Genocidal Maniac Declared a Saint

Junipero Serra and the Pope’s Message for Today

Updated September 23, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


The Pope’s move to canonize—make a saint out of—Junipero Serra during his visit to the U.S. is not incidental to, much less an aberration from, the essence of Pope Francis’ message.

Junipero Serra played a key role in the physical and cultural genocide of the Native Americans. He set up the mission system in California that led to the deaths of over 60,000 Native Americans from 1769 to 1821. Serra’s genocidal agenda was expressed in a letter he wrote in 1775 about the deaths of Indian children: “In the midst of all our little troubles, the spiritual side of the missions is developing most happily. In [Mission] San Antonio there are simultaneously two harvests, at one time, one for wheat, and of a plague among the children, who are dying.”

Speaking of (if hardly scratching the surface of) the physical and cultural genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the Pope admits to “grave sins committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God.” And he insists there were “priests and bishops who strongly opposed the logic of the sword with the strength of the cross.” In fact, the cross and the sword were both essential to the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, and Serra himself executed both roles—violently enslaving Native Americans, viciously whipping those who tried to escape or rebel, and at the same time proclaiming all this the will of the Christian God.

The genocide and theft of land of the indigenous peoples—so foundational to the rise of the United States as we know it—were not “sins” against any version of “God” (and in fact the God of the Bible is fine with genocide against conquered peoples and with slavery). They were crimes carried out in the interest of European powers and emerging capitalism.

Contrast the Pope’s “sin” cop out with a scientific understanding of the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, and a morality that derives from that: Karl Marx, the founder of communism, identified the ways in which the entombment of millions of indigenous people in the gold and silver mines, and the enslavement of others in missions provided, along with slavery, what today is called “start-up capital” for what Marx called—with appropriate and bitter irony—“the rosy dawn” of capitalism. The morality that flows from this understanding is that capitalism must and can be overthrown and replaced with a system that serves the interests of the vast majority and, ultimately, all of humanity.



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