"Religious Orders, The Indian, And The Conquest: Fifty Years of Dispute and Contradiction"

by Maria Paz Haro, Translated by James Dunlap

in Encounters, Issue 9

The task was clearly defined. Pope Alexander VI made it official when he issued the papal bull Inter Caetera. This important document gave the responsibility of evangelizing the newly discovered lands to Spain's Catholic Kings. They thus gained the exclusive rights of discovery and conquest in America as a "religious campaign."

Evangelization began on the island of Santo Domingo in 1500 with the establishment of a Franciscan mission. Mexico followed in 1524 with the arrival of the so-called "twelve apostles of New Spain," Franciscans as well. A dozen Dominicans disembarked in Mexico in 1526 and by 1533 the Augustinians had arrived. Dominicans, Franciscans, and Mercedarians reached Peru in 1532. These were humble beginnings, but each year saw new waves of missionaries, provoking sixteenth-century historian Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo to remark, "It seems to me that these lands are flooded with friars; but none are greying, all being less than thirty years old. I pray to God that they are capable of serving Him."

Cecilia Frost asserts that "every missionary who chose to journey to the newly discovered lands was ostensibly a representative of the royal conscience and part of his mission was to look out for its interest. Thus each was nominally an instrument of this royal consciousness--defending the Indians by denouncing abuse, cruelty, and injustice committed by the conquistadores. Each religious order adopted a distinct posture according to its peculiarities and philosophical traditions. In general terms, the Franciscans' defense of the Indian followed the course of charity and love, while the Dominicans pursued a more theoretical and judicial route. In the words of the Mexican historian Edmundo O'Gorman eulogizing two exceptional early missionaries, the Franciscan Motolinia and the Dominican de las Casas, "Motolinia was a father to the Indians, Las Casas was their lawyer."

It is disturbing to conclude, from facts I will reveal, that the moral conscience of these orders, though infused with a common evangelizing zeal and desire to help the Indian, was enveloped in profound and bitter dissention from the very beginning of discovery and conquest. And the cause of these divergences and disputed went well beyond the contrast of the mendicant's loving humility and the rationalist tendencies of the Dominican preachers since in many instances, friars within a single order had serious differences of opinion. Controversy transcended institutional confines flaring into heated personal conflict. The feathered and painted beings the Spaniards encountered in America, observes historian Lewis Hanke, confounded the entire Spanish nation, from King to commoner. Intrigued, they proffered endless questions: Who was the Indian? Was he man or beast? Was he a rational being? Could his land be expropriated? Could he be made to work and pay tribute? If he were mere beast, why should he not be enslaved? Could a true Christian oblige the Indian to become a Christian by force? What type of religious instruction should he be given? Once converted, did he have a right to all the sacraments? Could he become a friar and a priest? Should he be taught only grammar or Latin as well? Should the converted Indian be tithed? Could he be left to live alone, caring for his own needs, even governing himself as the Spaniards did? Today such questions seem shocking. But in the sixteenth century they were the order of the day. The Council of the Indies sponsored continual investigation of these matters and diverse opinions were held by everyone from ecclesiastics to soldiers, colonizers, and royal officials--and of course the regular missionaries of the various orders. Together their voices formed a highly discordant chorus beseeching the Crown and the Council.

A basic difference of opinion concerned the very nature of the Native American and his susceptibility to conversion to Christianity and his ability to adapt to European culture. In spite of essentially positive descriptions provided by Columbus, many Spaniards both secular and regulars, expressed low opinions of the aboriginals. The Dominican Antonio de Montesinos, in his famous sermon delivered for Lent in Espanola (today's Dominican Republic) in 1511, wondered if the Indian were truly human and had a soul worth praying for. He soon thereafter joined another Dominican, Friar Domingo de Betanzos, proposing in a letter to the King of Spain the concept concurred with by several others, that the Indians were not suited for marriage nor to receive the faith. Rather, they were only good for "mining gold" due to the "bestial condition" of the Indian race which they believed to be predestined by celestial design to extinction.

In 1517, back in Spain with no prior personal contact of any sort with a Native American, the Franciscan brother Francisco Ruiz, Bishop of Avila and an advisor to Spain's Cardinal Cisneros, asserted that the Indian "is not a person capable of natural judgement sufficient to receive the faith, nor of the other virtues needed for conversion and salvation." The Franciscan Bishop of Barcelona, Friar Juan de Quevedo, grounded in Aristotelian theory, concluded that the Indians were slaves by nature. The Franciscan missionary Friar Pedro de Aguado offered his opinion that the "barbarous and wild Indian is a monster never before seen, with a head of ignorance, an ungrateful heart, an unreliable breast, shoulders of sloth, and cowardly feet." In 1525, Dominican Friar Tomas Ortiz declared before the Council of the Indies that the Indians were incapable of learning..."Dumber than donkeys, they reject all forms of progress." Another Dominican, Friar Pedro de Betanzos (unrelated to Friar Domingo) maintained before the Council that the Indians were not capable of embracing the faith.

These opinions caused great concern among members of the Council and curiously, a strong reaction from Franciscans like Friar Jacobo de Testera who, expressing the opinion of many, signed a letter declaring that the devil was responsible for putting such ideas in certain people's heads (including perhaps that of Friar Betanzos).

"Though they maintain that they [the Indians] are incapable, how could incapability have produced such sumptuous buildings and splendid handiwork of silversmiths, painters, as well as the skill of merchants, distributors and providers of tribute, and the wealth and fineness of individuals and services and the refinement of speaking, courtesy, and style?" His Franciscan brother, Friar Luis de Fuensalida extolled "their virtue of having godly fear and an orderly consideration of death, their knowledge, ability to read, write, count, and sing...." Another Franciscan, Friar Toribio de Benavente, called "Motolinia" by the Indians (meaning the "poor one"), pointed out the great ability of the natives to learn all the sciences, arts, and offices, and their great skill in theatrical performance. "God, who gave man intelligence, also provided these Indians in their natural state with great ingenuity and skill in learning science, the arts, and crafts. They have a lively understanding, calmly and firmly held, but without the excess pride and wastefulness of other nations."

The first ecclesiastical council of New Spain, presided over by Bishop Fuenleal and the Franciscan Friar Juan de Zumarraga, finally agreed that there was no doubt that the "aboriginals posses adequate capacity for and even love of the doctrines of faith...and are capable of practicing all the mechanical and agricultural arts." The also recognized that the Indian was a rational being capable of self-government. It is interesting to note that the Bishop of Michoacan, Vasco de Quiroga, who had collaborated with the Augustinian friars in establishing "hospital-villages"--communities based on the utopian ideals of Thomas Moore--did not merely limit himself to defending the equality of Spaniard and Indian, but proclaimed the superiority of the latter in several respects declaring that, while Europe had reverted to the Iron Age, the Indians lived in an Age of Gold. He accused those who insisted on the natural inferiority of Indians of doing so in order that they be considered "not men, but beasts," so that they might take unrestrained advantage of them at their pleasure and without impediment. Moreover, Vasco de Quiroga maintained that the Indian "is docile and capable of all good. It would be difficult to encounter," he said, "people as free, calm, and domesticated as they--yet so little corrupted, vexatious, and noxious--a people as good and useful to us as a hive of bees."

Years later, another Franciscan, Friar Jeronimo de Mendieta, corroborated this idea saying, "I believe they are not savages, untractable and wild, but rather fundamentally domestic, communicable, and docile friends." But he adds that "their talent and capabilities are generally no greater than those of ten to twelve year olds. As a result, they cannot be relied upon more than children when left to their whims." The well- intentioned Motolinia also believed that the Indian was an infantile and immature being, incapable of self-guidance or creating a future, requiring protection and orientation. He went so far as to question whether the Indian should be treated as an "ingenuous human, a devil, or an animal...in a land brought straight from hell." The great chronicler and conservator of Nahuatl patrimony, friar Bernardino de Sahagun, expressed similar sentiments, asserting that the devil had planted in Mexico, as reflected in Nahuatl poetry, "a forest filled with brakes and brambles from which he might furtively perform his nefarious deeds, in the manner of ferocious beasts and the most venomous vipers."

Between 1540 and 1544, Friar Bartolome de las Casas, by then a member of the Dominican Preaching Order, composed his exhaustive "Chronicle of Offenses" (in the words of French historian Marcel Bataillon) thus becoming the standard bearer for the "noble savage" whose goodness he contrasted with the malevolence of the Spaniards. Thus in his Brief Relation of the Destruction of the Indies, he tells us, "All of these universal and numberless people of all genders were created by God in a most simple form. Without malevolence or duplicity, they are highly obedient and faithful to their natural leaders and to the Christians whom they serve. They are most humble, patient, peaceful, and calm. They have less quarrels and uproar and show less rancor, hate, and vengefulness than any people on earth." He went on, "Being capable of clear, deliberate, and acute understanding, they are docile and open to good doctrine and apt recipients of our Catholic faith. They are blessed with virtuous customs and are little encumbered with impediments to assimilate all that which God has created on earth." He concludes "these people would have been the most blessed on earth if only they had known God." The way the Indians should come to know God and how they should be Christianized became a new area of contention between the regulars. Motolinia noted that during the first years the method of administering the baptismal sacrament was agreed upon by all, but as more and more priests arrived form disparate orders-- Augustinians, Dominicans, and Franciscans--differences of procedure arose among them. Motolinia, like other Franciscans, was convinced of the necessity of preaching the gospel before the consummation of the centuries--a moment that was rapidly approaching; thus conversions en mass and the administering of the sacrament to hundreds, even thousands, of neophytes reached the point where the ritual-weary arm could no longer function. The important thing was to allow no one to die unbaptized.

Knowledge of the gospel was considered of lesser importance because, as Friar Toribio put it, "I have seen many of them who recite the Lord's Prayer, the Ave Maria, and Christian doctrine, but when questioned by the priest are completely taken aback and unable to respond." The different attitudes came to a head, according to Lewis Hanke, when Motolinia asked Las Casas while in Tlaxcala to baptize an Indian who had come from afar for that purpose. He refused to do so when he discovered the candidate knew nothing of church doctrine. Motolinia became infuriated that he dispatched an embittered missive to the Emperor critical of Las Casas. For Friar Bartolome, the preparation of the neophyte catechumen should be conscientious and profound--massive baptism, often involuntary, had no justification. The only true manner of conversion was through exemplary practice of Christian virtues and rational and peaceful persuasion based on the gospel.

In his treatise, De unico vocationis modo, he called this method "invitation and gentle exhortation." Based on this thesis Friar Bernardino de Minaya, a brother of the same order, convinced Pope Paul III to issue the 1537 bull Sublimis Deus affirming that "the Indians are humans capable of receiving Christian faith; they should not be deprived of liberty and possessions; they should be converted only by example and preaching." The Crown effectively ordered that only peaceful instruction be employed. But Friar Bernardino de Manzanedo obviously didn't see things that way when he complained to the king that the Indians "seem to have no love for Christian doctrine and will not accept it except through force."

This brings us to the third point of contention. "Is war against the Indian just?" As opposed to Las Casas, Friar Benevente fully justified the conquest as a redeeming and providential enterprise. When two missionaries were slain in Florida, he backed the conquest of land by force of arms to avoid the slaying of missionaries "like lambs among wolves." Friar Bartolome bitterly condemned such conquest, calling the Indians "lambs" and the Spaniards "carnivorous wolves." He even tired to eliminate the term "conquest" (for him " a tyrannical word, improper, infernal, moorish legacy") replacing it with "discovery" in the New Laws of the Indies (1542-1543). As for Hernan Cortes, Las Casas compared his cruelty to that of Nero in his sadistic contemplation of Rome burning.

Motolinia, on the other hand, could never forget the extraordinary welcome Cortes gave Friar martin de Valencia, so vividly recalled by Bernal Diaz del Castillo. In his missive to the Emperor, Friar Toribio defends the conquistador from Extremadura extolling his religious sincerity, his humanity towards Indians, and respect for their property. He saw the conquistadors as successors to the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, and Spain as the Fifth Empire, that of Jesus Christ. The conquest was justifiable because it brought the true faith and civilization to the Indian. Since they were really against the devil--a Franciscan obsession. Thus in his missive, he explicitly stated, "Those who would not in good faith hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, must be forced--better good through force than evil through inaction." This attitude was shared by the Dominican Friar Vicente Valverde, who using the famous formula of the "Requerimiento"--assured Atahualpa of the good will of the Emperor, who in the name of the true God called on him to submit and accept Christianity. When Atahualpa dashed the Gospel to the ground, the Friar immediately lost patience and resorted to armed force.

Soon thereafter, in 1534, the Dominican Francisco de Vitoria, professor of theology at Salamanca University in Spain, spoke with indignation against such methods used in the conquest of Peru and formulated a systematic refutation of the war maintaining the Christians could not forcefully occupy lands properly owned by Indians within their established dominions. Vitoria, however, allowed certain justifications for war, such as: in response to Indian refusal to recognize Spanish rights of communication, residence and commerce; to defend converted Indians against native rulers who would lead them back to paganism; to remove illegitimate or tyrannical leaders, especially those who ordered human sacrifices or practiced cannibalism; and to help tutor and civilize barbarians who lacked the gift of reason.

The erudite translator of Aristotle, Juan Gines de Sepulveda, Canon of Cordoba, published around this time his Democrates Alter or "Treatise on the Just Causes of War against the Indians." Based on the Aristotelian thesis of cultural inequality that justifies enslavement of certain barbarians and making war on them, he implicitly and explicitly legitimized the conquest and colonization of America on four premises: the Indians's idolatry; their "primitive" intelligence; facilitation and acceleration of preaching; and elimination of human sacrifice. Bartolome de las Casas, then in Salamanca, responded with his accusatory Confessional and his Treatise on the Enslaved Indians in which he asserts "the Spaniards have never had a just war against the Indians." The dispute intensified and Las Casas persuaded the University of Salamanca to condemn Sepulveda's Democrates Alter. He then penned his Apologia Latina in which, postulating that men are rational creatures with an inherent right to self-government, he argued that the Indians possess established laws and civilized customs; that human sacrifice has always existed (remember Abraham); and that Indian ignorance is excusable since they have known only nebulous natural law and not the supernatural.

Not only did Las Casas oppose the war but also the encomienda. This system of land grants to the conquistadors allotted them groups of Indians, who in exchange for protection and religious instruction, provided these Spaniards with Indian labor and products. The encomienda was tolerated by all the orders as a necessary means to expand Christianity--all except the Dominicans, who vehemently attacked the system along with las Casas. In 1513, he dispatched to Cardinal Cisneros his Memorial Latino in which he denounced the system. The Cardinal heeded Las Casas's plea and in 1517 named him advocate and Protector of the Indians, sending him as an adjunct and counselor on a mission with three Jeronymite brothers to Santo Domingo to test the viability of his proposed experiment, that of returning land and liberty to the Indians. But as Friar Bartolome himself observed, "The Dominican and Franciscan friars, as well as the royal judges and officials, were asked if the Indians should be liberated from the encomenderos. Among the Franciscans, there were few schooled in the law and most were not very aware of the gravity of the injustice suffered by the Indians. For such reasons, and because of their past opposition to the Dominicans, they blindly favored the Spaniards and declared liberation was not the will of God."

In contrast, the Dominican Bernaldo de Santo Domingo valiantly declared that the Indians were ready for their liberation, while the Franciscan Friar Pedro Mejia maintained that few of them were able to farm and sustain themselves, although he predicted that if they were freed the population would increase, while it would decline rapidly under captivity. Mejia also recommended the substitution of forced Indian labor with that of black slaves, a concept at first supported by Las Casas but later repudiated. Based on the opinions of the colonists, the Jeronymites decided against liberation inciting the strong opposition of Las Casas as well as the Dominican Miguel de Salamanca, who made a new denunciation that "this type of encomienda and its administration are detrimental to the welfare of the Indian nation." Oddly enough, as Bataillon points out, Las Casas originally displayed a colonial mentality that condoned exploitation and gain for the Crown, which while saving the Indian (the source of gain), did not address these inequities. He proposed to the Emperor a type of association or community in which each encomendero would provide for his Indians, free vassals under his protection, and would contribute to the treasury according to the number of Indians and his income. Such a system sought to encourage peninsulars to come to the New World and teach the natives European agricultural and cattle-raising techniques. But Indian settlements and Spanish villages should be separate; the Indians should have their own leaders and traditions. Together, but not mixed, this colonization should not encourage mestizaje.

In 1531, in a letter to the Council of the Indies appended to his celebrated legal document Informacion de derecho, Bishop Vasco de Quiroga proposed settling the indigenous population in a non- Spanish manner within a system allowing "much greater preservation of the Indian and promotion of industry." Each settlement would be governed by a native family and leaders would be elected by them. But the maximum authority would be a Spaniard named by the King and the Royal Audiencia, thus assuring the survival of the "indian traits of servitude and innocence." Vasco de Quirgo defended the idea of voluntary labor which he introduced in his hospital-villages of Santa Fe under the Augustinians. In the end, however, he wound up accepting the encomienda under the Crown's guidelines for the protection and evangelization of the Indians. In 1524, Las Casas presented his Memorial de Remedios to the Council petitioning the suppression of the encomienda. This resulted in the shortlived decree calling for the progressive elimination of the encomienda in the New Laws of 1542-43 which were opposed by Vasco de Quiroga, and which provoked Motolinia to label Las Casas an agitator.

Another controversy, the imposition of a tithe on the Indians, that raged for twenty years (approximately between 1550 and 1570) generated more than eight hundred pages of documents on file in the Archives of the Indies in Seville. Taking part in the polemics were such notables as the Franciscan Bishop Zumarraga, the Dominican Archbishop Montufar, the Franciscan Motolinia, Alfonso de la Vera Cruz, an Augustinian, and the Bishop Vasco de Quiroga. In 1501, Pope Alexander VI, in the Eximinia Devotiones bull, rewarded royal christianizing zeal by granting the Catholic Kings the right to all tithes in the newly discovered lands on the condition that they maintain the church and religion. The first attempt to extract the tithe came with the 1533 Royal Decree awarding the Church a fourth of the tributes paid by the Indians to their encomenderos. Motolinia and his order opposed the tithe which would cause the natives to "leave off planting and laboring" and energetically protested to the king. But his fellow Franciscan, Zumarraga, struck an agreement with Viceroy Mendoza to lobby the Council for tithing but only in corn, livestock, and silk.

The arrival of the secular clergy with its ecclesiastical apparatus and expenses soon created a need for increased revenue and naturally led to a dispute between the lay church and the regulars. The Mexican church asked the Council that tithing be extended to lime, bricks, lumber, cheese, wool, and fruit. Finally, in a 1555 reunion, with a minority of regulars and a majority of seculars, Archbishop Montufar and the bishops supported tithing the Indians.

But the Franciscans didn't give up. Joined by other orders, they launched a resounding complaint against their rivals. Their premises were that the faith was so thinly rooted among the natives that they might refuse payment and suffer excommunication; the Indians were too poor; and the missionaries had taught them that tithing was included in tribute. The mendicants claimed the following consequences would be dire: Indians would flee to remote mountain regions; the fields would be abandoned; the Indians would join hostile tribes (Chichimecas); and a bad example would be set for future evangelization. Moreover, if the regulars who shared all with the Indians asked no tithe, why should the ecclesiastics do so? The Franciscan Friar Jeronimo de Mendieta, speaking for the three orders of New Spain, protested to Phillip II in 1557 with respect to the tithe, "They pay tribute to Your Majesty and to the encomendero, by your decree, and also must rightly contribute to their own leaders and nobles, working their fields in addition to those of the community. Moreover they provide civil and other labor for the city. Thus to impose this tithe on top of these already vexatious burdens would be excessive, making the Indian more a slave than a vassal."

On the other hand, Montufar argued that tithing was necessary. saying that more catechists and clergy were needed and the Indians had to help sustain them; the Church was already well established in New Spain; the Indian was not poor, but frugal; and that the tithe should not be drawn from tribute to avoid mixing the earthly with the Spiritual. The argument became so intense that Bishop Vasco de Quiroga would not ordain friars who opposed the tithe.

In the crucial year 1558, Alonso de Zorita, historian and supreme court justice for New Spain, reported to the king that both positions had merit, but noted that if Christianity existed in Mexico and Guatemala, this was due to regular orders, not the clergy. Even the Viceroy Velasco favored the regulars. But Montufar then wrote the king refuting the orders and, repudiating the Augustinian Alonso de la Vera Cruz accusing him provoking a schism, he confiscated a treatise he had written on the issue. The dispute continued until the Second Council of Mexico in 1565 exempted the Indians.

In conclusion, I would like to address the issue of Indian education. The missionaries, by virtue of rights and privileges conceded by Popes Leo X and Adrian VI, had spent half a century christianizing the native, organizing labor and social and urban culture, and even opening some artistic perspectives for the Indians. Friar Juan de Zumarraga advised his fellow Franciscans to teach Indians reading and writing and under Viceregal auspices, they opened the College of Santiago de Tlatelolco on January 6, 1536, with sixty students chosen from among the native nobility. They were taught reading, writing, music, latin, rhetoric, logic, philosophy, and native medicine. Latin was the lingua franca. Unfortunately, ten years later the college was almost in ruins and forced to take in outside students. In spite of reform efforts, the college would never regain the splendor of its illustrious beginnings. Zumarraga himself wrote to the king that "this school's survival is in question because the students have a greater propensity for matrimony than continence." This phase, according to church historian Leon Lopetegui, implies that the Franciscans sought to orient their students toward the priesthood. If they had succeeded, Tlateloco would have been the first Indian seminary in America. Friar Bernardino de Sahagun thought his Tlateloco students were not cut out for the priesthood because of their "deleterious, untempered drinking sprees." Mendieta noted "They are less qualified to become priests or even laymen than the sons of other infidels because they are incapable of leadership and government--disposed as they are to being led and governed."

In 1542 another prominent Franciscan, Friar Alonso de Castro, emphatically claimed that the Indian should receive higher education and was supported by Vitoria and other theologians. Nevertheless, the Franciscans prohibited the mestizos and Indians from donning the habit. The Augustinians, on the other hand, demonstrated a broader concept of teaching not limited to Spaniards. The Dominicans, seemingly the subject of Sahagun's reference to the "hostility of other orders" had no sympathy for offering higher education to Indians. Domingo de Betanzo's 1544 letter to the king said "Their studies will be fruitless as they do not benefit from long term instruction. They are insecure, new to the faith, unresponsive to the preaching of the gospel and have no ability to understand the true faith."

Since there was to be no possibility that the Indian could be ordained, there was no need for him to study. The Dominicans even offered the strange argument that knowledge of Latin would give the Indian untoward familiarity with the ignorant lay clergymen. The Dominican tendency prevailed and the provisional Council of Mexico prohibited ordaining Indians, mestizos, and blacks.

By contrast, in 1542 the Dominicans in Peru educated seven hundred boys in the Colegio de Chicha, and in 1552 Friar Tomas de San Martin obtained assistance from the Emperor to open to sixty schools for sons of native nobles. From the beginning, the Mercedarians admitted creoles and mestizos to their order. Thus in 1552 the Town Council of Cuzco notified the Crown that "a great effort has been made to ordain friars born of natives who are more skilled in the Indian language than other missionaries." From all we have seen, a pattern of contradiction is evident in the thinking and actions of the well-intentioned defenders and catechists of the American Indian. On one hand, we have the praiseworthy intervention of the regulars before the Crown and the Council of the Indies to soften the legislation affecting indigenous work and lifestyle. This contrasts woefully with the acceptance of the infamous "Requerimiento" of the 1512-13 New Laws which served to intimidate the natives into submission to the King and the Christian faith. Only Las Casas strongly opposed it. In spite of defending the weak and innocent Indian, the friars accepted the idea of maximum "benefit" which required the survival of the Indian for his labor and production. The encomienda system of facilitating this exploitation was approved by the members of most orders, including at one point Las Casas himself--although he later became its principal opponent. Finally, we see great ambiguity in that the salvation of the Indian from suffering and extermination from outwork, in the minds of Jeronymites, Franciscans, Dominicans, and even Las Casas (again, he later changed his mind) could be gained by recommending to the Council the use of African black slaves said to have much greater resistance than the Indians.

More contradictions are seen in the perpetuation of race and class distinction through the exclusive education of children of the Indian elite--later made somewhat more egalitarian--as well as exclusion from the orders of natives because of their supposed incapacity to be good Christians, and other ostensibly harmonious segregation of Indian and Spaniard based on due respect for native customs and traditions.

Equally contradictory was the animosity and rivalry between the regular orders, in total conflict with the Christian spirit proclaimed by Mendieta in his Avisos tocantesw a las provincia del santa Evangelio. "The laws of Christianity and charity teach us as our church fathers rightly admonished that we should treat the members of other orders, especially Dominicans and Augustinians, with the same sincerity, respect, and love as those of our own." The quarrel between the regulars and the secular clergy in New Spain raged, pitting the friars who defended their independent actions and rights under the patronage of the kings against those who would hinder and restrain them in the name of the Pope and Church. Very few displayed the tact Mendieta exemplified by his exhortation to regulars to address the secular clergy as follows: "With them we should not speak with hate, rather with peace and discretion, using their doctrine with prudence and good means where it benefits the Indian."

These contradictions might be explained by the sincere good intentions of the friars, who with few exceptions followed their own consciences and judicious ideas like those of Mendieta, "We must always treat the Indians in a way that will retain their reverence and respect and make them aware that we love them as our own children and are concerned only for their welfare." He perceived as "almost impossible the difficult double objectives of the Crown to receive income and at the same time convert the Indians."

In conclusion we might recall Lewis Hanke and his words referring to the truly positive result of all this contradiction and controversy. "For the first time in history, a people--the Spaniards--paid real attention to the character and culture of other people they encountered; and, perhaps most surprising of all, the controversy stirred up in sixteenth-century Spain and America over the just manner of treating the Indians led to a fundamental consideration of the nature of man."