The “Doctrine of Discovery” and Terra Nullius: A Catholic Response


The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding the Catholic responds to the Doctrine of Discovery.

The text considers and repudiates illegitimate concepts and principles used by Europeans to justify the seizure of land previously held by Indigenous Peoples and often identified by the terms Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.

Both documents appeal to all Catholics — laity, members of institutes of consecrated life and of societies of apostolic life, deacons, priests, and Bishops — to make seven commitments in order to “continue to walk together with Indigenous Peoples in building a more just society where their gifts and those of all people are nurtured and honoured.” These commitments include:

  • Working with Catholic educational institutions and formation programs in telling the history and experience of Indigenous Peoples
  • Working with seminaries and other formation centres to promote a “culture of encounter” by including the history of the Indian Residential Schools and of Canadian missionary work with its “weaknesses and strengths”
  • Encouraging partnerships between Indigenous groups and health care facilities
  • Encouraging a restorative justice model within the criminal justice system
  • Supporting the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women
  • Deepening relationships, dialogue and collaboration with Indigenous People
  • Inviting Catholic parishes and institutions to become better acquainted with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

March 31, 2016

Death of the Buddha

The Buddha died in about 483 B.C.E. He had gone from a prince to an ascetic, from a wealthy man to a nomadic beggar. For more than fifty years he wandered India, teaching others about enlightenment.

Imagine that you are a newspaper columnist. Write an obituary for the Buddha as if for a modern newspaper.

Include as much information as you can about the people who were important in his life and the events that shaped his life and beliefs.

The Soul

Shankaracharya was a Hindu teacher who founded four great monasteries in India. He once explained that humans are like jars filled with air. Our souls are the air. This air is the same as the air outside the jar. When the jar breaks at death, the inside air joins the outside air.

What is your reaction to this description?

A Multiplicity of Forms

We speak of Hinduism, as one religion, which suggests that Hinduism is the same everywhere. This is not the case. India is a land of great variety. Even today, there are sixteen official languages in India and about 1,600 dialects. Geographically, rivers and mountains break the country into a number of distinct regions. The religion we call Hinduism developed over thousands of years, among hundreds of different groups of people. The religious traditions of all these different groups are included in Hinduism. Even today, Hinduism is changing. It is not one firm, fixed belief system, but a fluid system that includes many different beliefs.

How does an inclusive, ever-changing belief system compare to other major world belief systems? Choose another major world religion and compare it to Hinduism.