In Supremo Apostolatus is a papal bull issued by Pope Gregory XVI regarding the institution of slavery. Issued on December 3, 1839 as a result of a broad consultation among the College of Cardinals, the bull resoundingly denounces both the slave trade and the continuance of the institution of slavery.

Except of critical text

"Wherefore, we desiring to avert this disgrace from the whole confines of Christianity, having summoned several of our reverend brothers, their eminences the cardinals, to our counsel, and having maturely deliberated on the whole matter, pursuing the footsteps of our predecessors, admonish by our apostolic authority, and urgently invoke in the name of God all Christians, of whatever condition, that none henceforth
  • dare to subject to slavery, unjustly persecute, or despoil of their goods, Indians, Negroes, or other classes of men,
  • or to be accessories to others,
  • or furnish to them aid or assistance in so doing;
  • and on no account henceforth to exercise that inhuman traffic, by which negroes are reduced to slavery as if they were not men but automata or chattels, and are sold in defiance of all the laws of justice and humanity, and devoted to severe and intolerable labors.
"We further reprobate by our apostolic authority all the above described offences as utterly unworthy the Christian name; and by the same authority we
  • rigidly prohibit and interdict all and every individual, whether ecclesiastical or laical, from presuming to defend that commerce in negro servitude under any pretence or borrowed color [excuse],
  • or to teach or publish in any manner, publicly or privately, things contrary to the admonitions which we have given in these letters."

Effects in the United States

The Bull was not well received among slaveholding Catholics in Maryland which was the center of American Catholic population and governance until the late 19th Century. To avoid penalties from Rome while still supporting the status quo, American Catholic clergy often interpreted the bull as denunciation of the slave trade but not as a denunciation of the institution of slavery itself. To avoid apparent contradiction with Rome, the Catholic bishops in America remained publicly silent on the Supremo Apostolatus

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