Examine the Role of the Church in Spain’s Conquest and Colonization of Continental America.

2381 Words Nov 28th, 2012 10 Pages
Question: Examine the role of the Church in Spain’s conquest and colonization of continental America.

The role of the Roman Catholic Church in Spain’s conquest and colonization of continental America was a two-fold process whereby under the façade of conversion and control lay the primary goal of gaining wealth, enforcing laws and the inevitable extension of control while condoning the beginnings of European slavery in the Caribbean.[i] Alternately, behind the movement for converting Indians lay some important influences in Spain. The Spanish Crown established royal controls over the ecclesiastical benefices and over the immense wealth of the church.[ii] Two papal bulls were issued in the year of 1493 that established the
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Associated with their attention to the spiritual needs of conversion, the priests endeavored to eliminate ‘heathen’ practices among those Indians that they baptized.[x] The non-Christian people of the Americas were not simply to be converted; they were to be civilized, taught, humanized, purified and reformed. The Indians to be converted were strangers speaking in many unfamiliar tongues. In most cases, when the Friars first encountered them, they had been only recently conquered and subjugated, and even if not actively hostile they were likely to retain covert antagonisms. In their experience all Spaniards were exploitative. The Indian religions were composites of ceremonies and attitudes of the most diverse sort, no single technique of conversion could be employed. Conversion required both the introduction of Catholic Christianity and the extirpation of existing native religions, and of the two tasks the latter was the more difficult one.[xi] Modern anthropology demonstrates that the elimination of pagan traits was only partial. In Indian societies of the twentieth century, even in the areas of most active Christian labour, residual pagan forms survived. The mission programme resulted in the syncretism of the Indian religion and Roman Catholic Christianity. Indians might have responded enthusiastically to the new teaching, but they tended to interpret Christianity as a
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