Canonization of Junipero Serra

In March, I reposted the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band’s open letter to Pope Francis expressing their opposition to the canonization of Junipero Serra, the founder of the California mission system which led to the death of many tens of thousands of indigenous people and the suppression of their cultures. Today, the Pope disregarded the numerous objections of indigenous people and went ahead with the canonization.

Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, was quoted on CNN for his reaction:

“We’re stunned and we’re in disbelief,” said Valentin Lopez, 63, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band located along Monterey Bay in California.

“We believe saints are supposed to be people who followed in the life of Jesus Christ and the words of Jesus Christ. There was no Jesus Christ lifestyle at the missions,” Lopez said, who has campaigned against sainthood for Serra.

Back in February, Valentin Lopez wrote about the implications that this canonization would have:

Speaking on behalf of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, we would like you to know that should you go forward with your announced intentions to canonize Serra, please know that we rescind the request we made in our letters to you for a mass of reconciliation.

The canonization of Serra will be a clear message to our Tribe that the church does not care about our true history or our historic trauma.

Furthermore, please know that if Fr. Serra is canonized, the Amah Mutsun reject the diverse apology offered by Pope John Paul to all indigenous people as our Tribe can only conclude that his apology, which was an apology ostensibly on behalf of the catholic church, was meaningless and insincere.

More of Valentin Lopez’s writings on this subject can be found at the Amah Mutsun’s “Opposition to Serra Sainthood” page.

CNN also interviewed Deborah Miranda of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation:

Fifty different tribes in California condemned the sainthood conferred on Serra, said Deborah Miranda, a literature professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia and a member of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation of California. She wrote “Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir,” a book about her ancestors’ experiences in the Spanish missions.

My objection and the objection of many California Indians is that he is being honored for in fact dishonoring many of our California ancestors. The missions ended up killing about 90% of the California Indians present at the time of missionization, creating all kinds of cultural and emotional baggage that we still carry to this day,” Miranda said. “It’s not a question of attacking the Catholic Church or attacking Pope Francis. It’s about making sure that the truth is heard and that injustices are not continued on into the 21st century.

But the Native American campaign to stop Serra’s canonization never gained an audience in Rome, Miranda said.

“We have gotten zero response from the Vatican, not a word. We do not exist, it seems, in Pope Francis’ world,” Miranda said. “They’re interested in his record and in how many people he managed to convert and in the fact that he at this point in time is a famous Spanish person when the church really needs some positive PR, so they are purposely overlooking the deaths and the cultural genocide of Native American people because it’s to their benefit.”


19 responses to “Canonization of Junipero Serra

  • Michael McCoy

    This truly is an outrage, and deserves the outcry of all people of honor. Shame upon the Church in this; the leaders are masters of politics and intrigues, and always have been. It is a sad day.

    • Heathen Chinese

      It is a sad day indeed. Hesiod wrote that Aidos (Shame) would abandon humanity when things got really bad, and that would seem to be the case today.

      Sadly, honor too has been abandoned by many (but not by all, as you demonstrate by your words). For this is indeed a point of honor: as the Lopez quote about previous “apologies” highlights, this canonization reveals a deep dishonesty and hypocrisy. It’s one thing to insult someone if you haven’t apologized to them previously. It’s another to insult them *after* you’ve “apologized.” And yet another when there’s such a need for more to be restored than apology could ever do in the first place.

  • Duffi McDermott

    Thank you for posting this. I’ll be sharing on FaceBake. Truly, the Church is still the same group that honors PR more than the truth.

  • aediculaantinoi

    Thank you for posting this–I was just talking about this earlier today with my Seneca (Iroquois) department head, and both of us agreed, on this and so much else, this new fope is not “better,” he’s merely “not-as-bad.” Twelve pounds of shit is better than twenty, but it’s still a pile of shit.

    I have been done with Fope Prancis over other things before this–now that seals the deal. The WPR event with Pagans reacting to his climate change statement? I’m going to boycott it. No quarter should be given to someone who sells out the lives of indigenous people (or LGBTQQIAA+ people, or uses “pagan” as a negative adjective, etc.) like this latest fope has done.

    • aediculaantinoi

      Should we have an execration of him, I wonder?

    • Heathen Chinese

      I agree, this was a crossing the Rubicon moment, and this does indeed “seal the deal.”

      Execration of Serra, of Pope Francis, or both? Deborah Miranda did say, “It’s not a question of attacking the Catholic Church or attacking Pope Francis. It’s about making sure that the truth is heard and that injustices are not continued on into the 21st century,” and while I don’t think that means that those who do feel the need to “attack” shouldn’t do so *for their own reasons*, it does seem to be a point worth considering in this case.

      • aediculaantinoi

        I wonder if a two-pronged approach might be worth it: 1) an execration of Serra himself; 2) an essential “boycott” of the Fope and so forth as polytheists. I am going to post about this on my blog later tonight, I think…getting the message out there more widely would be useful, I think, as Deborah Miranda has suggested. Attacking the Fope, perhaps not, but as the Jesuit president of Gonzaga once said (when he came under critique for canceling a speaker from Planned Parenthood that the Women’s Studies Club had invited, without notifying anyone, including the club), “It’s not ‘censorship,’ it’s non-sponsorship.” I think there needs to be more non-sponsorship, and non-support or solidarity or any attempts to mollify, the Catholic Church and its leadership at this point.

    • Heathen Chinese

      “Non-sponsorship” would be a good place to start, I think.

  • finnchuillsmast

    So disappointing. So insulting that Rome didn’t even deign to respond at all. So appalling.

  • The Last Straw: A (Short) Critique of Fope Prancis | Aedicula Antinoi: A Small Shrine of Antinous

    […] thanks to Heathen Chinese for pointing this matter out and following it very closely over the last […]

  • uloboridae

    Sainthood is for those who promoted the Church’s agenda, not for those who were good people. That is why Serra qualified. Francis himself may have been sorry for the way the Mission Indians were treated, but that’s simply his view, whereas Serra being worthy of a saint is the view of the Vatican. Francis may be pope, but he still works for them and not the other way around.

    • EmberVoices

      > Francis himself may have been sorry for the way the Mission Indians were treated, but that’s simply his view, whereas Serra being worthy of a saint is the view of the Vatican. Francis may be pope, but he still works for them and not the other way around.

      This. Sadly.

      This Canonization has been in progress since long before Francis. I’d hoped he could nix it, or at least postpone it indefinitely, but I don’t know enough about the Vatican’s politics to know what juggling he has to do, beyond knowing that he definitely does have to do it.


    • Heathen Chinese

      Sorry for the delayed response, I haven’t had internet access the last couple of days.

      You bring up some interesting (and large) issues about leadership, representation, responsibility of the private individual versus the public role/office. For me, though, it’s never been about blaming the Pope as a person or trying to decipher his personal beliefs and feelings. It’s always been about the actions that have been carried out: whether they represent “only” the Church as a whole or both the Church and its representatives, they were carried out (by someone…I’m using the passive voice deliberately here) nonetheless.

      So I don’t know if Pope Francis’s “apology” in Bolivia this July, or Pope John Paul II’s “apology” in the Dominican Republic in 1992, were intended as official Vatican statements or not. Either way, I smell hypocrisy and insincerity, whether individual or institutional or both.

  • Fr. Junipero Serra Is No Saint! | EmberVoices: Listening for the Vanir

    […] Heathen Chinese did a recent roundup drawing attention to the hideously ugly move the Catholic Church has recently made in canonizing Fr. Junipero Serra, the founder of the California Mission system, despite vehement objections from California Indians. I’d call this move an atrocity, but I wouldn’t want to dilute the word’s applicability to the actual genocide the Mission System participated in committing along with the US and Mexican governments, and countless European colonizers both Catholic and Protestant alike. […]

  • Damocles Loraine

    What they choose to take forward. A man whose evil is proven, whilst St Cristopher, who was said to have saved the baby Jesus from the massacre of the innocents, was left behind for want of historical proof despite the lack thereof for the baby itself.
    The World would be a far different place, helas, if this news was surprising.

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