Christianity in the New World

Essay by Brian Horn May 1994

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The Catholic Church during the Middle Ages played an all encompassing role over the lives of the people

and the government. As the Dark Ages came to a close the ideas of the Renaissance started to take hold, and

the church's power gradually began to wain. The monarchies of Europe also began to grow replacing the

church's power. Monarchies, at the close of the Middle Ages and the dawn of the Renaissance, did not so much

seek the guidance of the church as much as it sought their approval. However, the Church during the Age of

Discovery was still a major influence. The discovery of the New World and its previously unknown inhabitants

presented new problems in the Catholic Church in the late 14th and early 15th century. When Spain's rulers and

emissaries decided to physically conquer and populate the New World, and not just trade with it, the

transplantation of Christian institutions followed.

The church established contact with the New World, and made it a goal to establish the Catholic

doctrines among the native population there. The Catholic Church and the Spanish monarch, however, looked

upon the native population in the New World as souls to be saved. They did not consider or treat the Indians as

equals. The implanting of Christianity in the New World, and the treatment of the native population by the

missionaries and christian conquerors was detrimental to New World. Through men such as Cortez and Las

Casas accounts of the conversions have been recorded. One of the reasons for this was the alliance of the

Catholic Church with the Spanish monarchy. The status of the Indians was disregarded as the Christian

conquers and missionaries who wanted to convert them subjected them to violence and reduced them to a

laboring population. The Indians,