Exploration and Conquest
Written by: Christopher Bellitto
In 1622, Pope Gregory XV synthesized missionary efforts by creating the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fidei), updating a 1568 congregation of cardinals who oversaw the "conversion of infidels." A major goal of the new congregation was to promote an indigenous clergy and acculturated church as rapidly as possible to take over from European missionaries. But the goal of adaptation could also lead to confusion. Jesuits in Brazil and Canada successfully learned local languages so they could speak, preach, teach, and celebrate the sacraments in them.
Jesuits in Japan and China were equally sensitive to the problems associated with imposing a Latin-oriented, European style of theology and worship. The Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) gained entry to China when he dressed as a Buddhist monk. He studied Confucius, learned Chinese, and engaged scholars to gain authority before he began preaching. But this effort, in the eyes of some, went too far and led to the Chinese Rites controversy. It appears Jesuits permitted a measure of indigenous religion to cross over into Catholicism: ancestor worship, reverence for Confucius, and Chinese ideas about heaven, monotheism, and God's all-knowing quality that were deemed close enough to, if not quite, Catholic dogmas. Rome's response was once again inconsistent. Paul V (1605-1621) permitted Mass in Chinese. In 1645, Rome condemned ancestor worship, but a decade later Pope Alexander VII approved of the Jesuit approach only to have it condemned again in the next century. Finally, in 1745, Pope Benedict XIV abolished Chinese Rites.
1. When were the crusades? What were their results?
2. Were Catholic missions in the 15th century based solely on religious conversion? Explain.
3. In what ways were missionary efforts of the 16th and 17th centuries violent?
4. Who was Matteo Ricci? Why is his work often considered controversial?