This paper is on the topic of The Catholic Church and Medieval slavery. The first section of this paper is on how slavery used to be involved in Trade and Commerce and the role of slaves in society. The second section of this paper is on rural life in the medieval ages and how the role of the church. The third section of this paper is on social classes of society in the medieval ages and how the Catholic Church used to be involved. The fourth section of this paper is on slaves of the church in the medieval ages.
Early Christians used to more or less tolerate slavery in their day, as seen in the New Testament itself, and after Christianity had become the main religion in the Roman Empire, slavery was not immediately outlawed. Even so, this does not mean that Christianity was compatible with the Roman slavery or the early Church did not contribute to the demise of slavery. In a world where the church was created, slavery was endemic and ubiquitous. Greek and Roman society thrived in it, and Germanic tribes who later inherited the Roman power were not significantly different from their predecessors in their attitudes. In the early seventh century, Saint Bathilde (King Clovis II’s wife) became popular for her campaign for stopping slave-trading and planned to free all slaves, and in 851, Saint Anskar started his efforts of halting the Viking slave trade. The reason that the Church used to willingly baptize slaves is considered as the proof that slaves had souls, and later both bishops and kings —including William the Conqueror (1027-1087) and Anselm (1033-1109) and Saints Wulfstan (1009-1095)—forbade enslavement of Christians.
Trade and Commerce
In the 10th and 12th centuries it was necessary for the Councils of Church in England, Germany, and Ireland to forbid the sale of the Unfree Christians. The Council of Koblenz in 922, The question was placed about what needs to be done concerning a person who led away a Christian man and later sold him; the reply from all was that the person should be considered as guilty of homicide. The Council of London in 1102, let no one presume in the future to enter in nefarious business by that they are accustomed hitherto to sell men as slaves in the similar manner as brute animals in England. The Council held in Armagh, Ireland in 1171 on Slavery needed the clergy from all Ireland were called to Armagh, upon arrival of the foreigners in island after more deliberation and negotiation the opinion of everyone was:
On the account of sins of people, especially because in the past they were accustomed of buying Englishmen from merchants, pirates and thieves. Reducing them to servitude, this trouble came upon them by severity of the divine vengeance, so that they will get reduced by those people to servitude. For English people hitherto throughout whole of their kingdom to common injury of English people, had become accustomed of selling their relatives and sons in Ireland, for exposing their children for sale for servitude, rather than suffering for any need or want.
Slave trade persisted in large scale throughout the early medieval ages. Indeed, payments were often made in terms of numbers of slaves and the early fairs used to be full of women and men exposed for sale. Since England used to produce at this time few products for export except for a few staple commodities, slave exchange was convenient for other goods, and many unfortunate people were sent to Ireland, Italy, and Denmark, from where they also made their way to Germany.
In any mixed marriage between a serf and a free woman living in Brusthem, free condition of women was only protected when her husband was not claimed by his lord prior to his death. If the marriage was discovered only after husband's death, then she used to have the rights of free woman. To strengthen laws binding the slaves and coloni to soil precautions were also taken for preventing the landlords employing fugitives and ensuring their return.
Members of the noble families and others were mostly reduced to servitude as the consequence of war. Sometimes it was impossible for redeeming these captives by reason of ransom demanded. The Council of Orleans decreed same things concerning the freedmen for the north-central France as Council of Agde had done in the southern France. The harshness of masters tempered by the provision for the oath was taken by the master for forgiveness of any errant slave, but these oaths were many times sufficiently indefinite in the phraseology for permitting evasions.
Decisions of the Church Councils were not always effective for preventing the harsh treatment of slaves and serfs. The priest in this instance used to act correctly, but mental reservation of the Rauching appeared to nullify his promise. Among other crimes that were committed in those parts, certain of the faithful used to sell their slaves to pagans for the purpose of sacrifice. Pope Gregory III wrote a letter to the Archbishop of Mainz where he stated; “Among other crimes committed in those parts you have mentioned this that certain of the faithful sell their slaves to the pagans for sacrifices. Which thing, brother, we think should be corrected, and we do not think you should allow it to proceed further; for it is a disgrace and an impiety. To those, therefore, who have done these things you should mete out the same punishment as for homicide”. St. Bernard of Clairvaux also attacked worldly practices of monasteries, secular possessions and retention of serfs in those possessions.
Slaves of Church
Manumitted slaves as freedmen had reasonable liberty and holdings the sufficient for their sustenance. Once freedom was given, it was irrevocable, though any excessive privileges were not allowed. Moreover, those who were freed in the church had guarantee of their protection and right of appealing to the bishop. The decisions of the Church Councils were not always effective in the prevention of harsh treatment of slaves and serfs. The priest in acted correctly in this instance, but mental reservation of the Rauching appears to have nullified the Church’s promise.
Reading of the Church documents, or of the Scripture, by one who doesn’t discriminate between the just and unjust servitude would leave the reader with impression that some slaves that were held by the Christians existed in a relationship with their owners was blessed, or perhaps recognized by Catholic Church. But, of course, there was a major difference between unjust and just servitude that should be considered if we are to judge the official Church’s teaching. In the modern world is immediately recognized as slavery, and we should also recognize that the full definition of the word is not the same today as it used to be in past.
Throughout the human history, slavery has been accepted and practiced by most religions and cultures around the world. Some passages in the Old Testament used to sanction slavery, and the New Testament gave no clear indications or teaching that slavery would get prohibited. Between the 6th and 12th century there used to be a growing sentiment that slavery was not compatible with the Christian conceptions of justice and charity. Since the Medieval ages, Christian understanding of slavery has witnessed significant internal conflicts and endured several dramatic changes. Nearly every Christian leader before late 17th century used to regard slavery as consistent with the Christian theology. Today, nearly every Christian is united in condemnation of the modern slavery as wrong and contrary to the God's will.
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