tagThe Catholic Church

Mary Grabar on Zinn, Casas, Christianity, and Defending the Indigenous


Where Zinn doesn’t follow Las Casas is where the priest mentions the Indians’ cannibalism — the priest reports, on the very next page after the passage Zinn has paraphrased, that the Indians eat very little meat “unless it be the flesh of their enemies.” Zinn, busy painting the Europeans as uniquely violent and oppressive, naturally never gives credit to the feature of Western civilization that is actually responsible for Las Casas’s indictment of the abuses to which many of the Spanish did subject the Indians: Christianity. It was after he heard anti-slavery sermons by Dominican monks that Las Casas gave up his own plantation and became “the Apostle to the Indians.” Thus, the priest describes the perpetrators of atrocities against the Indians as “so-called Christians.” Las Casas preaches, “Sin leads to sin, and for many years they lived unscrupulously, not observing Lent or other fasts” and eating meat on Fridays. Zinn ignores such old-fashioned religious explanations for the Spaniards’ descent into criminality against the natives and pretends that Las Casas, like himself, is a secular critic of imperialism.