Popular U.S. Bishop, Robert Barron has described the attempt to erase the memory of catholic saint Junípero Serra is “from a historical standpoint ridiculous and from a moral standpoint more than a little frightening.”
He made his comments after been informed that the government of Ventura in California was debating whether to remove the image of the saint from the city seal and from the badges of the city’s police officers, having already removed a large statue of St. Junípero Serra from the City Hall.
“To state it bluntly, Junípero Serra is being used as a convenient scapegoat and whipping boy for certain abuses inherent to eighteenth-century Spanish colonialism. Were such abuses real? Of course. But was
Fr. Serra personally responsible for them? Of course not. I won’t deny for a moment that Serra probably engaged in certain disciplinary practices that we would rightfully regard as morally questionable, but the overwhelming evidence suggests that he was a great friend to the native peoples; that he sought, time and again, to protect them from mistreatment by civil authorities; and that he presided over missions where the indigenous were taught useful skills and were introduced to the Christian faith,” he wrote.
The Bishop added that “to suggest, as did some of those who were petitioning for the removal of his statue, that Serra was the moral equivalent of Hitler and his missions the moral equivalent of concentration camps is nothing short of defamatory”.
He said that the “from missions established by Junípero Serra came much of the political and cultural life of the state of California.”
Videos of Serra statues “being torn down, burned, spat upon, trampled, and desecrated in San Francisco and Los Angeles”made him shudder, he wrote, and reminded him of when anti-Catholicism was “rampant in the United States” and when large groups of immigrants from Catholic countries were considered inferior.
“A powerful political party, the Know-Nothings, was organized precisely around the theme of opposing Catholicism, and in many of the major cities of our country, Catholic convents, parishes, cathedrals, statues, and churches were burned to the ground by unruly mobs. Moreover, in that same period, the Ku Klux Klan, which was active not just in the South but in many northern cities as well, endeavored to terrorize blacks and Jews, of course, but also, it is easy to forget, Catholics. If you doubt that this sort of knee-jerk opposition to Catholicism endured well into the twentieth century, I would recommend you consult some of the histrionic rhetoric used by the opponents of John F. Kennedy during the presidential campaign of 1960. The dean of American historians, Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., summed up this trend in his oft-repeated remark that prejudice against Catholics is “the deepest bias in the history of the American people”,” he wrote in his popular blog, Word on Fire.
“One can only hope that cooler heads will prevail and that responsible people might bring to an end this ridiculous and dangerous attempt to erase Padre Serra,” Bishop Barron concluded.