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Toxic shame prevents healing

At a meeting today with Bishop Francis Quinn, age 95, and Valentin Lopez, Chairperson of the Amah Mutsun tribe, we discussed how to get the Catholic church to recognize the need to heal in regards to the missions in California where Native people were held captive. Val and I recalled talking to Bishops Wilkerson and Clark and Fr. Ken Lavaronne in 2014 in an effort to get invited to the annual Catholic Bishop’s Conference. We had wanted to speak to the Bishops about what really had happened in the California missions and the need to speak the truth about that and begin the healing process for both the church and the descendents of the ‘mission Indians’. We were never invited to the meeting, however, Andy Galvan, curator at Mission Delores in San Francisco was invited to attend. He was self-proclaimed as the only California Native in favor of sainting Junipero Serra.

Val also recalled writing to Governor Jerry Brown and asking him to oppose the canonization of Serra. In his letter, Val said that it was important for his tribe to exist and stand for the truth ‘until the last sunrise.’ Governor Brown later said in a public address that he would support the canonization of Junipero Serra ‘until the last sunrise.’ Val wrote to Gov. Brown that California also needed to heal and that ‘we’d like to work together to heal’–no response from Gov. Brown.

It’s really puzzling why the Catholic church and Governor Brown and others are unable to admit that what happened to the Native Americans in the California missions was so very wrong. Bishop Quinn added in our meeting that Pope Francis never acknowledged his second letter in which he suggested that wrong had been done to Native Americans at the missions and the church might need to apologize. Bishop Quinn went on to say that Americans have tried to deal with their guilt for their sins against Native Americans by letting them have casinos. A therapist friend of mine recently mentioned to me that guilt is concious and toxic shame is unconscious. So what might be happening is that the toxic unconscious shame held by the Catholic church and those in allegiance with it prevents them from seeing the wrong that was done in the missions originally (because they can only allow themselves to see themselves as constantly upright in the eyes of God), and as a result, keeps them from being able to move forward on the healing path which requires the truth to be told.