Moving the Church from Pro-Slavery Apologetics to Anti-Slavery Condemnation

The Beginning and the End of a Journey of Twenty Centuries

The Beginning: Teaching that the Name of God and Christian Teaching Are Defamed When Slaves Dishonor Their Masters

From the First Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy, 6:1-10.
Let all who are under the yoke of slavery
regard their masters as worthy of all honor,
so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed.
Those who have believing masters
must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brethren;
rather they must serve all the better
since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved.
Teach and urge these duties.
If anyone teaches otherwise
and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness,
he is puffed up with conceit,
he knows nothing;
he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words,
which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth,
imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
There is great gain in godliness with contentment
for we brought nothing into the world,
andwe cannot take anything out of the world;
but if we have food and clothing,
with these we shall be content.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation,
into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is the root of all evils;
it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith
and pierced their hearts with many pangs.

Dear Saint Paul, isn’t the love of money also the root of the evil enslavement of human persons? It is good that elsewhere you spoke differently in telling Philemon to end his enslavement of Onesimus and to treat Onesimus as a beloved brother … both in the flesh and in the Lord [Philemon 1:16]. In fact, twenty centuries later, the Church quoted your words to Philemon in its condemnation of slavery as a sin.

The End: Enslavement of Human Beings Is a Sin

Paragraph 2414 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
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.”

Ongoing Conversion
Ongoing Conversion

Published by Fr. Stephanos Pedrano, O.S.B.

Benedictine Monk and Priest of Prince of Peace Abbey, Oceanside, California, in the Order of Saint Benedict

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