Providence, R.I., Oct 9, 2017 / 09:33 am
The controversies surrounding Christopher Columbus are sometimes misplaced and should not overshadow Columbus’ Christian motives in his voyages, a scholar of religious studies and anthropology has said.
“In recent times, Christopher Columbus has become the symbol for everything that went wrong in the New World, so much so that it has become difficult to celebrate the holiday commemorating his discovery of the New World,” Carol Delaney, a visiting scholar of religious studies at Brown University, told CNA.
“I have been dismayed by the lack of knowledge about the man by those who are rushing in judgment against him and changing the day that commemorates his extraordinary achievement.”
“While we may not agree with the scenario that motivated Columbus, it is important to understand him in the context of his time,” she added.
Delaney, who holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago, is author of the 2011 book “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem,” which examines Columbus’ religious motivations for his voyages.
Her book warns against misjudging Columbus’ motivations and accomplishments “from a contemporary perspective rather than from the values and practices of his own time.”
In her view, some criticism “holds him responsible for consequences he did not intend, expect, or endorse” and blames him for “all the calamities” that befell the “new world” he was once celebrated for discovering.
Columbus has been a major figure for Catholics in America, especially Italian-Americans, who saw his pioneering voyage from Europe as a way of validating their presence in a sometimes hostile majority-Protestant country. The Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world, took his name and voyage as an inspiration. At one point in the nineteenth century there were efforts to push for the voyager’s canonization.