Walt Street Journal: Archbishops defend honor of St. Junipero Serra

American Archbishops expose the slanderous claims of a bill passed by California lawmakers.

Newsroom (13/09/2021 18:51, Gaudium Press) In a column published in the Wall Street Journal, two American archbishops, Archbishop José H. Gómez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and president of the Episcopal Conference, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, criticize the “outrageous” statements against St. Junípero Serra, the first saint canonized on American soil, now turned into state law.

Last month, California state legislators passed a bill that would replace the statue of St. Junipero Serra standing in a state capitol with one that honors local indigenous populations. The text of the bill claims that the Franciscan Saint and his missions were responsible for atrocities against indigenous peoples.

The new bill claims that St. Junipero’s mission system include enslavement of adults and children, mutilation, genocide, and assaults on women.

“These claims against St. Junipero and his missions are false,” the Archbishops of San Francisco and Los Angeles remind us.

“While there is much to criticize about this period, no serious historian has ever made such outrageous claims about Sierra or the mission system, a network of 21 communities that the Franciscans established along the California coast to evangelize Native Americans,” the prelates write.

What did the lawmakers base such slanderous claims on?

On “a simple biased book written by journalist Elías Castillo,” the archbishops say. That book, “A Cross of Thorns: the enslavement of California Indians by the Spanish missions,” is cited in the bill as “an accurate and complete account of the period.”

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The archbishops stress that St. Junipero was someone who “defended the humanity of the indigenous people, denounced abuses against indigenous women, and argued against the imposition of the death penalty on natives who burned down a mission and murdered one of their friends.”

St. Junipero traveled 2,000 miles to Mexico City – elderly and ill – to “demand that the authorities adopt a declaration of native rights that he had drafted.”

“Mr. Newsom knows California history well enough to see that the charges against Serra are untrue,” the prelates state. “In 2019, he apologized for the state’s history of injustice against Native Americans, acknowledging that it was California’s first governor, Peter Burnett, who launched what Burnett called ‘a war of extermination.’ And that began 60 years after the death of St. Junipero Serra.

“The destruction of the state’s natives came long after his departure and many missions were taken over by the government,” they stress.

“The way we choose to remember the past shapes the people we hope to be in the future,” they ponder. “We can think of no better symbol for this multi-ethnic state committed to human dignity and equity than to place two statues in the California Capitol, one that celebrates the living heritage of California’s indigenous peoples and one that reflects the faith and leadership of its advocate St. Junípero Serra.”

With CNA information.

Compiled by Gustavo Kralj

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