Dinesh D’Souza, an Indian-born American far right conservative political commentator, author and filmmaker, once said, “My own ancestors were converted to Christianity by the Portuguese in India in the period of the Portuguese Inquisition. To be honest, I am very grateful that my ancestors were bludgeoned into the faith, because this is how I got to be born and raised a Christian. Otherwise the faith may have remained alien to me. So, as I say, I’m happy about the Portuguese Inquisition, although I’m not sure that my ancestors would have shared my enthusiasm!”
I was reminded of D’Souza’s words while reading Friday’s Rhode Island Catholic editorial, which said, in part, “There are many who criticize Columbus for interfering with the indigenous cultures and forcing them to acquiesce to a more European culture and religion. Yet, with the introduction of Catholicism, many of the indigenous peoples of Central and South America had their pagan practices abolished and the Gospel was spread through their countries.”
How easily the author of the Rhode Island Catholic editorial ignores the fact that Columbus brought murder, rape, torture and genocide to the so-called “New” World.
Samuel Eliot Morison, a Harvard University historian and author of a multi-volume biography on Columbus writes, “The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide.”
The idea put forward by the editor of the Rhode Island Catholic and D’Souza, that we modern humans should be grateful for atrocities perpetrated upon our ancestors because we, in modern times, are fortunate members of the ONE TRUE FAITH, is both ignorant and callous. It treats people of the past as less than human – as means to an end – whose suffering was necessary for our salvation. It raises the concept of religion above the dignity of people. It excuses monstrous crimes with glib insensitivity.
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Attitudes like this, which dehumanize people, ignore suffering and excuse terrible crimes, dull our compassion and turn us into amoral calculators willing to trade the lives and joys of other people for earthly and heavenly rewards.
They did not die for our salvation – They were simply the victims of terrible crimes, and there is no good way to celebrate that.