Pope Francis pauses in front of a sculpture of Junípero Serra, the Saint of Genocide, in the US Capitol. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/dpa/Corbis

Pope Francis pauses in front of a sculpture of Junípero Serra, the Saint of Genocide, in the US Capitol. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/dpa/Corbis

by The Spark

The Pope is being lauded as a champion of the poor for speaking out against poverty and inequality, the destruction of the environment and the plight of migrants fleeing war-torn areas of the world.

Many American Indian activists and supporters have a different view due to the Pope’s recent choice for sainthood, the 18thcentury Spanish missionary Junipero Serra. As “Father Presidente,” Serra oversaw the founding of at least 10 Spanish missions in the area from San Jose to Los Angeles, California between 1769 and 1784. Approximately 150,000 Indians died in the period that followed. In the area of one mission that extended from Monterey to San Francisco, the population of Ohlone Indians dropped from 30,000 to 100 in a 26-year period starting with Serra’s rule.

The Catholic Church developed a myth that the Indians came to their missions voluntarily and that Serra had great concern for their rights and well-being. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The Indians were used as slave labor. Spanish soldiers were sent out to capture them. When they did, they often separated families to prevent the Indians from passing their culture on from one generation to the next.

The Indians were housed in locked “dormitories” in crowded, deplorable conditions, with no baths and small pots for toilets. With no other women in California, soldiers commonly raped Indian women. The Spanish used every kind of harsh measure to keep the Indians under control.

Pope Francis apparently wants to honor the myth of Serra, and doesn’t care about the reality. But the victims of the Church don’t have that luxury.

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Comments
  1. Admin says:

    ????

    The article you reference quotes one Catholic scholar saying Serra was a good guy and a historian saying he was appalling. Most of the article quotes the historian who says he was awful.

  2. soundhill1 says:

    Admin wrote: “Most of the article quotes the historian who says he was awful.”

    That statement would not look correct to anyone who read the article.

    As far as what Miranda says. she is blaming the history books for what people will think
    about the import of this action:

    “Miranda added that California textbooks and mission museums wrap up Father Serra in 19th-century “pioneering mythology” that perpetuates stereotypes about the California Indians as lazy and having no culture, when they were the ones who built the missions and did have a pre-existing culture.

    “My largest objection is that [the canonization] is going to continue the mistreatment and injustices that California Indians already face,” she said.”

    How about a quote to back your words up?

  3. Phil says:

    Ooops. I thought the article ended earlier than it did – annoyingly there was a several line gap and the piece continued on.

    Miranda is a reputable academic. She pointed to the whitewashing this represented.

    The Catholic Church and its priest-warriors were an integral part of the takeover of land and the annihilation of millions of indigenous peoples. The Church was, indeed, instrumental, because it wasn’t just the necessary adjunct to the Portuguese state and the Spanish state; it was a state and a law to itself.

    It’s interesting that Mendoza tries to blame the “anti-clerical Mexican government” for the mass murder of the Indian population in the area where Serra operated. Serra preceded the “anti-clerical government” by decades – he was operating mid-late 1700s; the “anti-clerical government” Mendoza refers to came into power in 1830.

    But buck-passing is hardly new for lackeys of the Catholic Church.

    It’s also interesting that the making Serra into a ‘saint’ began with Pope John Paul II. This protector of child-raping priests, enemy of women’s rights, virulent anti-communist and supporter of capitalism and all-round opponent of human progress, rational endeavour and freedom, was the champion of Serra.

    Still the Catholic Church has a big problem. No matter how much airbrushing, rewriting of history, and re-presenting its wretched go-fors as humanist progressives, they can’t reverse their failing fortunes. Humanity progresses and human progress undermines the hold of the Church, which depends on people not knowing stuff, people lacking self-faith, on continually rewriting history.

    This ‘pope’ – another man in a dress ‘elected’ by a small number of other men in dresses, while denying rights to gays and transsexuals – has the job of trying to make the Church look caring and modern. Having failed to maintain and grow the Church by keeping it like a 16th century institution in the 20th century, the new pope’s job is to make it a 20th century institution in the 21st century.

    So they needed a liberal and the new guy is, apparently, the closest they could come up with – even with his dodgy past in relation to the Argentinian military junta.

    But they also need saints. It’s part of the mumbo-jumbo that is far too integral to the Catholic Church ever to be dropped. So ‘Pope’ Francis has gone along with John Paul II’s plan to make Serra a saint.

    Phil

  4. soundhill1 says:

    Phil: “Ooops. I thought the article ended earlier than it did – annoyingly there was a several line gap and the piece continued on.
    Miranda is a reputable academic. She pointed to the whitewashing this represented.”

    What represented?

    It’s hard to know about these things. Listening to Vatican astrophysicist Bro Guy Consolmagno on youtube, the Jesuits do not individually own property or their salaries. That could be called slavery, and was it encouraged in the Missions?

    Indians may have died from hunger or disease but some writers are blurring that with the later killings paid for by the Government.