Missionaries and Cultures

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1993


Arts and Humanities | Catholic Studies | History | History of Religion | Missions and World Christianity | Religion


Catholic missionaries of the sixth and twelfth centuries – and beyond for a time – spread a Christianity which respected the culture of their convert. The Protestant and Catholic reformations rigidified the Church's teaching on the process of evangelization. Flexibility lessened too, as converts were required to abandon competing beliefs and practices in the name of an all-encompassing truth. Missionary work among the tribes flourished in the nineteenth century. Catholics and Protestants vied for control of reservation Indians when the government, under President Grant's Peace Policy, elicited their aid in "civilizing" them. Neither group gave the Indian culture much consideration when implementing their work among them. The twentieth century brought a gradual move toward cultural pluralism, especially in the 1930s and 1940s. The Catholic Church fostered a new approach to native cultures as part of its deliberation during the Vatican Council II, held from 1962 to 1965. Approximately one thousand years after Pope Gregory first called for respecting native cultures, the Catholic Church revived his directive. Still faithful to Christ's command, "Going forth, teach all nations," the Church has learned to do so in an attitude of openness and mutual respect.