THE following description of Catholic missionism coincides; so fully with that of the Protestant upon the Island of Jamaica, as given by Mr. Weston and corroborated by other testimony as well as the farcical defence of the missionaries themselves, that we give it place. It is from a historical work published in 1825 by H. Huntington.
“An ecclesiastical establishment was instituted in Spanish America as an auxiliary branch of the government, on a similar model to that in Spain, and was extremely burdensome to a young and growing state. At so early a period as the year 1501, the payment of tithes was required and laws made to enforce it. The exactions of the clergy were extended not only to every article of produce, but also to those which comprised a portion of manufacturing industry, such as sugar, indigo and cochineal; and these legal burdens were greatly increased by the bigotry of the colonists and their fondness for external pomp and parade in religion, which made them easy dupes of the clergy, who drained their wealth from productive branches of industry to endow churches and monasteries. Pope Julian Second conferred on Ferdinand and his successors the patronage and disposal of all ecclesiastical benefices in America, so that the Spanish sovereign became the head of the church in America and the administrator of its revenues, a prerogative which he did not possess at home. The bulls of the Roman Pontiff could not be admitted until they had been examined and approved by the king and the council of the Indies. The hierarchy was as imposing as in Spain, and its dominion and influence greater; the arch-bishops, bishops and other dignitaries enjoyed large revenues and the ecclesiastical establishment was splendid and magnificent. The lower order of the clergy consisted of the curates, or parish priests, the doctrineros, who have the charge of such districts as are inhabited by Indians who are subject to the Spanish government, and the missioneras, or missionaries, who are employed in converting the Indios Bravos, or fierce tribes. An inconsiderate zeal for the establishment of monasteries was disclosed at an early period, and from the influence of the regular ecelesiastics these institutions were multiplied to a pernicious extent in a new country where every encouragement ought to be afforded to the increase of population.
“Most of clergy in America were regulars, and many of the highest honors and most lucrative preferments were in their possession. Great numbers came out as missionaries, and most of them in quest of liberty, wealth or distinction. To certain orders of missionaries the pope allowed the privileges of accepting parochial charges and receiving the emoluments, without depending on the bishop of the diocese, or being amenable to him. Some of them, in violation of their monastic vows, openly engaged in commercial pursuits; others amassed wealth by oppressing the natives, whom they pretended to instruct and christianize; and notwithstanding their vow of continency, many of them were dissolute and licentious in a degree almost exceeding belief.
“The success of the missionaries in converting the natives was almost entirely deceptive; they made use of the same unjustifiable means that have been resorted to by the Jesuits in other parts of the world and with like successs. To render the new religion more palatable, and to introduce it with greater facility, they pretended that there was a similarity between the doctrines and mysteries of christianity and the crude notions of their own barbarous superstitions. Being, in many instances, overawed by the power of their conqerors and excited by the example of their chiefs, multitudes expressed a reluctant consent to embrace a religion of which they were entirely ignorant, and were instantly baptized by the missionaries. By such means as these, by fraud and by force, in the course of a few years after the reduction of the Mexican empire, more than four millions of the natives were baptized; but they remained the same, or at least no better, for such spurious conversion; they were not only entirely ignorant of the doctrines and duties of christianity, but retamed all their veneration for their ancient superstitions. This mixture of christianity with their own superstitions and rites was transmitted to their posterity, and has never been eradicated. One ecclesiastic baptized, in one day, five thousand Mexicans, and stopped only when he had become so far exhausted as to be unable to lift his hands. Other missionaries, less successful, declared that the natives were too little removed above the brutes to become christians; and a council was held at Lima which decreed that they had not sufficient understanding to be admitted to the sacrament of the Eucharist. This decree was abrogated by Paul the Third, who, in 1537, promulged a decree declaring them rational creatures, and entitled to the privileges of christians. That infernal engine of hierarchial power, the inquisition, was established in America by the pious zeal of Philip the Second in the year 1570. The natives, from their incapacity, were exempted from the jurisdiction of this horrid tribunal.
“If the Spaniards rendered little benefit to the natives by their attempts to christianize them, their conduct towards them in other respects was severe and oppressive in the extreme.” – History of South America and Mexico.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
Dec. 1, 1842
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 98 – 100