Junipero Serra was the 18th-century Roman Catholic priest (now a saint) who brutalized Native Americans — “beaten, pressed into forced labour and infected with diseases to which they had no resistance” — as a way to force them into his empire. He caused death and destruction during his conquest, yet there are statues honoring him for bringing Roman Catholicism to the region.
That’s why, on Monday, one of those statues in the city of San Rafael was vandalized and toppled over. Five people were arrested on charges of vandalism and the statue will be repaired and returned to its original location.
But in the meantime, one priest decided to take matters into his own hands on Saturday by… performing an exorcism to “cleanse” the site where the protesters had been.
The 20-minute ceremony, led by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, featured a lot of prayers — most of them in Latin — and some holy water sprinkled on the bushes and concrete detritus where the statue had stood.
Standing on a crowded sidewalk along Fifth Avenue, and occasionally drowned out by traffic noise, Cordileone explained during the ceremony the intention was to drive out evil and defend the image of Serra, who he said established the missions “not to dominate and annihilate” but to expose native Californians to the teachings of Catholicism “and save them from domination and annihilation.”
Sure. That’s it. Serra wanted to save the Native Americans from being dominated and annihilated… by dominating and annihilating them.
Even Cordileone didn’t appear to catch the irony in his statement.
Adding nonsense to nonsense, he later added that he said the prayers in Latin because “the experts in the field tell me that Latin tends to be more effective against the devil because he doesn’t like the language of the church.”
Latin drives a lot of people away from the Church. See: Vatican II. But to think gibberish in one language has more of an effect than gibberish in another language on driving away a figment of your imagination is religious absurdity taken to an extreme. It makes as much sense as saying you wanted to please Santa by leaving him chocolate chip cookies instead of oatmeal raisin ones.
Leave it to a Catholic archbishop, though, to just ignore the legitimate criticisms of Serra. Catholic leaders have a long history of ignoring people whose lives were destroyed by those wearing the banner of faith. Those victims didn’t matter when child sex abuse ran rampant through the Church. Why would victims matter to Cordileone now?
No one should expect the Church to do the honorable thing. Instead of thanking the people who toppled the statue, they performed a magic trick for an audience and made plans for the statue’s re-installation. The Church has learned absolutely nothing from this.
(Thanks to Vincent for the link)