Posts Tagged ‘John England’

St. Patrick and Slavery

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Soon after this blog covered the topic of Catholicism and slavery in depth in a 2010 post entitled The Catholic Church and Slavery: a New Look at Augustine and the 1839 In Supremo Controversy, one of my sons suggested that we also look at the Confessions of St. Patrick, and other earlier accounts of the life of St. Patrick. I thank my son for putting us on to the “St. Patrick and slavery” thread, and apologize for the three-year delay in finally completing this post!

Born a roughly a generation after St. Augustine of Hippo (b. 354), St. Patrick (ca. 387) also like Augustine confronted the victimization of Christian faithful by human traffickers / slave traders. I continue to be amazed when the witness of these important early Christian bishops against human trafficking and slavery is omitted from conversations on Catholicism and slavery. Therefore, I’m sharing the documents below to further inform the discussion!

In an 1852 publication entitled–



–one finds the following account:

About the year 462, Niell Naoigiallach, or Neill of the Nine Hostages, ravaged the coast of Britain and Gaul. In this expedition a large number of captives were made. One youth, sixteen years of age, by the name of Cothraige, was sold to Milcho, and was employed by him in tending sheep, in a place called Dalradia — within the present county of Antrim. This Cothraige was St. Patrick, subsequently the apostle of Ireland.

St. Patrick, in his Confessions, states that many of his unfortunate countrymen were carried off and made captives, and dispersed among many nations.

The Romans had possession of Britain, and even had not slavery existed there previously, they would have introduced it ; but, the Britons needed not this lesson ; they had been conversant with it before : we shall see evidence of the long continuance of its practice.

About the year 450, a party of them, among whom were several that professed the Christian religion, made a piratical incursion upon the Irish coast, under the command of Corotic, or Caractacus, or Coroticus.

Lanigan compiles the following account of this incursion from the Eccles. History of Ireland, vol. i. c. iv.

“This prince, Coroticus, though apparently a Christian, was a tyrant, a pirate, and a persecutor. He landed, with a party of his armed followers, many of whom were Christians, at a season of solemn baptism, and set about plundering a district in which St. Patrick had just baptized and confirmed a great number of converts, and on the very day after the holy chrism was seen shining in the foreheads of the white-robed neophytes. Having murdered several persons, these marauders carried off a considerable number of people, whom they went about selling or giving up as slaves to the Scots and the apostate Picts. St. Patrick wrote a letter, which he sent by a holy priest whom he had instructed from his younger days, to those pirates, requesting of them to restore the baptized captives and some part of the booty. The priest and the other ecclesiastics that accompanied- him being received by them with scorn and mockery, and the letter not attended to, the saint found himself under the necessity of issuing a circular epistle or declaration against them and their chief Coroticus, in which, announcing himself a bishop and established in Ireland, he proclaims to all those who fear God, that said murderers and robbers are excommunicated and estranged from Christ, and that it is not lawful to show them civility, nor to eat or drink with them, nor to receive their offerings, until, sincerely repenting, they make atonement to God and liberate his servants and the handmaids of Christ. He begs of the faithful, into whose hands the epistle may come, to get it read before the people everywhere, and before Coroticus himself, and to communicate it to his soldiers, in the hope that they and their master may return to God, &c. Among other very affecting expostulations, he observes that the Roman and Gallic Christians are wont to send proper persons with great sums of money to the Franks and other pagans, for the purpose of redeeming Christian captives; while, on the contrary, that monster, Coroticus, made a trade of selling the members of Christ to nations ignorant of God.”

The following letter attributed to Patrick (alternatively titled, Patrick’s Letter to Coroticus or Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus), is a fundamental part of the lore surrounding St. Patrick, and picks up the next step of the story above. Scholars can determine the authenticity of this letter–

Letter To Coroticus

I, Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, resident in Ireland, declare myself to be a bishop. Most assuredly I believe that what I am I have received from God. And so I live among barbarians, a stranger and exile for the love of God. He is witness that this is so. Not that I wished my mouth to utter anything so hard and harsh; but I am forced by the zeal for God; and the truth of Christ has wrung it from me, out of love for my neighbors and sons for whom I gave up my country and parents and my life to the point of death. If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though some may despise me.

With my own hand I have written and composed these words, to be given, delivered, and sent to the soldiers of Coroticus; I do not say, to my fellow citizens, or to fellow citizens of the holy Romans, but to fellow citizens of the demons, because of their evil works. Like our enemies, they live in death, allies of the Scots and the apostate Picts. Dripping with blood, they welter in the blood of innocent Christians, whom I have begotten into the number for God and confirmed in Christ!

The day after the newly baptized, anointed with chrism, in white garments (had been slain) — the fragrance was still on their foreheads when they were butchered and slaughtered with the sword by the above-mentioned people — I sent a letter with a holy presbyter whom I had taught from his childhood, clerics accompanying him, asking them to let us have some of the booty, and of the baptized they had made captives. They only jeered at them . Hence I do not know what to lament more: those who have been slain, or those whom they have taken captive, or those whom the devil has mightily ensnared. Together with him they will be slaves in Hell in an eternal punishment; for who commits sin is a slave and will be called a son of the devil.

Wherefore let every God-fearing man know that they are enemies of me and of Christ my God, for whom I am an ambassador. Parricide! fratricide! ravening wolves that “eat the people of the Lord as they eat bread!” As is said, “the wicked, O Lord, have destroyed Thy law,” which but recently He had excellently and kindly planted in Ireland, and which had established itself by the grace of God.

I make no false claim. I share in the work of those whom He called and predestinated to preach the Gospel amidst grave persecutions unto the end of the earth, even if the enemy shows his jealousy through the tyranny of Coroticus, a man who has no respect for God nor for His priests whom He chose, giving them the highest, divine, and sublime power, that whom “they should bind upon earth should be bound also in Heaven.”

Wherefore, then, I plead with you earnestly, ye holy and humble of heart, it is not permissible to court the favor of such people, nor to take food or drink with them, nor even to accept their alms, until they make reparation to God in hardships, through penance, with shedding of tears, and set free the baptized servants of God and handmaids of Christ, for whom He died and was crucified.

“The Most High disapproves the gifts of the wicked …He that offers sacrifice of the goods of the poor, is as one that sacrifices the son in the presence of his lather. The riches, it is written, which he has gathered unjustly, shall be vomited up from his belly; the angel of death drags him away, by the fury of dragons he shall be tormented, the viper’s tongue shall kill him, unquenchable fire devours him.” And so — “woe to those who fill themselves with what is not their own;” or, “What does it profit a man that he gains the whole world, and suffers the loss of his own soul?

It would be too tedious to discuss and set forth everything in detail, to gather from the whole Law testimonies against such greed. Avarice is a deadly sin. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods.” “Thou shalt not kill.” A murderer cannot be with Christ. “Whosoever hates his brother is accounted a murderer.” Or, “he that loves not his brother abides in death.” How much more guilty is he that has stained his hands with blood of the sons of God whom He has of late purchased in the utmost part of the earth through the call of our littleness!

Did I come to Ireland without God, or according to the flesh? Who compelled me? I am bound by the Spirit not to see any of my kinsfolk. Is it of my own doing that I have holy mercy on the people who once took me captive and made away with the servants and maids of my father’s house? I was freeborn according to the flesh. I am the son of a decurion. But I sold my noble rank I am neither ashamed nor sorry for the good of others. Thus I am a servant in Christ to a foreign nation for the unspeakable glory of life everlasting which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And if my own people do not know me, a prophet has no honor in his own country .Perhaps we are not of the same fold and have not one and the same God as father, as is written: “He that is not with me, is against me, and he that gathers not with me, scatters.” It is not right that one destroys, another builds up. I seek not the things that are mine.

It is not my grace, but God who has given this solicitude into my heart, to be one of His hunters or fishers whom God once foretold would come in the last days.

I am hated. What shall I do, Lord? I am most despised. Look, Thy sheep around me are tom to pieces and driven away, and that by those robbers, by the orders of the hostile-minded Coroticus. Far from the love of God is a man who hands over Christians to the Picts and Scots. Ravening wolves have devoured the flock of the Lord, which in Ireland was indeed growing splendidly with the greatest care; and the sons and daughters of kings were monks and virgins of Christ — I cannot count their number. Wherefore, be not pleased with the wrong done to the just; even to hell it shall not please. Who of the saints would not shudder to be merry with such persons or to enjoy a meal with them? They have filled their houses with the spoils of dead Christians, they live on plunder. They do not know, the wretches, that what they offer their friends and sons as food is deadly poison, just as Eve did not understand that it was death she gave to her husband. So are all that do evil: they work death as their eternal punishment.

This is the custom of the Roman Christians of Gaul: they send holy and able men to the Franks and other heathen with so many thousand solidi to ransom baptized captives. You prefer to kill and sell them to a foreign nation that has no knowledge of God. You betray the members of Christ as it were into a brothel. What hope have you in God, or anyone who thinks as you do, or converses with you in words of flattery? God will judge. For Scripture says: “Not only them that do evil are worthy to be condemned, but they also that consent to them.”

I do not know why I should say or speak further about the departed ones of the sons of God, whom the sword has touched all too harshly. For Scripture says: “Weep with them that weep;” and again: “If one member be grieved, let all members grieve with it.” Hence the Church mourns and laments her sons and daughters whom the sword has not yet slain, but who were removed and carried off to faraway lands, where sin abounds openly, grossly, impudently. There people who were freeborn have, been sold, Christians made slaves, and that, too, in the service of the abominable, wicked, and apostate Picts!

Therefore I shall raise my voice in sadness and grief — O you fair and beloved brethren and sons whom I have begotten in Christ, countless of number, what can I do you for? I am not worthy to come to the help of God or men. The wickedness of the wicked hath prevailed over us. We have been made, as it were, strangers. Perhaps they do not believe that we have received one and the same baptism, or have one and the same God as Father. For them it is a disgrace that we are Irish. Have ye not, as is written, one God? Have ye, every one of you, forsaken his neighbor?

Therefore I grieve for you, I grieve, my dearly beloved. But again, I rejoice within myself. I have not labored for nothing, and my journeying abroad has not been in vain. And if this horrible, unspeakable crime did happen — thanks be to God, you have left the world and have gone to Paradise as baptized faithful. I see you: you have begun to journey where night shall be no more, nor mourning, nor death; but you shall leap like calves loosened from their bonds, and you shall tread down the wicked, and they shall be ashes under your feet.

You then, will reign with the apostles, and prophets, and martyrs. You will take possession of an eternal kingdom, as He Himself testifies, saying: “They shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” “Without are dogs, and sorcerers,… and murderers; and liars and perjurers have their portion in the pool of everlasting fire.” Not without reason does the Apostle say: “Where the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and ungodly transgressor of the law find himself?”

Where, then, will Coroticus with his criminals, rebels against Christ, where will they see themselves, they who distribute baptized women as prizes — for a miserable temporal kingdom, which will pass away in a moment? As a cloud or smoke that is dispersed by the wind, so shall the deceitful wicked perish at the presence of the Lord; but the just shall feast with great constancy with Christ, they shall judge nations, and rule over wicked kings for ever and ever. Amen.

I testify before God and His angels that it will be so as He indicated to my ignorance. It is not my words that I have set forth in Latin, but those of God and the apostles and prophets, who have never lied. “He that believes shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned,” God hath spoken.

I ask earnestly that whoever is a willing servant of God be a carrier of this letter, so that on no account it be suppressed or hidden by anyone, but rather be read before all the people, and in the presence of Coroticus himself. May God inspire them sometime to recover their senses for God, repenting, however late, their heinous deeds — murderers of the brethren of the Lord! — and to set free the baptized women whom they took captive, in order that they may deserve to live to God, and be made whole, here and in eternity! Be peace to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.


As I noted in my earlier post on slavery and Catholicism, Bishop John England (d. 1842) of Charleston, South Carolina, wrestled with the topic of slavery, and especially with St. Patrick’s treatment of it. Please see the following book excerpt for a much more detailed account of Bishop England’s strained and rather convoluted treatment of the moral questions surrounding slavery. For more on Bishop England and slavery, please see my earlier post.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

© Copyright 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


The Catholic Church and Slavery: a New Look at Augustine and the 1839 In Supremo Controversy

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Both popular and scholarly opinion often list slavery as a matter on which the Catholic Church has either been not forceful enough or, like usury, has either changed or muted its position. It is often noted that it was not until the Second Vatican Council in 1965 that the Catholic Church categorized slavery as intrinsically evil, meaning that it is evil in every circumstance in an of itself:

“Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.”

From: Gaudium et Spes, The Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, 12/7/1965, number 27.

The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church summed up Catholic teaching on slavery by citing the Seventh Commandment against stealing, and quoted the first century letter to Philemon by St. Paul–

2414 The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason – selfish or ideological, commercial, or totalitarian – lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, . . . both in the flesh and in the Lord.”

Catholic Christians, after centuries of effort, appear to have got it unequivocally and “officially” right on slavery late in the 20th Century.

While it is true that a formal, unequivocal definition of slavery as always evil took place at Vatican II, the recognition that slavery was very evil goes back to the earliest centuries of Christianity.

St. John Chrysostom (345-407), said “Slavery is the fruit of covetousness, of extravagance, of insatiable greediness,” and also questioned what price could be put on a human soul (Epist. ad Ephes., Homil. XXII. 2).

We now know from the letter rediscovered by the scholar Johannes Divjak of Vienna in 1975 that the African bishop St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), while elsewhere theologically viewing slavery as a punishment for human sinfulness, as a pastor nevertheless fought the enslavement of his congregation by slave-raiding and human trafficking Galatians (presumed to be an ancient Celtic people from present-day Turkey) in the Roman courts, by ransom, and may have winked when dozens of his parishioners rescued people by direct action from the slave ships. Augustine himself even visited a terrified girl rescued from a slave ship by his church, and described her fear. This letter, referred to sometimes as Divjak letter 10*, is not only one of the earliest first-hand accounts of the African slave-trade and of human trafficking, but shows that Augustine the bishop, despite his late age, was much more pragmatic and pastoral than popular stereotypes of him as an aged authoritarian have previously established. Please see page 470 of Peter Brown’s revised biography of Augustine for another perspective.

Divjak letter 10* not only speaks as one of the earliest African voices on the rampant and illegal slave trade rising like a pestilence during the decline of Rome, but reveals that the Church was fighting this “slave raider” and “human trafficking” form of the African slave trade at its inception.

Augustine’s first mention of the topic in letter 10* is similar to entering a time-machine to see the slave trade begin in Africa:

“There are so many of those in Africa who are commonly called ‘slave dealers’ (mangones), that they seem to be draining Africa of much of its human population and transferring their ‘merchandise’ to provinces across the sea.”

From: Augustine, Letters, Vol. 6 (1*-29*), Fathers of the Church, Vol. 81, trans. Robert B. Eno. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. Hbk, 1989. ISBN: 0813200814, pg. 76.

It is amazing that such a significant find as Divjak letter 10* has not drawn more general recognition beyond the field of Early Christian Literature. Not only does this letter appear to show that the Church witnessed the earliest days of the African slave trade and human trafficking, but shows that from the beginning the Church opposed the “slave dealers.”

The Wikipedia pages on Christianity and Slavery and the Catholic Church and Slavery list examples and counterexamples of the Church either condemning slavery, or of participating in it. The Dominican priest Bartolome de Las Casas (1484-1576) shocked Europe with his vivid condemnation of the enslavement of Native Americans that then led to papal bans on such colonial slavery of indigenous peoples. De Las Casas initially reasoned it appropriate to substitute African slaves in order to protect the Native Americans, but then deeply regretted this position. Unfortunately, his retraction has not widely published until centuries after his death.

According to Joel Panzer’s 1996 book, The Popes and Slavery, the popes condemned slavery in 1435, 1493, 1497, 1537, 1591, 1639, 1686, 1741, 1839, 1866, 1888, and 1890, sometimes in the strongest language, but their bans were greatly ignored, in particular by the North American bishops.

It is therefore unfair and inaccurate for scholars to claim that the Catholic Church’s teaching against slavery was relatively recent when several popes actually condemned it before the Quakers (founded 1648) did. While it is accurate to state that the Church did not unequivocally condemn the slave trade until 1839, arguably did not unequivocally condemn the institution of slavery as such until 1890, and did not condemn absolutely every instance of slavery until 1965, it is also accurate to state that the Church has condemned the most recent forms of slavery for centuries, as each of these new forms have appeared. The Church has both argued about and condemned slavery for the greater part of two millennia.

The Controversy over In Supremo, 1839

The papal condemnation of slavery in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI in his document In Supremo still draws controversy because of the heated if not nullifying response it received from the American Catholic bishops, in particular John England, bishop of Charleston, South Carolina.

In Supremo has been the topic of a rather long-distance scholarly exchange between a priest scholar from Lincoln, Nebraska, Rev. Joel Panzer, and the prominent American Catholic intellectual and federal jurist, John T. Noonan.

Fr. Panzer has maintained that In Supremo condemned both the institution of slavery and the slave trade. Judge Noonan, following Bishop England, maintained it only condemned the latter. Fr. Panzer went right to the Latin in the document to verify that indeed, Gregory XVI did condemn slavery outright in this 1839 document, two decades before the American Civil War. (Fr. Panzer’s text contains an appendix with facing Latin and English versions of the pertinent papal documents on slavery).

Panzer took issue with Noonan’s analysis of the reception of In Supremo in Noonan’s 1993 article (John T. Noonan, Jr., “Development in Moral Doctrine,” Theological Studies 54, December 1993):

The misreading of “In Supremo” that exists among scholars today actually has its roots in the partial rejection of that Papal Constitution by the American Hierarchy over a century and a half earlier.

Panzer, J. S. (1996). The popes and slavery. Staten Island, N.Y.: Alba House, p. 48.

In his 2005 book A Church That Can and Cannot Change, Noonan dealt indirectly in a footnote with Panzer’s challenge, and maintained from documentary evidence that Bishop England strongly asserted to President Van Buren and to readers of England’s newspaper Catholic Miscellany, that he had it on the direct personal word of the Pope himself that In Supremo did not apply to the United States. In addition, Noonan enveloped his narrative on the development of In Supremo with an interesting tale of how the British ambassadors successfully lobbied the Vatican for the issuance of In Supremo, as part of the British campaign against the slave trade.

Noonan’s response to Panzer, while polished and deft, is substantially feeble in its circumlocution, its reliance on hearsay, and his use of a genetic fallacy. For circumlocution, Noonan did not use the language of In Supremo to refute Panzer’s critique. For hearsay, Noonan in effect stated that Bishop England asserted that Gregory XVI didn’t say what he appeared to have said, and took England’s one-sided account as reliable. For genetic fallacy, Noonan accepted the British lobby-the-pope story as proof of the origin and intent of In Supremo.

History has known many bishops who have made statements in the “I’ve-got-it-straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth-that-what-he-just-said-doesn’t-apply-to-us” genre, or who have managed to assert–and this requires some advanced mastery of ecclesiastical polity–that an authoritative document states exactly the opposite of what it appears to say. One need only look at Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s tangled and artful communication pertaining to a letter from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2004 on questions concerning politicians and Communion to find a similar example. If one enjoys this sort of thing, Cardinal McCarrick appears to have obliged with an encore performance in 2006. Bishops have twisted each other’s words around for centuries, so Noonan’s argument gains little by relying heavily on Bishop England’s numerous protestations to the contrary of the message of In Supremo. Whether Bishop England pulled a Cardinal McCarrick, or Cardinal McCarrick pulled a Bishop England, is for the reader to decide until some independent record of a conversation between Gregory XVI and John England can be documented.

Having known a few lobbyists, I have found few who will not assert that they have moved history, and few in their dotage who are not willing to regale a listener with how they, and not presidents or popes, made things happen. Therefore Noonan’s reliance on the British ambassador’s account does not completely hold sway. A more persuasive story of the origins of In Supremo might have been told by Noonan had the volume of evidence he provided on the British side of this story been at least partially matched by the Vatican side.

Noonan is on stronger ground when he notes that the official subtitle of In Supremo in the official Vatican documents refers to the condemnation of the slave trade. But again, the widespread persistence of this argument may only indicate that certain historians of American Catholicism tend to read titles and subtitles, and not necessarily texts.

As Fr. Panzer notes, the belief that In Supremo condemned only the slave trade, and not slavery itself, thrives within American Catholic scholarship to this day as an echo of Bishop England’s position. Noonan’s restatement of his own position in 2005 does little to undermine Panzer’s observation on this point.

I urge the reader to read the document itself, and decide upon the message of In Supremo by clicking the link in this sentence.

If they have not done so already, it might be appropriate for the US Catholic Bishops to apologize for their support for the institution of American slavery under Bishop England, and put this matter finally and morally to rest.

My above critique of Judge Noonan’s interpretation of the In Supremo controversy takes nothing away from his standing in American Catholicism. He has studied the question of development of doctrine for over 60 years, and it was he whom the University of Notre Dame chose to comment after President Obama’s commencement remarks in the Spring of 2009. Few can match the scope of Judge Noonan’s scholarship.

I do note however, that Judge Noonan missed an opportunity to bolster his own argument on the development of doctrine by quoting Gregory XVI’s In Supremo itself on the subject:

In the process of time, the fog of pagan superstition being more completely dissipated and the manners of barbarous people having been softened, thanks to Faith operating by Charity, it at last comes about that, since several centuries, there are no more slaves in the greater number of Christian nations.

Please note also that Gregory XVI links the development of Charity to the end of slavery. You will find little argument among Christians–let’s hope not–that the development of Charity runs parallel with the development of Faith and of our own understanding of ourselves and our mission as a Church.

One often finds running along with Judge Noonan’s name, on book blurbs and other reviews, the Homeric epithet “impeccable scholarship.” I would agree with the adjectives “impressive” and “useful”–one can learn much from Judge Noonan–but not the adjective “impeccable.”

For Judge Noonan in 2005 offered his readers a very dated view of Augustine on slavery that weakened his presentation considerably. The Divjak letters, known to scholars since 1975, published in English in 1989, and popularized by Peter Brown in 2000 when he felt it necessary to completely rethink his view of Augustine and reissue a new forward to his classic biography based upon such recently discovered documents, evidently did not make their way to Judge Noonan’s desk and into his text. Augustine’s condemnation of human trafficking in North Africa in the early 400s stands up in every way to the passion of De Las Casas’s cries for justice more than a millennium later that so impressed Judge Noonan.

So Augustine himself should have the final words in this blog. Like he has done to many scholars on many questions, it was Augustine himself who had one of the first and at the same time the final words on the subject of development of doctrine:

I am convinced that when he [Moses] wrote those words what he meant and what he thought was all the truth we have been able to discover there, and whatever truth we have not been able to find, or have not found yet, but which is nonetheless there to be found.

Augustine, Confessions, XII, 31, 42; translated by Maria Boulding, OSB, New City Press, 1997.

And some first and final words of Augustine on slave raiding and human trafficking:

“But who resists these traders who are found everywhere, who traffic, not in animals but in human beings, not in barbarians but in Romans from the provinces? Who resists when these people from everywhere and from every side, carried off by violence and ensnared by deception, are led away into the hands of those who bid for them? Who will resist in the name of Roman freedom–I shall not say, the common freedom, but their very own?”

“No one can state satisfactorily how many fall into this same nefarious business because of the incredible blindness and greed and some kind of infection by this disease. Who would believe, for instance, that there is a woman among us here in Hippo who, as a matter of course, lures women from Gidda under the pretext of buying wood, and then confines, beats and sells them? . . . . A young man, scarcely twenty, an intelligent fellow, who kept the accounts for our monastery, was led astray and sold; only with the greatest difficulty was the church able to procure his freedom. . . .
Even if I wished to list all the crimes–just the ones we have had contact with–it would not be possible to do so. . . . There was not lacking a faithful Christian who, knowing our custom in missions of mercy of this kind, made this known to the church. Immediately, partially from the ship in which they had already been loaded, partially from the spot where they had been hidden prior to boarding, about 120 were freed by our people, though I myself was absent. Scarcely five or six were found to have been sold by their parents; of all the others, hardly a person could keep himself from tears on hearing all the various ways by which they were brought to the Galatians by trickery and kidnapping.”

From: Augustine, Letters, Vol. 6 (1*-29*), Fathers of the Church, Vol. 81, trans. Robert B. Eno. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. Hbk, 1989. ISBN: 0813200814, pp. 79-80.

I offer as a final comment a very sad fact: There are now more slaves on earth than at any time in human history–

The above puts disagreements among Catholics and historians about just when and how did the Catholic Church condemn slavery into sobering perspective. I think all of the writers quoted above would agree that freeing today’s slaves takes precedence.

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Some further links–

Commonweal Magazine Noonan bio–;col1

Arthur M. Hippler’s review of Noonan’s 2005 book–

More on the Panzer-Noonan views on In Supremo.


© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved