Pastorale Officium

On May 29, 1537, Pope Paul III wrote an Apostolic Brief to Cardinal Juan de Tavera, Archbishop of Toledo, the capital city of Spain. The Pope had come to hear that King Charles V had prohibited all his subjects by public edict from reducing the Western and Southern American Indians into slavery, or daring to deprive them of their possessions.

This was a reference to the truly anti-slavery Royal edict of August 2, 1530.

And so the Pope writes to the Cardinal to say that although the Indians are non-Christians, they have not been deprived [i.e. by a juridical act of the Papacy] of their freedom or of ownership of their own possessions, nor are they to be deprived of these.

They are not to be exterminated by slavery, but are to be invited to Christian life by preaching and example.

The Cardinal is commanded by the Pope to provide an effective defence for the Indians in this matter, and to forbid all Spaniards to reduce the Indians into slavery by any means whatsoever or deprive them of their possessions in any manner, under pain of excommunication if they do so.

The Pope clearly approved the Royal edict which had prohibited enslavement of American Indians by any one of the titles of Roman civil law.

But the Pope had evidently not been informed that this Royal edict had already been abrogated on February 20, 1534, by a subsequent edict which had once more authorized the enslavement of Indian prisoners captured in just warfare.

Charles V was irritated by the Papal Brief to the Cardinal, and advised the Pope to annul it, since it was injurious to the Imperial right of colonization and harmful to the peace of the Indies.

So a year later, Pope Paul III duly annulled Pastorale Officium on June 19, 1538, by the Brief Non lndecens Videtur.