Public Comment

Junipero Serra's Canonization

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday May 09, 2015 - 01:26:00 PM

The Vatican's saint-making office -- the Congregation for the Causes of Saints -- has officially approved the Reverand Junipero Serra, the controversial 18th-century missionary, for sainthood. Pope Francis will canonize him during his upcoming visit to the United States. 

Serra was born on the Spanish island of Mallorca on Nov. 24, 1713 and died in 1784 at the Carmel mission near Monterey, California. The Catholic Church calls him a great evangelizer who established 21 missions across California. However, many Native Americans accuse him of forced conversions, enslaving converts and helping wipe out indigenous populations as part of the European colonization machine in the Americas. Ronald Andrade, executive director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, said there is “nothing positive in the history of Serra.” 

Normally a second miracle is required for sainthood; Pope Francis bipassed this requirement by simply declaring Serra's life work the second miracle. 

I am not a Roman Catholic. But I do find the whole concept of sainthood absurd whereby a group of old men in the Vatican decide whether a person is worthy of being a saint. Serra will shortly join about 10,000 other saints in the Roman Catholic heaven. That Serra represented a mission system infamous for its terrible treatment of Native Americans doesn't seem to matter. 

With apologies to Groucho Marx, I bet most Native American would not want to be in a place that had Junipero Serra as a member.