Controversial Canonization: The Decision to make Junipero Serra a saint is a bad one


The Lakota People’s Law Project was disheartened to learn the Catholic Church may pursue the sainthood of a man responsible for deplorable atrocities against the indigenous population of the United States.

On Thursday, January 15, 2015, Pope Francis announced that he will canonize Junipero Serra. Serra was the Spanish Franciscan friar who founded missions in California.

Serra was also responsible for heinous treatment of Native Americans, that included enslavement and forced labor.

The Native Americans of California were forcefully converted to Christianity by Serra. The friars further forced the Indians to give up their cultural practices and languages as they were viewed as inferior and “savage.”

After their baptism, the Indians were imprisoned in the missions. The living conditions of these Indians were so harsh that many of them perished.

Families were separated as men, women, and children all had different living quarters.  Forced labor and corporal punishment were all part of the daily lives of these Indians. Many Indians even died due to water pollution, sanitary issues, and foreign European diseases.

Those who attempted to escape the missions were hunted down, brought back, and beaten. For these Indians, the missions were not a place of religious enlightenment but a prison.

Because of Serra’s inhumane actions against the Native Americans, the Pope’s decision to canonize him has caused much controversy. Many still view Serra as an inspiring figure who was dedicated to the Christian faith. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, for example, called Serra “the great apostle here in California,” while Father Edward Benioff of the LA Archdiocese stated, “By canonizing a great missionary [the Pope is] showing the whole church we’re all called to be missionaries.”

Many others, however, feel that Serra’s actions are inexcusable and should be condemned rather than celebrated.

The Lakota People’s Law Project believes the decision to reach back into the past and raise up a man who participated in such a despicable genocide does not reflect well upon the Church, particularly at a time when the church is moving toward a message of peace and justice.

Anthony Morales, Chief Redblood of the Gabrieliño Tongva Band of Mission Indians, states, On all the 21 missions along the coast here our people were enslaved, they were beaten, they were tortured, our women were raped. It was forced labor and a forced religion. There’s nothing saintly about the… atrocities on our culture, on our people.”

To declare Junipero Serra a saint is to ignore or even to condone his cruel treatment of Native Americans. Nothing can excuse the racial and cultural genocide that these Indian tribes of California suffered at the hands of missionaries.

Make your voices heard.


5 thoughts on “Controversial Canonization: The Decision to make Junipero Serra a saint is a bad one”

    1. One of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system, holding that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. In other words, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each essential element of the crime charged.

  1. I’m not a catholic nor any so called religion of god. The church in whatever position it takes,is nothing the Christian religion is the most corrupt and savage prehistoric entity one knows of all they have and still do in the name of an ideology whose time has passed and all the edifices’ torn down.Set the people free from this horrible,horrible institution,slavery by any name is still slavery.So much pain and suffering committed in a religion,any and every religion is the same all are guilty of any and all manner of horror,unspeakable actions.Stop the farce the lunacy,set yourself free do not bend your knee to an unseen deity or deities that exists only in the mind of the fearful,unshackle yourself and truly be spiritual,it is indeed a wonderful choice to live and to walk free…

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