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While Everyone Is Excited About This Progressive Green Pope, He’s About To Canonize The Catholic Genocidist Junipero Serra

When the highest Catholic spiritual leader promotes an historic Franciscan evangelist and colonist, it hits home for Jews too. Many of today’s Native Americans and Jews are in fact survivors of the same Catholic program.

Demonstration at Mission Dolores Opposes Sainthood for Junipero Serra, May 2, 2015

Demonstration at Mission Dolores Opposes Sainthood for Junipero Serra, May 2, 2015 Photo Credit: @alexdarocy on twitter: https://twitter.com/AlexDarocy/status/595458782395650049

Yay! The Pope wants to stop the destruction of the Earth. Awesome! He even referred to the Earth as “her!” Great!

Boo! The Pope intends to canonize Junipero Serra the friar who evangelized and colonized California. Native Americans across California, many who are practicing Catholics, are protesting the Pope’s plan but Catholic institutions have already been celebrating, such as Pontifical North American College and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The sainting of Serra has been a long time coming, but Pope Francis has fast-tracked the move. Our Sunday Visitor reported January 21, 2015:

The cause for his canonization was first introduced in 1934. Pope John Paul II declared Father Serra “venerable” in 1985.  Three years later, the pontiff accepted a miracle worked through Father Serra’s intercession and beatified him. Another miracle was needed to declare him a saint, but, to the surprise of many, Pope Francis waived the requirement due to the widespread acknowledgement that the priest had lived an exemplary life.

In 1987, “Serra’s remains were exhumed from a crypt below the Carmel Mission Basilica as part of a process called ‘canonical recognition,’ and several bone fragments were removed,” reported Mark I. Pinsky for the Los Angeles Times. Yet mass graves of indigenous peoples remain beneath numerous of the missions that Serra founded. Serra’s legacy is of forced conversions, institutional abuse, slavery and cultural genocide.

Native Americans across California have been resisting the canonization of Serra for decades. This year’s protests have taken place in public spaces and through social media campaigns. An article by Deborah A. Mirandah from January 2015 recounts the history of Serra’s crimes and the consistent protest from the indigenous community of the sainthood. Many opposing the canonization draw the parallel between the genocides of the Native Americans and the Jewish Holocaust, but the connection is much closer.

The Inquisition: The Roots of Serra’s Brutality

No Sainthood Flyer GraphicThe Inquisition was overcoming Europe since the early 13th century and reached Spain in 1481. Thousands of Jewish conversos were put on trial, imprisoned, or burned at the stake, culminating in 1492 when Spain expelled the Jews. That year, Columbus wrote in his diary on his first voyage to the New World, “Thus, after having turned out all the Jews from all your kingdoms and lordships, in the same month of January, your Highnesses gave orders to me that with a sufficient fleet I should go…” Franciscan missionaries traveled to the Americas with Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, under an order from the Spanish Crown to convert the Native Americans and colonize the New Spain. Columbus’ longterm goal was to finance the liberation of Jerusalem from the Muslims and make it Catholic.

Two centuries later, Serra brought the Spanish Inquisition beyond New Spain and built missions along the West Coast of what is now California. Serra’s genocide was continued by the capitalist gold miners and by 1870, 90% of the indigenous population in California was gone.

When the highest Catholic spiritual leader promotes an historic Franciscan evangelist and colonist, it hits home for Jews too. Many of today’s Native Americans and Jews are in fact survivors of the same Catholic program.

The Catholic Church has a history of oppression against many cultures, not only those that are Jewish and Native American. The Inquisition swept across Europe, through Spain and Portugal to North, Central, and South America, and through Asia. The Church holds artifacts from many peoples globally in the Vatican Museums, including many sacred objects. But Jews and Apaches were lumped together in a conspiracy theory that Father Charles Polzer, the Curator of Ethnology at the Arizona State Museum, announced around 1992 with regard to a movement to protect sacred Apache land from an international observatory that the Vatican was a part of.

Documented by Peter Warshall of the Mount Graham Coalition, Father Polzer, “claimed that opposition to the telescope complex is “part of a Jewish conspiracy.” The conspiracy “comes out of the Jewish lawyers of the ACLU to undermine and destroy the Catholic Church.” It makes sense proponents of the Vatican’s international observatory would see it this way, because the telescope’s objective is evidently to extend the Inquisition into the heavens. Warshall reported,

The stated present purpose for the “Pope’s scope” is to help find extraterrestrials. As the Vatican’s leading astronomer and representative in Arizona, Father George Coyne, says: “The Church would be obliged to address the question of whether extraterrestrials might be brought within the fold and baptized.”

Today, the same Apache community that continues the struggle to protect Mount Graham is fighting to save Oak Flat ceremonial sacred site, which was given over to an international mining company in a last-minute addition by Senator McCain to the National Defense Authorization Act in December 2014. Congressman Grijalva introduced the Save Oak Flat Act on June 17, 2015, to repeal this capitalist government abomination.

Ecological Debt Owed To the Indigenous Of California

Radical theologian Matthew Fox wrote in the Huffington Post June 11, 2015, “And it is sad that, as many nations and peoples await Pope Francis’ encyclical on Eco-theology and Climate Change, he would follow his predecessors’ example in favoring the perpetrators of colonization and genocide over the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere and their living legacy of respect for nature…a legacy that is vital to the survival of the life on Earth as we know it today.”

The Wall Street Journal quoted the Pope’s Encyclical Letter On Care For Our Common Home released June 18, 2015, and in it, the Pope does refer to the continuing, modern-day war on the indigenous, but not in name:

The North owes the South an ecological debt because “developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.”

California indigenous communities are currently working to change the State’s educational curriculum to include the true history of genocide and promotional campaign posters include strong imagery, such as missions burning as is part of the story. At the same time, a long-time effort to ban the use of the name “Redskins” for school mascots has been moving through the California State government. To support indigenous rights, historically and in the present, Jewish people can take our lead from the native community. With regard to the Pope, Jewish people can be sure to include these important messages on indigenous rights and racism in our environmental justice advocacy.

Jewcology blogger Jesse Glickstein is right, that Rabbis should learn from the Pope to take a stand on climate change. We must also broaden the conversation. When we talk about ecological debt, we must include the present and past history of plundering the Earth at will that Pope Francis describes, which ultimately includes the victims of Serra’s brutality and his influence on the continuing genocide particularly against the original peoples of California.

Member since 2011
Birthing babies, social movements, and new world paradigms! Wendy Kenin is a childbirth doula and mother of 5 in Berkeley, California. She sells her eco-feminist Judaica at https://www.etsy.com/shop/Greendoula, is founder of Imeinu Birth Collective, is a social media consultant, co-chair of the Green Party’s national newspaper Green Pages, and a member of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission. Wendy is a member of the editorial board of Jewcology, and serves on the leadership circle of Canfei Nesharim.
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  • July 10, 2015 (2:21 am)

    A fantastic article. I hope there are many more like it. Kevin made connections I had not previously noticed.

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