whole 'culture of death vs. the civilization of love', the dignity and sanctity of the family or 'the theology of the body'???

Zorak the Mantis

See also a forthcoming documentary, "The Better Hour," in partnership with "Amazing Grace," which explores Wilberforce's Christianity as a key motivator of his work: www.thebetterhour.com.

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