It is deeply regrettable that generations of American schoolchildren have been brainwashed into thinking that Father Junípero Serra was California’s benevolent founding father, a humble Franciscan monk who left a life of luxury on the island of Mallorca to travel to the farthest reaches of the New World and protect the natives from the worst abuses of the Spanish conquests. In reality the indigenous inhabitants were oppressed, beaten and infected with diseases to which they had no natural resistance, notably syphilis spread by Spanish soldiers and their desire to forcibly interbreed with indigenous women.
As assimilation goes it was hardly a victimless crime. Yet Pope Francis on his visit to Washington this week wants to make this criminal a saint for his holy Church.
The Indians brought into the missions were not allowed to leave, and if they tried they were shackled and severely beaten. They were used as forced labour to build out the Mission’s farming projects while being fed atrociously, separated from close family members and packed into tight living quarters that often became nightmares of disease and death.
When Native American women were caught trying to abort babies conceived through rape by the syphilis-ridden conquistadors, the mission fathers had them beaten for days on end, clamped them in irons, had their heads shaved and forced them to stand at the church altar every Sunday carrying a painted wooden child in their arms. Native rebellions were brutally crushed.
California’s governor Jerry Brown, has defended him as “a very courageous man”, an innovator and a pioneer, and vowed that his statue will stay in Washington “until the end of days.” But most disturbing of all has been the attempts by Pope Francis to elevate this monster to sainthood. Canonisation of Serra will hope to be a role model to all Latinos – who only became Latinos and Catholics through destruction of their own religions and cultures, the rape of indigenous women by the Spanish, and the spread of contagious diseases like syphilis and smallpox.
The Pope has lauded Serra as a dynamic follower of Christ who had spread the joy of the gospel and sought to curb the abuses of early Spanish colonial rule. “Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it.”
Meanwhile Californian writer Elias Castillo has called Serra’s mission a “devastating period” and the decision to canonise him “disgraceful”, saying that instead the Catholic Church should apologise to Native Americans. In Los Angeles, Phoenix and Guatemala, Serra has even been posthumously charged with genocide and torture in mock human rights tribunals. Corine Fairbanks, director of Southern California American Indian Movement, criticised the ceremony: “We mourn as they celebrate.How can anyone celebrate when the bones of native Americans are buried within the walls of the mission.
” Historians estimate that 60,000 indigenous Californians had died in the missions by the time the Mexican government sold them to private landowners in the 1830s. By 1910, after a century and a half of missions, gold rushes and reservations, there were only 15,850 California Indians left.
The pomp in Washington contrasted with a repentant tone Francis adopted in a visit to Bolivia in July when he apologised for the church’s role in colonial era abuses. “I say this to you with regret: many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God.” Well it was a bit late considering that Bolivia is now a majority Catholic country, and the Pope’s crocodile tears on the matter had about as much relevance as asking forgiveness from modern Norwegians for the Church’s persecution of anyone who worshiped Odin.
But one area where this should have relevance is India. In 1999 Pope John Paul II chose Diwali to urge for a new harvest in India, and indeed the rest of Asia. The Catholic Church joins hands with Protestant denominations in their determination to civilise the caste-ridden idol worshipping heathen masses. Such was the phenomenon of Mother Teresa, and the brilliant marketing campaign which portrayed her as a friend of the poor and needy.
Quite an impressive result when one realises the millions she was siphoning off into private bank accounts so that she could be treated in luxurious private hospitals, and use private jets as she wheeled and dealed with criminals, crooks and Third World despots: categories which were never mutually exclusive. It is even more remarkable that the Catholic Church joins hands with Protestant groups to uproot Hinduism in the land of its birth.
Just four hundred years ago Catholics and Protestants were busy trying to annihilate each other as much as the Native Americans. Unfortunately as they soon found out it was no easy task when both sides had firearms as opposed to bows and arrows. Hence the Thirty Years War and the uneasy secularism and epidemic of witch-burning which arose as a result of it. In fact during that very period as the ‘modern world’ as we know it emerged, a time when Irish Catholics were being massacred by Cromwell, Protestant Huguenots expelled from France, and random women burnt at the stake for being witches, quite a few social misfits were sent forth by the Catholic Church in India.
This time it was the Portuguese rather than the Spanish, who from their base in Goa harboured Francis Xavier, yes this same ‘saint’ whose name adorns institutions of learning in the country he hated and people he despised as an infidel demonic mass. Xavier used his powers to ban freedom of worship and demolish Hindu shrines. However because the Hindus stubbornly refused to be exterminated like the Aztecs and Incas, the Papacy has yet to apologise for its crimes in India via the Goa Inquisition and the many spin-offs it infected.
Instead they not only canonise Xavier and his contagious offspring like Mother Teresa, but laud other sinister types like the Italian Roberto de Nobili. Now this person decided to disguise himself as a Brahmin in order to win more converts. This included becoming vegetarian and attaining a certain level of basic hygiene that was absent among his more aggressive compatriots: proof that it was not just the preaching of the missionaries which the Hindus felt was a bad smell. De Nobili was defrocked by Protestant rivals jealous of his apparent success. But the subterfuge and questionable tactics continue to this day, as evidenced by the disgusting and unforgivable canonisation of Serra.