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Catholic Church in the New World

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Essay title: Catholic Church in the New World

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church played an all-encompassing role

in the lives of the people and the government. As the Dark Ages came to a close,

the ideas of the Renaissance started to take hold, and the church's power gradually

began to diminish. The monarchies of Europe also began to grow, replacing the church's

power. Monarchies, at the close of the Middle Ages and the dawn of the

Renaissance, did not so much seek the guidance of the church as much as it sought

their approval. However, the Church during the Age of Discovery was still a major

influence. The discovery of the New World and its previously unknown inhabitants

presented new problems to the Catholic Church in the late 14th and early 15th

century. The Spanish colonization of the New World introduced Christian ideals to the local inhabitants.

The church established contact with the New World, and made it a goal to

enforce Catholic doctrine among the native population. The Catholic

Church and the Spanish monarch, however, looked upon the native population in the

New World as souls to be saved. They did not consider or treat the Indians as

equals. The introduction of Christianity in the New World, and the treatment of the

native population by the missionaries and Christian conquerors were detrimental to the

New World. Accounts of the conversions have been recorded through men such as Cortez and Las Casas. One of the reasons for this was the alliance of the

Catholic Church with the Spanish monarchy. The Indians' status was completely

disregarded, the Christian conquers and missionaries, who wanted to convert them,

subjected them to violence and reduced them to a laboring population. The Indians, however, did not always respond in a negative way to the work of the church.

The Catholic Church arrived in the New World immediately after Christopher

Columbus laid claim to it for Spain. After Columbus' discovery of the new lands he

wrote a series of treatise as to the purpose of the European occupation. In

his writings, Columbus states that the purpose of the New World was two fold. He said that the gospel message of the church should be spread globally, beginning with his discoveries in the New World. Second, he stated that the riches discovered in the New World should be dedicated to the recapture of Jerusalem from the Moslems. Columbus perceived the discovery of the New World as a prophecy coming true. He viewed the Indians that dwelled there as a labor source that should be Christianized and used for the greater good of the church.

Two papal bulls were issued in the year of 1493 which established the Spanish

position in the New World. They also established the role of the Catholic church in the New World. The first bull, referred to as the Inter Caetera, was issued on May 3. It declared that the lands discovered by Spanish envoys not previously under a Christian owner could be claimed by Spain. The bull also gave the Spanish monarch the power to send men to convert the natives to the Catholic faith and instruct them in Catholic morals. The second papal bull issued that year expanded on the meaning of Inter Caetera. The bull fixed a boundary for Spanish and Portuguese spheres of influence in

the New World. This boundary heavily favored Spain, continuing to show its alliance

with the Catholic Church.

In the year after Columbus' first voyage, the history of the Catholic Church in the New World began. The first missionaries sent by the Spanish monarchy began to establish Christianity there. The number of missions sent to the New World accelerated in tempo until the final decade of the 16th century. The crown paid for the sending of

missionaries, and its officials kept track of the many "shiploads" of religious personnel

sent and of the expenses they incurred. The records show that the Spanish dispatched

missionaries to more than

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