Archbishops Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco co-authored an op-ed piece that appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal. Their purpose was to address the current public “slandering” of St. Junipero Serra. In the mid-18th century, Serra established a network of missions to evangelize the native peoples of what is now California. The current California legislature passed a bill recently that mandates the removal of the statue of Father Serra (presently located in the state capitol), and its replacement with a statue honoring California’s Indigenous populations. The bill states that “Enslavement of both adults and children, mutilation, genocide, and assault on women were all part of the mission period initiated and overseen by Father Serra.”
The archbishops responded to this allegation by asserting: “None of that is true. While there is much to criticize from this period, no serious historian has ever made such outrageous claims about Serra or the mission system.” In truth, during his long and fruitful ministry, St. Junipero Serra “defended indigenous people’s humanity, decried the abuse of indigenous women, and argued against imposing the death penalty on natives who had burned down a mission and murdered one of his friends. At age 60, ill and with a chronically sore leg, Serra traveled 2,000 miles to Mexico City to demand that authorities adopt a native bill of rights he had written.”
The archbishops make it clear in their op-ed piece that revisionist history is, unfortunately, alive and well in California. The people of that great state deserve better from their legislators and governor. They deserve the truth.