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The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, made it official: he will erase the name and image of a Catholic saint from a city park that bears the saint’s name. Remarkably, hardly a moan can be heard from the Catholic Church in response to this assault, despite the fact that Pope Francis himself proclaimed Junipero Serra a saint just a few years ago.
In 2015, Pope Francis canonized Fr Junipero Serra, the 18th century missionary in California. By declaring him a saint, the pontiff solemnly proclaimed that Fr. Serra had lived a life of heroic virtue, worthy of honor and imitation.
LOS ANGELES GUMS THE CATHOLIC SERRA OF SAINT JUNIPERO FROM THE PARK O THE STATUE WAS DISASSEMBLED BY MILITANTS
St. Junipero Serra is credited with bringing Christianity to much of the western United States and converting thousands of people to the faith, including many Native Americans.
Just five years after Pope Francis canonized Serra in Washington, DC activists protesting the death of George Floyd destroyed the statue of Saint Junipero Serra in the park of his namesake.
On that day, the city of Los Angeles failed to protect public property and made no effort to replace the statue venerated by millions of Los Angeles Catholics, representing, by far, the largest denomination nun of the city.
Even more surprising, however, is the fact that the city is now rewarding the violent actions of protesters by deleting the name of St. Junipero Serra from the park and renaming it, for now, “La Plaza Park” – a boring name that doesn’t matter to anyone. . Mayor Garcetti promised that the park would become a place of Native American rituals and ceremonies.
It’s a nod to activists who have long criticized St. Junipero Serra for disrespecting Native American culture by converting so many Native Americans to Christianity.
CALLISTA GINGRICH: DON’T CANCEL SAINT JUNÍPERO SERRA CATHOLIC — CELEBRATE IT
It is a nod to activists and a slap in the face to Christianity. At the heart of Christianity is a mandate given by the risen Jesus Christ to spread the gospel to all the nations of the world.
In Matthew 28: 16-20, Jesus goes up a mountain and tells his disciples in the clearest terms to make disciples and to baptize all nations “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
He didn’t say, “Go now, and encourage everyone to stay the same.” Precisely because Saint Junipero Serrra obeyed Jesus’ mandate in such a remarkable way, not by force, but rather by persuasion and love, Pope Francis declared him a saint.
The city of Los Angeles says it knows better than the Pope and Jesus himself. They say religious conversion is shameful. They say history should be erased.
The reasons they give for discrediting St. Junipero Serra are shrouded in dishonesty. They use the straw man argument to expose the serious abuse many Native Americans suffered by some Europeans, and then suggest that because Serra was a Spanish missionary he, too, abused Native Americans.
This is not true.
In fact, Junipero Serra formed a “bill of rights” for Native Americans living in the missions he established, and even traveled hundreds of miles from California to Mexico City to present it to the Viceroy.
Imagine for a moment if this had been a park honoring a Muslim prophet or if the statue had been an image of a Jewish Holocaust survivor. We all know the city of Los Angeles wouldn’t have dared to do what it is doing today. The Muslim or Jewish leaders would have stood their ground and stopped the city in its tracks. And they would be right to do so.
ARCHBISHOP OF SAN FRANCISCO HAS EXORCISM WHEN DEMONSTRATORS TILT JUNIPERO SERRA’S STATUE
So why have the local Catholic Church in Los Angeles, the Catholic Church nationwide, and Vatican leaders been mostly silent in the face of such blatant religious fanaticism?
Why have their efforts to end such civic injustice been so gentle and ineffective?
The answer to both questions is simple: weak leadership from above that produces defeatism and shame among grassroots Catholics.
To be fair, a few Church leaders in California and beyond have made commendable efforts to speak out against the sacrilege of rioters.
The Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, visited two other sites where statues had been demolished. There he performed a religious rite called “exorcism,” a prayer to drive away evil and reclaim a person or place for God.
Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, Most Reverend Robert Barron (presumably, with the blessing of Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez) organized a group of Catholics to pray and counter-protest the rioters who destroyed the statue of Saint Juniper Serra in Los Angeles .
Bishop Barron and Archbishop Gomez also convincingly explained why Saint Junipero Serra was a friend and defender of Native Americans, and not an abusive colonizer.
But in these times, exorcism prayers and small counter-demonstrations are not enough to force political leaders to protect our religious freedom.
The Pope should lead the charge. Its main job is to teach and defend the gospel and the moral teachings of the Church.
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Pope Francis began his pontificate with massive goodwill among Catholics of all social and political stripes. Over the past eight years, much of that goodwill has eroded as Catholics have become confused as to the meaning of his many improvised remarks.
Pope Francis’ style is to ask more questions than he answers and leaves a lot to be interpreted. He often makes sweeping judgments on specific social justice issues with very little in-depth theological analysis to back up his opinion.
Last week, for example, he praised George Floyd’s protest movement and compared the protesters to the “Good Samaritan”. In this statement, he made no mention of some of those demonstrators who tore off the statue of the saint he has just canonized. This is why so many politicians cite Pope Francis when announcing policies that conflict with the basic teachings of the Church.
The philosophical enemies of religious freedom, clothed in pseudo-values of political correctness, nullify culture and “watch”, have organized themselves better, speak louder and use the media more wisely than we do.
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Unless the Catholic Church, starting with Pope Francis (but extending to all local bishops and clergy) learns to speak more effectively and forcefully in our new media landscape of beliefs and of the non-negotiable values that constitute the gospel of Jesus Christ, it will continue to rid itself of followers and influence.
Sometimes you have to change to stay the same. If the Catholic Church does not change the way it reacts to its philosophical enemies, it will soon have nothing to fight for.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE FROM JONATHAN MORRIS