The truth about Fr. Junipero Sera

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From left to right: Val Lopez, Donna Schindler, Bishop Quinn, Elias Castillo, Matt Lopez

Elias Castillo, author of soon-to-be published, groundbreaking book, ‘Cross of Thorns,’ met with Bishop Francis Quinn, Valentin Lopez,Chairman of the Amah Mutsun tribe, Matt Lopez and I on October 17, 2014, at Bishop Quinn’s residence in Sacramento. Bishop Quinn, Val Lopez and I have been working together to get an apology from Pope Francis regarding the treatment of California Native Americans in the missions.

Elias spent seven years doing research for his book about the treatment of Native Americans at the California missions. Much of his information came directly from archival information written by the Francescan’s who ran the missions. His work documents the extreme hardships endured by the Mission Indians, including statements by Junipero Serra offering to send more shackles for the Indians, and suggesting more whippings. Another statement by Fr. Serra mentioned that the missions had two great harvests one year– the first was their crop of corn, the other was the young Indian children that had died. Sending souls to heaven was thought to be of great importance by Fr. Serra.

While Bishop Quinn certainly knew that Native Americans were mistreated in the missions, and in fact, had made a spontaneous apology to the Indians of Mission San Rafael while giving a homily during their 190th year anniversary in 2007, he had not been aware of the extent of Fr. Serra’s support of the extreme punishment of the Indians.

It seemed that the amount and intensity of the information presented at our meeting might be too much for 93 year old Bishop Quinn to tolerate without becoming extremely distraught. While his mind is unfailingly keen, he has clearly aged in the eight years I have known him. He moves about in a wheelchair these days, and on this particular day, his eyes looked considerably more tired than the last time I saw him a few months ago. Towards the end of our session, when he was asked about how he felt about the information he had heard, he replied that he was shocked and greatly saddened by the truth of what had happend in the missions at the hands of Fr Junipero Serra.

To me, it was quite healing for Bishop Quinn to listen to countless atrocities without becoming defensive or trying to make excuses for the Catholic church. Valentin Lopez and I are extremely grateful to him for bearing witness to the torture endured by Indians in the missions, as well as for his efforts to help us try to gain an aknowledgment and apology from Pope Francis.

The video of our meeting will be on this site soon, and will be sent to Pope Francis.

On January 28, on the steps of the Capitol building in Sacramento, we will meet again to talk about the missions with several senators. This will be part of the ‘Tell the Truth’ campaign spearheaded by Val Lopez and Elias Castillo.

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