CHURCH COUNCILS *
The efforts of Church Councils to mitigate the worst evils of slavery and serfdom were unremitting, though the very frequency of such legislation as is quoted in this section is adequate testimony to the ineffectiveness of the law. Violent seizure of those manumitted, sale of slaves to foreign peoples, and all manner of crimes against them, including that of murder, were the subjects of discussion at diocesan, national, and ecumenical councils down to the twelfth century at least. There was no opposition to slavery as such, merely injunctions to men not to maltreat their slaves, though some of the Fathers thought the whole institution wrong. St. Thomas Aquinas found it justifiable, quoting Aristotle and the Roman Civil Law, and approving of the doctrine first propounded by St. Augustine that slavery is just as a consequence of sin. Indeed he says that "inducing a slave to leave his master is properly an injury against the person...since the slave is his master's chattel, it is referred to as theft." Medieval churchmen therefore defended slavery as a property right and as a means to the exercise of Christian charity. Hence, we do not find its abolition being urged by Church Councils, but we do find insistence on the precept of treating one's neighbor (even though he be a slave) as one's self. At the same time the Councils took care to protect the Church from attack by refusing to ordain those who were not free lest the principle of private property be violated, and lest the lord of the ordained serf should subsequently reclaim him.
Manumitted slaves were given as freedmen reasonable liberty and holdings sufficient for their sustenance. Freedom, once granted, was ir-____________________